Next steps for international climate negotiations agreed

12 April 2010

The Climate Group's Damian Ryan reports on the UN climate talks that took place in Bonn at the weekend

The first official UN climate change talks since the difficult and contentious Copenhagen summit were held in Bonn, Germany from 9-11 April.

The purpose of the three day meeting was to agree a work programme to guide the ongoing negotiations through to the next UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico in late November.

Countries had agreed to extend the negotiations at the Copenhagen conference. This followed from the failure at that meeting to seal a new global climate deal. The Copenhagen Accord, the 11th hour political deal negotiated by heads of government, was intended to provide clear political guidance for concluding this work.

However, because countries did not reach consensus on the Accord, its status within the negotiation process has remained uncertain. Securing recognition of the Accord as a central element of the ongoing negotiations was therefore a priority for many parties heading into the meeting.

Crucially, countries agreed that the ongoing talks should draw on “work undertaken” in Copenhagen. This deliberately vague language should ensure that the Copenhagen Accord (which falls under one of the official decisions taken in Copenhagen) can be used as an input to guide and inform negotiations over the remainder of the year.

Countries also agreed to hold three additional official-level meetings prior to Cancun. The first of these will take place between May 31st and June 9th, in conjunction with the UN’s regular half yearly climate meetings in Bonn. The dates and venues of the remaining two meetings have yet to be announced.

More importantly, perhaps, countries also agreed to consider the option of holding an official high-level meeting before Cancun. This decision is to be welcomed, as it will ensure greater political input into the process at a critical time. The lack of such input prior to Copenhagen contributed to many of the misunderstandings at that meeting.

The negotiations will continue under the ‘two-track’ Bali Road Map process that was established in 2007. This process is supposed to agree new Kyoto emission targets for developed countries under one track, and a broader set of climate commitments and actions for all countries under another.

Bonn demonstrated, however, that the major divides between countries, so evident in Copenhagen, remain. Talks were surprisingly cordial given the tensions and acrimony that characterized the last hours of Copenhagen and its aftermath. But it is clear that expectations about key issues such as emission targets, legal form (of the final agreement) and timetable for concluding negotiations still differ greatly.

Managing and understanding these expectations and ensuring an open, transparent and inclusive process will be amongst the main challenges that negotiators and political leaders will need to address this year. Failure to do so runs the risk of another Copenhagen, something which neither the climate nor the UN negotiation process itself is likely to tolerate.

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