It’s good news all round. Not only did the slew of political announcements at the UN General Assembly add a significant key change to the soulful tune of COP21, but the American and Algerian co-chairs of the UNFCCC talks took the burgeoning text and put it on the Atkins diet. It’s now only 20 pages long!
The authors’ craftsmanship should be applauded. Not only is the new text short, but it has elements that all countries will love and hate in roughly equal measure. Whilst it’s not yet up to scratch in delivering the enduring deal we need, all the major components are in there. They definitely need work, but we have something solid to work from.
So what’s likely to happen in Bonn?
First off countries will react to the new text. At this stage it’s unlikely that countries will question its legitimacy, but the old saying that the only things certain in life are death and taxes means there are no guarantees. The August session in Bonn ended with many countries arguing for the October session to go through the text line by line. The co-chairs are expected to accommodate this.
What do we need from Bonn?
To get a strong outcome in Paris, we need countries to prioritise key elements that are missing from the text as it stands:
- Whilst there are numerous references to the long-term goal, none of them contain the word ‘decarbonisation’ (which was the best bit in the G7 and German-Brazil bilateral declarations). We need this in there if we are to achieve the end of fossil fuels, ensuring governments deliver on the 2°C obligation.
- The concept of ratcheting up ambition as part of reviews needs to be explicitly spelt out so that we come back to the table every 5 years until we get the job done, starting in 2019. This will capture overachievement, update outdated projections and motivate political debates at the national level to go further and faster in cutting carbon.
- Explicit recognition that at least half of public climate finance should go towards adaptation will be crucial as the impacts of climate change become more intense and the cost of renewables falls.
Recognition that more details are needed on the rules and transparency of actions. This will be crucial if governments, business and the public are to have confidence that all countries will implement their pledges
At the end of Bonn the co-chairs will revise the text, and draft a new one to be published right ahead of Paris. With only five days left of negotiating time before COP21 begins, expect be long nights and cramming to make every minute count.