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What to expect from the Bonn climate talks

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It’s May in Bonn which can mean only three things – it’s time for asparagus, strawberries and yes… UNFCCC intersessionals. As negotiators once again flock to Bonn, here are the four things to keep an eye on amidst all the seasonal delights.

Heading into the negotiations two tasks loom large. One, getting negotiations in shape to deliver the Paris Rulebook by COP24. And two, the official kick-off of the year-long Talanoa Dialogue process which aims to trigger the national NDC enhancement process.

Design the rules of play: the Paris rulebook

Progress on the Rulebook negotiations has been more slow than steady but COP23 did hit the important milestone of creating informal texts across all issues. With the COP24 rulebook deadline looming large, in Bonn negotiators need to pick up pace to transform these efforts into real-life negotiation text – i.e. a text with legal standing complete with clear options ripe for ministerial discussion. On a technical level this involves making balanced process, dealing with the high level of interlinkages across the rulebook and shifting mindsets from positioning to alliance building. Read a more detailed analysis of the technical challenges of the negotiations we recommend checking this INSIDER blog from our friends at WRI.

Alongside the technical progress, the intersessionals also mark the point where negotiators have to identify the crunch issues to be elevated to the political level – the tasks for ministers going forward. Topics likely to make the list include:

  • How to accommodate common but flexible rules which recognise capacity constraints but make sure the regime stays water-tight, building trust and confidence in climate action;
  • When and how developing countries will be given information about the financial support by donor countries, key tools for unlocking national planning and implementation processes (i.e. predictability and transparency of finance, “9.5” in negotiations speak); and
  • How to accelerate action and support in the run-up to 2020.

Delivering ambition: the Talanoa dialogue

The other major focus of these sessions will be the kick-off of the year-long Talanoa Dialogue. The process which should provide first, the reality check, second the recognition that more needs to be done and finally the trigger for countries to enhance their national ambition (or Nationally determined contribution, NDC, to be specific). The official Talanoa events at the sessions provide the forum for that first step – getting parties and non-state actors together to have an discussion around the three Talanoa guiding questions:

  • Where are we?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How do we get there?

In Bonn you can expect these sessions to deliver evidence of real economy progress, as well as a space for all actors, especially vulnerable countries, to powerfully articulate the urgent need to ramp up action. The real test of these sessions however, will be how countries commit to building on these initial discussions. What will be the official output of these sessions? How will this link with the Talanoa’s poltical phase at COP24? How does this tally with the many regional, national and subnational Talanoa dialogues? And most importantly how will they signal the need to come to COP24 with commitments to translate the insights from the Talanoa process into increased ambition at the national level? Read more on WRI's Through Talanoa Dialogue article.

Strengthen coalitions: a prerequisite to progress

Finally, countries will need to step up and take ownership of these processes. Building consensus on stickier issues requires strong coalitions. Countries working together not just at the UNFCCC intersessionals but at moments across the climate diplomacy calendar – at the Petersberg Dialogue, at MoCA, at the UNGA, following the IPCCC 1.5 report and at many events and bilaterals in between. For this to happen, progressive countries, will have to actively work on building confidence and trust with their allies. That means acting in good faith and not sticking your head in the sand, it means recognising that climate change effects lives not just UNFCCC negotiation positions.

All in all, there’s a lot to do in what many expected to be a sleepy two weeks in Bonn.

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