Day 11: Thursday, 16 November:
An Implementation COP—The Bonn Climate Conference has been discussed as a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of COP. It has been described as an implementation COP where decisions are being made on the nitty gritty details that will determine how the climate process is moving forward. Now that the Conference is winding down, it appears that parties are heading toward agreement.
Ecuador, which is representing a group of 134 developing countries, reported progress on many of the outstanding issues in the negotiations. Lead negotiator and Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility María Fernanda Espinosa said progress had been made on the creation of the platform for indigenous peoples to exchange knowledge and practices regarding adaptation that would start in 2018. Progress had also been made on the issue of loss and damage, which refers to people who are faced with situations where adaptation is no longer possible.
Areas where progress has been less than stellar center on the means of implementation. Developed countries had promised that they would ramp up climate financing to US$100 billion a year by 2020. Developing countries, however, are not seeing many signs that this money will materialize. Another sticking point during the COP, revolved around commitments made for the period prior to2020. Remarking that it was the 20 year anniversary of the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, she said “no one is talking about Kyoto. We haven’t had its birthday party yet”.
Not a sunny COP—It was gray and drizzly for days, but the sun finally did emerge for short spurts. The emerging science on climate change has also cast a shadow: emissions are rising again after staying flat for three years. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at an all-time high, and global temperatures are continuing their upward march. But against all this news, there is an air of steadfast optimism about the realistic solutions out there, that can help us address climate change.
The reasons for optimism: For one, there is no shortage of sunshine in most of the world and the prospects for solar energy appear unlimited. With progress on storage batteries, renewable energies could continue their exponential growth. Renewables, right now, represent a small but developing energy sector, growing by 5.4 percent every year. Although still relatively small in the big picture, scientists here in Bonn contend that this kind of growth will lead to a sharp upward swing in the use of renewables.
The International Energy Agency, which maps these trends, says in 2016, growth in solar photovoltaic capacity was larger than for any other form of generation, and that since 2010 costs of new solar PV have come down by 70%, wind by 25% and battery costs by 40%. It also found that there was a growing electrification of energy: in 2016, spending by the world’s consumers on electricity approached parity with their spending on oil products.
The road ahead – And already people are looking at the road ahead: UN Secretary-General António Guterres laid out the path forward during his speech to the opening of the high-level segment on Wednesday, where he stressed the urgency for increasing ambition on climate change. He listed five ambition areas: emissions, adaptation, finance, partnerships and leadership. These areas will find a thread through the One World Summit in Paris next month to the California Summit for non-party actors in San Francisco next September. Then there will be a pivotal COP Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, and a Climate Summit in 2019 convened by the Secretary-General.
NGOs looking ahead – NGOs attending the Bonn Climate Conference are looking forward to making a difference right after the COP. Hoda Baraka of 350.org said “the science is clear, we know what we need to do, and we need governments stepping up and making real commitments.” Dyana Jaye from Virginia, USA said she got involved in climate action because she was so angry about the US announcement to pull out from the Paris Agreement, and is working to make climate change matter in the 2018 elections. “We need to make politicians stand with the people. “ Other NGOs are planning actions a round the world: here in the Rhineland in Germany, where the objective is to close local coal mines; as well as in the Philippines, where the fight is against coal—and action is being contemplated at the IMF meeting next year in Bali.