Dear Climate Friends,

I am sorry for the late follow up on the week that was the UN climate talks in Bonn… but when you are “afloat on a sea of brackets,” (Yvo de Boer, UN climate chief) time and space become rather distorted….

another week... another wrap

another week... another wrap

As you know, we were watching out (with baited breath and crossed fingers) for progress on some key areas during the Bonn 3 talks, namely:

  • condensing the “indigestible” set of proposals into a manageable document
  • meaningful discussion on emission reduction targets
  • finance proposals from developed countries

So, how did those 3 areas track?…

1. The indigestible negotiating text

Kristin Tilley of the Australian government negotiating team said that the vibe at the beginning of the week was energetic; she said “all groups are rolling up their sleeves and working off text!” But, by the end of the week, at the close of the meetings, UN climate change chief Yvo de Boer was clearly disappointed that initial burst of energy didn’t translate to real movement within the talks saying that only “selective progress” had been made at Bonn3. “If we continue at this rate we are not going to make it,” he said.

2. Targets?

According to the press conference held by the Climate Action Network on the last day of the talks, we have gone backwards from Bonn 2 when it comes to targets. Ouch!

During Bonn 3, the UNFCCC secretariat released data showing that the figures currently on the table from industrialised nations (excluding the United States) will equate to a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of between 15 – 21 % below 1990 levels by 2020. The numbers fall well short of the 25 – 40% cuts necessary, as outlined by a UN panel of scientists, to avert the worst of global warming.

These targets put us on a path much closer to 3 degrees Celcius of warming and make a mockery of the pledge to remain under 2 degree Celsius warming goal agreed to by the world’s wealthiest nations at the Group of Eight summit in L’Aquila, Italy, last month.

Scarily, it seems that wealthy countries are still racing to see who can do the least to tackle climate change.

3. Money?

Fact: finance is essential to getting a deal in Copenhagen. And when it comes to talk about money the two key questions are always – who will give how much? And, how will it be spent?

While there was no real movement on finance within the Bonn 3 talks, there are some opportunities (namely the G20 Summit and the UN General Assembly) before the next UNFCCC meeting in Bangkok for our governments to make some real progress on all things money.

Developing nations have been seeking financial support from developed countries if they are to limit their emissions and adapt to climate change. So far, according to negotiators, there has not been one proposal from developed nations that would raise more than $10 billion a year for such funding.

Based on studies to date, Oxfam has estimated that at a very minimum, $AUD187 billion in public investment will be required each year to facilitate necessary mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries. This might seem like a lot of money, but not compared to the $4 trillion spent by developed countries on the financial crisis so far, or the $1.3 trillion of annual global military spending.

Uh oh. $187bn – $10bn = a LOT of money.

Not many people enjoy talking about money. It is a tricky political issue, but it must be addressed now. Leaving finance in the too hard basket will be disastrous and will ensure that the international climate negotiations continue on at a snail pace.

…So with all of these gaps, what did go on?…

1) As you no doubt know, New Zealand announced its emission reduction targets which are pretty much as low as Australia’s. NZ have a 10-20% emissions reduction target by 2020 based on 1990 levels, with a shopping list of conditions attached to the upper end target. Barry Coates, Director of Oxfam in NZ said in response to the announcement “telling other nations to pull our weight should not be tolerated.”

2) Australia hosted a seminar on legal form (don’t fall asleep yet!) As of yet, there has been hardly any discussion on the legal nature of the post 2012 global climate deal which is clearly a blinding gap! So hats off to Australia for pulling together this seminar. From their end it was a great success, Australian delegate Kristin Tilley said: “The architecture seminar was extremely useful – all the feedback we have received has been very positive. The real highlight for me was simply having the opportunity to bring parties, NGOs and international think tanks together to examine in detail the various proposals regarding the shape and form of the post-2012 international climate change agreement.”

But, international climate NGOs are worried that the proposals on the table from the big players, notably Australia and the US, wont actually get us the kind of legal text that will secure a safe climate future. Why’s that? Well, the scheduling approach, or bottom up approach that they have proposed approach ultimately will allow for individual countries to set their own level of emissions reductions. This is troubling because, if national commitments are expressed in terms of domestic programs, it will be much more difficult to assess the comparability of effort across countries since they will not necessarily be expressed in common terms or measurements and could problematically lead to a lack of coordination between countries which we so desperately need to address this global crisis. Also, if industrialized countries are going to merely tie their international obligations to their domestic climate efforts, why would we need an international agreement? Why not just send all the negotiators home to work on domestic policy and save countless tonnes of CO2 emissions in the process?

The very last day of Bonn 3…

On the last day of international climate talks emotions often run high, delegates realise what has, or more importantly has not, been achieved over the past negotiating period. You can listen to the intensity in the final press briefings given by a number of governments, NGOs and the UNFCCC secretariat.

Amongst all of this emotion stood out an incredibly strong plea to the world. More than  80 of the world’s least developed countries and island states joined together to demand a 1.5 degree Celsius warming limit, and called for aggressive mitigation action and financing. This is the kind of global leadership we need to see if we are to get the talks moving at such a pace that will get us safe, just and fair global climate treaty in Copenhagen.

Another small development happened on the last day, which may seem very technical but is tres importante! It’s called attribution, meaning, providing an indication in the negotiating text of which party proposed different options. Attribution was a hot topic all week, and finally, the Chair of the LCA (Long-term Cooperative Agreement) negotiating group has distributed a negotiating text with the positions attributed to the parties who proposed them. This has been something that developing countries, who wanted to be able to identify their allies, pushed hard for, and some developed countries strongly resisted. For anyone who is interested, you can check them out here

So that’s a wrap on Bonn3 folks. A heavily surmised, but I hope, useful insight into where we are currently tracking just 108 days out from the Copenhagen climate talks.

fortune cookie2

I’d like to end with a Chinese proverb I recently found (and almost ate!!) in a fortune cookie: “If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.” 108 days to go, we must be the ones who activate a change in direction. Together we can create a climate conversation so loud that no world leader will be able to ignore us.

Yours in hope,


PS. Mmmm.. I’ve made myself hungry with these images!