Blog: UN climate change negotiations, Bonn, June 2011

Publication | June 2011

Wednesday 22 June - Wanted: A miracle

With the UN climate change talks still stuck in limbo, one wonders how we will look back at this particular meeting. Will history judge this as the intersessional meeting where countries had their last chance to save the CDM and blew it? Or will we see it as the one where valuable groundwork was laid for a new mechanism and the substance of this new climate change architecture was first properly negotiated? Either could be true, depending on the outcome that results from Durban. It is still hard to see how the marginal advances that were achieved in Bonn will impact on the big picture.  

Several countries grumbled last week that it was hard to get sightlines on what they could possibly achieve at Durban. This uncertainty could be felt during those negotiations that were open to observers and the few square brackets that were removed from negotiation text over the past fortnight and the few extra lines of text that were added do not give us cause for celebration.

On the bright side, as we highlighted in the blog from Bonn last week, some constructive discussions took place in meetings on:

  • The Green Climate Fund
  • The Technology Mechanism and
  • The Adaptation Committee.

In these respective discussion streams, the pieces are being slowly put into place for setting up and launching each of these bodies. The big question that now hangs over each is how they will be funded and from which sources.

Mexico and Papua New Guinea’s new proposal for an amendment to the UNFCCC voting rules has afforded a much-needed opportunity for country delegations to the UNFCCC to debate this thorny issue, given that minority views can and do so easily undermine or block the mainstream view. While many people in the know - including Christiana Figueres - think that the so-called ‘Mexican proposal’ won’t get the support it needs in order to be voted through, others remain more upbeat that it will be passed.

The UNFCCC secretariat has now confirmed that there will be a further intersessional meeting before COP 17 in Durban. Panama has volunteered to host this meeting, which will commence in late September. The date and location of this meeting will be announced later this week.

The meetings of the SBSTA and the SBI closed on Thursday June 16th.

View the draft report from the SBI meeting.

View the draft report from the SBSTA meeting.

To avoid delays when the next intersessional meetings open, the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP meetings were not closed but merely suspended, on Friday June 17th. The AWG-LCA agreed that the work done by the facilitators of the various informal negotiating groups in Bonn will be carried forward by making their notes available online. This is a new means of carrying the views of parties forward from one session to the next.

View the notes and other material resulting from the AWG-LCA sessions.

View the draft report of the AWG-KP session.

Friday 17 June - Tech tectonics

The progress made in the AWG LCA discussions on a Technology Mechanism is much discussed here in Bonn. The role of the Technology Mechanism, once established, will be to support technology deployment in developing countries to help prevent climate change. The basic frame of the Mechanism is of course set out in the Cancun Agreements.

So, what else do we know about what the Mechanism will do, from the Cancun Agreements? Well, there will be a Technology Executive Committee (TEC) that will set the policy direction for the Mechanism as well as facilitate the deployment of technology. There will also be a Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTC) which will be an expert organisation with regional capacity that already exists and which, once appointed to the CTC role, will build up a global outreach programme of work, in response to direct requests from developing countries. The detail on how the TEC and CTC will work together to organise projects or country programmes on the ground is still yet to come. What we also don’t know is how the Mechanism will link up with funding streams, if it does at all, and whether the Committee will be made up of technical experts or of climate change negotiators, or a mixture of both.

The progress made this week is significant. We are now at a point in the negotiations where countries are talking in detail about how many people should be on the Technology Committee and from which countries and are discussing the Terms of Reference for a RFP. And on an optimistic reading of the facts, the RFP will be ready by the time we get to Durban in November.  

There are several organisations whose names crop up in conversations here as potential contenders to respond to the RFP. It will be interesting to see who rises to this enormous challenge!

Bail out the environment or save Greece?

Those who have been coming to the UNFCCC negotiations for years – some brave souls for over a decade – recognise the particular items that crop up on meeting agendas each time without ever a resolution or compromise.

Domestic imperatives change even when the agenda remains the same. This year, Greece’s economic woe are at the forefront of the EU’s political psyche, Japan has huge rebuilding programmes to do and finance, the U.S. has no clear legislative or regulatory pathway that would enable the government to take on binding emission reduction targets this year and so on and so on. These very real obstacles and priorities may not carry much weight with the delegates for the small island states (AOSIS) or the least developing countries (LDCs). They too have problems at home. And they don’t have significant trade or finance levers to use to get results that favour them in the climate endgame.

Putting the national agenda to one side in the hour of need is not a vote-winning strategy. So the fact that most developed countries are holding firm to their emission reduction and finance commitments is not to be sniffed at.  But clearly more oomph from all countries is needed to take us further on the really polarising agenda items and to give the AOSIS and LDC negotiators something major to take home from Durban.

Roundup to follow

This is the last day of this session of climate negotiations being held in Bonn. A fuller appreciation of what these two weeks of negotiation have achieved and what we might expect from Durban will follow next week.

Thursday 16 June - One step forward, one step back

The Adhoc Working Group on Long Term Co-operative Action (AWG LCA) has, we understand, made progress on several issues this week. Although the group meets in closed sessions we hear from discussions on the sidelines that we are closer to convergence on the issues of:

  • Climate finance
  • The new Technology Mechanism to develop and deploy clean technology, and
  • The legal form that any binding global agreement would take.

While none of these is yet ‘in the bag’, each is advancing smoothly relative to those discussions that are in the mire. The AWG LCA negotiations have yet to make headway on two tough issues:

  • When and how emission reductions will peak or tail off in developing countries, and
  • How emissions or emissions reductions in developing countries should be monitored, reported and verified.

Several developed countries therefore feel they are doing too much give and not enough take and so continue to refuse to sign up to new emission reduction targets in the other AWG, the Adhoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG KP), until developing countries up their own ante. Meanwhile developing countries refuse to discuss their own emissions trajectories in detail until developed countries agree to curtail their emissions within a second Kyoto Protocol Commitment Period. It’s a ‘chicken or egg’ story that is reliably played out in each negotiating session and the happy “chicken and egg” ending is not yet in sight.

Settling the bill for climate change

As many of you know, the Cancun Agreements contain a commitment to establish a Green Climate Fund.  In case you have managed to ignore the Cancun Agreements so far, the idea of this Green Fund is that it will channel $100 billion a year by 2020 to developing countries in order to support mitigation and adaptation in these countries. What countries need to decide now is how to raise and disburse these funds. At Cancun, 40 individuals were appointed to a so-called Transitional Committee (TC) to meet in open sessions over the course of 2011, come up with a detailed design for the Green Fund and present this to the Conference of the Parties in Durban this November. As you might imagine, the people picked for the TC come from a carefully chosen balance of developed and developing countries.

The TC conducted an open session in Bonn yesterday in which they discussed their work, elaborated on the work ahead and allowed country Parties and NGOs to ask them questions. Some of the countries who chose to speak are not happy with the design process of the Green Fund and consider the Committee members to have exceeded their mandate. These views will have to be accommodated somehow, but the representatives of the TC took these remarks in their stride. They’re a crack squad of people who are working closely together to solve the biggest problem of our age, they would.

Transport emissions – In or Out?

There is one big ticket agenda item on which the People’s Republic of China and the United States, the world’s two biggest emitters, are in agreement and on which they oppose the European Union. China and the U.S. both oppose an international scheme to regulate or reduce emissions from air and marine transport (known collectively here as “bunker emissions”).

Bunker emissions were excluded from the Kyoto Protocol because countries could not agree on what to do about them and in 2011 a global solution has still not been found. Transport is a complicated sector to regulate. Some popular examples used to describe why this is so are: trade routes and balances of trade, tourism and flags of convenience. The European Union has tired of waiting, though. It has taken unilateral measures to include the aviation sector in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) from 1 January 2012. This will affect all airlines flying into or out of the European Union.

The subject of a global, sector-wide approach to bunker emissions is being discussed in an AWG LCA working group. It has stalled there, pending the result of a legal challenge to the EU measures. The European Court of Justice is hearing the case, which has been brought by 4 US airlines, in July. The Court will probably not issue its judgment before the EU ETS sectoral scheme enters into effect but be that as it may, this is truly a pivotal case!

Wednesday 15 June - A new spirit of openness

It is pleasing that here in Bonn this fortnight,  observer groups of all colours and stripes have been given more access to the actual negotiations than was the case in preceding meetings. The Chairs of the various negotiating groups under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have all taken steps to shed light on the negotiating process by keeping as many meetings as possible open to non-government parties and inviting the views of these parties.

Who can we thank for this? The outgoing COP President, Mexico, perhaps. Mexico has made huge strides in building up the trust in the negotiating system that many countries feel was breached at Copenhagen in 2009 and transparency is a key part of this. As the Presidency lasts only a year, Mexico is handing their President’s hat over to South Africa now, whose spokespeople here in Bonn say that they have learned a lot from the Mexicans about how to keep the process open and that they will work hard to retain this.

Run-up to Durban

‘Workmanlike’ and ‘focussed’ is how the Chairs of various negotiating groups are describing their discussions here. The focus is on what text can be put on the table in South Africa in late November. Technical issues that won’t grab the headlines are being unpacked and worked through, such as which new greenhouse gases should be included in the ‘basket’ of emissions that Annex 1 countries must report on, how long a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period should be and what legal form a binding global agreement on climate change, whether agreed at Durban or thereafter, should  take.

Whether there should be an intersessional meeting between now and CMP 17 in Durban in November appears to be a done deal. The question now is not ‘if’ but ‘when’, ‘where’ (probably some time in September and perhaps in Panama) and, more importantly, ‘who pays for it?’. A series of Ministerial and Stakeholder negotiation meetings has also been announced, to take place between now and the end of November. Details of these will be published at the end of this week.

Orphaning Kyoto

As the newspapers have reported widely this week, some members of the Umbrella Group of countries (such as Japan, Russia and Canada) have announced that they do not wish to be part of a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period. The response to this from China and the G77 Group, less widely reported, is this: those Parties that do not accede to a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period should not be able to access market mechanisms when the first commitment period expires at the end of 2012. This means that, if some developed country Parties do agree a second commitment period, those countries that do not accede would potentially not be able to use any CDM or JI credits to offset domestic emissions and would instead need to secure access to emission credits by means of bilateral agreements or, more unlikely, rely on domestic emission reductions alone. A case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? It’s too early and too close to call.

Tuesday 14 June - The climate change negotiations: Reality TV without the TV part

Delegates have been negotiating for a week already. Well, for some of the week. In a repeat of the preceding negotiation session, in Bangkok, much of the first week of valuable negotiating time was taken up debating what the agenda should look like and which items should be in or out. For those of you who are not seasoned negotiation watchers: if an item is not put on the agenda at the beginning of the negotiation session, it will not be up for discussion. Which leads to intense debate about the agendas themselves.

Now, finally, they are getting on to the business at hand.

In a timely move, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published a report last week which shows that there was a record surge in the use of fossil fuels in 2010 and 75 per cent of this surge came from emerging economies. The IEA has pointed out that 'lock-in' of this growth pattern grows with each year that there are no binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report also highlights the fact that the Fukushima catastrophe has led to a retreat from nuclear power by many countries, with knock-on growth for emissions. Required reading and sobering news for those who are assembled in the Maritim Hotel in Bonn.  

There are some major agenda items on the table this fortnight.

Among the SBSTA agenda items, UNFCCC delegates have the opportunity to consider:   

  • The development and transfer of technologies.
  • How to address emissions from fuel used for aviation and maritime transport
  • What the implications of new HFC 23 facilities are
  • What the impacts of climate change on water resources and water resource management might be

Some of the higher profile SBI agenda items are as follows:

  • Whether there should be an appeal procedure against decisions made by the CDM Executive Board
  • How developing countries' mitigation efforts could be subject to an agreed level of monitoring, verification and reporting (MRV)

Many AWG LCA agenda items in this negotiation session are of interest, including:

  • How to tackle nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAS), both by developing and developed country Parties
  • The provision of incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD)
  • Sector-specific approaches to mitigation, eg. steel / cement sectors

The AWG KP agenda is focussed on the single issue of further commitments for Annex 1 Parties. This issue has been divided into smaller topics, to be discussed by small 'spin-off groups', but the success of the larger agenda item is hanging dramatically in the balance, given that the Umbrella Group of delegates has publically waived a further commitment period and therefore left the Kyoto Protocol in the cold. You can draw your own reality TV show analogies here.

Thank you for reading the Norton Rose Group climate change negotiations blog. We will keep you informed of the major breakthroughs and barriers in these negotiating groups for the remainder of the week!


Negotiating sessions of the Adhoc Working Group on Long Term Co-operative Action (AWG LCA), the Adhoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG KP), the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) are now taking place in Bonn, Germany.

These meetings are intended to build on elements of the Cancun Agreements, thereby laying the groundwork for the seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP 17) which will take place in Durban at the end of this year.

The SBI and SBSTA negotiating sessions commenced on Monday 6th June 2011 and will close on  Thursday 16th June 2011. The AWG KCA and AWG KP sessions began on Tuesday 7th June 2011 and will close on Friday 17th June 2011.



Andrew Hedges

Andrew Hedges

Tom Luckock

Tom Luckock