Delegates ‘do not have the luxury of lots of philosophical discussions’ but must focus on advancing the pledges set out in the Paris agreement
November 6, 2017 — The UN hopes to create an “operating manual” for implementing the Paris agreement on climate change, with talks in the next two weeks in Bonn.
“We want to advance further, faster, together to meet the goals set out in the Paris agreement,” said Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s chief official on the climate, at the opening of the talks. “We need an operating manual for the Paris agreement. This has to be the launchpad for the next level of ambition on climate change action, because we know the pledges [to cut emissions] made so far are not enough to take us to [meeting the Paris goals].”
Nazhat Shameem Khan, of the Fijian presidency, said she wanted delegates to answer three questions: where we are on meeting the Paris commitments; where we want to be; and how to get there.
“This needs high level commitment,” she said. “We do not have the luxury of having lots of philosophical discussions. We have to roll our sleeves up and get through the agenda points.”
Although the document agreed in Paris was extensive, it could not set out in full detail all of the ways in which governments would be expected to implement the agreement, and the process of checking how this is being achieved. Some of these technical issues could be relatively easily resolved, but others have a broader political import that will require delicate negotiation.
One key issue will be “enhancing ambition”, which means making good on the commitment made in Paris to strengthen countries’ pledges on cutting emissions, given that current pledges are inadequate to hold warming to no more than 2°C, as required by the landmark agreement. A key date falls next year, when countries are supposed to start coming forward with higher pledges.
However, Espinosa stopped short of saying that COP23 would result in a full timetable for when countries would be required to make new commitments. “That’s a difficult question to answer at this point. But I remain optimistic.”
Elina Bardram, director general of climate action for the EU, said the bloc wanted to “flesh out the technical guidelines of implementation”, including allowing for “transparency and accountability”. This means ensuring not only that pledges are sufficient, but that they are being met by the national governments signed up to the Paris accord. It can be a tricky issue at the UN talks, where countries set their own targets and ways of meeting them.
The EU is soon expected to set out its own progress on meeting its emissions-cutting target, and how it intends to ensure its 2030 target of a 40% emissions cut is met.
Discussions would also take place on climate finance, which involves ways of helping poorer countries to cut their emissions, Espinosa promised. She declined to give any targets on how much finance should be raised and where it should come from, but said the outlook was positive. “There is a very clear tendency going in the direction of green financing,” she said, referring to estimates that more money worldwide is going into low-carbon projects.
She also said the US delegation was present and taking a full part in the talks. President Donald Trump announced last summer his intention to begin the withdrawal process, the only country to have done so. Despite this, the US will be party to the agreement until 2020, as the the withdrawal process will take several years.
The UN said 169 countries of the 197 signed up to the Paris agreement had now ratified it.