UN Climate Talks Focus on ‘Rule Book' for Paris Pact

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By Eric J. Lyman

May 16 — Representatives from nearly 200 countries began work May 16 on a new “rule book” that will govern the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, agreed to six months ago in the French capital.

The central focus for the first meeting of the United Nations Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement is how countries will monitor, report and verify the national climate pledges submitted last year, and whether poor and developing countries should be subject to the same rules as industrialized countries.

Other areas under discussion include technical workshop meetings on both mitigating climate change and adapting to it, and an informal stocktaking session next week to help gauge progress at the halfway point between the Paris summit and the follow-up negotiations scheduled to take place in Marrakech, Morocco, in November.

Christiana Figueres, who will step down as the United Nations' top climate change official in July, warned against expecting any “major political decisions” to emerge from the 11 days of talks, but she did strike an optimistic tone during an opening day media briefing.

“The new challenge is the decentralization of the process,” Figueres said. “It's no longer a single stream. That's positive: Many flowers are truly blooming.”

The opening plenary session at the UN talks in Bonn featured similarly upbeat assessments. But behind the scenes, there were calls for quicker action to implement the meat of the Paris Agreement, which calls for the global community to take steps to hold temperatures to “well below” a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) rise over pre-industrial times.

“We've had time to reflect on what we accomplished in Paris and now it's time to get to work,” said Elina Bardram, the European Union's director-general for climate. Bardram said she expected to see at least some progress across the board in Bonn. “What we do here will set the stage for the coming years,” she said.

Weather, Activism

The Bonn Climate Change Conference got underway amid reports that April was the seventh consecutive month of record high temperatures. Environmental groups said extreme weather was becoming more common across the globe. They said the changing climate should be a call to action for delegates.

“We are catching just a glimpse of what the future will be like, unless we act quickly and decisively,” said Teresa Anderson, a climate campaigner with ActionAid.

For the Paris Agreement to enter into force, at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions must ratify it by 2020. So far, 17 countries representing only 0.03 percent of emissions have done so, but UN officials told Bloomberg BNA those numbers were set to rise dramatically in the coming weeks.

‘Political Symbol.'

In Bonn, Segolene Royal, France's minister of environment, said she would submit a bill to the French National Assembly May 17 to ask it to ratify the agreement.

Most delegates told Bloomberg BNA that they expected the 55-55 threshold to be reached in 2017 or 2018 at the latest. That would not change the entry-into-force date for the pact, where most terms go info effect starting in 2020.

But, according to Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists, early ratification is important both as a “political symbol” and so that countries will have the rules and guidelines in place so that they can make internal policy decisions and future climate commitments in the framework of the agreement.

“It's essential to move forward as soon as possible,” Meyer said. “Once the Paris Agreement can enter into force, we can focus on the next phase.”

Also in Bonn, the Conference of Parties Bureau—an 11-member UN Framework Convention on Climate Change oversight body—is set to vote on the nomination of former Mexico Minister of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa as Figueres's replacement as the UN's top climate change official.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nominated Espinosa for the job earlier this month, and her appointment will become official once the Conference of Parties Bureau approves it. Delegates aid there was no indication of opposition to Espinosa's appointment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Bonn at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com