UN-Sponsored Climate Talks Begin in Bonn, but Many Delegates Have an Eye on Paris

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By Eric J. Lyman

June 1 — The last full-length set of international climate talks before the year-end summit in Paris got started June 1 with United Nations officials and delegation leaders seeking to downplay expectations for the scheduled 11 days of negotiations.

The talks in Bonn are the first formal meeting to take place since some of the largest economies—including the U.S., European Union and Russia—submitted to the UN their national pledges for domestic climate action that will be represented in the hoped-for Paris pact. 

But with six of the world's 10 largest emitters yet to submit those pledges—which the UN calls Intended Nationally Determined Contributions—little effort is expected during the next two weeks to persuade countries to take on more ambitious goals.

Instead, the Bonn talks will focus on looking for easier signs of progress through consensus on several topics that could be important in Paris, where the UN hopes to finalize the first global agreement to fight climate change.

Those topics could be as broad as defining how progress will be measured once the global pact takes effect in 2020, assuming a Paris agreement is reached. The efforts could lay the groundwork for the actual text of a final Paris accord.

‘Hard Work Will Be Done in Paris.'

In its current state, the negotiating text—which grew out of late-2014 talks in Lima and February in Geneva—is an unwieldy 90 pages.

But it is more likely to expand than contract in Bonn, according to delegates. Any final agreement to emerge from Paris will likely be in the range of 15 to 25 pages, according to negotiators.

“No matter how you cut it, the hard work will be done in Paris,” one senior developing country delegate told Bloomberg BNA, asking not to be further identified. “We will reduce the options in Bonn, but the final language will only come in Paris.”

Leaders of the talks used the opening day to call for stronger action from parties.

The world's nation's have a “collective responsibility” to come up with a strong agreement in Paris, said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will be president of the Paris Conference of the Parties summit. “We will not win the fight for development and poverty eradication without winning the climate fight.”

Environmentalists agreed, calling for countries in Bonn to back the strongest proposals so that the Paris text will be “a meaningful agreement,” said Alix Mazounie, an environmental lobbyist from climate action network RAC France.

But UN officials who spoke to Bloomberg BNA on background classified the goal of the Bonn talks as anything that makes it easier for delegates of the world's nearly 200 nations when they are meeting six months from now in Paris.

“Success in Bonn is that the challenges for Paris are a little easier,” said one official.

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

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