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June 16 — Delegates at the Bonn Climate Change Conference took a small step forward with an agreement to circulate “elements” of a draft of the 2015 global treaty to curb climate change starting next month. That set the stage for at least part of next year’s agreement to be negotiated before the 2014 year-end summit in Lima, Peru.
The elements could be circulated as soon as July 15, a month after the close of the June 4-15 negotiations near the Bonn headquarters of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—a lightning-fast development in UN terms.
But it is not clear what the elements will include, and delegates said it was likely that the most contentious parts of the 2015 agreement will be left for negotiators in December in Lima, or won't be tackled until next year.
According to the co-chairs of the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, the main negotiating track, the last-minute deal in Bonn makes it more likely the Lima talks will be able to make significant progress, perhaps even producing the first full draft of the text expected to be presented in Paris at the end of 2015.
“We are determined to ensure these [elements] will be available in July as we head towards a comprehensive new treaty in 2015 to protect the planet from dangerous climate change,” said Artur Runge-Metzger in a closing briefing, with fellow co-chair Kishan Kumarsingh at his side.
“This is a significant step forward towards the draft treaty that needs to be a key outcome at the end of the year in Lima,” Runge-Metzger added.
In her briefing, Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC’s executive secretary, agreed: “Bonn may go down as the point in time when governments showed new and higher levels of cooperation and positivity toward a meaningful agreement in Paris.”
Delegates and observers were more circumspect. A senior European Union delegate, speaking to Bloomberg BNA via telephone at the close of the talks, likened the result to a tie soccer game: “Could have been better but it’s not the worst-case scenario,” the delegate said, asking not to be further identified.
Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists applauded the eleventh hour deal but cautioned against too much optimism.
“There remain sharp disagreements on the shape and scope of the Paris agreement,” Meyer said in an interview. “The challenge for negotiators at the next UN meeting in October [also in Bonn] will be to narrow those differences whenever possible so that ministers can grapple with the key political issues when they arrive in Lima.”
Said Tasneem Essop from WWF: “We still have hard work ahead of us. We have to build on the momentum we saw here in Bonn if we are to have a successful outcome in Lima.”
Developing countries were mostly unimpressed by the Bonn outcome, continuing to insist that the difficult issue of finance for the Green Climate Fund, which aims to help poor countries adapt to climate change, be discussed more seriously.
“There is a question of trust and the developed world cannot demand poor countries take action when they have not kept their own promises on finance,” Africa Group negotiator Alice Waters told Bloomberg BNA.
The decision in the last hours of the talks in Bonn to produce the first elements of the 2015 draft by next month was pushed hard by Runge-Metzger and Kumarsingh over the objection of some delegations—at one point including both the U.S. and China—that there were too few areas of consensus to start discussing specific language for the 2015 document. But opposition faded as the elements were cast as a starting point for negotiations heading toward the October continuation of the Bonn talks.
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