UN Climate Negotiations in Bonn Search for Common Ground

May 19 — The gap between the negotiating positions of rich and poor countries that momentarily closed at last December's landmark United Nations climate summit in Paris reopened at the follow-up talks in Bonn May 19 over what is being called a “rule book” for the implementation of the global climate accord.

The newly created Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement, or APA—the main negotiating platform for hammering out an array of issues left unfinished in the negotiation for what is the first global climate pact—has stalled over where to start.

Rich countries, including the U.S., want to focus on mitigation actions: national promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Poor and developing countries want a more balanced set of priorities, including finance issues and capacity building, which were mostly left out of the Paris Agreement.

The APA did elect its chairs this week. They are Sarah Baashan from Saudi Arabia and Jo Tyndall of New Zealand, but so far the chairwomen have overseen a process embroiled in a procedural battle.

The process should “adopt a rule book that has fidelity to the mandate we received in Paris,” Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, chairman of the Group of Least Developed Countries, told Bloomberg BNA. “That means it should not focus only on mitigation efforts and on transparency issues and rules about compliance. We need a balanced approach.”

Thoriq Ibrahim, the Maldives' minister for environment and energy and chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States, agreed. “Most countries in the world cannot move forward on their Paris obligations without adequate support,” Ibrahim said in an interview.

All told, the talks in Paris left around 75 decisions to be addressed at a future date. Christiana Figueres, the UN's top climate official, said after the opening session that it would be wrong to expect a “major political decision” to emerge from the Bonn talks, which run through May 26.

But as the only negotiating session between the Paris summit and the next Conference of the Parties talks, in November, in Marrakech, Morocco, key observers said it is essential that the Bonn talks now going on lay the groundwork for high-level decision-making in Marrakech.

“The big risk here is that the process slumps and loses momentum,” Mohamed Adow, senior climate adviser for Christian Aid, told Bloomberg BNA. “The conclusion in Paris was momentous, but it will mean nothing without follow through.”

Several delegates told Bloomberg BNA May 19 that they expected the talks to start moving faster now that the two sides have staked out their territory.

“We still expect balanced progress in Bonn,” Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation in Bonn, said in a briefing.

The APA plenary is expected to meet for a full day May 20, with discussions on finance, transparency, and capacity building all on the agenda.

One of the developments on the sidelines of Bonn talks was the formal approval of former Mexico Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa to replace Figueres when Figueres steps down at the end of her mandate in July. The UN secretary-general nominated Espinosa May 3, but her appointment was pending approval of the COP Bureau, an oversight body (see related story).

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