Credit; IISD/ENB/Kiara Worth

Headway made in Bonn but all hopes rest on COP28’s shoulders to tackle emission reduction challenges

Following two weeks of intense work, some progress was made on several issues at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, helping to lay the groundwork for the political decisions required at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai at the end of the year and for years to come.

Credit; IISD/ENB/Kiara Worth

The Bonn conference with delegates representing over 100 parties to the Paris Agreement, brought together more than 4,800 participants from all corners of the world, almost double the number of participants that attended last year’s conference. This encompassed indigenous peoples, local communities, businesses, cities, and civil society, including youth and children. Those who gathered for their first full in-person meeting since COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh addressed climate change and highlighted challenges that need to be overcome to reach emission reduction targets.

This conference was held at a time when many, including the UN chief, are urging countries to embark on the massive deployment of renewables while progressively phasing out fossil fuels to “leave oil, coal and gas in the ground where they belong,” as immediate global action toward net-zero emissions “must start with the polluted heart of the climate crisis: the fossil fuel industry.” 

While several organisations, analyses, and multiple industry players have expressed views in support of oil and gas being needed to power the world for decades to come not only to strengthen energy security but also to usher in a just and balanced energy transition, others warn about the consequences of bringing new fossil fuel projects online and call for an explicit exit strategy to progressively strip out fossil fuel assets from investment portfolios and the energy mix while stepping up the renewable energy deployment to accelerate the global action towards net-zero.

In reference to the record “$4 trillion windfall” in income, which was recorded by the fossil fuels industry last year, António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, underlines that “the fossil fuel industry and its enablers have a special responsibility. Yet for every dollar it spends on oil and gas drilling and exploration, only four cents went to clean energy and carbon capture combined. Trading the future for 30 pieces of silver is immoral.”

Compared to slightly more than $1 trillion estimated to go into coal, oil, and gas, the global investment in clean energy is on track to jump to $1.7 trillion in 2023, paving the way for more green and renewable sources to be added to the energy mix. The International Energy Agency believes that the world’s demand for oil is set to slow almost to a halt in the coming years, with the high prices and security of supply concerns highlighted by the global energy crisis hastening the shift towards cleaner energy technologies and enabling peak oil demand to come into view.

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Even though progress has been made in recent years, the world is not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, as illustrated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest Synthesis Report, which underscored that global emissions need to be nearly halved by 2030 for the world to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Transformational adaptation is also needed to help communities and ecosystems cope with the climate impacts that are already occurring and are expected to intensify.

In line with this, delegates and representatives of civil society used the Bonn Climate Change Conference to focus on the challenge of post-2030 emission reduction ambitions by advancing their work on the Global Stocktake, which is designed to drive the Paris Agreement’s ambition cycle. It will conclude at COP28 in December this year, providing the basis for the next round of emissions reduction targets for 2035 and 2040, along with new efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to raise financial and technical resources to support developing countries.

The Global Stocktake is a two-year process for countries and stakeholders to see where they are collectively making progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and where they are falling short, so that, they can get back on track. This looks at everything related to where the world stands on climate action and support, identifying the gaps, and working together to chart a better course forward to accelerate climate action.

“Regrettably, when the agenda was finally adopted, it did not include an item on the Mitigation Work Programme, which was agreed at COP27 and called by the EU as part of the decision agreed in Sharm el-Sheikh and the progressive alliance of both developed and developing countries. The Work Programme would serve to speed up cuts in emissions in this critical decade before 2030, with the aim of keeping global average temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” underscored the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action.

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Regarding putting in place balanced new funding arrangements, with an expanded donor base, to help vulnerable communities to face loss and damage caused by climate change, progress was made in Bonn on operationalising the Santiago Network on loss and damage, however, no decision was reached on the host of the network. While commenting on this, the EU said it remained “hopeful” that a solution could be crafted in Dubai to ensure that technical assistance would start flowing to those that need it the most.

“The EU recognises the importance of climate finance across the agenda and stands by its climate finance commitments. It is essential to align global financial flows with the Paris goals to ensure that the scale of financial support matches what is required to help solve the existential challenges created by the climate crisis, including examining the pool of donors,” added the European Commission.

Despite the progress made in Bonn on issues including the global stocktake, climate finance, loss and damage, and adaptation, among many others, COP28 is seen as a moment to correct the course towards more ambitious climate action to get the world on track to limit the temperature rise in line with the Paris Agreement.

Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, remarked: “Pledges by parties and their implementation are far from enough. So, the response to the stocktake will determine our success – the success of COP28, and far more importantly, success in stabilising our climate.”

Moreover, stocktake discussions are set to continue during the coming months to help prepare for COP28 while the information from work programmes and other events, such as the mitigation work programme and the global goal on adaptation, will also feed into the stocktake’s outcome.

Farhan Akhtar, co-facilitator of the technical dialogue of the first global stocktake, stated: “It is clear that we already have a deep and broad technical understanding of what it will take to course correct, and to rise to the challenges that are standing in the way of addressing the ambition and implementation gaps before us – across all topics.”

As the Bonn Climate Conference also focused on climate finance and the provision of adequate and predictable financial support to developing countries for climate action, this included discussions on setting a new collective quantified goal on climate finance in 2024. 

Forcing oil & gas representatives’ hand to divulge industry ties at future COPs

Global Witness, an international NGO, claims that it counted 503 fossil fuel lobbyists at COP26 and 636 at COP27, however, the UN seems to have reached a decision to make all delegates at future COPs openly declare exactly what their organisational affiliation is. The NGO sees this as “a huge step that will bring this toxic influence out of the shadows.”

Alice Harrison, Global Witness’ Fossil Fuels Team, said: “It’s a massive first move and will make it even easier for us to reveal just how many fossil fuel lobbyists are at future COPs – starting with the UAE-hosted talks, later this year. And just in case any of those with vested interests in keeping the world hooked on oil and gas even think about not declaring who they represent – trust us, we’ll know, and we’ll be digging into them.

“Front, back or side, every single door to the UN climate talks must be shut, locked and bolted from the influence of the very companies that are most to blame for the climate peril the world now  faces. And whilst today is a victory for our campaigning, we will not stop until that is achieved. That’s both a promise and a warning.”

COP28 will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 30 November to 12 December 2023. The president of this year’s COP is Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology of the United Arab Emirates, managing director and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), chairman of Masdar, and the United Arab Emirates’ special envoy for climate change.

“This is a critical year for climate action. The Global Stocktake at COP28 must be the turning point where we get on track to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” highlighted Stiell.