The West sabotages Bonn climate talks – Global South betrayed yet again on ‘historical responsibility’

Let us not forget that global climate change is a problem largely created by the West through its carbon-intensivbe industrialisation over the past two centuries.

At a time when the collective West is channeling hundreds of billions of dollars into Europe to prolong a futile war, it has once again done everything it can to back off from its commitments to the developing world to deliver $300 billion a year by 2030, and $500 billion by 2050. This is funding promised for developing countries to adapt to increased floods, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather directly caused by climate change.

The following extracts are from an article published in China Dialogue on June 24, 2022, reporting on the key issues of conflict between the rich developed countries and the developing world, which have yet again surfaced at the latest round of UN Climate Conference – 56th working session of which took place from 6 to 16 June 2022, in Bonn, Germany.

Financial help for irreversible climate damage was a key sticking point at the latest UN climate talks, with anger from developing nations growing.

The Bonn climate talks marked a shift in emphasis. After the “Paris rulebook”, which governs how measures set out in the Paris Agreement will work in practice, was finalised at last year’s COP26 climate summit, the focus has now shifted to implementation.

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Climate compensation

Loss and damage was a major theme in the Bonn talks. It refers to the impacts of climate change where adaptation is impossible, including immediate damage from extreme weather and slow-onset problems such as the loss of agricultural land and rising sea levels. Loss and damage has risen up the agenda as climate change has become more severe, hitting poorer countries the hardest.

Developed countries have pushed back on earmarking specific finance for loss and damage, anxious to avoid opening the door to “compensation” claims around historical responsibility. Developing countries in the G77 plus China negotiating group left the Glasgow talks disappointed that richer nations had failed to agree to its demands for a finance facility for loss and damage. As a compromise, the “Glasgow Dialogue” was set up, under which the issue would be discussed, starting in Bonn.

But developed countries have “kicked the can down the road”. The issue of loss and damage was not added to the formal negotiating agenda for the upcoming UN climate talks at COP27, which will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022. However, New Zealand voiced support for loss and damage finance, joining Scotland, which pledged support at Glasgow. Some countries called for scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to write a report on the issue to inform the talks.

Dayeuhkolot, Indonesia. 3rd Nov, 2021. Residents are being evacuated by using a boat. Citarum river overflowed due to the heavy rainfall inundating thousands of houses in Bandung. Photo: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News
Mitigation ambition

A new strand of discussions known as the “mitigation work programme” began in Bonn. Countries agreed to start the programme at COP26, to reflect the need to urgently scale up the ambition of current mitigation plans and the pledges made in Glasgow, which have been estimated to push global average temperature rises to around 2.4C, rather than the “well under 2C” agreed in Paris in 2015.

The talks did not progress far in Bonn, as several major bones of contention emerged. Language being negotiated included the term “major emitters”, which the US insisted on to force countries such as China to take greater responsibility for cutting greenhouse gases this decade. However, China, along with India and Saudi Arabia, strongly opposed this, arguing that the US had far greater historical responsibility for climate change.

Another split surfaced over the duration of the programme. Some supported the idea that it should continue until 2030, while others, including China, wanted it to last a year only. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), meanwhile, called for it to have no restrictions on timescale, given the huge gaps between commitments and action seen so far.

Countries also discussed whether individual sectors of the economy should have specific climate targets, an idea backed by the EU. But developing countries, including India, opposed this. Such were the disagreements that the final text that emerged from discussions on the programme may not be taken forward for negotiation at COP27.

Political momentum

Other technical discussions in Bonn centred around the first “global stocktake”, under which countries will assess whether they are collectively taking sufficient action to keep within the temperature rise agreed in Paris. The outcome of the stocktake will inform the next round of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), with updates to these national climate plans next due in 2025.

Countries also discussed how much climate finance should be provided after 2025, following up on the long-standing US$100 billion annual climate finance goal – which has yet to be met. Finance for adaptation was also a theme, following on from the COP26 pledge by developed countries to double adaptation finance by 2025.

The Global Goal on Adaptation, which broadly aims to increase the capacity for nations to adapt to climate impacts, remains undefined, seven years after it was included in the Paris Agreement. It will be taken forward for formal discussions at COP27.

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With just over four months until the Egypt summit, the frameworks agreed in Glasgow to turn political vision into reality, such as those on adaptation and loss and damage, had not made progress in Bonn – the last under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) before COP27.


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