What to expect from COP23 – Going into the First Week of the Negotiations

In the next two weeks, the United Nations Climate Change Negotiations are taking place in Bonn, Germany. I first began to follow these negotiations in 2009 when they were in Copenhagen, Denmark. I went there to participate, take part in manifestations, and report back to the organisation I was representing (this includes sleeping on the floor of a school as accommodation). The aim of this blog post is to introduce the negotiations and to highlight some of the main areas of importance of these two weeks.

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Just a brief background: the correct terminology for this meeting is COP23 or the 23rd Conference of the Parties. The COP is the main decision-making body of the UNFCCC, an acronym for the very catchy “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”. Basically, the COP is an annual meeting where officials and representatives from 196 countries and one economic union (the EU) meet to negotiate international action on climate change.
The first COP occurred in Berlin in 1995 and we are now 23 years in, hence COP23. During this time two treaties have been agreed; the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and most recently the Paris Agreement (2015). The main aim of these treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent human action from further damaging the climate.

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So back to this year. The 2017 negotiations are governed by Fiji and marks an important step for global climate action. The Paris Agreement was a vital step towards a global commitment to combating climate change. COP23 needs to hold on to this spirit in order to ensure global action before it is too late to avoid the most severe consequences of a changing climate. In order to meet the Paris goal of keeping global temperature below 2 degrees C° (or ideally below 1.5 degrees C°) compared to pre-industrial levels, we need global greenhouse gas emissions to start declining by 2020 and reach to zero by 2050. This means that one of the main themes to follow during the COP23 negotiations will be the on how to make the Paris Agreement operational.. This includes negotiations on a framework, guiding the implementation of the agreement. It also covers an agreement on transparency; e.g. public reporting and reviews of countries commitments to act and reduce their emissions. A third vital point is the development of the Paris Agreements mechanism to assess the progress of the commitments and a process for increasing action every fifth year.
Another important thing during this year’s negotiations is that Fiji, in its governing position, has chosen that these negotiations will have a specific focus on vulnerable countries and communities. One of the main principles of the UNFCCC is equity, or “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”. Some actors choose to focus on the word “responsibilities,” and specifically the historical responsibilities developed countries have, due to the greenhouse gases they emitted when growing their economies. Other actors focus on the word “capabilities,” meaning the capacity a country has to deal with climate change, including financial as well as technological resources to adapt their domestic emissions. With this, COP23’s emphasis being on vulnerable countries, such as developing Small Island states and the unique environmental challenges they encounter. The expectations going into these negotiations are on the adaptation fund, along with the $100 billion that needs to be collected by 2020 to finance it. One of the topics I personally will focus on is gender and climate change, but if there is any topic you wish I would cover in more detail, or have questions on the best way to follow a certain area – please send me an e-mail!

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-This blog post was written by Alexandra Arntsen, Associate Lecturer in the Green Academy Team at NTU. 

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