By Atayi Babs
BONN, Germany – Today, delegates from close to 200 countries in Bonn began negotiations that will shape the agenda for the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) scheduled for November 2022 in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.
Known as the 56th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), the Bonn talks hold from 6-16 June 2022 as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine overshadows the threat of rising emissions.
This year’s SBSTA meeting, analysts say, provides an opportunity to gauge the resolve of nations facing a catalogue of crises, including escalating climate impacts, geopolitical tensions, bloodshed in Ukraine and the threat of a devastating global food crisis.
The SBSTA Chair, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, expressed confidence that despite the challenging geopolitical context this year, climate change remains very high on the agenda of governments.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to life and livelihoods we face. We need to underline that climate change is the biggest issue of our time. In the last months, we have seen a lot of eagerness from governments to get down to work in Bonn. We have seen a lot of work at workshops and other events. There is a great appetite to make progress,” Mpanu Mpanu added.
Imperative of progress
Outgoing UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa called on governments not to be deterred as the meeting in Bonn is holding against the backdrop of accelerating climate impacts and geopolitical tension.
Espinosa underscored the urgency of political-level interventions and decisions required in each of the focal areas for negotiations to achieve a balanced package. These areas according to her, include mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and finance and means of implementation.
“It is not acceptable to say that we are in challenging times, even though we are. But they know that climate change is not an agenda we can afford to push back on our global schedule. We need decisions and actions now, and it is incumbent on all nations to make progress here in Bonn in the coming two weeks.”
“And we must understand that climate change is moving exponentially — we can no longer afford to move incrementally. We can no longer afford to make just incremental progress. We must move these negotiations along more quickly. The world expects it,” she added.
According to the UN climate chief, doing so will send a clear message that “we are headed in the right direction. Because the world will have one question in Sharm El-Sheikh: what progress have you made since Glasgow?”
At COP 26 in Glasglow last year, countries agreed to submit stronger 2030 emission reduction targets to close the gap to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).
Glasglow talks also agreed that developed countries should urgently deliver more resources to help climate-vulnerable countries adapt to the dangerous and costly consequences of climate change that they are feeling already — from dwindling crop yields to devastating storms.
Through the Glasgow Climate Pact, countries made bold collective commitments to curb methane emissions, halt and reverse forest loss, align the finance sector with net-zero by 2050, ditch the internal combustion engine, accelerate the phase-out of coal, and end international financing for fossil fuels. Net-zero means total emissions are equal to or less than the emissions removed from the environment.
Espinosa’s poser on what has been achieved since Glasgow is expected to propel negotiators towards accelerating real progress towards climate action as COP27 beckons.
Non-state actors on board
In addition to the efforts of governments to increase ambition to tackle climate change, COP26 in Glasgow marked a significant shift towards stronger non-Party stakeholder involvement, which is expected to continue in Bonn.
The SBSTA Chair has asked negotiators to ensure openness and transparency as Non-Party stakeholders are to provide input to several streams of work launched in Glasgow.
One of these streams relate to the Global stock take – a process that will assess progress on the implementation of the Paris Agreement – as well as the Glasgow Dialogue on loss and damage.
However, African non-party stakeholders under the aegis of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) have expressed deep concerns on the continued push by the global north for scientific attribution and quantification of loss and damage in total disregard of the science of climate change and evidence on loss and damage is already well-established.
Charles Mwangi, PACJA’s Head of Programmes, in a statement, reminded negotiators that the 1.5C Report of 2018 issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that “residual risks” will rise as temperatures increase.
The report further ranks Africa as the most vulnerable continent, with foreseeable catastrophes like those seen in Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, and Chad, amongst other African nations.
Based on these risks, African civil society leaders are in Bonn to demand, as a basic minimum, that loss and damage become a permanent priority agenda in climate negotiation processes right from SBSTAs to COPs.
The African non-party actors equally lent their voice to the call for the establishment of a dedicated “Loss and Damage Finance Facility” and relaxation of several complexities barring access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) made earlier today by Developing countries under the banner of G-77.
PACJA believes that the establishment of a special finance facility for loss and damage response is in line with article 8 of the Paris Agreement.
“These finances for loss and damage should be predictable in quality and quality and should be separate from the Adaptation Fund and the GCF,” they said.