The SB58 session marked, as usual, the main preparatory session to COP28 across all the key agenda items on the level of negotiators and technical experts. The session was characterised by a huge number of so-called mandated events on specific themes, as well as negotiations across a range of issues. Some of those delivered interesting insights on what countries and regions are actually doing and what their needs are to scale-up action. On the negotiations front, some topics were marked by clear divides and contrasting positions, such as finance where clear failure on commitments by so-called developed countries makes negotiations extremely difficult, while others saw progress on a very technical level. This article highlights a few areas.
The reporting portal Earth Negotiation Bulletin (ENB) concluded that:
“Overall, progress remained rather elusive as parties:
- could not agree on recommending a host for the Santiago Network on loss and damage;
- did not advance the development of a framework for guiding the achievement of the Global Goal on Adaptation and the review of overall progress in achieving it; and
- only noted an indicative draft structure of the decision on the Global Stocktake, which contains options for the title of a section on finance.”
Mitigation: beyond the agenda fight, clear focus on just transition in fossil fuel phase-out
Parties agreed at COP27 to launch a Mitigation Work Programme (MWP), which included assurance to take it up at COP28, including through a High Level Ministerial for exchange on more political issues. The EU asked to include the MWP on the agenda well ahead of the session in order to be able to capture discussions in Bonn and to provide further orientation towards COP28. However, when the session opened and when normally the agenda was adopted, an additional proposal by the LMDCs (Like Minded Developing Countries) to add a linked agenda item on support (finance) for mitigation in relation to Article 4.5 of the Paris Agreement created tensions: Parties did not agree on adopting the agenda. This went on almost until the end of the session, with the agenda being adopted eventually without the MWP explicitly included. It laid open that financial and technical support will also have to be a centrepiece of discussions under the MWP in order to enhance action and find common ground amongst parties.
CAN sees the MWP as complementary to the Global Stocktake (GST). The MWP will last until 2030 if renewed in 2026, while GST happens every five years; MWP is only about mitigation solutions while the GST focuses on mitigation, adaptation, means of implementation and hopefully loss and damage; the focus of the MWP is on implementation and sectoral solutions while the GST should provide strong political signals for the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Thus, the MWP – including increased financial and technical support provided – will have a key role in making the GST recommendations and guidance actionable next year, and this year it could inspire the GST’s political phase.
The opening of the work programme on Just Transition, at least, marked an important opportunity for now more focused exchanges on how to make a rapid and just transition happen across key areas of work, in particular, but not only, to the required shift away from fossil fuels in the context of sustainable development, and how countries and communities in the Global South can be supported. How the work programme eventually shapes up will be subject to further work among Parties ahead and during COP28, and overlaps with other negotiation streams that need to be taken care of.
Civil society organisations from CAN and beyond used the session to increase attention to the root cause of the climate crisis, the burning of fossil fuels, with almost daily actions on the ground, massive communication on social media and the launch of the #EndFossilFuels campaign at the end of the session. This also aims to ramp up pressure on accelerating the expansion of renewable energies in substitution of fossil fuels, as well as for tackling energy poverty. Therefore,, discussions over potential agreement on global renewable energy expansion targets for 2030 by COP28 gained ground, with the EU being in a key role for preparing a proposal. Communications from a meeting of EU leaders with the COP28 president in Brussels point to the direction this may take in the EU’s perspective: “global 2030 targets for the tripling of renewable energy and doubling of energy efficiency, as well as promote the doubling of clean hydrogen by unlocking global cross-border trade”.
From CAN’s perspective, in the discussions going forward, it will be important to see renewables (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) expansion alongside fossil fuel phase out agreements as two sides of the same coin, and not to allow the UAE presidency and other fossil fuel dominated countries to bypass the latter by signing up to RE increase targets only (while continuing investments into fossil fuel expansion). In addition the level of ambition must align with credible 1.5°C scenarios, which would also depend on baseline years and not promoting false solutions. Moreover ,such targets should not be read as a free ticket to renewable energy expansion without social and ecological safeguards. It is evident that targets alone won’t suffice and should be underpinned by an implementation roadmap, including ramped up climate finance.
Loss and Damage: No agreement on Santiago Network host, key funding tasks now with Transitional Committee
On loss and damage, the session had the objective to agree on the host organisations of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage (SNLD) Secretariat. In response to the two offers received – one by UNDRR/UNOPS and another by the Caribbean Development Bank – discussions mainly happened among developing countries, with the EU and other developed countries not intervening much. However, despite various sessions and intense discussions within developing countries, agreement was not found on either one of the two hosts, which leaves a shadow over this supposedly less controversial issue, which will further delay the operationalisation of the SNLD. The second Glasgow Dialogue on Loss and Damage provided useful information to advance the work of the Transitional Committee (TC) on the operationalisation of the funding arrangements and new fund for responding to loss and damage. Discussions focused on maximising support from existing funding arrangements, including considerations on coherence, complementarity, and coordination. The ball is now with the Transitional Committee which is tasked to make recommendations for consideration and adoption at COP28 on how to operationalise the new loss and damage fund and funding arrangements. It will formally meet in late August and mid-October, alongside a specific ministerial to consider the state of discussions before the last meeting. European countries in the TC need to listen closely to the needs expressed in particular by the especially vulnerable and more resource-constrained developing countries with regard to setting up a new, stand-alone fund growing to the tens of billions of dollars in the next years, filled with new and additional finance from governments, developed countries and potentially other capable ones, and new public finance sources, such as levies from aviation and maritime transport, fossil fuel exploration etc. On the latter, it will be important that the TC also provides actionable recommendations on how to advance such instruments, and coalitions of the willing to implement them. The EU must see itself as a key driver here and work closely with other countries. CAN Europe also shared specific proposals in a side event at the Bonn session.
Finance remains critical
While developed countries continue to announce that in 2023 they will reach the 100 billion support goal to developing countries, they refuse to make up the shortfalls in the early years of the commitment: delivering in full means $600 billion on average over 2020-2025. The mitigation work programme agenda discussion underlined the importance of delivering on the commitments, but the lack of clarity on the planned finance increase has also overshadowed discussions on the biennial projected finance reports from developed to developing countries under Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement, as well as the negotiations on the post-2025 climate finance goal. On the latter, the EU could be heard saying that numbers in the goal would only be decided at the last minute of COP29, raising concerns that the new goal(s) would be defined more by negotiation trade-offs than actual needs and facts. Whether COP28 will be able to capture any provisional agreements that could narrow down to issues to be decided upon in 2024 remains much in question.
Global Stocktake: Now to focus on political action
The technical phase of the GST concluded and will be remembered as comparatively interactive, with various dynamic world cafe style exchanges between Parties and stakeholders taking place in the halls of the World Conference Center in Bonn. The opening of the political phase supposed to lead to actionable decisions at COP28 across all main areas of work achieved less than hoped for, but – at least – an indicative draft structure of the CMA 5 decision contained in an informal note by the Co-Chairs of the contact group, alongside with the invitation for submissions by 15 September 2023, is something that Parties and stakeholders can now work with in ramping up political will by COP28. UNFCCC Executive Secretary therefore also reminded Parties that “the global stocktake at COP28 must be the turning point where we get on track to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
The EU is key to climbing the ambition ladder to COP28
There are less than six months left until COP28, but a series of important high-level events are around the corner, where the EU should be a key driving force for progressive outcomes which lead to 2023 becoming a REAL course correction milestone, which moves action forward and does not stop at concluding rhetorically ambitious but not substantiated political declarations. This includes the New Global Financing Pact (Paris, 22-23 June 2023), the G20 summit (9/10 September), the Climate Ambition Summit alongside the UN General Assembly in New York and the Green Climate Fund replenishment (Bonn, 5 October).
Actions agreed there should then find their way into official EU COP28 positions to be agreed in environment and finance ministerials in mid-October.