(CAN Europe) Explainer: What’s going on at the UN climate talks in Bonn and why the EU behaviour matters

Global transition

More than 6 months after COP26 in Glasgow, governments are meeting during the next two weeks for the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, the host city to the UNFCCC Secretariat (UN Climate Change). These “intersessional” negotiations usually take place every mid-year in preparation for the big UN climate summits, the so-called Conference of the Parties (COPs). This year’s Bonn session is the first physical meeting after two years of COVID-related cancellations or shifts into the virtual space which now offers to build and rebuild connections between the negotiators from almost 200 countries across the Globe.

With COP27 taking place in November 2022 in Africa and the Arab region – both among the most affected geographies – the negotiations must center on the needs of those hit hardest by the impacts of the climate crisis. The SB56 session in Bonn also takes place against the backdrop of intersecting crises: an ongoing pandemic, an inhumane war waged by Russia against Ukraine, and a looming global food emergency. The recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports have dramatically shown how harshly the climate crisis is hitting the most vulnerable, that adaptation needs to be scaled up by all major greenhouse gases emitters, but in particular the richest countries, must enhance their mitigation efforts and that the limits of adapting to climate change are already met today.

This, obviously, puts the EU into a central role in the negotiations, as a major climate finance contributor, as a major causer of the climate crisis, and as a neighbouring continent to Africa. The EU as a country group wants to become the first climate neutral major economy and is going through intense internal legislative processes to implement its enhanced climate pledge (through the ‘Fit for 55’ package), complemented by the recent energy plan “REPowerEU” in response to the war against Ukraine and the fossil fuel energy prices crisis. This plan increases its ambition on renewables and energy efficiency but would also result in huge backsteps by locking in new fossil gas infrastructure and LNG (liquefied natural gas) imports including from countries in the Global South, as a means to substitute the Russian oil, gas and coal for which the EU has paid 60 billion EUR since the beginning of the war. CAN Europe has developed more detailed comments and recommendations in a letter addressed to Member States. Against this backdrop the EU has the challenge to make progress on the Glasgow Climate Pact, where it should aim to increase support to developing countries, and to leverage stronger action from big emitters.

Opportunities to take action to address loss and damage: the Glasgow Dialogues
The EU blocked a more substantive outcome on finance to address loss and damage at COP26 despite calls from the large group of developing countries. The Glasgow Climate Pact instead promised the Glasgow Dialogues over the next three years, with the first taking place in Bonn 7, 8 and 11 June. But dialogue on the issue has already happened for many years and on different occasions, and communities need urgent action now, with finance contributed by rich economies including the EU according to the UNFCCC’s foundational principles including equity, justice, fairness, and access. The dialogues should therefore result in concrete and meaningful outcomes via decisions at COP27 in Egypt this November.

Climate Action Network calls for:
● Concrete outcomes that provide adequate, new, and additional, reliable, and grants-based support for the most vulnerable people and countries in addressing loss and damage – otherwise, the dialogue fails. Concrete steps and meaningful outcomes to be achieved at the end of each year until 2024 should be defined in the first dialogue.

● Agreement on the next steps to define the modalities of the loss and damage finance facility, its institutional arrangements, various sources of predictable, sustainable, adequate, new and additional loss and damage finance, and equitable and direct access for vulnerable developing countries based on needs and priorities. A critical milestone to deliver will be COP27: in Sharm el Sheikh countries must formally establish the loss and damage finance facility. Ministers should guide their negotiators at SB56 to work in that direction. Subsequently, the Glasgow Dialogue should flesh out the operationalization of such a facility, and how loss and damage finance is delivered and can be made accessible for the most vulnerable countries and most impacted people.

Advancing the emissions reduction work programme to keep 1.5°C threshold truly alive
The Glasgow Climate Pact sets clear expectations on all countries to deliver accelerated action on coal, fossil fuel subsidies, methane, non-CO2 gases, and nature protection. The climate negotiations in Bonn are an important moment to raise expectations for progress on implementation this year. However, in the next two weeks Parties for the first time will discuss in more detail how a pre-2030 mitigation work programme (WP), which according to the COP26 decisions shall be approved by COP27, is supposed to look like, how it can accelerate action by all Parties and what specific activities shall be undertaken.

The Work Programme (WP) to Scale Mitigation Ambition and Implementation will need to reflect and result in sound technical work and outputs, but at the same time must be “political” in the sense of leading to actions and decisions which make a real world difference in terms of closing the emissions gap to the 1.5°C limit. It should be guided by the recent findings of the IPCC report that we need global aggregate reductions by at least 43% [34–60%] by 2030 over 2019 levels to be in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

In order to succeed in this regard, it must strongly reflect the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, justice and equity. Strengthening the national climate targets (NDCs) as well as accelerating and integrating sectoral actions are key strategies. The expectation therefore is for technical deliverables (such as technical dialogues on sectoral mitigation/implementation barriers and solutions) as well as high-level decision making within the COP with clear decisions to be taken at COP27 and beyond to ensure that the 1.5°C goal is not surpassed.

The EU should not only progressively engage in these discussions, but step up as a strong facilitator and supporter of action in developing countries, but also must do more to get its own house in order and to show its determination to quickly reduce and eventually phase out fossil fuel use and subsidies for it.

The mitigation work programme debate interlinks with a key process under the Paris Agreement, the Global Stocktake (GST), which really kicks off through a technical phase, in the form of various technical dialogues among governments and experts spread over five days. By the design of the Paris Agreement, the conclusion of the GST in 2023 is supposed to lead to higher ambition to close gaps to the Paris Agreement’s goals.

In addition to the above, the negotiation session will also dive into a number of other issues with importance for COP27 preparations, such as the further refinement of Article 6 rules under the Paris Agreement, the Global Goal on Adaptation, and also ensuring a fair, transparent and effective observer participation at COP27 and beyond.

Overall, the June negotiations come at a critical time and EU decision-makers must pay significant attention to its outcomes in preparation for COP27. The European Parliament will take next steps in June and beyond to design its COP27 resolution. Furthermore, the EU Presidency will transition from France to Czech Republic shortly after which will then be in a role to lead the EU through its positioning, including environment council decisions and diplomatic engagement with Egypt and other countries, up to and during COP27. The European Commission and Member States are involved in negotiations with key countries to set up just energy transition partnerships, which need to prioritise renewable energies and energy savings and efficiency and not new investments into fossil gas or oil.

Listening to, and supporting the voices of, particularly affected developing countries from Africa and beyond will be critical for the EU to contribute to progressive negotiation outcomes this June.