Bonn to the Future: Climate Talks and what 2018 has in Store
November saw Fiji hosting the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP23) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP23 was held in Germany for practical reasons but for the first time, the conference president was from one of the small island nations most at risk from warming.
As with much of this year’s news, the main drama focussed on Trump; in June he announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5o C above pre-industrial levels. Eco Companion’s founder made a video expressing our opinions which you can watch here. However, the decision may not be quite as disastrous as it seemed at first. Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, claims she was “moved to thank the President”. Trump’s move has placed the US alone with Syria outside of the Paris deal and has lead to a wave of support for the treaty from both inside the US and out.
So, where next?
The Paris Agreement is simply that: an agreement. Countries are not bound to cut emission levels and instead make voluntary pledges. At their current level for carbon cuts, we would expect at least a 3o C rise. The groundwork for revisions to these pledges was carried out in Bonn and 2018 should see them finalised. The leading scientific journal, Nature, called the meeting in Bonn “a litmus test of how the rest of the world plans to stand united” and it seems that the rest of the world has stood together. However, the real test will be in the coming year when the details of the pledge revisions are finalised. We will see then whether the original target for emissions is still possible.
It is not only nations that are involved in the talks. About the original Paris agreement, Figueres says “we knew that for the agreement to be steadfast, it was imperative that everybody owned the process…We brought together a diverse cross section of people from all over the world.”
More than 100 multinational businesses have committed to going 100% renewable via the RE100 campaign. With support coming from Nations, political groups, and international companies, Figueres acknowledges the challenges we face but remains optimistic.
The main problem is that climate talks have not invigorated the public. Rather, it has had the opposite effect. Polls suggest that media coverage of the Bonn talks acts to sooth the public into a reassuring sense that something is being done. The same polls show that people are less likely than before to support their country in taking a leading role in climate action. There is a sense of shifted responsibility. But for targets to be met, everyone must act. Forward steps have been taken but we must not lose momentum moving into the new year.