Climate negotiations on the road to a strong Paris agreement rulebook

Opening session of the forty-eighth session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 48) and the forty-eighth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), Ms. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
© UNclimatechange, 2018 / Source: Flickr – UNFCCC

The UN climate change negotiations are concluding tomorrow in Bonn after ten days in the German city aiming at developing the final text for the Paris agreement rulebook.

However, this is not going to happen before COP24 scheduled in December 2018, according to the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Patricia Espinosa. This climate chief mentioned that there has been steady progress in the meeting but the target of agreeing a rulebook will remain till the end of the year when all parties will convene in Poland next December for the COP24.

Raising climate ambitions

Before the beginning of the summit it was optimistic but plausible to draft a negotiating text that could keep climate talks on track ahead of the next gathering in Bangkok, Thailand next September. The Bonn meeting started with Patricia Espinosa addressing the importance of tackling climate change by increasing green ambitions. At the same time, an analysis was recently published by the London School of Economics proving that all 197 UN parties have at least one national law or policy on climate change.

Particularly, “the Global trends in climate change legislation and litigation: 2018 snapshot” report shows that: “There are now more than 1,500 national climate change laws and policies worldwide, with 106 introduced since the Paris agreement was signed in December 2015. Of the 106 new laws and policies passed since the Paris agreement was reached, 28 explicitly reference the agreement.”

The UN official stressed three priorities which need to be set. First of all, governments together with non-governmental organizations and the business sector should speed up the climate contribution by 2020. Secondly, the manual rulebook should be finalized in order to reinforce the battle against climate change. Thirdly, the climate policy framework has to change in order to provide governments with the conditions to slow down global warming.

The fact though that little progress was made last November in COP23 increased the expectations for the acceleration of the negotiations and actions on the preparation of the guidelines in Bonn. But the chances disappeared with Espinosa’s statement. More precisely, the UN secretary said: “A single negotiating text. No. That would really not be possible. It will all come together when it comes to the level of the Cop, of the conference in December.” In addition, Patricia Espinosa highlighted that improvement was stable and all negotiating groups expressed their commitment to the plan and the goal of a rulebook by the end of 2018.

EU’s greener budget

Further, the European Commission announced last week its proposal for the long-term budget for the 2021-2027 period showing its commitment to the fight against climate change. According to the EC, 25% out of the 1,279 trillion euros budget is going to be distributed through renewable energy and efficiency improvement funds and also aid to developing countries outside Europe .

It needs to be mentioned though that the percentage increased by 5 points compared to the current budget despite the fact that Britain is going to leave a huge gap in the 2021-2027 budget.  Furthermore, Britain has promised to keep its climate promises after leaving the bloc. More specifically, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said last month that: “In the future relationship we should commit to no lowering of the standards of environmental protection. The agreement on the future relationship with the UK should include a non-regression clause. This can be inspired by the CETA (Canada-EU free trade agreement) or Japan FTA (free trade agreement) provisions, but this will need to go further. It should prevent any reduction of the key pre-Brexit standards.”

Investors vs. climate change

On the other hand, the business sector is backing the climate change agreement. Climate Action 100+, an initiative led by 279 investors, is engaging with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters in order to improve governance on climate change.

Stephanie Maier, a director of responsible investment at HSBC Global Asset Management and representative of Climate Action 100+, mentioned on the issue: “Companies with business models that are robust within the Paris framework are going to find it easier to access capital than those who aren’t”. What is more, Nick Stansbury, a fund manager and energy specialist at Legal & General’s investment unit, outlined that investors will treat corporations positively if they support green energy.

All in all, the road to build a document which is written in a legal language is very difficult and negotiations are not evolving fast enough as time presses. Notwithstanding, a robust guideline text is imperative to be in place by the end of the year.

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