Wednesday 29 November 2017

The 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place from 6 – 17 November in Bonn, Germany.


Presided over by Fiji, COP23 had a technical agenda: negotiators and delegates from almost 200 countries will focus on making progress in developing the rulebook for the Paris Agreement, to be approved in 2018. Thus this conference presented itself more as a working fortnight than a defining summit.

However, the dramatic shift in the US position on climate change together with the worrying climate news provide an unique opportunity for developing countries to shift the politics of climate change towards their needs and adaptation. Not least because this COP is, for the very first time, presided by a small island nation located on the frontline of climate vulnerability.

Adaptation – anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking action

Fiji's presidency provides adaptation advocates with reassurance on the promenence that a readiness to deal with the impact of climate change will have in the discussions.

Fiji's primary concern is working towards a common adaptation goal and its implementation. As for mitigating climate change, more ambitious targets are not expected to be announced. Some countries might share publicly their newly set 2050 targets.

In both areas, the poorest countries have called for increasing technical and financial support.  We might see progress in defining how developed countries will contribute to building the necessary capabilities, not least to meet the future reporting guidelines, in the poorest regions of the world as well as raising rich countries' commitment and transparency on climate finance.

COP23 – laying foundations for the rulebook to govern the Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement does not foresee penalties for countries failing to meet their targets. Yet, there was consensus over the necessity to create a mechanism that will monitor compliance and denounce non-compliance. The sort of mechanism that should be put in place and how it will work has yet to be decided. While no final decisions are expected at this meeting, progess may be made in this area.

The main task of this climate summit is to lay the foundations for the operating guidelines or rulebook that will govern the Paris Agreement and ought to be approved in 2018.

Non-state actors are increasingly exercising pressure for change

Over 20 000 participants are expected to attend COP23 at the UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn. A non-negligible number of these participants do not form part of a delegation, but represent the voices of non-state actors (NSAs) such as cities, businesses and civil society.

Increasingly, they are putting pressure on governments and international negotiators. Many lead real change within their regions. Twenty global cities have committed to carbon reductions of at least 80% by 2050, while 111 of the most influential companies in the world committed to 100% renewable power.

Many financial institutions have publicly pledged to take action and registered their commitment in the UN's NAZCA (Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action) portal at COP21.

Leadership in the fight against climate change

From a political perspective, COP23 ought to demonstrate how committed and united in the fight against climate change the world is despite the regrettable exit of the US from the Climate Accord. It will be interesting to see the extent to which developing countries fill the leadership void left by the US. Will a climate-united China and European Union take over?



 

Helena Vines Fiestas – Head of Sustainability Research of BNP Paribas Asset Management
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