HomeCommentaryKey observations from 2024 Bonn climate conference

Key observations from 2024 Bonn climate conference

By most metrics, the recently concluded Bonn climate conference (SB60) is a failure. 

It is intended to set the stage for decisions to actually be made this November in Azerbaijan (COP29). Yet Parties did not make even close to enough progress, especially on what is expected to be the most notable agenda of the next negotiations: determining a new collective quantified goal on climate finance.

The issue of finance, arguably the most contentious in the history of COPs, also adversely affected the discussions on other workstreams, ranging from the global goal of adaptation to just transition and gender.

The same divide that has existed between developed and developing countries for decades continues to undermine any urgent and effective implementation of solutions to the climate crisis.

But finance was not the only major issue tackled in Bonn. There are other notable developments in these climate talks that may not have gotten as much attention or emphasis by most reporting observers, yet are just as crucial to the advancement of global action.

‘Emerging’ workstreams

SB60 saw two workstreams that indicate their emergence in terms of prominence in the conference, signs of the evolving nature of these talks. 

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The first is on Just Transition, whose work program was established in Sharm El Sheikh less than two years ago. The first dialogue under said program and a series of contact group discussions were conducted in Bonn, covering different aspects of identifying pathways to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement without leaving anyone behind.

Only procedural conclusions were reached, however, given the wide range of considerations that also impact adaptation and mitigation across different levels and the differences in perspectives on how to approach this issue. With talks resuming in a dialogue before COP29, just transition is expected to continue being a key part of the negotiations moving forward.

The second is a stronger focus on how children are affected by the climate crisis. The rights and role of children in climate action were emphasized across several platforms, including during the opening plenary and at the Action for Climate Empowerment Dialogues.

This agenda was the focus of an expert dialogue during the first few days of the conference. Some participants highlighted the need to provide platforms for children to freely express their concerns, such as in national delegations and the work of bodies under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Others called for dedicated spaces for children to understand these processes engage with policymakers and ensure their interests are properly integrated into climate policies across various levels of governance.

While children have an allotted space in the UNFCCC processes under the YOUNGO constituency, dialogues like this point to an even bigger emphasis on their needs and concerns in upcoming events.

Concerns on inclusivity

The last global climate negotiations took place in Dubai (COP28), which saw the highest number of delegates to ever attend a climate COP. However, issues regarding inclusivity became apparent at SB60, a matter that is trending in the wrong direction.

Unlike in recent conferences, there was no virtual platform provided for greater participation from the UNFCCC Secretariat. Reports also came out that some delegates from Africa and Asia were denied a visa, preventing them from attending. 

Concerns on inclusivity were tackled under the agenda item on arrangements for intergovernmental meetings. In preparation for COP29, calls were made for language on upholding human rights, an appropriate call considering that the Azerbaijan government has been criticized for a crackdown on the media and human rights advocates. 

A few countries also called for said country, which hosts the COP29 Presidency, to secure greater representation for observers from developing countries. While the idea of a trust fund for developing country observer participation was brought, it was opposed by countries from the Global North. 

Heading into the next negotiations, both the UNFCCC Secretariat and Azerbaijan are responsible for giving all prospective delegates from different sectors a fair, inclusive, just, and transparent process for meaningful participation.

Mitigation talks mitigated

COP28 was only six months ago when the decision to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner” was made. It was regarded as a landmark agreement, a key part of the group of decisions now known as the “UAE Consensus”.

Yet that seemed like ages ago, with the way the mitigation discussions in Bonn ended. The main workstream for this issue, the mitigation ambition and implementation work program (MWP), failed to produce any agreement on conclusions.

The divide among Parties on this matter centered on the MWP’s mandate. Countries disagreed on whether any decision should build on the outcomes of the Global Stocktake (GST), which was arguably the focal point of COP28. 

Some of them argued that this program is intended as a space for facilitating dialogues, not to impose targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions or to reflect the GST outcomes that instead should be applied in line with the mandates of other programs. 

While some nations were more focused on blocking meaningful progress on the MWP, emissions continue to rise, resulting in record-setting temperatures globally. Any attempt to enhance adaptation or address loss and damage would be negated without decarbonization, especially with billions of lives and countless ecosystems at high risk.

Should these worrying trends continue, COP29 is going to end up being yet another missed opportunity. And we are running out of chances.

John Leo is the National Coordinator of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas and the Deputy Executive Director for Programs and Campaigns of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines. He has been representing Philippine civil society in UNFCCC COPs since 2017. 

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