What to expect at the UN Conference on Climate Change 2017

With a humble indigenous style opening ceremony, the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference opened on 6 November at the World Conference Centre in Bonn, Germany. Governments are meeting to fast forward the implementation of the Paris Agreement’s goals. What can we expect from the world leaders this time? By Jovin Hurry, reporting live from Germany.

Bonn, 6 November 2017. The COP23 (23rd Session of the Conference of Parties) aims to rocket nations towards the next level of ambition needed to tackle global warming, so that they can be on a safer and more prosperous development path. It comes two years after the landmark adoption of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The COP23 is organised by Bonn-based UN Climate Change, presided over by Fiji and supported by the Government of Germany, the region of North-Rhine-Westphalia and the City of Bonn.

 A Fijian-styled ceremony laced the opening of COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

A Fijian-styled ceremony laced the opening of COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

Confirmed leaders attending COP23 include Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, Arnold Schwarzenegger, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, California Governor Jerry Brown, UN Special Envoy Michael Bloomberg, Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Solar Impulse Explorer Bertrand Piccard, President Emmanuel Macron of France and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, and President of COP23.

Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, and President of COP23.

The discussions at COP23 are meant to keep building the momentum among cities, states, regions, territories, business and civil society in support of national climate action plans, the internationally-agreed temperature goal and the wider objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The delegates are targeting key markers of progress for COP23 to ensure the Paris Agreement delivers on its full potential, no less. This is about:

The message can not get any clearer; we no longer have the luxury of time, we must act now.
— Patricia Espinosa, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
  •     making concrete steps towards a comprehensive set of implementation guidelines to raise        ambition to stay below 1.5ºC;
  •     a robust framework for climate impacts through adaptation and loss & damage;
  •     raising ambition globally;
  •     facilitative dialogue;
  •     means of implementation;
  •     a robust transparency framework, and:
  •     civil society participation.

This COP is unique as it is presided over by Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji and the first small island developing state to hold this role.

 Fijians striking a pose in front of the drua display, an ocean Fijian canoe, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, to symbolise sailing with collective determination for the success of COP23.

Fijians striking a pose in front of the drua display, an ocean Fijian canoe, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, to symbolise sailing with collective determination for the success of COP23.

“Wherever we live, we are all vulnerable and need to act. Fiji is helping build a Grand Coalition for decisive, coordinated action by governments at every level, by civil society, the private sector and all citizens on earth. That’s why we installed an ocean-going Fijian ‘drua’ canoe in the entrance here to remind everyone of the need to fill its sail with collective determination to make COP23 a success and confront the biggest challenge humanity has faced,” he said.

In terms of government negotiations, the countries plan to design and launch the Talanoa dialogue, named after the spirit of open exchange and constructive debate of Pacific island nations. It will ask three fundamental questions:

  1.     Where are we?
  2.     Where do we want to go?
  3.     How do we get there?
 Patricia Esponasa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, urged global leaders to further the momentum built at the Rio Earth Summit 25 years ago.

Patricia Esponasa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, urged global leaders to further the momentum built at the Rio Earth Summit 25 years ago.

The governments will also debate the Paris Agreement’s operating system (OS). This OS details the ways and means to assist all governments, supported by non-party stakeholders, to better meet the goals of the Paris Agreement now and over the years. The OS should ensure that the Agreement fosters transparency on action and support, and that resilience-building and adaptation are boosted.

The COP23 negotiators also have unfinished business, which includes checking on the progress of the delivery of $100 billion of support for developing countries by 2020 and the bringing into force of the Doha Amendment of the first international emission reduction treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.

Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action

Within a 10 minutes bus drive by an electric ‘Clean Shuttle Bus’ through a lush green park, governments, cities, states, business and civil society gather to announce their new initiatives and achievements post-Paris 2015. They’re participating in the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action – a five-day programme of 100 events demonstrating how cities, regions, businesses and investors are working with governments and the UN system to implement the Paris Agreement.

The core thematic areas showcased are: Energy, Water, Agriculture, Oceans & Coastal Zones, Human Settlements, Transport, Industry and Forests. Prominent speakers will highlight cross-cutting themes of finance, innovation, resilience, Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities) and Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

 Cycling the streets was just one of the 100 events held in the five-day Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action programme.

Cycling the streets was just one of the 100 events held in the five-day Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action programme.

Actions under these areas have never before met with a greater sense of urgency. "The message can not get any clearer; we no longer have the luxury of time, we must act now," said Ms. Patricia Espinosa, Head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change –  the body that underpins the Paris agreement.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says the global temperature has already risen 1.1ºC. Secretary-general Petteri Taalas shared in the opening ceremony in his straightforward Finnish fashion that the latest science indicated that as things were now, the world was on track to warm by 3-5ºC – well above the level considered acceptable - and the trend of increasing natural disasters would likely continue until the 2060s.

He seized the opportunity to release the WMO statement, which includes information submitted by a wide range of UN agencies on human, socio-economic and environmental impacts as part of a drive to provide a more comprehensive, UN-wide policy brief for decision makers on the interplay between weather, climate and water and the UN global goals.

The negotiators will be busy over the next two weeks, and are expected to be. As the COP23 President concluded: “This is our moment of truth – when all of us in this room will be tested. We must not be found wanting... So let’s make the hard decisions that have to be made for the sake of ourselves and the generations to come.”

Photos courtesy of UNFCC.