Bonn talks boost hopes for strong climate deal in Paris

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The world moves toward reaching a meaningful climate agreement as 2015 shapes up to be warmest year on record for planet Earth.

New language helps address concerns of poorer nations

By Bob Berwyn

New language added to the emerging global climate agreement during a Bonn negotiating session this week helps address some of the concerns of developing nations with regard to funding for mitigation. Overall, the 14 new pages resulted in “a more balanced text,” according to outside observers tracking the Bonn talks.

The documents under consideration in Bonn will serve as a starting point when high-level government ministers meet in Paris to hammer out the final details of a deal to try and cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius, and to figure out to deal equitably with impacts that are already locked into the climate system as a result of heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution.

Climate activists from around the world said the Bonn additions get to the nitty gritty of climate adaptation.

“We know that the provision of financial support to poorer countries to take their own climate action is going to be one of the triggers for a very successful deal in Paris,” said Alix Mazounie, with Resea Action Climat, France.

“While there has been discussions outside of the climate talks aiming to finalize the COP21 finance package, the priorities of the most vulnerable countries, including boosting the money flowing to adaptation support … were not being addressed,” Mazounie said. “The storm in yesterday’s opening plenary refocused the talks on what is required and it put many of the key options for a fair finance package back on the table.”

“After the rocky start to the talks, the clouds have lifted and the sun is shining through,” said Mohamed Adow, with Christian Aid in Kenya. “Now we need to water the ground and wait for the flowers of ambition to grow. I’m a Kenyan pastoralist, and what we’ve done here is fertilize the ground. Countries of all stripes have now re-inserted their must-haves so that the proposed draft negotiating text is more balanced,” Adow said.

Also in Bonn, 154 religious leaders from different faith groups calle for climate action in a statement given to UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres.

For the religious leaders, the Paris conference at the end of the year is a key moment to “translate ecological responsibility into concrete action on the way towards a more sustainable future.” The statement also stresses climate justice vis-à-vis upcoming generations and developing countries.

Spiritual leaders are calling both for ambitious visions to effectively fight climate change and to show realism in the negotiations. They also emphasize that the goal of Paris must be a fair, universal and binding agreement that embraces all countries.

In addition, they called for the internationally agreed USD 100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020 to be delivered and expressed their support for the goal of 100 percent renewable energy worldwide by 2050.

The Bonn talks are also being shaped by a widespread global call for carbon pricing, spearheaded by World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.

The unprecedented alliance of heads of state, city and state leaders, with the support of heads of leading companies, shows that the idea of putting a price on carbon is gaining traction. The panel includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, French President François Hollande, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Governor Jerry Brown of California, and Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro — all asking peers to join them in pricing carbon to steer the global economy towards a low carbon, productive, competitive future without the dangerous levels of carbon pollution driving warming.

Last week, a big coalition of U.S. businesses also showed their commitment to climate action and a willingness to lead the charge to a low-carbon future by issuing their own pledge, The 81 companies who signed on to the pledge have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion.

By signing the American Business Act on Climate pledge, these companies are:

  • Voicing support for a strong Paris outcome. The pledge recognizes those countries that have already put forward climate targets, and voices support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations.
  • Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to climate action. As part of this initiative, each company is announcing significant pledges to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy, and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change.These pledges include ambitious, company-specific goals such as:
    • Reducing emissions by as much as 50 percent,
    • Reducing water usage by as much as 80 percent,
    • Achieving zero waste-to-landfill,
    • Purchasing 100 percent renewable energy, and
    • Pursuing zero net deforestation in supply chains.
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