Insights

Summary report of the first week at the Bonn climate sessions

The Global CCS Institute is attending both weeks of the United Nations climate discussions in Bonn from 8 to 18 May. This provides a summary of the first week of negotiations (7 to 13 May). At the close of the meeting, the Institute will provide a summary report and what its conclusions may mean for supporting carbon capture and storage (CCS).

This two-week meeting provides a formal space for the world’s governments to convene and discuss many of the contemporary issues faced by both an enhanced implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention, as well as in the lead up to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which will commence in 2020.

As technical discussions go, the level of conceptual and legalistic detail provided by the senior government officials here in Bonn is often deep and complex; but such negotiating positions provide essential platforms for political decisions on all implementation elements at the end of year conference.

This year the major climate summit, the 23rd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 23) is presided over by Fiji in Bonn, in collaboration with the German government. The ultimate decision making body of the Paris Agreement, the COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA) will conclude its first suite of deliberations in 2018 at COP 24 in Krakow, Poland. As such, many of the agenda items discussed here in Bonn at the 46th Intersessional Meeting of the Subsidiary Bodies (SB-46) will likely remain open until recommendations can be adopted and forwarded to the CMA-1 for its deliberations at COP 24.

The Institute expects COP 23 to be very much a ‘holding’ COP where technical discussions mostly trump (and no pun intended) political announcements – unless of course the US decides to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which is still yet to be revealed.

Logistics of COP 23 (scheduled for 6 to 17 November in Bonn)

COP 23 is to be split into two spaces in which delegates will congregate. The formal negotiating space is called the ‘Bulla’ Zone (formerly referred to as the Blue Zone) and a ‘climate action fair’ called the Bonn Zone (or Green Zone). Registration of accredited observers, such as the Institute, will be the same as in the past for the Bulla Zone, and badges will allow delegates to move between both zones. The Bulla Zone will be located in the Bonn World Convention Centre (BWCC) which is quite limited in space, and so a restricted number of badges will likely be allocated to observers compared to previous years.

There will also be a formal application process to attend the Bonn Zone, which will be located some 1.4kms (15-minute walk) from the Bulla Zone. While more observer badges will likely be made available than the Bulla Zone, these will not allow access to the Bulla Zone. This inevitably makes efficient interactions with negotiators very difficult.  All official UNFCCC side-events and the ministerial level High Level Segments (where political statements are made) will be located in the Bonn Zone. While UNFCCC side-events are expected to remain free of charge (the Institute will apply to host one), the previously free exhibit process, that aims to promote the missions of climate relevant organisations, will be on a cost-recovery basis (charges are still being determined by the German government).

The reality of the need for the two spaces has more to do with the maximum number of people who can safely occupy the BWCC at any one time. The optics however of separating non-state parties (observers) from the parties seems counter spiritual to the Paris Agreement’s renewed bottom-up approach to climate action and its greater recognition of the role of non-state party actions to deliver those actions.

CCS relevant issues at SB 46

The Institute is tracking a number of negotiating issues relevant to CCS. These include the technology agenda, finance agenda, markets and non-market based approaches, response measures, non-state party actor engagement and transparency.

Within the technology agenda, negotiators are developing a ‘technology framework’ to guide the work of the UNFCCC’s Technology Mechanism to deliver on the needs of the Paris Agreement, and defining the scope and modalities of a review of the Technology Mechanism. The Technology Mechanism includes the work of the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) for which the Institute is a network member. The TEC provides policy advice to the UNFCCs decision-making bodies (COP, CMP and CMA) while the CTCN responds to country driven requests for technical and policy assistance to help roll-out of mitigation and adaptation projects.

The elaboration of a framework for the Paris Agreement does not have to be established until CMA-1 at COP 24, so negotiating progress on developing its ‘principles’ and ‘structure’ seem painfully slow at this time. It is clear that developing countries are trying to keep the discussion as open-ended for as long as possible so that they can presumably include new concepts at a later stage (such as an ‘enhanced’ role for the Technology Mechanism).

Some developed countries however seem keen to settle and close the scope of discussions on ‘principles’ (which include coherent, inclusive, result-oriented, transformational and transparent). One concept that seems to be occupying the minds of negotiators is whether or not the framework should encourage ‘transformational change’ in terms of technology development and transfer needs of the Paris Agreement – or whether it broadly encourages more ‘business as usual’ climate actions (including finance allocations) that existed prior to the Paris Agreement given that the Technology Mechanism was established in 2010. At the time of drafting, parties were meeting informally one last time to close out this agenda item.

The scope and modalities for a review of the Technology Mechanism seemed to progress more smoothly than the framework agenda item. Parties took note of a previous submission process on this issue (for which the Institute offered its own submission) as compiled in a report prepared by the secretariat. While no date has been set for this review, nor is it clear who will undertake the review, Parties have requested more preparatory work be done by the secretariat in terms of a technical paper on the nature of past UNFCCC reviews. This item will be picked up again at the end of year climate meeting.

Markets and non-markets

The Paris Agreement provides for both markets and non-market approaches to facilitate climate action. Examples of markets include emissions trading (cap and trade, offsets) and non-markets might include fossil energy subsidy reform and carbon taxes (among many other possible types). All related discussions by parties have been closed to observers here in Bonn, which is somewhat disappointing when considering that the World Bank believes that an international market has the potential to reduce global mitigation costs by more than 50% by 2050, and expects that half of all global emissions could be covered by a carbon price by 2030. According to the Heads of Delegation of the parties in the Umbrella Group, discussions are positive, highly complex and cover pretty much the extreme of views possible. This issue is also progressing to develop recommendations by 2018.

Response Measures

This agenda covers two long-lived issues of ‘economic diversification’ and ‘a just transition’. The essence of the discussion is to ensure that national climate responses (policies and regulations) are designed and implemented in a way that can create more and better quality jobs, especially for those employees whose sectors are adversely affected and/or being transitioned out of. This issue is fundamentally about labor market reform and so is very heavily engaged in by the International Trade Union Confederation. Discussions continue on this issue.

Non-state party actor engagement

An in-session workshop was held on 9 May for parties and observers to collectively discuss opportunities to further enhance the engagement of non-Party stakeholders (private sector) under the Paris Agreement. One of the more controversial items for discussion was the issue of ‘conflict of interest’ in regards to some private sector entities engagement in the UNFCCC process (oil and gas, coal).

There is a push by the environmental non-government organization (ENGO) constituency, seemingly led by Corporate Accountability International, for parties to adopt a legal framework (a set of rules, principles and procedures) that prevent organisations deemed to have a conflict of interest. Positively, there seemed more support from parties for as differentiated an observer base as possible – as all will need to engage if the Paris Agreement is to achieve the global transformational change needed. Negatively however, this push is also affecting other UNFCCC bodies such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Transparency

This agenda item is still being discussed but fundamentally crosses several agendas including national inventory reporting, tracking of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), finance and technology transfer (including support needed and received), technical expert reviews, the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue and Global Stocktake scheduled for in 2023. It looks like the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) will open a submission process to solicit views.

Closing observations

The second week of negotiations has commenced and all groups working on the 78 agenda items need to forward their recommendations to the co-Chairs of the Subsidiary Bodies for Implementation (SBI), Scientific and technical Advice (SBSTA) and APA by Wednesday, 17 May. There has also been strong references by both the UN and UNFCCC executive to the need for co-benefits of climate actions and strong alignment with the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs).

In the Institute’s next report, it will make sense of the past two weeks negotiations in regards to their potential impacts to support and/or hinder the global business case for CCS developments and commercial deployment.