Insights and Commentaries

Insights and Commentaries

Bonn climate negotiations – "Non-State Actors" enter the scene

15th June 2015

Topic(s): Carbon capture, Carbon markets, Energy efficiency, law and regulation, Policy, use and storage (CCUS)

Bonn Insight series: five

Negotiators for Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Bonn, Germany June 1-11 2015 to discuss business for the three Subsidiary Bodies ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris in December (COP21). The Global CCS Institute attended the Bonn meeting as an accredited observer to the UNFCCC process. In this Insight the Institute's John Scowcroft, Executive Adviser for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) discusses the progress of the talks and the emerging forces of 'Non-State Actors'. Other Insights in this series cover the progress from the first week of Bonn, UNFCCC technology and finance mechanisms, the role of intended nationally-determined contributions (INDCs) and some possible outcomes for technology from Paris.

Timing is everything

The two week Bonn 'negotiating' session came to an end over two hours early on Thursday, 11 June, to the surprise of the Co-Chairs. This process has earned a reputation of going well overtime (rumour has it that the French Presidency has reserved the COP 21 facility until the Monday following the due finishing date of Friday, 11 December.) Equally, the decision marks a change of gear , to allow the Co-Chairs to prepare a streamlined negotiating text for the August-September session. The changes regnises that the present text of some 90 pages can only be streamlined with outside help. It is to the credit of the Co-Chairs including Dan Reifsnyder (US) and Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) that the Parties agreed to this decision. “Outside” text has a sad history – the Presidency in Copenhagen produced their text too soon, and the Dutch Presidency in The Hague (COP 9) produced it too late: timing is everything.

It remains to be seen, however, what the reaction will be when the Chairs’ text is circulated on 24 July. It will be shorter (Reifsnyder exhorted parties to read the Convention text – which is only some 30 pages long – the Kyoto Protocol is not much longer) but whether Parties will find it to their liking remains to be seen.

Role of 'non-state actors'

One of the more interesting developments during preparation for Bonn and throughout the talks has been the emergence of “Non-State Actors” and their potential role in the Paris agreement. Non-State Actors are usually defined as;

  • regional and local governments (who, much to their dismay are formally “Non-Governmental Observers” (NGOs)),
  • civil society
  • Business and Industry.

The French presidency sees them as the fourth pillar of the Agreement. The first pillar being the Agreement itself. The second being the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of individual countries. The third pillar consists of increased public and private climate finance for mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries. The fourth pillar is seen as an action agenda to advance a range of new initiatives from non-state actors, including civil society, business and local government.

This came to the fore in Bonn. The Business and Climate Summit in Paris in May gave impetus to Non-State Actors and although it is clear that the process will remain Party driven and no-one is really considering giving them a place at the negotiating table, Parties are looking for ways in of integrating them into the negotiating arena for a number of good reasons:

Non-State Actors implement ambition

Firstly, in discussions on Workstream 2 (enhancing ambition pre-2020), the role of the Technical Examination process (TEP) under which the Technical Expert Meetings (TEMs) are held, a number of Parties called for there to much more involvement of actors who were actually implementing as opposed to what was described as “the usual suspects” (named as the IRENA, IEA and the OECD!) – in this context, the CCS TEM held last October was generally singled out as an example to be followed.


Secondly, in the rather esoteric area of Arrangements for Inter-Sessional Meetings (which agrees dates, places, etc for future meetings) the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) Group included an interesting paragraph in its conclusions. Essentially it, “encouraged the secretariat to engage with observers including civil society, the private sector and other non-state actors when organising expert discussions on matters that are relevant to their experience in and expertise on climate change actions”. This was in response to an intervention from the Business constituency (BINGOs) who are currently looking at ways it can co-ordinate and put in place an interface with the process.

Action Agenda initiatives

Finally, the initiative of Peruvian (COP20), French (COP21) presidencies and the secretariat together with UN Secretary General’s office in establishing the Paris-Lima Action Agenda will also play into COP 21 where an Action Day on the 5 December is planned to showcase the various initiatives under Action Agenda together with a number of thematic half days during the course of COP 21.

Global CCS Institute's role

It is worth noting that the Institute is involved in one of these initiatives which will concentrate on carbon capture and storage (CCS) - the Low Carbon Technology Partnership together with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) – which will concentrate on CCS.

The Institute also took part in a discussion with Janos Pasztor, Assistant UN Secretary General on Climate Change together with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business Europe and the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) on both the Action Day and on the future of the Action Agenda after Paris.

Whilst a cynic may observe that it has taken Parties a long time to recognise that if they want Non-State Actors to do the “heavy lifting” in delivering their climate ambitions, it is also true that the non-State actors themselves will also have to adjust to a new role going forward.

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