Climate Talks Kick off in Bonn. Here’s What to Expect

The latest round of international climate talks kicked off yesterday in Bonn, Germany. It marks the six month countdown to that Paris meeting, which is intended to outline a binding international agreement that would contain global warming to 2 degrees celsius by reducing emissions, and help countries adapt to a changing climate through financing infrastructure projects and technologies.

That’s the plan, at least. And if the international community is going to make a deal in Paris in six months time, negotiators will need to spend the two weeks in Bonn hammering out key details of a final accord.

Here’s what to expect over the next two weeks.

Draft text

The main purpose of this ‘inter-session’ meeting is to whittle down the draft of the negotiating text, called the ‘Geneva text’ because it is a result of the February session in Geneva. The resulting text of this meeting, and subsequent meetings in September and October, will be the basis for talks in Paris. As it stands the draft text is around 90 pages and the daunting task of a line-by-line review of all 4200+ lines awaits delegates. The first step in the review is to highlight ‘similar’ sounding language. Of course, this is all subject to what each country thinks sounds similar and in any treaty’s language the devil is in the details.

The Co-Chairs of the groups on transparency and finance have already made comments about the danger of streamlining those sections too much. Common sense would say not to streamline the text into a hollow text without teeth, but some delegates that have spoken to UN Dispatch say that is what may ultimately happen by the time Paris comes around where there will be considerable pressure to have something that could be signed. For now, though, there is less political pressure to whittle down the text too much, so expect the delegates in Bonn to keep a decent degree of ambition in the line-by-line negotiations.


Climate finance is perhaps the most complex and also visible issue on the negotiations agenda. The fine details of who will contribute what and how will not be worked out in Bonn, but every discussion on it going forward will be important.

Expect that any and every issue coming up in Bonn will have a parallel discussion taking place in the finance circles. It really is all about the money for the developing world because of the economic development implications of being expected to cut back on cheap fossil fuels. This, at least will be forefront for the BRICS, particularly India and China.

There are concurrent meetings going on regarding the Green Climate Fund, but that does not fall under the official UNFCCC framework. Both financing mechanisms are woefully short of the trillions needed for sustainable climate action in the form of viable renewable energy sources and infrastructure improvements to adapt to a changing climate – a figure cited by Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres herself during the Lima round of talks last December. There probably won’t be any big resolutions to this end, but expect finance considerations to impact almost every corner of diplomacy in Bonn.

Addressing pre-2020 action

The climate agreement will be signed this December, but it does not go into effect until 2020. The argument developing countries have been making for several years is that any action codified in the official Agreement will not be enough — even if by some miracle the Agreement is actually a strong one. Developing counties are arguing for a ‘ramp up’ of action and financial commitments in order to make the Agreement more effective in the long run. Pre-2020 action will be a critical issue in the next six months and lack thereof has been could be a reason to hold up signing the final Agreement. The final agreement wont kick in for another five years, and for some countries that is just too long a wait.