At the upcoming UNFCCC intersessional negotiation in Bonn, which begins on June 4, climate and environment ministers will have a two-day session to share their views on key issues for the international climate negotiations. Because these officials rarely attend such interim meetings, this is an unusual and major opportunity for them to show their commitment to strong international action, including steps needed this year to address climate change and secure a global climate agreement by 2015.
So, what do we need to hear from ministers?
To start, they’ll need to demonstrate that they have understood the conclusions of the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The world’s current emissions trajectory will likely lead us to temperature increases of 3.7 to 4.8 degrees C by 2100. At current emissions rates, we have only three decades before the world uses up its “carbon budget,” the amount of emissions we can release and still have a likely chance of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees C, thus preventing climate change’s worst impacts. The challenge, though, is even more immediate than that. The IPCC reports made clear that climate change is happening now, and that adaptation to impacts is no longer a choice but a necessity. Mitigation and adaptation are both urgent, and must be the two-fold task of countries and the UNFCCC.
The IPCC reports also show us that there are opportunities to change course toward a low-carbon and climate-resilient future. The price of low-carbon energy is falling, its use is spreading, and communities are actively building innovative strategies for resilience. Ministers have a chance at the June meeting to spur ambitious climate action and help usher in a strong international climate agreement. Here are three specific points that ministers could make to underscore their commitment to curbing climate change:
1) Commit To Meeting the Milestones for the 2015 Agreement.
This is a key moment for ministers to make clear their continued commitment to meeting the timelines set out for the process to establish a global climate agreement in Paris at the end of 2015. They should underscore the importance of agreeing on a framework for the 2015 agreement at the COP in Lima this December, in the form of a draft negotiating text. This includes reaffirming that their countries – at minimum the major emitters – will come forward with their intended national contributions (their emissions-reduction “offers”) by March 2015 at the latest. Meeting the March deadline is essential to achieving a strong, meaningful agreement by the end of 2015. Ministers should stress their leader’s readiness to participate at the UN Secretary General’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change in September, a key meeting to secure low-carbon pledges from leaders in government, business, finance, industry, and civil society.
2) Commit to Transparency in Nationally Determined Contributions.
At the Lima COP at the end of 2014, negotiators will determine what information countries must submit with their emissions-reduction contributions, as well as how these contributions will be assessed. In Bonn next week, ministers should affirm the importance of transparency in both submitting and assessing contributions. The information requirements should include not only the scope, type, magnitude, and timeframe of the contributions, but also countries’ justifications for how their proposed contributions are equitable and adequate. Additionally, a platform will be needed next year to review the equity and adequacy of the contributions, including whether they keep the globally agreed goal of 2 degrees C within reach. Ministers should also indicate their willingness for a public review of their ‘offers’.
3) Support Significant Resource Mobilization for the Green Climate Fund.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF)—set to become the main vehicle for collecting and distributing climate finance—officially opened for business last week when its Board approved its operational framework. The Fund now has clear guidelines for how to channel finance to help developing countries advance low-carbon strategies and implement measures to enhance climate resilience. Ministers should make clear their commitment to the success of the GCF and the need to capitalize it this year with substantial financial resources—enough to meet the size and scale of the climate change challenge.
The IPCC report made clear that the world is heading toward a dangerous place—one of significant warming and associated impacts like sea level rise, heat waves, and extreme weather. For the 2015 agreement to truly pave the way to a lower-carbon and climate-resilient world, ministers need to be prepared to take concrete steps to increase global ambition now. The Bonn meeting is a prime opportunity to clearly state their commitment for establishing a strong, effective international climate agreement in 2015.