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At Climate Talks, a “Bicycle” Built for Bonn

In this pivotal year for driving forward climate action, the process to transform the 2015 Paris Agreement into a reality has claimed center stage, marking a major milestone for global leadership on climate change. Climate negotiators meeting in Bonn this week will focus on developing a rulebook to implement the historic accord and assessing the strengthened action needed to put the world on track to meet its goals. They can’t choose one or the other; they must have this dual focus to see climate action success in 2018. It’s a bit like riding a bicycle: both wheels need to turn to move forward.

Success depends on two outcomes: first, countries need to agree on robust guidelines – often called the Paris rulebook – for implementing the Paris Agreement; second, they must show they are ready to enhance their national climate commitments by 2020.

These outcomes are inextricably linked, and equally essential. Clear signals that countries are ready to raise ambition by 2020 are critical to demonstrate that the Paris framework is in fact mobilizing the action we need. And the rulebook will provide clarity about how countries will bring forward new commitments and report on progress, providing the confidence needed by countries to make enhanced commitments.

The discussions in Bonn will set the stage for those outcomes. Two elements sit at the top of the agenda: negotiations on the Paris rulebook and the Talanoa Dialogue on ambition.

With only seven months left before COP24 in Katowice, Poland, where the rulebook is scheduled to be adopted in December, negotiators must redouble their efforts. A robust, transparent set of rules and guidelines is crucial to maintain trust among all countries and advance climate action under the Paris framework in a fair and effective manner. To do this, Parties to the agreement will need to maintain the vision of the Paris pact by crafting rules that apply to both developing and developed countries, while providing flexibility for developing countries as their capacity requires. Meanwhile, progress should be balanced among the rulebook’s various elements, many of which are closely interrelated.

To meet the challenge of making serious headway on the rulebook, a critical outcome at Bonn will be to secure a mandate from Parties to draft a negotiating text ahead of the final negotiating sessions later this year.

Talanoa Dialogue Sets the Stage

The Talanoa Dialogue is also a central priority in Bonn, where country representatives and selected non-governmental representatives will meet to make the first collective assessment under the Paris Agreement, examining the state of progress on reducing emissions and the opportunities to take stronger action. While Parties and non-Party stakeholders are expected to share stories and lessons learned, it is critical that these discussions identify and generate the opportunities for concrete action to achieve the transformation needed. At its heart, the Talanoa process must set the stage for clear signals from ministers at COP24 that they will step up and commit to submitting new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020.

Other important dimensions of these negotiations include the issues involving pre-2020 action, including accelerating near-term mitigation efforts and mobilizing finance to help developing countries pursue both mitigation and adaptation to tackle the climate challenge. There needs to be a clear recognition of the long-held commitments and expectations for pre-2020 action, a much-discussed issue at last year’s climate talks.

Finance will also be a key topic of discussion. In addition to a focus on the level of finance and support provided, developing countries are also asking for improved access, predictability, and a balancing of future climate finance flows between mitigation and adaptation. Predictability is a widely recognized principle of aid effectiveness since it allows recipients to better plan and implement climate action; the challenge is to identify useful information to improve predictability while respecting donors’ domestic procedures. Meanwhile, the scheduled Suva Expert Dialogue on support (including finance) to address loss and damage will highlight the need to strengthen resilience against the adverse impacts of climate change faced by the most vulnerable.

As 2018 unfolds, there are plenty of promising signs. Seven EU countries have called on the European Union to adopt emission reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement, and the Netherlands and Sweden have called for a strengthening of the EU’s NDC by 2020. Other countries, such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom, have pledged to take steps to become  carbon neutral by the second half of this century. Nearly 400 companies have committed to Science Based Targets for reducing emissions and the International Maritime Organization has decided to significantly reduce emissions from shipping by mid-century.

As the year progresses, pressure for a strong outcome will mount, with moments like the Petersberg Dialogue, the Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action in Montreal, the Global Climate Action Summit in California and the Climate Vulnerable Forum summit highlighting opportunities for strengthened action, scaled-up support, greater leadership and more robust rules. The world will look to leaders and policy makers to step up, deliver on their targets and make clear they will make bigger, bolder national climate commitments in the years ahead.

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