Negotiations at COP24 in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland, concluded with a set of guidelines, colloquially called the Paris Rulebook, that outline how countries fulfill the obligations the Paris Agreement requires of them.

With this important task completed, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa then issued a clarion call to focus 2019 on "Ambition, Ambition, Ambition."

What does this focus on ambition mean for the June negotiations in Bonn, Germany?

A Strong Foundation for Higher Ambition

In September 2019, world leaders are expected to bring concrete plans for revising and enhancing their national climate commitments (called nationally determined contributions, or NDCs) to the UN Climate Action Summit the United Nations Secretary-General is convening in New York. Negotiators can therefore use the Bonn session to discuss preparations for the UN summit and their efforts to implement and raise the ambition of their NDCs.

Momentum on ambition specifically can be underpinned and reinforced by progress on the following formal negotiating tracks in Bonn:

  1. Tools and rules. Ensuring that we have all the tools and rules needed to make sure that the way that the way countries cooperate does not compromise the environmental integrity of the Paris Agreement. Parties left Katowice without an agreement on how countries will cooperate with one another using market-based mechanisms to achieve existing reduction targets and potentially to raise ambition. These mechanisms must be designed carefully to avoid any double-counting of emissions.
    In addition, the negotiations will address the length of the timeframe for countries' NDCs and the use of common reporting formats to capture all countries' climate efforts in a manner that is consistent and comparable. This includes tracking progress towards the achievement of climate commitments and the flow of finance supporting such endeavors. While technical, these issues are important to address well not only to compare and assess countries' efforts, but also to make sure that the level of countries' efforts is not underminedwell understood.

  2. Guided by science. Countries' efforts must be guided by sound understanding and effective use of recommendations emerging from the latest IPCC reports. Many countries will still use the negotiating space available to discuss further the implications of the 1.5 IPCC report, identify how this can inform countries' review of their NDCs, and explore the possibility for the UNFCCC Secretariat to produce a synthesis report of countries' NDCs ahead of COP26. Countries can also seek to secure enough time at COP25 to reflect on recommendations from the forthcoming special IPCC reports on land and oceans.

  3. Verification. 28 countries (including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Japan, Russia, Nigeria and Australia) will have their climate efforts scrutinized by their peers as they complete their verification process under the current UNFCCC regime. This workshop-like format provides an opportunity to countries to share and learn from their peers about successes and failures when implementing their commitments. This can also illuminate challenges and opportunities countries may consider as they prepare their next rounds of NDCs and consider foundational elements for increasing ambition.

Finally, throughout the session many events will be organized to tackle the relationship between climate and human rights. This includes sharing experience on how to mainstream gender into climate action, how to leverage the role of indigenous people and how to ensure a just transition the green economy.

Effective Finance and Capacity Building to Fulfill the Promise of the Paris Agreement

Ambitious climate action requires investment, so finance is always a major topic in climate negotiations. In addition to technical negotiations to standardize the tracking of support provided and mobilized by donors and the support needed and received by recipient countries, negotiators will discuss the provision and effectiveness of finance, including progress towards the goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020.

While not on the agenda at this session, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will be on many negotiators' minds, as the world's largest climate fund will have its first replenishment this year. The replenishment is a critical test of rich countries' willingness to put their money where their mouth is by fully resourcing the mechanism tasked with helping developing countries meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Developed countries should follow the lead of Germany and Norway by at least doubling the level of their original pledges made in 2014.

There is also a need to ensure the Adaptation Fund is properly resourced. This innovative fund receives contributions not only from governments, but also donations from individuals (including youth climate activist Greta Thunberg). It will also receive a share of proceeds from the carbon trading mechanisms set up under the UN climate convention. As countries negotiate how the market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement will operate, it is important they ensure the new system provides a reliable flow of finance to support the Adaptation Fund's important work.

Of course, finance doesn't matter if countries do not have the capacity to access or use it. Can countries convert support into appropriate actions on the ground, informed by climate data and evidenced-based policies? It is imperative tobuild and mobilize capacity at the scale and pace necessary—in a more effective and sustained way than it has been previously—in order to accelerate the transition to climate-resilient and low-carbon economy we need to see by 2050.

Given that context, this year, countries will need to decide whether and how the bodies set up to foster capacity building, such as the Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB) and the Consultative Group of Expert (CGE), will continue to guide countries in their efforts. To do so, countries will need to assess the progress made thus far on capacity building, while acknowledging ongoing challenges or outstanding issues yet to be resolved. They need to agree on the critical functions, tools and opportunities the PCCB and CGE should focus on over the next few years.

Advancing Efforts to Tackle Loss & Damage

"Loss and damage" has been among the most controversial issues in UN climate change negotiations. It has to do with situations where climate impacts become so severe that communities cannot possibly adapt to them (e.g. when sea level rise makes it impossible for an island community to live on that island). While efforts to address loss and damage reached a breakthrough with the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the fate of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) created in 2013 to oversee this issue is still at stake.

Parties need to decide this year how the WIM will continue to advance its knowledge-gathering and coordinate and mobilize the support necessary to address loss and damage associated with both extreme and slow-onset climate events in vulnerable developing countries. During the Bonn negotiations, Parties need to come up with options for the review process for the WIM: what inputs would be needed, what outputs should be generated, and key modalities and milestones. The most difficult but critical issue to address will be securing enough funding for tackling loss and damage.

The upcoming negotiating session in June, in Bonn begins several days before the EU Council meets at Heads of State level to decide on key climate policies and just ahead of the G20 meeting in Osaka and the Ministerial on Climate Action meeting. Meanwhile, youth continue their climate strikes in over 110 countries with the goal of moving climate up the domestic agenda in major economies. Yet these mostly technical negotiations in Bonn still matter as they can either strengthen or undermine ambitious efforts up to 2020 and beyond.