US and China change the game as climate talks resume in Bonn


As negotiators and ministers in Bonn, Germany gather for the latest round of UN climate talks, positive announcements from the world’s largest emitters are sparking optimism about what could be a new era for climate diplomacy. On Monday, the US committed to slash carbon emissions from coal fired plants by 30% by 2030. Hours later, an influential Chinese government official spoke about his country’s intent for an absolute cap on carbon emissions by 2016. Heralding the moves as game changers for the climate negotiations, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said it could “send a good signal to nations everywhere” to the “UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September” and “ towards securing a new…climate agreement by…late 2015”. The announcements could also put pressure on other big emitters such as the European Union to “stop dithering” and “commit to strong [emissions] cuts”. With the 2015 deadline for a new climate agreement fast approaching, negotiations starting in Bonn tomorrow must begin to build the foundations of a treaty, with a first draft expected in Peru this December. But with a two day Ministerial meeting, the Bonn talks are also an important stepping stone towards the Climate Leaders Summit in New York in September, where Ban Ki-moon will gather heads of governments to put climate change back at the top of the political agenda for ramped up action. These meetings come at a time when the signals for action couldn’t be clearer. Just one month after signing off on reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); two weeks after scientists reported that a major ice shelf in Antarctica is melting at an irreversible rate; and one week after atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations reached levels not seen in at least 800,000 years; governments are in a position to act and take another important step towards tackling the climate crisis.


MT @MarieMcNicholas 1st the US, now China. 2 biggest polluters about to breathe life into stalled climate deal


Key Points

  • Ministers meeting in Bonn can now follow suit and ramp up climate ambition to 2020, by ensuring deeper cuts in emissions and faster shifts from dirty to clean energy over the coming decades. News of atmospheric carbon dioxide at record levels and irreversible antarctic ice melt are a “shot in the arm” for governments to commit to stronger and faster climate action. With just 18 months until a new global climate agreement is due to be signed in Paris, negotiators and ministers meeting in Bonn are tasked to lay the groundwork for key upcoming summits in New York and Lima, drafting treaty text and agreeing on stronger targets for emissions reductions between now and 2020, when the new Paris treaty would kick in.
  • The latest IPCC report showed that managing the climate crisis is still possible and a no-brainer in economic terms, and that dealing with it now is cheaper and more effective than waiting. Severe climate impacts are hitting families on every continent, with growing economic and social costs, and scientists warn worse is to come. Stark realities like these, along with this week’s moves by China and the US increase the pressure on other big emitters such as the European Union to “stop dithering” and also commit to deep cuts in emissions.


One month after signing off on reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), two weeks after scientists reported that a major ice shelf in Antarctica is melting at an irreversible rate, and one week after atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations reached levels not seen in at least 800,000 years, governments are meeting in Bonn, Germany this week to make important progress towards the new global climate deal that’s due at a summit in Paris in 2015.

With the deadline for the first draft of the new treaty fast approaching, it is vital that negotiators meeting in Bonn begin to draft both the elements and structure of the 2015 deal, ensuring enough time to negotiate and get government sign off before the all-important COP21 meeting in Paris.

But Bonn is not just about process and technicalities. Two days of special Ministerial meetings – one for countries with existing commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and one for all countries to discuss pre-2020 ambition – make Bonn also an important moment ahead of the Climate Leaders Summit in New York in September, where Ban Ki-moon will be gathering world leaders to put climate change back at the top of the political agenda.

The Bonn meeting is an important opportunity for ministers to spend time together and build the partnerships which are vital for driving greater ambition. With just 43 Ministerial representatives attending out of a possible 196, however, the opportunity to make a major step forward on the road towards Paris for interaction is not fully utilized. China, the US, France and the EU are all billed to attend, but representatives from some of the world’s largest carbon polluters – such as the UK, Russia, Australia, Brazil, India and South Africa – are apparently ignoring the importance of the moment.

They might have missed the news that climate change is making a return to the headlines, and that some governments are busy ramping up efforts to cut emissions. There have been several positive developments in the lead up to Bonn, with the US this week proposing strong new regulation targeting coal power plants, seeking to cut carbon emissions by 30% by 2030, on 2005 levels. This was quickly followed by a hints of a pledge from China to implement an absolute cap on carbon emissions by 2016.

The moves have been heralded as a game changer for the climate negotiations, with UN climate chief Christiana Figueres saying the US announcement would “send a good signal to nations everywhere”, to the “UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September” and “ towards securing a new and more importantly meaningful climate agreement by the UN convention meeting in Paris in late 2015”. Commentators are also hoping the latest announcements will put pressure on other big emitters, including the European Union, to “stop dithering over their plans and to commit to strong [emissions] cuts”. With latest news showing that EU emissions continue to decline and are now 19.2% below 1990 levels, it’s clear that the European target of 20% cuts by 2020 will be reached way ahead of time, suggesting that much stronger targets are feasible.

The latest announcements by China and the US follow other positive examples of climate action, including Mexico’s plans to increase its renewable energy supply from 15% to 25% of total electricity by 2018, Chile’s new Energy Agenda, and record breaking levels of renewables in Germany.

However, while most countries are moving forward, a sad few are seriously backsliding. Australia, with its highest per-capita fossil fuel emissions among industrial countries, is one of them. While the country has already beaten its Kyoto target, its new “anti-science” conservative government has become a roadblock to negotiations as it attempts to dump progressive carbon pricing laws, unwind renewable energy development, and shore up its massive coal industry back home.

As the global transition towards clean and innovative energy solutions is picking up pace, it’s clear that governments are increasingly under pressure to make an important choice: do they want to be on the right side of history, or on the wrong side?



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Key Quotes

  • “It is still technically and economically feasible to limit temperature increases to below 1.5°C, but only if we all work together to resolve the climate change problem. If some countries advance their own interests and ignore the need for international cooperation, then we are doomed. Governments must make substantial progress in their talks in the period leading up to this date. We hope that we will have a negotiating text to discuss in the major climate change meeting later this year in Lima, Peru. This means that this June session of climate change talks is critical. We cannot be delayed by procedural discussions. We must put our heads together and start writing a new agreement.” – Chair of the LDC Group, Mr. Prakash Mathema
  • “Around the world, many countries, businesses, cities, investors and consumers are taking positive action on climate change. Governments are also now working on their national contributions towards a new agreement in 2015. The focus is to raise this groundswell into a global transformation to the low-carbon, climate-resilient future that is our only credible response to the climate change challenge and the opportunity for a safer, more secure and prosperous world. “Nations are still on a path that would spiral global average temperatures well past the below 2 degrees Celsius rise agreed by governments as a limit. The Paris agreement must put in place the paths and the confidence that greenhouse gas emissions peak early and then decisively decline to the point where we can realize a carbon neutral global economy in the second half of the century.” – UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres
  • “Climate change is here and it is happening now. The latest climate science and increasing global climate disruption worldwide show that we are on a path towards climate catastrophe unless governments act right now. Climate change is also a stark and growing injustice for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people who have done the least to cause the problem yet are already being hit hardest by its impacts. Governments meeting in Bonn have a real opportunity to show their citizens they are serious about averting the emerging climate crisis by taking urgent and ambitious climate action now.” – Sven Harmeling, Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator at CARE International
  • “The latest climate science is documented in our lived experience. Climate change is happening today and so people who have already lost so much are demanding action now. We demand reparations for the climate debt we are owed. Cure climate pollution before it gets much worse. Deliver the climate finance needed for our people to deal with the impacts.” – Lidy Nacpil, of Jubilee South
  • “The outcome of the last climate summit was the complete wrong direction with weaker targets and less clarity on climate finance. Observers marched out of the Summit in Warsaw calling for people’s demands to be listened to over polluters’ influence – the Bonn meeting should indicate governments have raised their sights and they can do that by setting a credible pathway to raising pre-2020 action.” – Mithika Mwenda, General Secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance
  • “We are already facing severe consequences of climate change in the world, and Mexico is no stranger to that. The science is out and the IPCC has made it very clear: if we do not decarbonise our energy sector and shift to renewable energy soon, chances to tackling climate change are nonexistent. So this move bodes well for further ambitious country-level actions.” – WWF Global Climate & Energy Initiative’s Samantha Smith
  • “[A]n ambitious, short-term renewable energy target for Mexico [..] helps create trust and confidence among all governments in the run-up to the Lima conference, and sets the pace for other countries in Latin America with similar potential. All countries, developing and developed, must show leadership in this crucial time.” – WWF-Mexico’s Director-General Omar Vidal
  • “The EPA’s proposed new rules for existing power plants are a critical step toward addressing climate change. This common-sense approach will reduce carbon emissions while also giving states unprecedented flexibility to meet their obligations within an all-of-the-above set of options, tailored to each state’s needs and opportunities. A flexible approach will keep electricity affordable for American families and businesses, spark homegrown clean energy innovation that creates jobs, and increase energy efficiency to save families money.” – Ernest Moniz, US Energy Secretary
  • “This proposed rule is the strongest action ever taken by the US government to fight climate change, which is good news and also shows that the United States is taking climate change seriously. If implemented as planned, this measure will help the country meet its 2020 emissions target. This of course sends a positive signal ahead of the Paris conference to finalise a new global climate agreement next year. But for Paris to deliver what is needed to stay below a 2°C increase in global temperature, all countries, including the United States, must do even more than what this reduction trajectory indicates. Nevertheless, this is an important step for an administration and a President really investing politically in fighting climate change.” – Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action
  • “What Beijing’s climate modelers are trying to do now is to figure out when Chinese emissions will naturally peak under a business as usual scenario. They are tracking past emission patterns in Europe, the United States and other developed nations to figure out at what point in the industrialization process emissions naturally peak and when that is likely to happen for China. It is not yet clear whether Beijing will use that information to set an ambitious target that drives their nation to peak earlier than their business as usual scenario.” – Melanie Hart, director of the China energy and climate policy program, Center for American Progress

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