Little optimism before the climate conference | Knowledge & Environment | DW

Diplomats from all over the world are currently meeting in Bonn for interim negotiations in preparation for the COP 28 climate conference at the end of the year. International agreements, plans and strategies are considered a key in limiting global warming and adapting to its consequences heat waves and sea level rise.

The preliminary talks in Bonn, which are less well known to the general public, lay the foundation for the UN climate summit every year.

The negotiators from over 190 countries are already agreeing on technical details, for example on reducing environmental pollution, protecting people from heat waves and an increasingly threatening environmental situation, or who should pay for what in the future. Major differences are already evident here, which will be discussed in the political struggle during the COP 28 in the United Arab Emirates.

At the meeting in Bonn, the international representatives discuss the goals of the upcoming climate conference and it enables an exchange on which political measures work and which do not, explains Alex Scott, expert on climate diplomacy at the think tank E3G in London. “What’s different about Bonn is that the politicians aren’t there – or very few.”

At last year’s COP27 climate summit, activists called on leaders to cut pollution faster and pay for the damage they cause

Who pays for the damage caused by climate change?

The Bonn negotiations are the first talks of this magnitude since the COP27 in Egypt last year. At that time, in tough negotiations, it was agreed to set up a climate fund to compensate for some of the damage caused by extreme weather in poorer countries. The agreement was reached at the last minute and is considered a milestone. It is the first time that rich countries want to take responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions in this way.

But when it came to reducing emissions and protecting the climate last year little progress made what many countries, especially smaller states, criticized.

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“We have an agreement for a new fund,” says Marjo Nummelin, Finland’s chief negotiator. “But we think we shouldn’t have another COP where there is no real progress on the emissions reduction agenda.”

The future of the new fund is still open. Before money flows, the countries first have to agree on who ultimately has to pay, who gets how much and under what circumstances. Some of these points will now be discussed in Bonn. The political disputes are then carried out later in Dubai.

Important talks about the new compensation fund for climate damage

“I expect that we will at least get an informal comment in Bonn,” said Juan Carlos Monterrey, former chief climate negotiator who now works for Geoversity, a wildlife NGO. “An informal comment is what it sounds like: an unofficial document summarizing the visions and positions of the various parties and political groups.”

A woman is cooking something in front of a tent

More pressure on rich countries to bear the costs. In the run-up to the COP27 summit, Pakistan was devastated by floods

But for countries on the front lines of climate change, grappling with blistering heat waves or seeing their homes washed away by rising sea levels, problems will not be solved on paper. The new fund aims to help countries recover from the damage caused by climate change, such as rebuilding houses and infrastructure destroyed by storms, supporting farmers during a drought, but also reducing their own emissions and adapting to new weather patterns . But this fund is not a guarantee for quick financial help either.

rich countries have already broken a promise made in 2009. At the time, they promised poor countries $100 billion annually in grants and loans through 2020 to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change.

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Some observers assume that the goal of 100 billion climate subsidies could now be achieved this year, i.e. three years later than planned. Either way, scientists agree that the promised money was not enough from the start. Discussions on financing targets after 2025 are now also being held in Bonn.

Rising emissions a ‘death sentence’

During the conference, the United Nations also want to take a close look at the progress made in achieving the climate goals. In a “global stocktake”, i.e. a worldwide inventory, every two years an assessment is made of how humanity is reacting to climate change. How exactly this year’s assessment turns out is now being discussed in Bonn before it is published in November before COP28.

The review is based on research already showing that countries still emit too many harmful gases and invest too little in climate protection to meet their promises and protect their people from extreme weather conditions.

“There has to come a point where we cut emissions, otherwise it’s really a death sentence for countries like us,” said Khadeeja Naseem, climate minister of the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean.

“That’s no understatement,” Naseem continued. “The Maldives is just a meter above sea level and all critical infrastructure is just 100 meters from shore. We have increasing erosion. Most homes are being submerged by the tides. And we’re a geographically dispersed island nation. It says very much at stake.”

A turtle in front of a coast with palm trees

Low-lying island nations like the Maldives are among the countries that will be hardest hit by rising sea levels

To prevent heat waves from getting hotter and coastal flooding from getting worse, world leaders pledged in Paris in 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century to limit pre-industrial temperatures. But with their current policies, they almost will doubles to reach.

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Scientists are calling for leaders to take immediate action to burn less coal, oil and gas and cut emissions across sectors deeply and quickly.

The Brazilian government recently announced that countries will present new and more ambitious climate plans at the 2025 COP30 to be held in Belem near the Amazon.

“For us it is absolutely crucial that there is an international environment that guides the parties to put the most ambitious measures on the table,” said a Brazilian climate negotiator, who told DW anonymously.

If you don’t develop more ambition by then and the gaps are not closed by then and also implemented in this critical decade, “that means we have lost the fight by 1.5 °C”.

Sultan Al Jaber on a podium

Although the head of a major oil company, Sultan Al Jaber, was elected President of COP28

Oil and gas lobbying

This year’s COP28 climate summit is already being criticized. The President of the Summit, Sultan Al Jaber, is the full-time CEO of the UAE oil company ADNOC. In an open letter, 130 MPs from the EU and the USA called for his dismissal.

“With this appointment you are sending the message that the oil industry is in charge here,” said Monterrey, the former chief negotiator from Panama. “We run an even greater risk than usual that this process will become obsolete. Because when people see it, they think it’s a joke.”

Still, some delegates are cautiously optimistic. While the United Arab Emirates plan to further increase their oil production, they are also investing heavily in clean technologies.

“They are in a unique position to initiate positive things,” said Naseem, Maldives’ chief negotiator. “I really hope that the United Arab Emirates can play a crucial role in driving the transformation – including with renewable energy and technologies – that can help countries like us, even in Future to survive.”

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