COP23 first week roundup: Push towards loss and damage action but stagnation on pre-2020 climate issues

COP23 first week roundup: Push towards loss and damage action but stagnation on pre-2020 climate issues

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The first week at COP23 in Bonn is already behind us. What was supposed to be a boring, technocratic COP, got going with a surprising sense of urgency with negotiators seemingly spurred on by UN warnings that national pledges in made so far would only deliver one third of the emissions cuts to reach the Paris target. But beyond the carbon targets, discussions continued on a host of adaptation and resilience issues. As delegates get ready for the second week of negotiations (and the inevitable late nights that it brings), we take a look at what has happened so far:

Non-state climate action

Last week saw the establishment of the US Climate Action Center, an initiative by US American states, cities, a handful of US senators, businesses, colleges and universities, and non-profits who are committed to climate action regardless of the current White House position on climate change. ECO, the COP newsletter by Climate Action Network International said “the delegation represents a country whose people are deeply committed to climate action.

ECO and others report that the decision over the inclusion of pre-2020 climate action in the COP23 agenda is stagnating as developed countries claim the matter could be discussed elsewhere. A 2012 agreement of developed nations stated that they would cut emissions at least 18% compared to 1990 levels. To this day, however, most have not even ratified the agreement.

Loss and damage

With Fiji holding the presidency, it comes as no surprise that loss and damage is an especially important item on the agenda. The devastating climate disasters around the world in 2017 are serving as evidence of how important the permanent inclusion of loss and damage is at the UN climate talks. There are calls for the Warsaw Mechanism (WIM) to start moving beyond building “knowledge and collaboration” on the issue and toward mobilising finance and action to address climate-related loss and damage.

There has been considerable progress on loss and damage over the last decade, and although there are some reports that delegates from developed countries are trying to keep the finance issue out of discussions on the WIM, it does have a clear mandate to enhance, facilitate, mobilise and secure finance for loss and damage. It certainly seems that the hard yards on this issue are still ahead of us.

Adaptation funding

During last week’s opening sessions, Germany announced they were committing €50 million (US$58 m) in new funding to the UN Adaptation Fund, which distributes finance to climate change adaptation and resilience building projects in developing nations. The commitment gets the fund nearly 75% of its US$80 million goal for 2017.

It will be interesting to see this week if the climate talks will do anything to address the current imbalance on adaptation finance, and if improvements will be made to the way commitments are tracked. This will also be important for the 2020 climate finance goal of US$100 billion per year (for both adaptation and mitigation), the fulfilment of which is seen as a vital to enhance trust and cooperation between the developed and developing nations.

The importance of adaptation finance and support from developed nations was further underlined by a report completed by the Fijian government and the World Bank which concluded the island nation needed US$4.5 billion to reach its development objectives in the face of climate change. This amount is equivalent to Fiji’s entire gross domestic product over the next 10 years.

A focus on health

The World Health Organisation and the UN Climate Change secretariat drafted an initiative together with Fiji to protect people from small island nations from the health impacts of climate change. The plan wants to build capacity in such nations through enhancing knowledge, resources and technology to increase their healthcare resilience. Health projects currently only receive about 1.5% of adaptation finance, but people living in small island developing states are faced with severe health risks due to extreme weather events, rising sea levels and increasing risk of infectious diseases.

It will be interesting to see what the negotiations bring over the next few days as COP23 comes to its end. Will there be progress on the fine print of the Paris Agreement? Will loss and damage make another leap? Will parties agree on pre-2020 action? This and more in our final COP23 round up next week!


Cover photo by Wolkenkratzer/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0): ‘Bonn-Zone’ in landscape park Rheinaue near river Rhine in Bonn, a few days before the begin of United Nations Climate Change Conference, November 2017 in Germany. White tents and temporary structures within green trees at a little lake, near one of water recycling and wastewater treatment plants in Bonn.

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