‘Huddle negotiations’ run into hurdles in Bonn Climate meet

Rich-poor divide continues to push world towards climate catastrophe

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June 24, 2024

/ By / Pune

‘Huddle negotiations’ run into hurdles in Bonn Climate meet

The Bonn climate conference was very crucial for the world as it was the precursor to main 29th Conference of Partis (COP29) of UNFCCC to be held in Baku in Azerbaijan (Photo: IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth)

Last week UN meeting on climate change ended in a complete failure as negotiators from around the world flopped to reach any agreement on how to advance on tackling climate change, which is now more an emergency than just change. In a bid to reach an agreement, the negotiators also tried to use’ huddle negotiations’ with a few negotiators hoping to find the way out . But the divide between the rich and the poor nations proved to be too big a hurdle for even these huddle negotiations.

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With the global climate change negotiations moving forward with dreadfully inadequate actions and suicidally slow  speed  for over a decade and the divisions between developing and the developed world reaching new levels, a new terminology called ‘huddle-negotiations’ is becoming prevalent in the United Nations.

The latest occurrence of huddling of negotiators was witnessed just days earlier in the German city Bonn where the latest round of climate change negotiations took place under Bonn Climate Conference and that concluded at midnight on June 13.

Conference of Partis (COP29) of UNFCCC to be held in Baku in Azerbaijan in November this year (Photo: cop29.az)

The Bonn climate conference was very crucial for the world as it was the precursor to main 29th Conference of Partis (COP29) of UNFCCC to be held in Baku in Azerbaijan in November this year. After days of a deadlock, negotiators in Bonn, irrespective of their affiliation, just ‘huddled’ together to find the way out of the impasse, mainly on the issue climate finance committed by the developed countries for mitigation of impact of greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries and to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5°C-2°C as stipulated in the Paris Climate agreement. 

There are variant strategies and tactics deployed in international negotiations during UN conferences. When negotiations in full plenary get stuck, as happens invariably in climate change conferences, smaller groups are formed under the guidance of the president of the conference with the hope of breakthrough. 

A muddled huddle

These huddle groups resembled a badly organised team that was deeply divided on what needed to be done to reach a breakthrough! (Photo: IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth)

In many team sports, we often see players of a team huddle together briefly in the middle of the match to strategize their next moves.  The huddle groups in Bonn were no different, except that unlike a cohesive team which quickly agrees on a strategy, these huddle groups resembled a badly organised team that was deeply divided on what needed to be done to reach a breakthrough! While, one group wanted to temper the financial commitments, the other engaged in stumping others by distraction. 

This failure also reflects on the person incharge of the meeting as with result-oriented leadership at least some agreements or understandings can be reached. For instance, the negotiations during COP28, held last year in Dubai, were deftly managed by Dr Sultan Al-Jaber, President of COP28. 

COP 28 was indeed a unique that agreed to ‘transition away from fossil fuel’ including oil

COP28 was indeed a unique conference on three accounts. One, it was the first Conference of Parties where the President of the conference was himself head of world’s 12th largest oil producing company. And yet, it also became the first COP that agreed to ‘transition away from fossil fuel’ including oil. 

Second, it was the first COP where a global stock-take (GST) took place to assess the global progress towards achieving the goals of Paris Climate agreement, particularly those related to mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and finance. Third, it was also the first COP that agreed on transiting towards the goals of Paris Climate Agreement in a ‘just’ manner. The word ‘just’ meant that transition to carbon neutral and fossil-fuel-free economic system, needed for achieving the climate-goals should be as ‘fair and inclusive’ as possible to all the stakeholders including workers and communities in creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind. 

Strangely, what world has been witnessing for the last six months after COP28 in December 2023, is also the first of its kind in the history, though in a negative manner.  As the negotiators huddled, the global population watched helplessly, while going through record-breaking scorching temperatures all over the world.  From northern India to the United States and from Europe to Africa as well as in the Middle East, population faced unprecedented heat. Over 1,500 pilgrims on a Haj to Saudi Arabia perished due to heat stroke. Extreme climate events continued with greater frequency and more intensity. 

On top , even the raging floods in Kenya, southern Germany, Brazil, China, Afghanistan and central Asia did not deter the negotiators from huddling even closer and longer. Wildfires in thick, primary forests in Chile, Indian Himalayas, Nepal, United States and Greece were brushed aside by the huddlers. 

The delegates finally returned home tired and confused as to how to get out of the seemingly impossible maze that climate change negotiations have become and if they don’t succeed in breaking out, they would fail to reach any agreement during COP29 at Baku.

Big expectations belied, again

What exactly was expected from mid-year climate meeting held in Bonn, six months before COP29? 

Bonn Climate meet

Bonn Climate meet (Photo: UN Climate Change | Lucia Vasquez Tumi)

On broader canvass of climate agenda, Bonn meeting was to suggest pathways to push the implementation of the decisions, made based on the first ever global-stocktake (GST) report and decisions in COP28, to bring back the world to 1.5°C goal. The most important issue was the New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance (NCQG) that had to be deliberated in Bonn in order to be finalised in COP29. 

In 2009, developed countries agreed that by 2020, they would collectively mobilise USD 100 billion per year to support developing countries’ climate action through mitigation. When countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, they decided to set a NCQG on climate finance to replace the goal of USD 100 billion per year. The NCQG is meant to be adopted this year at COP29 in Azerbaijan.

Sadly, the 24 developed countries, as listed by the OECD, failed to meet climate finance goal of USD 100 billion per year by the stipulated year of 2020 when the climate financing was only USD 83 billion. For the first time, according to the OECD and Global Stock-Take, this goal was met for only in 2022, two years after the initial deadline. 

But even this ‘achievement’ is questionable. While the OECD says that the climate finance raised in 2022 was USD 116 billion, the figure is hotly contested by many developing countries who challenged the way OECD summed up the finances by adding bilateral, multilateral, international banks, export credits and private funding whereas climate finance was meant to be an ‘additional’ funding mechanism, besides the existing channels. 

The new finance goal, which is yet to be agreed upon, will channel greater funds toward urgently  needed and much delayed climate action in developing countries. It will support implementation of low-carbon, climate resilient solutions in energy, transport, agriculture and other vital systems. By increasing financial support, it should enable developing countries to step up their climate ambitions in the next round of national climate plans through NDCs, which are due to be renewed in 2025.

While Bonn agenda also included discussion for Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), Loss and Damage Fund for the least developed countries and  implementation modalities for  a ‘just’ transition away from fossil fuels, the NCQG dominated the negotiations. Developing countries came up with new figure of USD 1-3 trillion annually.

2024 is the year of conflicts backed by nuclear superpowers but it is also unprecedented opportunity for countries to act against common enemy which is  climate change. Countries must learn the lessons from their  failure to reach the old goal of USD 100 billion annual finance. 2024  is the key year  to understand that investing in war against climate is the high- return investment leading to the sustainable development. 

While increased climate finance is a lever  to propel the developing countries in making more ambitious climate commitments, it is also the catalyst for loss and damage and  adaptation funds that will trigger and strengthen trust in the international climate negotiations between developed and developing countries. 

Lack of political will missing piece of puzzle 

But where are these additional annual finances of trillions of dollars ? Contrary to the widespread  pessimism, the funds  indeed are available and even accessible! What is missing is the political will.

Operations in Eastern Ukraine (Photo: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine)

Over the last two and half years, Ukraine alone has been provided with USD 275 billion to fight the war against Russia  by EU and USA alone. That financial support itself is more than USD 100 billion annually committed by developed countries to global south before 2020.  

Globally, fossil fuel subsidies were USD 7 trillion in 2022 as per IMF. World governments agreed at the COP26 in Glasgow to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies to help fight global warming. These subsidies can be diverted for climate finance. Even the global military expenditure was more than USD 2.4 trillion in 2023 as per Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Together one can safely state that climate finance is available if there is political will to support ‘Net Zero’ global movement against our common enemy. 

If world wastes this opportunity to declare an all-out war on climate crisis, we all have to ‘huddle together’ the way negotiators did in Bonn to save ourselves from the deadly floods, heavy rains and devastating wildfires. What else the global population do when it stands on thin ice which is melting fast?

By Rajendra Shende, former Director of UNEP , Coordinating lead Author of IPCC that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and founder of Green Terre Foundation. 

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