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Looking for a faster pace at Bonn climate talks

We need a document everyone can get behind, but as the Paris summit nears, questions remain.

In the second of two weeks of key climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany, leading up to the Paris UNFCCC summit in December at which a new international agreement will be concluded, it’s clear that the pace of the talks needs to kick into higher gear. Virtually all countries and country groups have said they want greater progress in boiling down a lengthy text and honing the sets of issues to be discussed over the rest of the year — known as streamlining — but so far, it hasn’t happened effectively enough.

Countries will need to move faster to consolidate often-redundant text and focus attention on the central issues at stake in each section of the draft agreement. Proposals from countries to discuss some core issues in broad terms, in addition to negotiations of specific text, also can help move the overall process forward.

An increased focus is especially needed to address issues such as the cycles of improvement, which would involve countries assessing and ramping up their actions at regular intervals — for example, every five years. Countries need to clarify and focus the central questions at stake involving cycles across mitigation, adaptation and support.

The finance negotiating text also needs particular attention. After little progress consolidating the text in the first week at Bonn, countries agreed to let co-facilitators rearrange and streamline finance proposals into a more coherent document. Contentious issues remain the sources of finance, scaling up funding and how to address forest financing.

Pathways to $100 billion

To help advance finance discussions, WRI analysis has helped set out credible pathways for achieving the goal of mobilizing $100 billion annually in climate funding by 2020, which can help build trust in the negotiations.

Germany is leading the way by committing to double its climate finance to $4.5 billion a year by 2020, and the G7 leaders’ summit June 7-8 offers a chance for other donors to elaborate on their plans to scale up finance to meet the goal. In doing so, countries need to make sure that adaptation finance is prioritized, given the large shortfall compared to funding for mitigation.

IKEA’s recent announcement that it will provide $451 million to support communities affected by climate change shows that businesses are willing to fund adaptation, and additional public money can help spur similar private sector commitments. Beyond mobilizing finance, governments need to ensure that broader investment flows are oriented towards achieving climate objectives and sustainable development goals.

While the process of framing the Paris agreement has moved too slowly, the value of the international climate process is clear. A new process of multilateral assessments in the UNFCCC — in which countries present their climate action to date and answer questions about them from other countries — has created a new way to engage seriously about what countries are actually doing and how far they have gone toward meeting their targets.

In the first week of the conference, Japan and Canada both faced intense questioning about whether they had met their past agreed targets. A robust conversation among countries showed that the international process can provide a way to consider and oversee the action being taken around the world. Adding civil society representatives to the process would make this process even stronger.

Negotiators now need to create an agreement for the period after 2020 that builds on opportunities for the international community to take serious action to address the climate challenge. Negotiators have one more week in Bonn to pick up the pace and focus the discussions so that we can move toward an ambitious agreement in Paris.

This article first appeared at WRI’s blog.

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