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COP23: What you need to know about this year’s climate change convention

by / 0 Comments / 17/11/2017

The world’s nations are meeting for COP23 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is the main annual meeting of nations to build and strengthen intergovernmental climate policy. The 23rd Conference of the Parties is taking place on 6 -17 November 2017 in Bonn, Germany. Fiji is presiding over COP23 with the support of the Government of Germany.


Why does it matter?

Consequences of climate change are felt throughout society and we are all responsible for tackling this issue. From floods in India and Nigeria to hurricanes in the Caribbean, wildfires in the US and heatwaves in Europe this year, these symptoms indicate that global emissions need to start falling urgently. COP23 is a unique opportunity to mobilise global climate action and to align all sectors of the economy with the Paris Agreement.

The participants

  • Government representatives and business groups committed to renewable power such as Renewable Energy 100.
  • Major fossil fuel companies, whose presence is controversial but also essential.
  • NGOs, which also pressure nations to increase their ambition to reduce emissions and aid smaller nations in doing likewise — given their relative scarcity of resources compared to larger countries.

Building on the Paris agreement:

The Paris agreement, adopted at COP21 in 2015, delivered the first global effort to tackle climate change. Its core focus was to commit signatories to the implementation of measures to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. Participants also agreed to make their targets more ambitious over the coming years. Although the Paris agreement set out the principles, it did not establish the details, thus the Bonn meeting will be vital in building the rules that will enable the Paris deal to work.

Dealing with Trump

Almost all UN nations are committed to the accord, the stark exception is the United States. As the world’s second biggest polluter and richest nation, the US is important. Although President Trump’s climate denialism appeared to cast a dark shadow over the conference, when he announced US withdrawal in June, it also provoked an unprecedented wave of support for the treaty, according to Christiana Figueres, UN’s chief climate negotiator. While the role of the US at COP23 is uncertain, there will still be an American delegation in Bonn as the process only takes effect in 2020.  Additionally, several US states, cities and businesses have pledged to adhere to the Paris deal and are expected to participate actively in Bonn.

The Agenda

  • Extreme weather. This year’s COP23 president aims to highlight the threat posed to island states that are most at risk from the sea-level rise and storms that climate change is bringing, and to prioritise the need for urgent action in both, climate change mitigation and adaptation processes.
  • Loss, damage and compensations. Deep and longstanding tensions have originated over the idea that developing nations, particularly those disproportionally affected by climate change, should be compensated for destruction resulting from western countries’ activities — whose economies developed at the expense of the planet. The stakes are magnified as some developing nations feel they lost out in the Paris agreement which, unlike previous deals, did not impose legally binding commitments on developed nations.
  • Reducing emissions. The Talanoa Dialogue is an official discussion focused on how countries can increase their targets for reducing emissions. This newly introduced approach to group discussion seeks to ensure a constructive, transparent and solutions-oriented dialogue.
  • A low-carbon economy. Low-carbon solutions are increasingly becoming low-cost solutions. According to UN Environment, up to half of current annual emissions could be reduced through the application of renewables; more efficient use of energy in buildings, manufacturing, transport; as well as, afforestation and stopping deforestation.

Political Scientist, Msc candidate at King’s College London Department of International Development.