COP 23 Week 1 Recap: Where Have We Been, and Where Are We Going?

High level events are taking place on a regular basis, the crowds are getting bigger, and sightings of Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and various government officials have increased, which can only mean one thing — the second week of COP23 has begun. As we look ahead to the final week of the conference, let’s look back to see what was discussed during the past week.

Pre-2020 Action

Although the Paris Agreement was born at COP21 in 2015 and has been the topic of negotiations since then, it won’t come into force until 2020. For some, mainly developing countries, waiting till 2020 to start ramping up international climate action is too late. During the past week developing countries have claimed they need pre-2020 action to have a chance of minimizing catastrophic climate change impacts. Developed countries, on the other hand, have yet to get behind the idea of discussing pre-2020 at COP23. In fact, the topic has been taken off the formal negotiation agenda all together. The United States has claimed there is simply not enough time to discuss pre-2020 action during this conference, while the European Union claims they have every intention of meeting their 2020 pledges yet do not see any need to discuss the issue formally at COP23.

As we look ahead to the final week of COP23, many are beginning to fear this is one issue that will end in a stalemate, threatening to turn Bonn into another Copenhagen. Many civil society members now wonder whether they should push for pre-2020 action to be put on the formal agenda, or whether this topic needs to be brushed over if we’re to have any hope of moving on and creating productive work by the end of COP23.

Loss and Damage

Debates between developing and developed countries is a significant trend at COP23. In addition to strong disagreements over pre-2020 action, there’s also debates on loss and damage – or more precisely, loss and damage finance.

Loss and damage does not have an official definition, making it all the more difficult to work with, but it typically refers to compensation for events that can’t be easily mitigated, such as extreme weather events and rising sea level. This topic is especially relevant at COP23, which closely follows recent significant weather disasters that many countries are still recovering from.

Developing countries are working towards the inclusion of loss and damage finance as a way to promote equity. Their argument lies in the fact that developed countries are responsible for altering the global climate while developing, and now developing countries both need to bear the brunt of these impacts while missing out on the opportunity to develop in the same way already developed countries have in the past. Developed countries, on the other hand, say there’s no way to prove if an extreme weather event is caused or exacerbated by climate change, so developed countries can not be held financially responsible. These discussions bring up issues of climate justice and equity, and in the coming week we will see whose version wins out in the end.

Global Stocktake and the Talanoa Dialogue

Despite frequent praise for the Paris Agreement, there’s still one bleak reality — the current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are not ambitious enough to reach the 2 degree, let alone 1.5 degree, target. In order to increase ambition, the Talanoa Dialogue will use a global stocktake to assess what has been done so far to work towards the goals of the Paris agreement. This stocktake will be discussed in a Talanoa Dialogue, named after the Fiji act of using and open dialogue and storytelling to increase inclusivity and trust. This will hopefully allow countries to create more ambitious NDCs by 2020.

COP23 is when questions regarding the details of the Talanoa Dialogue must be answered – What is the scope of the global stocktake? Which factors will be included? In which ways will data be collected? Answering these questions now will give countries a stronger foundation when the Talanoa Dialogue officially starts at COP24.

Non-Party Actors

When President Donald Trump shocked the world by announcing the United States’ intention to leave the Paris Agreement, many followers of climate change negotiations wondered who, or what, would fill the gap left by the United States. A coalition of United States’ city and state leaders, as well a businesses, answered this concern with the creation of the US Climate Action Center. Many events and discussions have been held to let the world know that many parts of the United States are “still in.”

The increased involvement of non-party actors, such as non-governmental organizations and civil society, was also discussed in the first even Presidency’s Open Dialogue. While this dialogue intended to create solutions to increase non-party actors’ involvement in the COP process, it functioned more as a short forum for prepared speeches, with little true
dialogue taking place. Still, it was a good first step in the process to truly include non-party actors.

Casey Catherine Miller is a the delegation lead for Young European Leadership. A recent Environmental Science MSc graduate, she is passionate about environmental education and communication, youth capacity building, and sustainable development.

Follow the COP23 delegation’s daily video blog here!

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