Bula! (Fijian for: Hello – and <much more>)
On Monday, 6th November 2017, the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference convened in Bonn and I am honoured to be part of it. Via oikos Vienna, I am sharing some of my experiences from this unique international conference, where 197 parties meet annually to combat climate change. In this post, I want to start off with this year’s agenda of the COP23 and introduce myself.
For two weeks, negotiations, capacity building and networking are going on here at the venue of the UN Campus and its surrounding conference rooms. Every year, the Conference of Parties (COP) is taking place in different places around the world. This year, Fiji is presiding the ‘Pacific COP’ as the first small island state so far. However, as there are no suitable conference venues to host 20.000+ delegates from governments, NGOs and IGOs, Germany has offered to host the conference. Bonn has been chosen because the secretariat of the COP, the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has got its headquarter in the former capital. You can check out the venue by clicking here.
The main aim of this COP is to flesh out the Paris Agreement (PA). The agreement was decided upon in the all-important 2015 COP in Paris and brought into force less than one year after in November 2016. The agenda the Fijian presidency wants to press forward is fourfold:
- Lie the groundwork for the next year’s facilitative dialogues intending to increase countries‘ ambitions
- Produce the first results for the Paris rule book, as the rules of how to implement the PA have to be decided at COP24 next year
- Step up financial resources to reassure loss and damage payments can be made to developing countries
- Create confidence that the PA is strong despite one country deciding to unilaterally act (or not act) on climate change* (Source: Climate Action Network)
A special focus of this COP has been put on the tragic fate of pacific island states in the light of rising sea-levels and on the countless activities of non-state actors offering solutions to environmental destruction. Beautiful pavilions, traditional boats and a massive influx of delegates from Fiji and surrounding islands set the scene. Also content-wise the Pacific influence is felt: The Fijian presidency aims to create an effective ratcheting up process for countries’ pledges which will start taking place next year at the COP in Katowice, Poland. They labelled it ‚Talanoa Dialogue’ and aim to introduce Fijian debate values into the facilitative dialogue which is scheduled for next year.
The second reason this COP is exceptional is that a much higher number of non-state actors showcase their activities than before. The schedule is packed with informative (and less so) side-events, cultural interventions and compelling activism for causes such as indigenous and gender rights, fossil fuel subsidies and other by parties insufficiently addressed issues (see picture of schedule**). Unfortunately, and unlike in previous years, the venue for non-state actors is located around 1.5km away from the negotiation zone. This hinders government representatives to visit these events in their rare spare times between negotiations. Nevertheless, NGOs build coalitions between themselves and capacity to compliment and often provoke more ambitious state action.
After Paris and Lima, this is my third time at the UN Climate Change Conference. Previously, I was affiliated with the Austrian Environmental Ministry as I was part of their delegation representing youth and the Jugend-Umwelt-Platform which I helped as mentor. This time, I am part of the delegation of NGO Carbon Market Watch helping them to monitor negotiations on carbon markets and related side-events. I have also collaborated with Jugendbündnis Zukunftsenergie being part of the organising team of the 13th version of the Conference of Youth (COY), which is traditionally fully organised by youth and takes place before the COPs.
* The US is the only country of the 196 members to the UNFCCC which has not signed the agreement.
Written by Jürgen