After a long night of debate over finance between developed and developing nations, the Paris Agreement finally made progress towards its implementation in 2020.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which concluded on Friday in Bonn, Germany, was all about creating an operating manual for the accord – a means by which governments can enhance their efforts on climate change action, through the so-called Talanoa Dialogue.
Current national pledges to cut carbon emissions equate to a 3 degrees Celcius rise in global temperature, while the Paris Agreement aims for 2C, or preferably closer to 1.5C. Experts say there has already been a 1C rise in temperature since the industrial revolution, and recent hurricanes and wildfires demonstrate the need for urgent action.
Paula Caballero, the global director of the World Resources Institute, said there was a lot of work to do in 2018.
“Next year is the year to really step up climate action,” she said. “I think what we have here in Bonn sets us on a good road ahead. There’s a lot of homework to do and it’s not easy, but I think we’re seeing real and decisive action on behalf of governments, cities, states and the private sector.”
But there is still the thorny issue of how poorer nations are paid for the damage caused by the emissions of the rich.
Fijian Jenny Jiva from the Pacific Island Action Network welcomed the progress of the Paris Agreement, but said the world is still falling way short of what is required: “It’s certainly not enough for the survival of the Pacific. There needs to be increased ambition and a greater responsibility taken by developed countries. They need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and they need to move towards a safe and just transition towards renewable energy.”
Fossil fuels were a focus inside and outside the negotiating halls in Bonn. There was no coal phase-out from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but the United Kingdom and Canada launched an alliance of 20 nations to wind down coal use.
Members of a delegation sent by the administration of US President Donald Trump to promote fossil fuels were shouted down by dozens of protesters, as a coalition of US states and cities stepped into the void to say: “We’re still in the Paris Agreement.”
“It doesn’t matter how much Donald Trump tweets. He can tweet his fingers off but he cannot stop us. The states are leading on this issue, and we will not be stopped, because the world cannot wait,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said.
Next year, the process moves to Poland, where the world will be expected to increase carbon-cutting ambitions.
In the meantime, French President Emmanuel Macron will host a climate summit in December to try to keep up momentum – but it is a long, slow process getting the world to agree on the finer details of the fight against climate change.