We need to talk about Bonn

The Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, was a disappointment. Since the Paris Agreement, the sense of urgency has disappeared. We need new ambitious leaders. All eyes are on Poland.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
We need to talk about Bonn - NewsMavens
COP 23 conference. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Why is everyone so positive about the recent Climate Summit in Bonn (COP23)? The international media welcomed the status-quo -- they describe the meeting as a “rehearsal” for next year, which feels like an invitation to another year of mass lethargy. Nobody seems alarmed by the fact that the summit only got as far as turning the conceptual into the textual. It was an “interim technical meeting”.

According to climate experts, the spirit of the Paris Agreement is gone. There are multiple reasons.

In spite of what the UN's chief climate negotiator, Christina Figueres, said following the withdrawal of the United States from the agreement -- we do miss the country.

Their absence has changed the dynamics of the negotiations. It is now up to Europe to fill those shoes and play the role of a “natural leader”. However, this is a problem. The European Union doesn't have the same authority in the UN as the States. Yet.

(To be precise: an American delegation attended the summit, but, according to participants, they kept a very low profile.) 

The withdrawal of the US also affects the position of China. Given the size of China’s emissions and their recent efforts to curb coal and scale up renewables, China could lead the global climate change actions.

However there's a significant lack of trust between Europe and China. Some experts negatively assess the Chinese contribution to the Bonn Conference, which may prove that China is not ready for the leadership. On top of that, the developing countries are angry -- they want more attention.

In 2015, the world placed a bet on the power of peer pressure, with the future of the planet at stake. All eyes are on Poland -- the next host of the summit and Europe’s coal mining champion.

There's no need to be positive about the outcome of the COP23

  • The 2015 climate summit in Paris was an unexpected political triumph with an ambitious agreement of all participating countries.
  • In June 2017, the USA backed out from the agreement, and ever since then movement has been losing its momentum.
  • Many perceive the COP23 as a “status-quo” solution, which is “not bad”, and could even be seen as a “slow but steady progress”.
  • There's a lack of urgency, experts conclude, but we cannot gamble any longer with the future of our planet. A new leading country has to stand up. We need highly ambitious actors, who can come together to establish a long-run decarbonization goals and policies.
  • Fortunately, there are some world leaders who seem to realize. France’s President Macron is hosting a Paris agreement leader summit next month, and has pledged to pay the U.S. contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is 2 million dollars.
  • Meanwhile, reports show that the climate is still getting worse. Also in Belgium, the governments struggles to meet the climate goals by 2020. We still have to render our transport system, while the rise in green energy production is faltering now that biomass power stations have bitten the dust.


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The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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