One week in Bangkok – a hot summer for climate diplomacy about to start

Climate diplomats need to prepare for a hot summer. Leaving Bonn mid-May after two weeks of complex negotiations, the current status of the negotiation text shows how much work remains to be done. Therefore, negotiators have scheduled another week of discussions for early September in Thailand’s capital to close some of the gaps and to ensure that a huge step towards implementation of the Paris Agreement can be taken at COP24 in Katowice.

At least three issues are of major relevance for the current stalemate.

No text – no rules: It became clear early in the negotiations in Bonn that there would be no negotiating text by the end of the two weeks. However, without such a basis, agreement on a substantial rule book for Paris Agreement implementation at COP24 is simply not feasible. One spotlight is on the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) to deliver proposals on contested items such as climate pledges and transparency of activities. The discussions on pledges are focussing e.g. on what elements should be included in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and what kind of guidance should be established. The transparency item refers to the nature of reporting on action, including support in form of climate finance.

Finance – a lack of predictability: Money is always a crucial element of trust building and there are still quite a number of open questions at the moment. During the negotiations in Bonn in May one could see that it is currently not so much a question of whether there will be sufficient resources available, but how the available resources are reported to ensure some predictability for developing countries. Article 9.5 asks developed countries to review and report on their financial commitments every two years, whereas all other countries should do so on a voluntary basis. Apparently, a number of states are not able or willing to ensure clarity in this regard at the moment, though more transparency could serve as a major builder of trust.

Responsibilities – same, same but different: One of the key reasons for the success in Paris was overcoming the dispute about differentiation of commitments between developed and developing countries. In Bonn, disputes between China, India and others on the one hand and the EU, US and Japan on the other, became obvious – mainly on the question of whether there is to be one set of rules (favoured by developed countries) or two sets, as was proposed for example by India to consider historic responsibilities.

Options to take the lead

In the light of these, partly substantial, differences, renewed leadership is required to create new momentum for the kind of compromises reached in Paris. And there are sufficient opportunities to do so. First, issue-specific round tables will be organised before Bangkok to pave the way toward a concrete negotiating text that is perceived to be party driven. In addition to these more informal formats, there are several high-level opportunities for climate diplomats to enter further discussion and to explain what kind of leadership role they are ready to play:

  • 8 to 9 June: The G7 summit under the Canadian presidency.
  • 13 June: The 'EU for Talanoa' conference organised by the European Commission as part of the EU's contribution to the Talanoa Dialogue, including a high-level segment.
  • 17 to 19 June: The Petersberger Climate Dialogue IX offers the chance for countries to informally exchange views.
  • 20 to 21 June: Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action (MoCA) convened by the EU, China and Canada to advance discussions on the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and to demonstrate continued political commitment to global action.
  • 22 June: EU High Representative / Vice President Federica Mogherini will convene and host a high-level event 'Climate, Peace, and Security: The Time for Action' in Brussels.

There is no doubt that Poland’s COP presidency will be among the first to welcome major progress in the weeks to come, not waiting until December in Katowice for high-level engagement.