US Uncertainty Sets Stage for Bonn Climate Talks

Today, representatives from nearly every country convene in Bonn, Germany for the UNFCCC intersessional meeting on climate change -- ready to make progress, but with some significant questions yet unanswered.

In this morning’s opening press panel, business, city and policy experts spoke to the state of global climate action.

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“Companies and investors are waking up to the imperative to act on climate because it makes good business sense. They understand the risks posed by climate change and the unparalleled economic opportunities tied to the clean energy transition,” said Sue Reid vice president of climate and energy at Ceres.  

If nations are not going to be pulled from above, they can be pushed from below," added Gino van Begin, secretary general of the city network ICLEI, speaking to how cities can influence climate policy and action.

This is the first UNFCCC meeting since Trump’s inauguration, and all eyes will be on the U.S. However, it’s likely the US delegation won’t have a clear mandate, with U.S. negotiators largely in a “wait-and-see” mode with regard to their posture in the talks. The Trump administration is expected to meet and potentially make a decision on whether to remain in Paris tomorrow.

Many major players have reaffirmed their Paris commitments since Trump’s election, and Bonn will be the first opportunity for them to come together and show that the Agreement is strong regardless of the U.S. position.

The result of yesterday’s French election also soothed a few worries on the ground in Bonn. Newly elected Emmanuel Macron, who mentioned climate change in his victory speech, has pledged to implement the Paris Agreement and double France’s wind and solar capacity by 2022.  

The discussions at this meeting will be highly technical but crucial for advancing implementation of the Paris Agreement. Negotiators are working to create the rulebook for the Agreement, which will be agreed upon by the end of next year ahead of an important stocktaking exercise on countries' climate commitments.

Also at this meeting, governments will, for the first time in history, officially discuss conflicts of interest at UN climate talks. Countries including China and India are calling for tighter rules to avoid conflicts of interest in an official submission to the UNFCCC. A new report from Corporate Accountability International exposes the fossil fuel trade associations attempting to undermine and block progress at these meetings.

The Bonn session will set the tone for the G7 meetings, which begin next week in Italy and will be another critical test of the diplomatic skill of the Trump administration. G7 countries have been strong on their commitments to the Paris Agreement and international climate action, despite Trump's rhetoric.