The recent round of UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, made little progress, Zimbabwe’s lead negotiator Washington Zhakata says. The meeting, held from April 30 to May 10, saw angry exchanges between rich countries and those from the developing world, opening up old wounds over neglected responsibility.
Zimbabwe was disappointed that there was no progress at all on the key issue of finance.
“It was the hope of the Zimbabwe delegation that finance negotiations would progress substantively in Bonn…but by the last day of this session, progress on finance has been dramatically slow,” Mr Zhakata told The Herald Business, by email.
“Negotiators spent ten days talking about how to accurately report past and future climate finance commitments, however, no conclusion was in sight on adopting robust standards,” he lamented.
Zhakata, also climate change director in the Environment and Climate Ministry, said: “There still remains little clarity on when and how countries will start a process to define a new collective goal for climate finance after 2025.
This was the first major meeting under the Talanoa Dialogue, a multi-stakeholder platform launched at the last UN climate negotiations in the same Germany city in November.
The Dialogue aims to review progress, and to lift ambition for curbing emissions, in line with, or beyond, the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Climate finance remains high on the agenda in the global climate negotiations.
Africa is looking to the $100 billion per year pledge by rich countries to help ease the climate burden on citizens, already ravaged by a succession of droughts and floods, hunger, famine and disease.
Zimbabwe needs about $90 billion to adapt, and to mitigate the effects of climate change between now and 2030, according to a Government plan drawn up under the Paris treaty
Government has committed to fund only a fraction of this, with rich nations, historically accused of fuelling the climate problem, expected to provide the rest.
At Bonn, it was all about vested interests as rich countries clashed with the developing ones on greenhouse gases emission cuts and on finance.
Zimbabwe, and Africa, had been targeting greater emission control before 2020, after indications that current ambition levels were insufficient to meet up with the two degrees Celsius temperature goal agreed at Paris three years ago.
Scientists say the pledges from Paris could only achieve 2,7°C of warming, or more, by 2100. There is just that too much concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, they say.
“Rows between rich and poor re-emerged over finance and cutting carbon,” said Mr Zhakata.
One of the major outcomes expected from Bonn was on the rulebook.
In order to speed up the signing of the Paris accord, delegates meeting for the 21st UN climate talks in France three years ago agreed to defer discussion on the complex technical details of the pact to a later date.
Now, these discussions have been ongoing since 2016.
The Bonn meeting was expected to come up with clear outlines on the draft texts of the Paris Agreement’s rulebook so that it may be ready for adoption during negotiations in Poland later this year
The rulebook is to provide guidelines on how to keep global temperatures “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1,5 degrees Celsius.
The idea is to come up with a book of rules that effectively limits carbon emissions from human activity, to the extent that can be tolerated by trees, oceans and soil, the natural sinks of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and to be transparent about it.
But even on that, agreement failed at Bonn.
“Negotiations struggled with the complexity of agreeing a rulebook for the Paris climate pact…” said Zhakata.
The Bonn conference was expected to iron out issues critical to operationalising the Paris treaty, at the earliest, by December.
The issues include agreement on the need to review country pledges every five years so as to keep up with the goal of limiting global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius in this Century.
It also aimed to reach consensus on details relating to transparency, accountability and compliance in the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Much of this never happened, to Zhakata’s chagrin.
“As Zimbabwe, we viewed the overall progress at this meeting as very slow,” he complained.
Zhakata showed disappointment that industrialised states had backed the discontinuation of capacity building support rendered to African countries by some UN bodies.
“The first step is for transparency to be upheld on their current levels of emissions through regular reviews by a trained team of experts,” he told The Herald Business.
“At the negotiations, developed countries were not keen to have annual reviews of the reports provided by the reviewers, casting a dark shadow on the Transparency Framework under discussion.”
Where to now?
There are several meetings lined up between now and the next annual talks in December, where it is hoped the outstanding issues, particularly on the rulebook, could be ironed out before then
Mr Zhakata said Zimbabwe needed to prepare for those meetings adequately.
“The country needs to quickly prepare a position paper on climate change for the upcoming negotiation sessions,” he said.
“A permanent team of negotiators has to be established to fully represent the country at the negotiations and advise the country appropriately.”
Mr Zhakata led a team of ten negotiators to Bonn.
God is faithful.