The latest round of the international climate change negotiations closed on 17 November in Bonn (“COP-23”), with delegates meeting to hammer out the details of states’ commitments under the Paris Agreement.
With the Paris Agreement having entered into force more quickly than many parties had envisaged, the negotiations in Bonn were focused on developing technical guidelines to support implementation of the Paris Agreement. In particular, negotiators were working on measurement and reporting requirements to ensure transparency of parties’ greenhouse gas emissions and on the processes for a global stocktake of emissions planned for 2018. A useful summary of the technical outcomes of the negotiations is here.
With the majority (164) of states having filed their first mandatory Nationally Determined Contributions (“NDCs”) and thereby signaling their national strategies and planned actions to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, negotiators were focusing in Bonn on the details of how to measure states’ progress in reduction of GHGs, as well as realisation of climate finance commitments, including the $100 billion per year that developed countries pledged in 2009.
negotiators were focusing in Bonn on the details of how to measure states’ progress in reduction of GHGs, as well as realisation of climate finance commitments
Several of the major announcements from the Bonn negotiations were HSBC’s announcement to provide $100b in sustainable financing and investment by 2025, the UK and Canada’s announcement to phase out coal for energy production (alongside 20 other countries), and President Macron’s announcement that France would cover the shortfall in funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”) caused by the planned US withdrawal. As the first COP to be hosted by a Pacific Island nation (Fiji – even though physically the meetings were in Bonn), two important announcements were the organisation of the 2018 ‘Talanoa Dialogue’ (a process to showcase best practices to raise ambition and pre-2020 action) and progress on a platform to promote participation of indigenous peoples and local communities within the negotiations. See the Fiji Presidency’s round-up of achievements from the talks here.
One of the big talking points among business and government delegates was the ‘alternative’ US pavilion, largely sponsored by Michael Bloomberg, representing the ‘We Are Still In’ coalition of states, cities and businesses supporting the Paris Agreement despite the planned US withdrawal (an earlier update on the US withdrawal is here). Bloomberg called for formal representation within the negotiations of his coalition, which was claimed to represent over half of the US economy. Delegates also reported that China was increasingly stepping forward to take leadership roles as the (official) US delegation became less visible.
Alongside the negotiations, a series of side events were hosted by civil society and business groups. I participated in an official side event on dispute resolution for climate related disputes, hosted jointly by the International Bar Association, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Chaired by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP partner Wendy Miles QC, speakers considered the options provided in the Paris Agreement for state-state dispute resolution (including conciliation, arbitration and/or referral to the International Court of Justice), as well as relevant factors to ensure legitimacy of investor-state dispute resolution linked to Paris Agreement mitigation and adaptation actions, and the implications for commercial disputes.
COP-23 and the Fijian Presidency succeeded in holding together the delicate balance achieved at COP-21 in Paris in 2015
One final talking point among legal delegates was the series of side events hosted by NGOs on the growth of climate related litigation being brought against Governments and corporates. It is evident that more cases are being filed against corporates alleging responsibility for climate harms, with a German regional court recently permitting a case brought against RWE for climate related damage to continue, Californian litigation ongoing against energy companies asserting responsibility for sea level rise, and hearings currently underway in Norwegian litigation challenging the Norwegian Government’s issuance of licenses in the Barents Sea. A useful summary of current global litigation and legislative climate trends presented during COP-23 is here.
Although the outcomes of COP-23 are more muted than previous conferences, COP-23 and the Fijian Presidency succeeded in holding together the delicate balance achieved at COP-21 in Paris in 2015. Much attention will now come onto the Talanoa Dialogue to create a positive platform for the 2018 negotiations in Katowice, Poland and to hold parties to account to their Paris NDCs.