The latest round of United Nations negotiations for a climate change treaty wrapped up today in Bonn, Germany with both familiar drama highlighting the precarious state of international efforts to reach an agreement to curb climate change, and some behind-the-scenes progress on technical issues.
The Bonn negotiations marked the first set of negotiations since December's conference in Durban, South Africa laid the groundwork for developed and developing countries to move forward on a new framework engaging all nations.
During the two-week meeting, countries launched three years of negotiations to develop the new agreement by 2015. Progress on this "Durban Platform" negotiating track and other substantive issues was impeded by a lengthy impasse in agreeing to an agenda for discussion and selecting a Chairperson to run the negotiations.
However, countries did not seem to fall into the typical divide between developed-vs.-developing country, but rather split between nations determined to move forward versus those that weren't — with developing countries on both sides of the debate.
We can only hope the intensity of the battles being fought over issues like what will be on the agenda and who will chair the new negotiating track signifies that countries are taking these Durban Platform negotiations seriously.
If countries didn't deem this new round of negotiations significant, they wouldn't be as invested in these procedural issues.
Smaller negotiating groupings on technical issues, including Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), did make good progress in the Bonn negotiations.
Despite continued limited action at the UN level, there is notable action taking place at the national and "sub-national" levels. Nations concerned about climate change are moving ahead in a variety of ways, including:
- individually, like Mexico and South Korea, which both recently passed domestic climate legislation;
- at the sub-national level, like California and Quebec; and
- in country groups, like Europe, which has had an Emissions Trading Scheme in place for several years.
It's essential countries start taking action at the national and state levels.
A fragmented system of climate laws will necessarily entail strains and is unlikely to add up to what is needed anytime soon. But the alternative, global inaction, risks global catastrophe.