The 23rd Conference of Parties (CoP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was expected to be a low-key affair. The meeting, that began on December 6, in the German city, Bonn, was slated as a pit stop for next year’s CoP when the rule-book for the Paris Climate Change Treaty will be finalised. But like CoPs in the past eight years, the Bonn conference stretched into extra time because the participating nations were divided over the agenda of a pre-CoP meeting next year.
This meet will assess whether the actions promised by the signatories to the Paris Agreement are adequate to meet the pact’s objectives. Throughout the 12-day long CoP 23, developed and developing countries squabbled on whether next year’s preparatory meet should also include an assessment of the progress made on climate change mitigation commitments before 2020, when the Paris pact will come into force.
The pre-2020 commitments are significant for emerging economies like India, China and Brazil. Unlike the Paris pact, the onus of fulfilling the pre-2020 obligations — reducing emission and providing finance and technology to the developing countries — lies on the developed countries. If these countries do not fulfil their obligations in the next three years, the emerging economies will have to take a greater share of the climate change mitigation burden after the Paris pact comes into force.
But the developed countries have always been tardy about their pre-2020 commitments. A paper of the Climate Change Finance Unit of India’s Ministry of Finance, for instance, shows that the OECD countries have used creative accounting methods to exaggerate their annual climate mitigation aid to developing countries by more than 50 billion dollars.
At the CoP 23, the developed and developing countries could only reach a partial agreement. The developed countries will submit a report by May next year stating the progress on their pre-2020 commitments. As if on cue, 15 countries led by Canada and the UK formed a loose alliance to cut down their use of coal by 2030. For it to be effective, however, the alliance’s developed country members (the alliance does not include India and China) should be forthcoming with money and technology transfers in order to help reduce the dependence of developing countries on coal.
Friction over finances forced the Bonn conference to stretch more than half-a-day beyond its scheduled closing date. The CoP 23 declaration did finally mention financial and technology transfers. But that is, at best, a procedural victory for the developing countries. It will be at least six months before we know whether the developed countries have put their money where their mouth is.