Unity, Division at the Bonn Climate Conference
Roughly two years after the landmark Paris Agreement was brought into existence and five months after the Trump administration’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the global accord, the United Nation’s 2017 Climate Change Conference (COP23) is underway in Bonn, Germany.
Following Nicaragua’s joining on October 23 and the Syrian government’s announcement of its intention to sign on November 7, the United States will become the only nation in the world to not be part of the agreement.
Against the backdrop of the absence of the world’s largest economy, the rest of the world will try to salvage the efforts of the Paris Agreement at COP23 by trying to finalize the rules by which the signatories will implement their emission goals.
COP23, in theory, is of less importance to the world’s fight against climate change as COP21 in Paris; the goals of COP23 revolve around the implementation of the accords made at COP21 rather than the creation of an ambitious global agreement. However, due to the US withdrawal and the number of natural disasters this year, much media attention has been given to the participants at COP23 and their attempts at filling the vacuum left behind by the US.
China in particular is stepping up its rhetoric of being a global leader regarding climate issues. President Xi had declared that China is now in the “driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change”. The rhetoric has been reinforced through the Chinese government’s recent announcement that it would ban all vehicles running on fossil fuel in the future in order to promote electric vehicles.
The European Union is also expected to take a central role at COP23, with German chancellor Angela Merkel expected to attend in the second week of the conference and French president Emmanuel Macron expected to speak at the conference itself.
German environment minister Barbara Hendricks had said that the US withdrawal has only strengthened the world’s commitment to the agreement and that Germany remains committed to being an international leader on climate issues. However, Germany is still seen to be struggling to meet its emission goals due to a lingering coal industry.
Despite the unison in rhetoric towards the Paris Agreement, there has also been disagreements between the various parties regarding the timetable of implementation.
The terms of the Paris Agreement come into effect in 2020, but countries are free to pursue their own goals before then. The Chinese and Indian delegates, however, had wanted to add more global pre-2020 actions to the conference’s agenda.
On the other hand, Fiji, the presiding president of COP23 and some Western countries like Switzerland have stated that there is no consensus among participants regarding global pre-2020 actions.
Despite the disagreement towards the timetable, the participants are expected to reaffirm and build on the Paris Agreement prior to its full implementation in 2020.