Watching Bonn from Bar Harbor, ME

by Morgan Heckerd


Monday October 19, 2015 in Bonn, Germany was the first day of meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In the earth morning G-77 and China paved the way for developing countries to make a stand against the Draft Paris Agreement which was released earlier this month (Oct. 5, 2015). Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), African Group, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and others spoke of the injustice, lopsidedness, and danger of the Co-chairs’ text. They guided the seriously needed disruption and demanded the text be reworked immediately before any negotiations took place. The draft they rejected was extremely unbalanced– exclusively representing well developed countries.

This original text failed to recognize the core foundation of the Convention. There was no mention of Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), equity, or historical responsibility. Even though COP15 in 2009 shifted the Convention to a bottom-up “pledge and review” system, there still needs to be a process in place that pushes developed countries to take the lead. In the earlier draft there was no review method that would check the fairness of parties pledges– (intended) nationally determined (commitments)(contributions)– to see if they are inline with the set 2 degree targets. There was no mention of how these commitments, all together, would impact climate change, nor any scientific connection or comparison– something that is desperately needed if the earth’s temperature is going to remain below 2ºC.
After many developing countries addressed the Co-chairs for their abominable draft, it was hard for any party to call it a “good” and negotiable text. Even parties such as the U.S. and the EU were sheepish to stand up for the Co-chairs and their draft agreement.

The Co-chairs, after admitting the “inadvertent omissions” decided to accept edits from all parties and made “mechanical light touch editorial changes” to the text. In this new text there are mentions of equity, human rights, food security, transparency, CBDR, and a process to hold nationally determined mitigation commitments (NDMCs) to the “long-term temperature goal in Article 2 of this Agreement,” (Article 3 paragraph 4bis). It recommends commitments for developed countries and contributions for developing countries in regard to historical responsibility, CBDR and respective capabilities. The new text professes that climate related actions need to respect indigenous rights and gender equality. It introduces 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels as a temperature goal. It asks parties to make reductions in line with science. This new draft recognizes that the developing countries have different needs than the developed, and that they must be given “equitable access to atmospheric space” to develop and address their social and economic challenges.
Clearly, this new draft is immensely better than the previous, but it is not perfect. It cannot be ignored that all of the edits listed above are vulnerable between brackets. If these insertions are not agreed upon in Bonn nor in Paris, they are in danger of being cut out completely. This could leave huge cracks in the draft agreement, and it would return to the Geneva text (the only official text thus far) which was horrendously unbalanced and unrepresentative of the UNFCCC as a whole.

Around the world, with fingers crossed, readers are attentively waiting for updates of the climate talks in Bonn in hopes of an equitable outcome. However, many of us worry about the transparency of the negotiations after all of civil society has been banned from observing. On October 20th Hideaki Mizukoshi said, “every diplomat knows real negotiations cannot happen in front of the public.” In actuality civil society’s presence holds parties more accountable to their words/actions. Go to for daily posts from the Third World Network.

Read the two drafts of the Paris Agreement attached below.


Draft from October 5, 2015

Draft from October 20, 2015

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