A Short Guide to the UN Climate Change Conference

Status of negotiations and what's on the agenda for COP 23 in Bonn


Negotiators gathering from November 6-17, 2017 in Germany face two challenges. On one hand, they need to keep up the political momentum that led to a historically rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement last year. On the other, they need to make significant progress on drafting the rules and guidelines that will enable its implementation. This set of rules and guidelines is slated for adoption by the parties to the Paris Agreement by the end of 2018.

This page serves as a guide to the Bonn Climate Change Conference, presided over by the Government of Fiji – bringing you up to speed on the status of negotiations and the most significant items on the agenda.


Remind me - what is the Paris Agreement all about?

In December 2015, 192 countries committed to a climate change agreement in the French capital that is universally applicable, dynamic and durable. Since then, 169 countries have ratified the agreement, although the United States has expressed its intention to withdraw from the agreement after a three-year notice period.

At the heart of the Paris Agreement is a commitment by countries to submit nationally determined contributions (NDCs), setting out national targets for reducing greenhouse gases and—in some cases—plans for adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Collectively, NDCs serve as a road map for limiting global warming. By signing on to the Paris Agreement, virtually all countries have committed to keeping temperatures “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

To date, 163 countries have presented their NDCs. However, full implementation of these NDCs—and comparable action afterwards—is expected to lead to a temperature increase of about 3.2°C by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels, according to a recent UN Environment report.

Given that the effects of climate change are already being felt—and are on a clear trend to intensify—countries also set the goal of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.”

Paris also saw a global recommitment to the pledge made in 2009 to mobilize USD 100 billion per year to support developing countries in the transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient development, with a new, higher goal to be set after 2025. Last year, developed countries presented a roadmap outlining how they intend to meet this target by 2020.

Countries will need to report periodically on the level of support provided to developing countries, as well as on their greenhouse gas emissions and progress in implementing their NDCs. To keep all of this on track, a meeting is planned for 2018 to assess progress in reducing emissions, followed by a global stock taking in 2023. Next year’s meeting is timely and particularly critical, considering that the way NDCs have been designed to date falls short of what parties agreed to in Paris.

These are just some of the highlights. The full text of the Paris Agreement can be found here.


Countries met again in Morocco since Paris, right?

Right. Countries gathered for the 22nd Conference of the Parties (or COP 22), from November 7–18, 2016, in Marrakesh, for what was dubbed the “Action and Implementation COP.” In Marrakesh, the parties to the Paris Agreement also convened for the first time, which gave rise to celebrations and hopes for fast implementation of the agreement.

Since Paris, negotiators have worked to add substance to the Paris Agreement’s provisions; for example, by clarifying how countries will report on their progress and be held accountable through a compliance mechanism. In Marrakesh, countries also agreed the Adaptation Fund would help fulfill the Paris Agreement’s many objectives. They also adopted a work plan for the next five years to address the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable and most affected, through the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.

And, to promote civil society engagement in tackling climate change, countries adopted the Marrakesh Partnership for Global Climate Action as well as updated the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) platform.

IISD’s Reporting Services provides a comprehensive summary of the Marrakesh Conference here and the subsequent Bonn sessions here.


What are the key thematic priorities for this year's conference?

Some of the key outcomes of the negotiations in Bonn revolve around the themes of the level of ambition found in the 163 NDCs submitted so far, or their “collective effort.” Countries have planned a dialogue that should be complete by 2018’s COP 24 in which they aim to figure out if their collective effort will achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 2°C.

Fiji, as the President of COP 23, and Morocco, as President of COP 22, have consulted their counterparts repeatedly since Marrakesh. In Bonn, negotiators will want to keep that momentum alive by improving their perspective on how that dialogue should be informed and how its conclusions should translate into concrete actions. This will be key to ensuring the proper political momentum during COP 24.

Another key topic will be how to communicate adaptation needs for the future, the kind of support needed to fulfill these adaptation needs and how to update this content regularly. Countries have agreed in the Paris Agreement to ensure that adaptation communications is a strong part of the agreement’s processes, with mitigation of and adaptation to climate change on an equal footing.


Where can I learn more?

The official COP 23 website highlights what’s happening in, and around, the negotiations, while the UN Climate Change website provides detailed information of the meetings and agendas that will take place. IISD Reporting Services publishes daily reports, photos and videos from Bonn. IISD’s COP 23 webpage showcases IISD events, research and commentaries.


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