The world’s leaders are meeting – again – for talks on climate change. This year’s Conference of the Parties (the 23rd, hence COP23) to the United Nations climate treaty in Bonn, Germany, is not expected to be a deal-clinching, make-or-break one like Paris in 2015 or Copenhagen in 2009.
That doesn’t make it insignificant – the hope is that negotiators will make meaningful progress on implementing the provisions of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Countries have agreed that they want a whole range of operational rules, deliberately left vague in Paris, to be agreed by the 2018 COP in Katowice, Poland. These include rules over financing for climate adaptation in developing countries, and for a new market mechanism to help implementation of the agreement, among others.
Climate negotiations typically involve several years of glacial progress followed by a flurry of extraordinary spectacle, involving negotiators staying up for two days straight to get a deal done. This dynamic is exhausting, and usually produces distinctly underwhelming results announced with great fanfare, along with the launch of yet another a new initiative or network. It all invites a weary cynicism about what we expect the UN process to achieve.
But if the Paris Agreement is to be anything other than a farce, it must avoid the sort of design which needs heroic politicians parachuting in once every five years. Rather, it needs countries to pay attention, to continue working patiently, revising and improving their strategies to “bend the curve” on emissions and deal with the mess that climate change is already causing.