Are we prepared enough with the uneven progress made in bangkok climate talks?

The resumed 48th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 48-2) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 48-2) as well as the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA 1-6) took place from September 4-9, 2018, at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC), Bangkok, Thailand.

The Bangkok Climate Change Conference started with the statement from the, COP 23 Presidency Frank Bainimarama warning the countries that “frankly, we are not ready for Katowice.” However, at the inaugural session, the COP presidency also stressed that this session was not an additional one but should be considered as an ‘urgent’ one in terms of delivering commitment by the negotiating parties. The Bangkok session was meant to highlight various level of urgency and clear commitments for setting the scene to advance the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP), which are the details, and a prerequisite to operationalize the 2015 Paris Agreement. The PAWP is scheduled for adoption at the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in December 2018. But the Bangkok outcome really poses severe challenges to make it a reality. While Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UNFCC, said that “uneven progress” had been made and asserted that it would be critical to achieve balance across all the different aspects of the Paris rulebook in COP 24. Although the incoming COP24 President Michał Kurtyka confirmed to welcoming participants with warm hearts of the Polish people, whereas Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary for Sustainable Development, UNESCAP, highlighted cooperation with the UNFCCC to promote climate action in the region.

On the other side, the rights activist, women’s group, environmental, farmers, indigenous and youth groups and constituencies were vocal to raise their concern to be included in the formal negotiations and influencing the parties. They urge the developed nations to deliver their promises on climate finance. The lack of progress in finance was quite unacceptable, which might increase the risks of compromising the entire Paris Agreement. There was debate in terms of how the transparency framework was going to be shaped in COP 24 within the cooperation mechanisms that enshrined in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement form the legal framework to allow the parties use of market-based climate change mitigation mechanisms. Arguments included whether rich and poor countries should provide the equal level of information in their climate pledges and what information are relevant to fulfilling the provisions of Art 9.5 of the Paris Agreement. It was also discussed how developed countries should report on their contribution to climate finance, and how to include the delicate issue of “loss and damage” in the rulebook.

The rights groups and observers of the climate talk focused on the shrinking physical space of development initiative and strategies in the climate finance debate. The question also raised on addressing how to enhance quantitative information on climate finance that responds to the needs of small island developing countries on the issues of adaptation, mitigation, climate resilience and loss and damage. Few parties further stressed for inclusion of qualitative information to be used as supplement to fill the gap in the quantitative information as part of climate finance tools. Civil society also equally stressed for mobilization of private source of funding under paragraph 24 of the draft text under Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement.

Unfortunately, the critical issue of loss and damage was hardly addressed in the Bangkok session. The Women and Gender Constituency of UNFCCC in their concluding remarks urged the parties to ensure the full spirit of the Paris Agreement, including the key principles related to human rights and gender equality enshrined in the Paris preamble, which needs to be integrated into the implementation guidelines, particularly in relation to planning processes for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Likewise, there was Rise for Climate Action globally organized by the 350 org, where all the rights groups, observers, and climate activists showed their solidarity to have a fossil fuel free earth and raised demands for climate finance on September 8 outside the UN venue. The demand and call from the women’s group was crystal clear: The future of the people and planet is not something that can be locked in endless debates over brackets, “shalls and shoulds”, and “where relevant”. It is the demand for ensuring accountability to the people that should be demonstrated through real climate commitments in COP24.

Originally this article was published on September 24th, 2018 at Climate-Tribune (Dhaka Tribune). The author Shaila Shahid is Senior Programme Coordinator, Gender and Climate Change at ICCCAD.