Bonn climate talks make progress on technical issues, but politics remain wobbly

May 25, 2012
Jennifer Andreassen, 202-288-4867,

(BONN/ WASHINGTON – May 25, 2012) The now-predictable drama and upheavals at the United Nations climate treaty talks underscored the precarious state of multilateral efforts to reach a new agreement to protect the world’s climate, but behind the scenes, countries made good progress on a range of technical issues, U.S.-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said today at the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations in Bonn, Germany.

Countries in Bonn launched three years of negotiations to develop the new agreement by 2015, at their first gathering since last December’s conference in Durban, South Africa laid the groundwork for developed and developing countries to move forward on a new framework engaging all nations.  

Progress on substantive issues during Bonn’s two-week negotiations was hampered by the continued divide between and among some countries when the talks hit a lengthy impasse in agreeing to an agenda for discussion and selecting a Chairperson to run the negotiations. Instead of cleaving along the traditional developed-vs-developing country divide, however, the division seemed to be between nations determined to move forward, and those seeking to slow-walk the process, with various members of the “G-77+China” (Group of 77 developing countries and China) on each side of that divide. 

Meanwhile, smaller negotiating groupings on technical issues, including Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), continued to make good progress. 

“We can only hope the intensity of the battles being fought over issues like what will be on the agenda and who will chair the new negotiating track signifies that countries are taking these Durban Platform negotiations seriously,” said Jennifer Haverkamp, EDF’s International Climate Program Director.

“If countries didn’t deem this new round of negotiations significant, they wouldn’t be as invested in these procedural issues,” Haverkamp said.

In the absence of action by countries at the UN level, nations concerned about climate change are moving ahead individually, like Mexico and South Korea, which both recently passed domestic climate legislation; at the sub-national level, like California and Quebec; and in country groups, like Europe, which has had an Emissions Trading Scheme in place for several years.

“It’s essential countries start taking action at the national and state levels,” said Haverkamp. “A fragmented system of climate laws will necessarily entail strains and is unlikely to add up to what is needed anytime soon. But the alternative, global inaction, risks global catastrophe.”

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