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US and China change the game as climate talks resume in Bonn

climate talks resume in Bonn

Could announcements from some of the world’s largest emitters signal a new era of climate diplomacy. Creative Commons: UNFCCC, 2013

As negotiators and ministers in Bonn, Germany gather for the latest round of UN climate talks, positive announcements from the world’s largest emitters are sparking optimism about what could be a new era for climate diplomacy.

On Monday, the US committed to slash carbon emissions from coal fired plants by 30% by 2030.

Hours later, an influential Chinese government official spoke about his country’s intent for an absolute cap on carbon emissions by 2016.

Heralding the moves as game changers for the climate negotiations, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said it could “send a good signal to nations everywhere” to the “UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September” and “ towards securing a new…climate agreement by…late 2015”.

The announcements could also put pressure on other big emitters such as the European Union to “stop dithering” and “commit to strong [emissions] cuts”.

Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and Environment said:

As the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear, the United States, China and the European Union all need to increase the ambition of their emissions cuts to be consistent with the overall goal of delivering a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous global warming of more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

There plans should put pressure on European leaders to stop dithering over their plans to commit to strong [emissions] cuts.

With the deadline for the first draft of the new treaty fast approaching, it is vital that negotiators meeting in Bonn begin to draft both the elements and structure of the 2015 deal, ensuring enough time to negotiate and get government sign off before the all-important COP21 meeting in Paris.

Ahead of the Bonn meeting, Figueres warned:

Nations are still on a path that would spiral global average temperatures well past the below 2 degrees Celsius rise agreed by governments as a limit. The Paris agreement must put in place the paths and the confidence that greenhouse gas emissions peak early and then decisively decline to the point where we can realize a carbon neutral global economy in the second half of the century.

But Bonn is not just about process and technicalities. Two days of special Ministerial meetings – one for countries with existing commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and one for all countries to discuss pre-2020 ambition – make Bonn also an important moment ahead of the Climate Leaders Summit in New York in September, where Ban Ki-moon will be gathering world leaders to put climate change back at the top of the political agenda.

The Bonn meeting is an important opportunity for ministers to spend time together and build the partnerships which are vital for driving greater ambition. With just 43 Ministerial representatives attending out of a possible 196, however, the opportunity to make a major step forward on the road towards Paris for interaction is not fully utilized.

These meetings come at a time when the signals for action couldn’t be clearer.

Sven Harmeling, Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator at CARE International said:

Climate change is here and it is happening now. The latest climate science and increasing global climate disruption worldwide show that we are on a path towards climate catastrophe unless governments act right now… Governments meeting in Bonn have a real opportunity to show their citizens they are serious about averting the emerging climate crisis by taking urgent and ambitious climate action now.

Just one month after signing off on reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); two weeks after scientists reported that a major ice shelf in Antarctica is melting at an irreversible rate; and one week after atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations reached levels not seen in at least 800,000 years; governments are in a position to act and take another important step towards tackling the climate crisis.

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