United Nations Climate Talks Underway in Bonn: Delegates Begin Debate of "Negotiating Text" for Upcoming Climate Summit in Copenhagen

Thomas Schueneman

Day one of the June 1-12 UNFCC sixth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group got under way. The meeting will focus on the Negotiating Text recently published for consideration of a final international agreement this December at COP15 in Copenhagen. The agreement reached in December will replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.

Negotiators and delegates from 182 countries had their first chance to debate the recently published Central Negotiating Text on Monday, as the sixth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Ad Hoc Working Group got under way in Bonn.

Despite criticism that the Negotiating Text remains unbalanced and incomplete, officials say that the first day of the June 1-12 meeting was a "good start" in tackling the myriad of difficult issues to be settled in this December's COP15 talks in Copenhagen, where it is hoped an international agreement to supersede the Kyoto Protocol will be signed.

Among the issues under contention are whether developing nations should commit to controls on their greenhouse gas emissions and if those commitments should be voluntary or legally binding; the level of emissions cuts from industrialized nations; how to improve emissions trading; how to raise the required funds to assist the most vulnerable developing countries to adapt to climate change; and how to slow the destruction of rain forests across the globe, to name but a few of the issues.

The draft document is a product of eighteen months of debate and brainstorming leading to the talks begun today to start hammering out the final text of the agreement for negotiation in Copenhagen.

It is important that we complete some of the more solvable issues here in Bonn so that we can then focus on the more difficult ones later on in the
negotiations,” said John Ashe, the newly-elected Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further commitments for Annex I Countries under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP).

Characterized as "complex" and "messy" by Michael Zammit Cutajar, who assembled the draft document from dozens of position papers from various countries, he was nonetheless satisfied with the initial reception of the document.

The draft "represents a significant new step in the talks," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCC.

Clearly there are some hard nuts still to crack," said de Boer, adding “The political moment is right to reach an agreement. There is no doubt in my mind that the Copenhagen climate conference in December is going to lead to a result. If the world has learned anything from the financial crisis, it is that global issues require a global response."

The UNFCC press office has released a full statement (pdf) on the opening day of the talks.


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Thomas Schueneman