Bonn Climate Change Conference: reflections from week one

9th June 2023

IEMA representatives have been busy at the Bonn Climate Change Conference this week to help set the agenda at the COP28 summit in the UAE later this year.

Specifically, they have been laying the groundwork for the Institute’s campaign to ensure that the COP28 cover text includes a commitment to provide more support for delivering green skills and training across the globe.

Here, Ben Goodwin, IEMA’s head of policy, Chloë Fiddy, IEMA’s policy and engagement lead for climate change, and Laura Bartle, member of IEMA’s Policy and Practice Committee, reflect on the first week of the conference, and look ahead to next week.

You all travelled to Bonn via train as part of IEMA’s commitment to limit greenhouse gas emissions where possible. What was the journey like?

Ben: We started our journey from St Pancras in London, then passed through France, Belgium and then to Germany. London to Brussels, Brussels to Cologne, and then Cologne to Bonn was around six hours. When we got to Bonn, we used the metro system on the final leg of the journey to get to our hotel – all public transport. It was a really smooth trip, and a lower-carbon alternative to flying that comes with undulating countryside views!

What were your general thoughts on the first week of the conference?

Laura: It's very technically-driven, but really interesting to see the different perspectives on the challenges we face, and cooperation between countries. There has been a clear understanding about the challenges ahead from the participants in the sessions that I attended, particularly around the Global Stocktake on progress toward delivering the Paris Agreement. This is the first one, and also the last one that we have to limit global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Could you give any examples of that cooperation between countries in Bonn?

Chloë: I attended an event yesterday where participants were debating a paper, before the whole room broke up into four workshops and talked about capacity building and really, really granular issues. The workshop that I dipped into was being run by Dominican Republic representatives, and they were talking about the actual challenges of working out how much water households need. In the UK, we need around 110 litres of water per person per day, but that kind of data doesn't exist in that country. Participants shared different solutions they had looked at, and it was a very useful, positive conversation on capacity building around a real issue. There weren’t these high-level, vague ideas, it was really concrete about what different countries are doing to tackle water challenges in their countries, and everyone was very enthusiastic. I went into the meeting sceptical, and came out thinking it worked really well.

How do you think the outcomes from Bonn will inform the COP28 summit?

Chloë: There are meetings going on throughout the whole year, and Bonn is just one of them, but it's actually quite a critical one, and a lot of the decisions made here will be finalised at COP, so I think it actually deserves a bit more in terms of headlines. The Global Stocktake is going to show a lot of gaps where countries have the capacity to actually progress as they should be doing. The outcome is going to be interesting, and should provide pathways for different countries to progress, because every country is going to have its own pathway, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I think a big issue will also be fragility – because of conflict, climate change and human migration.

Ben: Bonn is really the precursor to COP28, and so it will also inform the high-level negotiations that take place on things like the ‘loss and damage’ framework, which is the big agenda-setting piece for later on in the year.

Are there any concerns you have with how the conference is being run in Bonn?

Ben: I attended one particular event on our first day of the conference about capacity building in less-advanced economies – which are likely to be most susceptible to the impacts of climate change – and it was quite striking, because the conversations were going on without delegates from those countries being present, which seems counter intuitive. Surely you would want them to be involved in those conversations if mitigation and adaptation measures are to be successful. In another side event I attended, a lot of success stories around phasing out fossil fuels were all coming from more advanced economies that you would expect to hear those sort of stories from. Trading those anecdotes off against one another doesn’t paint a fantastic picture of where we are today.

Part of the reason you are in Bonn is to help with IEMA’s campaign to ensure that the COP28 cover text includes a commitment to delivering green skills and training. How has that gone?

Chloë: We’ve been talking to people and organisations who would be in agreement with our campaign and support it. We have made good progress, but success will really depend on how that progresses over the next few months.

Ben: We've had success in meeting stakeholders from different organisations that would be good collaborators for our campaign, including academic stakeholders and stakeholders from UN bodies and other international institutions, so we have built up a good list of organisations to follow up with. In general, though, there hasn't been much discussion specifically targeted at skills development as part of that wider conversation on capacity building at Bonn – at least not this week. That conversation also needs to be contextualised, as there are clearly different factors at play in developed economies versus developing economies, and that is something that has to be taken into consideration at future discussions on workforce development across the globe if we are to meet the climate change challenge. It can't be a blanket approach.

What advice would you give to anyone attending the final week, and what should we look out for?

Chloë: The side events are really interesting, and you can usually introduce yourself to speakers afterwards, so it's a really great way to make contact and ask questions, and people are really receptive to having a chat after the meetings.

Laura: I think it’s also worth keeping any eye on discussions around inclusivity. Are they talking about diversity of participants, or about diversity of sectors? There's a fear that there isn't anything concrete coming out at the minute in terms of what those ambitions are.

Ben: There's been a lot of conversations around the loss and damage fund, in both the main events and also the side events, so I would expect there to be some sort of procedural-level outcome on that next week, which will then have implications for COP28 later in the year.

IEMA's digital journalist Tom Pashby will be providing updates from Bonn next week


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