The two-week global climate change talks with the attendance of diplomats of 197 nations and thousands of non-state actors and green activists opened in this German city on Monday with a commitment to go ahead of the 2015 Paris Agreement pledges to counter climate change.
In his inaugural remarks, Fiji President Frank Bainimarama, who is chairing the meeting, said there was a need to keep the climate action commitments in full and not back away from them.
“That is why Fiji has been so determined to help build a grand coalition of governments at every level — civil society, private sector and faith-based organisations — and to connect this effort to as many of the 7.5 billion citizens of the planet as possible,” he said.
Bainimarama opened the 23rd annual climate change talks of the parties or COP23 that is held under the presidency of Fiji.
Pleading for the world to collectively hold the climate action course set in 2015, he said he was representing one of the most climate-vulnerable regions on earth.
“The need for urgency is obvious. Our world is in distress from the extreme weather events caused by climate change — destructive hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, melting ice and changes to agriculture that threaten our food security. All consistent with the science that now tells us that 2016 was a record year for carbon emissions,” he said.
In her address, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said 169 countries had ratified in record time the Paris Agreement, now in the era of implementation.
Two years after the world united around the Paris Climate Agreement and a year after its coming into force, the UNFCCC’s 197 parties reconvened for the COP 23 in Bonn till November 17 in the backdrop of the US decision in June to pull out of the climate agreement.
The Bonn talks are expected to take a number of decisions necessary to bring the Paris Agreement to life, including meaningful progress on the agreement implementation guidelines, to achieve a goal of keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius with an aim to cut greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
India should defend the essence and spirit of the Paris Agreement, said New Delhi-headquartered policy research institute Council on Energy, Environment and Water.
India has already and must reiterate not only its own commitment to the Paris Agreement but also continue to demand greater action by the largest historical polluters, its Chief Executive Officer Arunabha Ghosh told IANS.
“India will have to ensure that the design of the enhanced transparency mechanism retains sufficient flexibility for developing countries to build the capacity for more frequent and detailed reporting and review,” he added.
“Changes to opt renewable technology taking place in China and India are extraordinary and extremely positive,” UN Environment Programme Executive Director Erik Solheim said.
“For me, there are two aspects that make this progress very important. Firstly, there is a technical dimension: the shift taking place in China has helped bring the technology such as solar and energy storage to scale. This has helped drive down prices and make renewable energy solutions incredibly competitive.
“Secondly, there is an important moral dimension. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has described climate action as an article of faith, saying that inaction would be a crime against future generations. While the conference (COP23) is grounded in practicalities and technicalities, it’s important to never lose sight of this moral dimension,” Solheim told IANS a day ahead of the onset of the climate talks.
The UNEP head foresees the US playing a big role at the Bonn talks on shaping the Paris Agreement.
“We certainly hope that will be the case. There’s been a season of devastating wildfires and hurricanes, and this highlights the importance of the climate change issue to the US. We sincerely hope that will change and, therefore, continued constructive US involvement in the process is welcome,” an optimistic Solheim added.
Representing 12 Pacific Island nations, the Pacific Climate Warriors reminded the world leaders of the urgency for action.
“We are here to push world leaders to show real climate leadership: end the era of fossil fuels, and build a just, renewable future for all,” said George Nacewa, one of the Pacific Climate Warriors.
Interestingly, a new analysis from Carbon Brief published on Monday showed that if Trump withdraws the US from its climate finance commitments then Britain would be the world’s leading contributor of funding to climate projects around the world.
The analysis shows that India is the biggest recipient of climate finance.
“As Britain forges a new role for itself on the world stage post Brexit, it has the potential to become a true green leader,” an official statement quoting British charity Christian Aid’s International Climate lead Mohamed Adow said.
Allies like Commonwealth countries “are very vulnerable to extreme weather and rising sea levels”, so British investment in climate response must show it was taking the needs of developing countries seriously, he added.
COP23, coming just two years after the landmark adoption of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, will also further fuel momentum among cities, states, regions, territories, business and civil society in support of national climate action plans.
Close to 20 country leaders are expected to attend, including President Emmanuel Macron of France and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.