UN climate talks in Bonn ended on Saturday having made modest progress on technical issues but with major disagreement remaining on some fundamental issues related to the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The two-week talks, known officially as COP23, managed to get greater clarity on how countries will build a framework designed to implement rules and accounting for emissions cuts (known as the Facilitative Dialogue or Talanoa Dialogue), which was a major aim of EU negotiators.
And the talks managed to elaborate some proposals on international carbon offsets that some European companies are likely to use after 2020.
The talks extracted concessions from developed countries on pre-2020 action to cut emissions and deliver $100 billion of promised finance, which was a major demand of developing nations.
“COP23 delivered on what it set out to do: we now have the processes in place to conclude the Talanoa Dialogue and the Rulebook for Paris at COP24 in Poland,” said Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and a broker of the Paris Agreement.
The EU said further work would be required so the pace of implementing the Paris Agreement picks up speed.
"We achieved progress in Bonn on the issues that were important to the EU, such as the Paris Work Program. But we must continue to build on this momentum in the coming months," said the EU climate and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete.
The strand of the talks related to pre-2020 ambition ended with an agreement on a decision text that recommends two “stocktaking” exercises on pre-2020 implementation and ambition to take place at next year’s COP in Katowice, and in COP25.
On the highly charged issue of “loss and damage” for historic carbon emissions, the EU said that developed countries agreed a compromise proposal that takes into account demands from countries most at risk from climate change. The EU said this compromise had retained a balance with what had been already agreed.
In terms of an international carbon offset mechanism that is of major interest to some Europe-based companies, carbon trading lobby IETA said progress at the Bonn meeting had been slow.
UN talks have a mandate for a draft negotiating text to be ready by March next year related to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which establishes an accounting framework for international trading and emissions cuts.
“There are a number of thorny issues to resolve. We also need more clarity on how countries will use it in their national policies,” said Dirk Forrister, president and CEO of IETA.
Beyond technical issues, the Bonn talks were overshadowed by more fundamental questions about the efforts that large emitters are making to diversify away from coal and oil.
The official US delegation pushed for a role for coal in future climate talks, angering the countries that are likely to bear the brunt of climate change, but did engage in many areas of the talks despite Donald Trump’s undertaking to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
Germany’s reliance on coal, which was also a prominent ‘optic’ of the talks, took on a deeper resonance on Sunday when coalition talks to form a new federal government in Berlin collapsed.
Germany’s Green Party wants up to 10GW of the country’s coal-fired capacity to be shut down, one of the demands that persuaded the pro-business Free Democrats to quit the talks. This has raised the prospect of fresh elections that could, in the immediate term, further distract Europe’s most powerful country from the minutiae of wider EU policy.
In the meantime, the EU will be preparing for several key high-level climate events, starting with the 'One Planet Summit' in Paris next month.
In 2018, the EU will also host in Brussels the second Ministerial on Climate Action (MoCA) together with Canada and China, and take part in the 2018 Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin — as well as preparatory UN climate meetings in Bonn and Katowice ahead of COP24.