The 2017 Climate Change Conference (also known as COP23) opened today in Bonn, a small city in north-western Germany famous for being national capital during Cold War, as well as Beethoven’s birthplace.
For the first time in history, the Conference is led by a small island developing state: Fiji. And the island is actually so small that it didn’t even have the physical space to host the 20.000 delegates that every year attend the event, and thus had to ask for hospitality to another country.
Fiji is also one of the most vulnerable places on earth. Last year the island was struck by Winston, a devastating cyclone that wiped away one third of the countries’ GDP while taking the lives of 44 people. It is no surprise that building the resilience of most vulnerable societies has been elevated as a top priorities of this negotiation round. In his opening speech, the President Bainimarama stressed how “millions of people are suffering” from climate change and “our job is to respond to their suffering”. How to do so, had already been brought forward last May when Fiji shared its vision for COP 23. The vision include supporting efforts to adapt to extreme (cyclones) and slow onset events (eg., sea level rise); rising adaptation finance; enabling access to climate risk and disaster insurance; ensuring access to clean water and promoting sustainable agriculture. This must be paired with ambitious mitigation efforts, aiming at keeping temperature increase below 1.5°C of temperature increase with respect to pre-industrial levels.
COP 23 is expected to achieve substantial progress on the so called “Rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, i.e. the set of implementation guidelines that will make the agreement up and running. These guidelines are expected to specify the way national efforts in terms of mitigation, adaptation, and support provided will be reported and reviewed. This is particularly important for tracking progress in a transparent way and to identify areas where ambition is to be enhanced. In UNFCCC jargon, States’ climate plans are referred to as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and specify the objectives countries aim to reach to meet the Paris Agreement goals. However, NDC will become operational only after 2020 (this is when the Agreement will start to work). In order to get to that date with the most ambitious actions on the table, a Facilitative dialogue will be convened next year to understand how to rump up the ambition of national pledges. COP23 is expected to put in motion this process, newly baptized as “Talanoa Dialogue”. Talanoa is a Fijian concept stressing the importance of sharing stories, building emphasis and making wise decision for the common good.