Scant progress at Bangkok climate talks

A family loads their possessions on a bicycle to move away from the riverbank, which is slowly eroding Copyright: G.M.B. Akash/Panos

Speed read

  • Discussions were aimed at hashing out rules and processes
  • Finance remains unsolved ‘linchpin issue’
  • Mistrust between developed and developing countries ‘remains’

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[TORONTO] The weeklong U.N. climate talks in Bangkok made scant progress towards the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to policymakers, just months away from a crunch meeting in Katowice, Poland this December, where the rule book is set to be finalised.
Negotiators met in the Thai capital Bangkok until Sunday (9 September) to hash out the rules and processes needed to provide the operational guidance for fulfilling the terms of the agreement. But key issues remained unsolved, particularly climate finance, which is the linchpin of the negotiations.

“In general, it was clear that mistrust between developed and developing countries was not overcome and in some cases further undermined”

Liane Schalatek, Heinrich Böll Foundation Stiftung North America

That’s because the ability of developing countries to meet their individual targets, as part of the agreement’s overall goal of keeping global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, is largely predicated on receiving outside financial and technological assistance.
“Overall there is a feeling that Bangkok just avoided going over the cliff – there was enough progress made in advancing text options that parties are heading into Katowice better off than before the Intersessional meetings,” Liane Schalatek, the associate director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Stiftung North America who was present at the meeting, tells SciDev.Net.
"However, that does not mean that Bangkok was a success. In general, it was clear that mistrust between developed and developing countries was not overcome and in some cases further undermined.”
In a statement released to the press, Yamide Dagnet, senior associate at the World Resources Institute said, “Delegates worked day and night but ultimately made only uneven progress at the UN climate talks in Bangkok.”
“The lack of serious progress on climate finance is hampering both the mood and the progress moving toward the 24th annual U.N. Conference of the Parties in Katowice (COP 24),” says Schalatek.
Potential to explode
Climate-related loss and damage has re-emerged as an issue in Bangkok with the potential to “explode” in Katowice, says Schalatek.
Developing countries have long asked for separate funds from developed countries for the rising sea levels and droughts that their high emissions are causing. In Bangkok, developing countries tried to include references to loss and damages in texts for negotiations in terms of the relevant fields, such as technology and communications, but this has yet to be agreed upon.
Despite the challenges faced at the meeting, there was progress in certain areas.
“Negotiations on the technology framework were actually very productive,” Kelly Stone, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid US who was present at the meeting, tells SciDev.Net.

The framework will provide guidance on the mechanism needed for enhanced action on technology development and transfer to help support the implementation of the agreement. Negotiators will pick up discussions on this point at COP 24.
However, the financial question overshadows this progress.
“Support or financing for the technology framework remains a contentious issue,” notes Stone, who was following the technology negotiations closely.
Negotiators still have an opportunity to overcome the challenges they faced in Bangkok at the various meetings leading up to COP 24. That includes the Global Climate Action Summit that takes place this week in San Francisco, U.S., followed by Climate Week NYC, the special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on 1.5 degrees in early October, and the pre-COP Ministerial meeting in Krakow, Poland.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk.