Climate change: from ambition to implementation
Climate Change

Between November 6 and 17, the COP 23 of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change was held in Bonn, under the presidency of Fiji. This COP, as expected, was a mainly technical conference, but no less important for that reason, as the Spanish Climate Change Office (OECC) has informed us. Expectations on outcomes were focused on technical and process issues rather than on new global milestones.

From Forética, and specifically from the Climate Change Cluster that we promote, we have followed this COP through the media and the direct information that the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), as an active agent present at the conference, sent us. In addition, we have collaborated in events in which the main conclusions that we summarize below have been put on the table.


Looking back...

To understand Bonn's objectives and results, it is important to briefly consider the background:

  • Year 2015, COP 21 Paris à The Paris Agreement as a key and outstanding outcome that establishes the following three major objectives:
  • The 2ºC objective, with the commitment to promote additional efforts to ensure that global warming does not exceed 1.5ºC.
  • A global adaptation objective
  • An objective that seeks to ensure the coherence of international financial flows with a low-emission and climate-resilient development model.

It also stands out for achieving the commitment of the countries to establish national objectives and foresees review and evaluation mechanisms every 5 years to adjust the commitments to the objective, starting in 2023.

  • Year 2016, COP 22 Marrakech à the Paris Agreement enters into force on November 4, 2016, a few days before COP 22, marking a historical record. A technical challenge then arises: it is necessary to develop the rules of procedure to implement this agreement on which work is being done during the conference, resulting mainly in a closed timetable for the development of these working rules. It is also worth mentioning the creation of the Marrakesh Climate Action Partnershipas a structured and coherent framework for accelerating the pace of climate action under the Global Climate Action Agenda on Climate Change.

The present: COP 23 objectives

As we said, the Bonn COP stands out for its important technical component. In the words of Isabel García Tejerina, Spain's Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment, "without Bonn there is no Paris". and the fact is that in order to design the routes that will lead us towards not exceeding the 2ºC temperature increase by the end of the century, it is necessary to specify the work processes. That is why the key objectives of this conference include the following:

  1. Advance in the development of the technical rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
  2. Design the five-year cycle of reviews of the commitments implied by the implementation of the Talanoa Dialogue. Its first result will be the pre-2020 review of the objectives (in 2018) to adjust them according to the existing gap.
  3. Developing the Vulnerability Agenda


What is the assessment of the results achieved in Bonn?

There is a broad consensus that this COP has been, in general, satisfactory. However, the slow speed of progress on an issue that is no longer only important but also extremely urgent is also noted.

The level of compliance with the objectives set is positively evaluated, highlighting the following results:

  1. Technical Rules (Paris Rulebook)

A 260-page technical document has been developed which compiles the work program, i.e. the technical rules for compliance with the Paris Agreement. This document contains all the positions of all the countries on all the key issues (mitigation, adaptation, financing, reporting and transparency, among others). The next step is to streamline the contents and reach common positions so that the document can be approved at COP 24.

  1. Talanoa Dialogue(Facilitative Dialogue)

At COP21 in Paris, it was agreed to organize a Facilitative Dialogue in 2018 to take stock of countries' collective mitigation efforts towards the 2ºC target and at COP23 its operation has been concretized.

  • It is structured in two parts: technical phase and political phase.
  • The objective is to establish the starting point and set the target to be achieved, revising the ambitions and raising them. In 2020 there must be new commitments.
  • The technical phase is open to the participation of non-governmental entities (private sector, academics, third sector...).
  • It will use as a starting point the report being worked on by the IPCC and will be published in October 2018 on recommendations for moving to the +1.5°C scenario.
  1. Vulnerability Agenda

Nations agreed to increase opportunities for exchange of ideas between governments and stakeholders who are not part of the climate process, including those representing vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples and women. Some of the highlighted outcomes were:

  • Gender Action Plan. Seeks greater participation of women in the fight against climate change and greater presence in public policies.
  • Local communities and indigenous peoples' platform. Political and practical achievement that aims to support the full and equal role of indigenous peoples in climate action.
  • Ocean Pathway. The oceans have figured little in the UN climate negotiations so far, yet they are not only important for the survival of the planet, but also offer great opportunities for innovation in moving towards a low-carbon economy.

As is logical in global negotiations, there have also been points of disagreement, especially with regard to the balance between the distribution of responsibilities between developed and non-developed countries. These include:

  • Differentiation. The Paris Agreement ensured that both developed and non-developed countries assumed the same obligations (with flexibility in their implementation). Thus, all countries were to set their national targets and review them every five years. At COP23, the non-developed countries have put on the table the request to differentiate again between the two blocks of countries and apply different measures. At the EU level, it is considered essential to maintain this line of non-differentiation.
  • Loss and damage. There is a funding mechanism for loss and damage that is drawn from developed countries and is intended to prevent catastrophes and restore damages in small countries. However, while prevention actions are considered necessary and appropriate, it is a challenge for developed countries to finance consequential damages.
  • Financing. Developing countries (led by the African bloc) requested greater visibility of what is being done by developed countries in terms of actions and level of investment. For developed countries, due to their economic cycles, it is difficult to give ex ante a forecast of the level of investment that will be allocated each year. An agreement has been reached to establish annual technical meetings through which to report progress and reassure developing countries.

Strong messages for the business sector

  • Businesses are formally invited to contribute to the negotiations. The Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action is key to the involvement of non-governmental actors such as companies, cities and civil society in order to achieve the actions and level of financing necessary to meet the objectives set. An annual Yearbook of Global Climate Action and a summary for policymakers are planned to be published to compile the main initiatives and show the progress of global climate action. (The Yearbook of Global Climate Action 2017 and the summary for policymakers 2017 are already available).
  • Need for clear leadership from governments through robust policies that generate the necessary change. Businesses demand policies that serve as catalysts for the private sector to advance sustainability. In this sense, setting a price on carbon is a key element to accelerate the energy transition. COP 23 laid the groundwork for future negotiations with a proposal for acceptable mechanisms on which to work next year, but no consensus has been reached.
  • The announcement of the US exit from the Paris Agreement, from challenge to opportunity. The Bonn COP was arrived at with a great doubt: would the announcement of the US exit from the Paris Agreement have a knock-on effect ? And the good news is that there has been no such knock-on effect. What is more, the international community has valued very positively the fact that 50% of the American GDP was present at COP 23 through movements such as We are Still In. American companies, cities, states and civil society were present supporting the objectives and contributing their results and solutions. Bloomberg presented America's Pledge with details of the goals and actions. A total of 15 states, 455 cities, 1747 companies, 325 universities and research centers support this initiative and aim to reduce their emissions by 26-28% by 2025 compared to 2005.
  • To reach the Paris Agreement, Kyoto must be met first: call to ratify the Doha Amendment Doha Amendment. This amendment covers the pre-2020 period, provides continuity to the legal framework of the Kyoto Protocol and is central to the overall effort to get on track to achieve the Paris Agreement target. As of 22 November, 93 Parties have accepted the Doha Amendment, with at least 144 of the 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol needing to do so for it to enter into force.
  • Current innovation and technological developments are necessary for the transition to a low-carbon economy. Different groups outside the negotiations have demonstrated that through technological changes, improved results can already be achieved. The key is to direct existing funding in a direct and coordinated manner towards these technological opportunities. The challenge now is for social, political and economic innovation to be able to match the development already achieved by technological innovation.
  • A programmed path towards the closure of coal-fired power plants. "Coal generates 40% of the world's electricity but is one of the biggest sources of pollution and health problems." The UK and Canada launched thePowering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of countries to accelerate clean growth and achieve the rapid and gradual phase-out of coal as an energy source. Eighteen countries have already joined and the goal is to reach COP 24 with 50 countries on the platform.


The challenges, opportunities and the concretization of the work advanced in Bonn will continue to be the subject of intense and urgent work by the parties over the next twelve months leading up to COP 24 in Katowice (Poland) from December 3 to 14, 2018.


Update on Spain's Climate Change and Energy Transition Law

One of the commitments assumed by Spain when ratifying the Paris Agreement is to work on a stable legislative framework that will allow Spain to comply with the commitments assumed. To this end, several months ago work began on the drafting of what will be the future Climate Change and Energy Transition Law, which aims to be cross-cutting in all sectors and with the participation of all (civil society and governments).

In May 2017, the "Spain, Together for the Climate" discussion days took place with the participation of more than 400 experts from different sectors and then a public consultation was opened (until October 10, 2017) for which 328 comments have been received. The OECC is currently in the process of assessing them and a first draft is expected to be presented in the first quarter of 2018.

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