- International climate talks began in Bonn, Germany, on June 5.
- A key part of the discussion will be the global stocktake, assessing progress toward the emissions cuts pledged by nations as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
- Discussions will work to provide the technical details of the stocktake, but the consensus is that the world is not on track to cut emissions by 50% by 2030, which scientists say is key to keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5°C (2.7°F) over pre-industrial levels.
- The talks are a precursor to COP28, the annual U.N. climate conference, scheduled to begin Nov. 30 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which is a major oil- and gas-producing nation.
The world won’t be able to limit global temperature rise as called for in the 2015 Paris Agreement without eventually eliminating the use of fossil fuels, according to Simon Stiell, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“The position of the [UNFCCC] secretariat is following the science, and the science is clear,” Stiell said at a June 5 press conference for the climate talks underway in Bonn, Germany. Halving emissions by 2030, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and getting to net-zero emissions by 2050 “requires a deep cut and reduction, the phasing out, phasing down of all fossil fuels,” he said.
The Bonn Climate Change Conference hosts discussions through June 15 in preparation for the COP28 U.N. climate summit that begins Nov. 30 in Dubai. In addition to addressing issues such as the just transition to a low-carbon economy, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, and compensation for climate-related loss and damage, the talks will center on the development of a global “stocktake” that will conclude at COP28 to assess how well countries are progressing toward their commitments under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions. That 2015 agreement calls for limiting the average global temperature rise to 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, among other measure.
Attendees will lay “the technical groundwork for the political decisions that will be required in Dubai,” Stiell said. But it’s clear the stocktake will highlight the need for a “course correction,” he added. Under the terms of the 2015 Paris climate accords, countries that signed on will use the stocktake to provide updated commitments in 2025.
“We already know that we are far off track,” Stiell said.
Two studies published June 8 highlight the pressing need for action. Research published in the journal Earth System Science Data found that temperatures are increasing at 0.2°C (about 0.36°F) per decade, a rate the authors called “unprecedented.” And “all-time high” greenhouse gas emissions since 2013 are a key cause of that warming. In another paper published in Science, scientists expressed skepticism that 90% of net-zero emissions pledges will actually happen. Without the contributions of those pledges, temperatures could increase by 2.5-3°C (4.5-5.4°F) by 2100, the team wrote.
The stocktake offers “an opportunity for the world to get on track in terms of meeting its Paris commitments,” Stiell said, noting that the Dubai meeting “could be the most significant COP since Paris.”
Research shows that renewable energy sources like solar and wind need to replace the power that burning fossil fuels yields.
“We’re seeing unprecedented levels of investment and deployment of renewables. That’s one half of the equation,” Stiell said. “But the other requires those deep cuts in fossil fuel production and consumption, and that we are not seeing.”
Some observers have questioned how likely such cuts are, given the COP28 host nation’s prominent role as a fossil fuel producer. The United Arab Emirates is the world’s eighth-biggest producer of oil, with the industry accounting for around 30% of the country’s GDP. Knottier still is the choice of Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber as president of COP28. Al-Jaber is also the CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Civil society and elected officials from Europe and the U.S. have cited the potential conflicts of interest that may arise in discussions at COP28 around moving away from oil and gas, and they’ve called for al-Jaber to be replaced as president of the talks. (Al-Jaber also helmed Masdar, a government-owned renewable energy company.)
But the role of the UNFCCC is to support the COP president, Stiell said, implying that it was not to demand that the UAE stop producing petroleum.
“I’m not there to tell him anything,” Stiell said. Still, he acknowledged that COP28’s location and leader “provides an opportunity to ask some very difficult questions, but also to seek some very difficult but needed answers.”
John Cannon is a staff features writer with Mongabay. Find him on Twitter: @johnccannon
Forster, P. M., Smith, C. J., Walsh, T., Lamb, W. F., Palmer, M. D., von Schuckmann, K., … & Zhai, P. (2023). Indicators of Global Climate Change 2022: Annual update of large-scale indicators of the state of the climate system and the human influence. Earth System Science Data Discussions, 2023, 1-82. doi:10.5194/essd-15-2295-2023
Rogelj, J., Fransen, T., den Elzen, M. G. J., Lamboll, R. D., Schumer, C., Kuramochi, T., … & Portugal-Pereira, J. (2023). Credibility gap in net-zero climate targets leaves world at high risk. Science, 380(6649), 1014–1016. doi:10.1126/science.adg6248
FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.