Whilst good progress was made in Bonn, the important question is was it good enough? There is only one answer to this question: no. The pace of progress is disappointing and in fact quite frightening. But this pace is not the result of complex technical barriers that we must wait to overcome. The current pace of negotiations is dictated by the specific political decisions of specific countries.
We discovered in Bonn that the least culpable and less capable developing countries are pushing ahead with emissions reductions whilst the most culpable and capable developed nations sit back. The 60:40 split between developing country and developed country commitments demonstrates that developed countries such as the US, Japan and Canada are actively choosing to ignore their responsibilities.
While countries continue to make unjust political choices, blame will continue to serve an important function at the UNFCCC. The principle of shared but DIFERENTIATED responsibility, central to a fair and binding agreement, requires that we name those countries that fail to take their responsibilities seriously.
But blame has never been enough to inspire action. In order to push the negotiations towards a fair and binding deal, campaigners in Bonn have spent as much time building the ambition of constructive parties as calling out those who stand in the way of progress.
I wrote in my previous blog about the “Fossil of the Day” awards. As a positive compliment to these ‘awards’ a team from the UK Youth Climate Coalition and other youth NGOs spent some time during the last week of Bonn working as “Ambition Motivators”, thanking countries that have made a positive contribution in Bonn. Awards went to the UK and Norway for their world leading domestic targets and to the Alliance of Small Island States for their consistent advocacy for mitigation to cap warming at 1.5C.
For the young people who attended Bonn and worked eighteen hours a day to make the negotiations better the difference between a good and a bad outcome is clear. A good outcome protects the lives of our generation. A bad outcome does not. We know that most negotiators get this. We also know that many are held back by the short-termism of governments who don’t.
For this reason NGOs and hundreds of young people have united around a campaign called Push Europe. The campaign focuses on how a 30% emissions reduction target for 2020 would secure a faster and fairer economic recovery throughout the EU. Stronger targets are the foundation for a stronger economy in the short term and would enable the EU to renew its much needed leadership role in Durban.
We must ensure that the progress made in Bonn translates into stronger commitments before Durban. This won’t be possible without leadership from the EU.
When some countries fail to act responsibly others must recognise that this is exactly the time for them to step up. This is not about being radical it’s about being responsible. The radicals are the one’s who choose to continue fundamentally altering the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere.