The German government presented a summary press conference this afternoon on the final day of COP23 in Bonn. Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building, and Nuclear Safety Barbara Hendricks spoke on behalf of the four government representatives present. Her summary message was that “the purpose of this conference was achieved.” The highlight was the Talanoa Dialogue encouraged throughout 2017 and the negotiations here in Bonn by Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama who serves as COP23 President.
"Talanoa" is a Fijian concept in which people listen to each other, respect each other's perspectives, and seek solutions that benefit everyone. The Talanoa Dialogue reflects a process of inclusion, process, and transparent dialog that will lead to the so called ‘rule book’ to be adopted at COP24 in Poland.
Hendricks opened the press conference with a statement touting Germany’s logistical prowess as the technical host. It was informative for me to hear some of the metrics. Hendricks stated, “Germany had only 11 months to organize the COP when countries typically have at least two years.” The budget was 170 million Euro with 50 million Euro spent on temporary structures. (note: COP23 is housed on the UN Campus in Bonn, but many additional structures were needed.)
The approximately 13,700 UN accredited participants included 11,000 delegates, 1,200 journalists, and 1,500 NGOs. Hendricks acknowledged the vital contributions from the NGOs. She stated that the German Pavilion served 20,000 cups of low-carbon coffee from Costa Rica.
The remainder of the press conference was more-or-less non-informative with respect to details. Hendricks said, “There are still some controversial items, including climate finance.” The COP Presidency recognizes that the current NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions] are still not sufficient to keep our planet below a 2oC rise above preindustrial temperatures. She said, “COP23 was an intermediate step with respect to [the Paris Agreement].”
She said, “The three key questions going forth to COP24 in Poland next year are:
· Where are we?
· Where do we go from here?
· How do we get there?”
Most of the press conference punted ambitions to COP24 where “we want to finalize this and set more aggressive goals.”
She noted that sub-national stakeholders and businesses are stepping in to achieve their countries’ declared NDCs. She emphasized, “The US does not stop with Trump. Everyone is contributing.”
Later in the press conference in response to a journalist’s question asking her impression on the official US delegation versus the unofficial US Climate Action Center, she responded, “Officials from the US are quite opposed [to the Paris Agreement]. But, [the US] remained neutral and didn’t try to block anything.” She indicated that this is not “what we were expecting [from the US]. Their neutrality is to be respected.”
Concerning the unofficial US stakeholders, she said “they made it quite clear that the American people still want to [tackle] climate change.”
A number of journalists asked pointed questions about Germany’s continuing use of coal, while 20 countries announced here in Bonn that they will phase-out coal. She responded, “Let’s be honest. [Germany] cannot sign any new agreements [concerning coal]. Others use little coal, but favor nuclear. Nuclear cannot be seen as a climate policy.” Later, she stated, “Next year—[COP24 in Poland]—will define a roadmap to the elimination of fossil fuels.” She indicated that this will include the “phase-out of coal.”
Hendrick’s emphasized that COP23 was not about lowering the NDCs. It was about “how to implement the Paris Agreement”: how “to measure and to monitor” commitments. “Data must be valid.” She stated, “You have contradictory positions [from different countries]. Therefore, “you need to write down” pathway. That pathway will be achieved through the Talanoa dialogue.