Will the UNCOP23 Bonn Conference cope this time around?

It is that time of the year once again, when the world comes together under one roof and its side events, for a commitment towards global climate action.

By Peter Makwanya

Gracing this occasion would be the various countries, of course, the donors and their non-governmental organisation partners will be there too, so will be an assortment of media groupings from around the globe, multinational conglomerates and their businesses will be there as well, in the background, calling the shots and scheming on how best they can continue polluting, as well as evading the agreed emission thresholds.

Universities and their academics will be there to contribute their research-based insights as well. This has always been the nature of the global climate change negotiations, otherwise referred to as the Conference of Parties (COPs).

With their ever fluctuations and volatile nature, the Conference of Parties, by nature, scope and make up, are highly-unpredictable and sometimes confusing. The UNCOP21 in Paris, offered a glimpse of hope while UNCOP22 Marrakesh nearly became a spoiler, as negotiators returned almost empty handed.

So what is in store at COP23 Bonn? Fireworks, agonies, excitement, betrayal or all the four as one. As such one wonders whether the negotiations are going to tame the treacherous nature associated with these deliberations or whether COP23 will indeed cope this time around.

As has always been the case, it is not going to be a stroll in the park. Negotiations are going to be overwhelming, suffocating and mind-boggling.

Fiji, a South Pacific island ravaged by climate change will be hosting in principle, after having ceded the home-space to Germany. But how it was accorded hosting rights, in the first place boggles the minds of many.

If Fiji lack hosting space and proper facilities, this was going to be good for the world leaders to come to terms with real effects of climate change, rather than running away to seek the comfort of Bonn.

Fiji, as the microcosm of an array of island states threatened to be submerged by the effects of climate change, will be hoping for a binding deal rather than the lip-service and palliative comforts of Bonn.

When leaders of the small island nations threatened by the effects of climate change leave Bonn after the conference, they will still be confronted by the realities of climate change effects on their doorsteps, back home. Yes, they may go to Bonn, but they will return and live with these effects forever.

With the emissions from the developed countries not significantly toning down and the world threatening to warm further, surely and practically, it is going to be more than a cryptic puzzle.

Of course, major polluting nations will always have something new up their sleeves, so as to continue like willing participants while compromising as they continue to pollute more.

The developing countries will continue to watch how the developed countries are going to succeed in buying time while buying and selling hot air.

Lately, even the seemingly resilient nations have borne the brunt of climate-induced floods, violent winds, storms and raging fires.

The other issues regard to the lack of sustainability on large numbers of delegates going to or already in Germany. The whole world will paint Bonn in all shades of colours and Germany, that once cried because of lack of “lebensraum” (lack of living space) will this time witness this scenario once again. When it comes to travelling to these gatherings, African leaders always top the list with large numbers of delegates who do not add any value at all. Other African countries have an entourage of close to half a thousand delegates (492), others have 340 and my beloved country, the House of Stones has 106 delegates going to Bavaria.

What all these delegates will be doing or what they would come back with, only god knows. The list of those going to Bonn doesn’t lie, but a closer analysis on the list of the delegates from the House of Stones shows that only a few have the record of environmental protection, policy and advocacy, while the rest have never been heard talking about climate change issues be it in print, radio and television. Can somebody tell those countries that have sent large numbers of delegates to Bonn, that this is a conference of parties not a conference for partying.

There are also well-known multinational companies and organisations who will be there, pulling strings from the background, for self-serving interests and gate-keeping hence will never negotiate themselves out of business and huge profits they are making from burning fossil fuels or from polluting the earth’s surface.

One has to understand the negotiation matrices at this forum rather than to continue using the heart for thinking. What has always been the case or will remain as such, is that there is no empathy at any of these COPs.

At the conference of parties, whether in Paris, Marrakesh or Bonn, there are negotiating blocs and they don’t ride on luck or large numbers but on how much they call the shots. The negotiating blocs with large numbers of countries, unfortunately are the weakest and the less influential.

The largest negotiating bloc is the Group of 77 and China, comprising of 134 countries with more than 10 000 delegates. This bloc is followed by the African group, comprising 504 countries and more than 5 000 delegates. There is also the Agence Intergovernmentale de la Franco phonies, otherwise known as (OIf) with 50 countries and again, with more than 5 000 delegates, followed by the Least Developed Countries (LDC) with 48 countries and nearly 4 000 delegates. There is also the Coalition of Rainforest Nations (CFRN) with 52 countries, comprising over 3 000 delegates.

The critical factor here is that, if numbers could count, then blocs like the G-77 and China, Africa and the OIF group would sway the negotiations their own way but that is not the point, far from it. So why are the African countries so obsessed with sending a legion of delegates against the biting poverty back at home. Negotiating groups like the European Union (EU), with only 28 countries and the Umbrella Group comprising nine very powerful and influential countries do control proceedings. In short, these are the developed countries, which are very few but they have the voice and resources. There are also the OPEC and BASIC countries, with some significant footprints as well.

The Umbrella Group is also known as the Annex II Parties and their main responsibility is to provide financial resources to enable developing countries to participate in emissions reduction activities and help them to adapt to climate change. But of course, as we all know, there is no free lunch. Furthermore, a critical analysis would also reveal the nature of negotiations between the developed and developing countries as based on un-equal power relations. Of course, the developed countries, basing on the COP21 Paris outcomes, they can continue to pollute more until its ratification in 2020, while appearing as if they are negotiating at the same time.

 Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com

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