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NYT: UN climate delegates ‘congratulated themselves on another year of saving the process, if not the planet’


What Happened (and Didn’t) at the Bonn Climate Talks

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, left, with Timothy Naulusala, 12, and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, both of Fiji. Credit Ronald Wittek/European Pressphoto Agency
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BONN, Germany — After wrangling through the night, the 23rd conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change wrapped up early Saturday with modest accomplishments, paving the way to complete by next year the rules that will set the Paris agreement in motion.

Delegates wrapping up before dawn congratulated themselves on another year of saving the process, if not the planet, and called on countries to be more ambitious in tackling emissions

“Climate change is a global challenge. The Paris agreement has sped up the historic global momentum for dealing with climate change, and that momentum is not reversible,” said China’s lead negotiator, Xie Zhenhua.

The conference resolved a handful of issues dear to vulnerable nations, but the most thorny decisions were kicked to 2018. Here’s a look at what got resolved in Bonn, and what to look for in the year ahead.

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Big issues still not resolved
No major decisions were expected from this 23rd Conference of the Parties, known as COP23. The goal for this meeting had always been that countries would begin drafting rules and processes for translating the ambitious goals of the Paris agreement into action.

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Under the 2015 Paris agreement, nearly 200 nations submitted individual pledges to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions and wealthy countries promised to deliver aid — amounting to at least $100 billion per year by 2020 — to help poor countries develop clean energy and build resilience to disasters.

Negotiators said they had made some progress expanding the fine print of that agreement, particularly in refining rules that will help verify whether countries are actually reducing emissions as promised. But countries still have to finalize a rule book that will govern a much larger climate discussion in 2018, when countries will formally gauge how much progress they have made in reducing emissions to date. That rule book will have to be completed by next year’s climate conference in Katowice, Poland.

The United States is playing nice. Mostly.
After President Trump announced in June that America would withdraw from the Paris agreement by 2020, many feared his administration would play a spoiler role in this year’s climate talks. That didn’t happen.

White House officials in Bonn did draw the ire of climate advocates when they staged a forum promoting fossil fuels and nuclear power. But, behind the scenes, a team of career State Department negotiators showed up to work with other countries on the details of international policy.