From 30th April, the United Nations Climate Change talks will start again, in Bonn on a smaller scale. Here are 5 things you need to know about the talks happening in May: the Intersessionals 2018.
1. What even are the intersessionals?
The Intersessionals are the climate change negotiations that are held in-between the big conferences – the Conference of the Parties (COPs) – that happen in November/December each year with all states of the United Nations. The Intersessionals always happen in Bonn, Germany, home of the office of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the organisation mandated to organise and lead the climate change talks.
What is discussed at the intersessionals is all in preparation for the final decisions being made at COP24, this time to be held in Katowice, Poland in December 2018.
2. What is going to be discussed?
The intersessionals are important because they set the groundwork for what final decisions will be made in Poland at COP24. The key decisions that need to be made this year are about completing the Paris Rulebook – essentially understanding how the actions agreed on in Paris in 2015 will actually be carried out.
The mitigation of climate change will take a central role in the negotiations. Work will continue on developing the Nationally Determined Contributions (a pledge that every country has to submit, stating how they will reduce their emissions) and what form they should take. Yet conversation here can often be held up on what projects should be covered in the NDCs and the different expectations for developed and developing countries. Progress here will be essential for the smooth operation of the 2018 Talanoa dialogue (discussed below).
Separate – but constantly influencing the mitigation agenda – is the work on climate change adaptation. A significant amount of conversation at the intersessionals is about developing adaptation plans and deciding the rules of the adaptation fund, which will serve under the Paris Agreement.
Capacity-building will also be discussed, which focuses on ensuring that developing countries have the resources and ability to step up their climate action. Every year at the intersessionals, the Durban forum meet to discuss this agenda, with this year’s topics including how to integrate cross-cutting issues such as human rights and gender into the capacity building conversation.
Tied in to this conversation is how all of this is going to be funded. This year the climate finance agenda will cover the reporting and monitoring of financial flows,, but deep down everyone just wants to know: where has the $100 billion pledge – committed to in 2009 by developed countries for developing countries – gone?
Finally, and slightly more promising, is the focus on loss and damage, which only surfaced to the UNFCCC agenda in 2013. Loss and damage comes closest to raising climate justice to the fore, with its emphasis on supporting the vulnerable nations and communities who have contributed to the least to climate change yet are already suffering the most. A Suva dialogue will be held on loss and damage during the intersessionals, where we hope the increasingly popular proposal for a climate damages tax will be taken forward.
3. And this Talanoa Dialogue…
The latest initiative of the UNFCCC is to invite people to submit stories, ideas and general thoughts about climate change as part of the Talanoa Response answering these three questions: “Where we are now?”, “Where do we want to go?” and “How do we get there?”.
This Talanoa response came out of the Paris Agreement where they agreed to a mechanism to take stock of climate action around the world every 5 years from 2020, in order to monitor change and facilitate further action. As a result of the urgency expressed by several nations, the Paris COP agreed to do a stocktake before 2020, which gave rise to the Talanoa Dialogue.
Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji, who were joint hosts of COP 23 where this was agreed, to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories and build empathy in order to make wise decisions that are for the collective good. The process of Talanoa involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling.
At the intersessionals, state representatives and civil society will be reviewing and discussing the submissions uploaded before 2nd April to this online portal. There were over 100 submissions for the first question ‘Where are we now?” in time for the May discussions, with non-party stakeholders (much of civil society) submitting the vast majority of responses covering both specific and general issues. At the intersessionals there is a whole day of conversations planned to discuss these submissions, which will form a summary report to be taken to COP24.
4. So much is happening outside of these talks…
In the real world, people are doing and taking real action against climate change rather than simply talking about it.
For example, in the UK, April saw the beginning of three months of United Resistance against fracking at Preston New Road in Lancashire, where the threat of drilling is imminent. People from all walks of life, known as ‘protectors’, have been protesting and blocking the fracking preparations at this site, delaying the planned fracking there for over a year.
It can be easy to lose sight of how high-level international talks like the intersessionals impact the real world. This dissonance makes it all the more important to make connections between the forum and the frontlines, to make the real-life events visible for those making decisions. Bringing voices from the frontlines in the UK (from fracking to flooding) to these talks amplifies their fight and strengthens their messages to the politicians. It is of the utmost importance that the voices of those most impacted are present and heard. From both angles, making connections between those on opposite ends of the climate action spectrum is key to keeping up momentum for change.
5. What can I do?
The movement for climate justice always needs more people – there’s loads you can do.
Send us a Card for the Climate. We will be delivering postcards to the UK negotiation team at future climate change talks to remind them what they need to do. Send us your thoughts about what you think needs to be done for real action on climate change by writing/drawing a postcard and sending it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join or start a climate campaign near you. Get in contact with us to help work out what you can do in your community. Perhaps you want to push your university or council to move it’s money out of Fossil Fuels, join local anti-Fracking campaigns or campaign with Greenpeace to protect the Arctic, the oceans and fight companies with poor environmental records.
Mark & Annie