Everybody is right, and nobody is. Negotiations are continuing between country representatives at the Bonn climate summit (COP23). Under the presidency of Fiji, the so-called "Technical COP" is making progress with the fine print, which is essential to ensure that the work before and after 2020 serves to achieve the core goal of the Paris Agreement, namely keeping global warming well below 2 ºC with respect to the pre-industrial era.
Predictably, negotiations to achieve progress are repeatedly coming up against old stumbling blocks. The more developed countries perceive some measures as impairing their competitiveness, while developing countries want action to be conditional upon better access to funding.
Meanwhile, planetary realities are immune to the pace of negotiations. We recently received another unpleasant warning: the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has grown at a rate not seen in 800,000 years.
Below are some of the key developments so far this week:
Moderate progress has been made towards the goal of standardising procedures for measuring and assessing progress in a transparent way. The objective of this summit is to lock down all possible options within the proposed rules (mitigation, adaptation and transparency, etc.) in such a way that next year's summit, in Poland, can approve the rules and formats and appropriate means of tracking fulfilment.
Increase the ambition: Facilitative Dialogue
Facilitative Dialogue, which Fiji has renamed "Talanoa Dialogue" (a traditional word from Fiji and the Pacific that means inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue), will be used to analyse and review the countries' commitments. The proposed procedural design of the dialogue has gained widespread acceptance at the summit. It remains to be seen how to incorporate the NDCs, whether this will depend on funding, etc.
US - "still in" the Agreement
Outside the negotiations, the US delegation is adopting a low profile, neither active nor reactive. In fact, the US presence at the conference is being led by non-governmental actors: cities, states and companies which together account for 50% of the United States' GDP. Under the slogan "We are still in", Michael Bloomberg, Al Gore and California governor Jerry Brown, among others, are sending a message to the world that they continue to combat climate change.
Who will take the leadership role formerly occupied by the US?
The vacuum left after the Obama government has led to the appearance of new leaders, which is very necessary if the Paris Agreement is not to lose momentum. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have taken a more active role on behalf of the European Union, while China is moving strongly into the gap left by the White House.
With just hours to go before COP23 concludes, it doesn't look like being one of the more memorable summits, though it is of undeniable importance in laying the foundations for a system for setting and tracking the countries' commitments and for increasing the ambition wherever necessary in order to limit global warming.