Everybody feared Goliath, a giant warrior, but fearless David dispatched him with five pebbles and a sling. Just as in the legend of David and Goliath, there will be two unequal contenders at the Bonn climate summit, COP23. On the one hand, Fiji, the country which occupies the presidency, personifies the devastation caused by climate change. On the other, the United States, which ranks second worldwide in pollutant emissions, has announced it is pulling out of the Paris Agreement.
Where we come from, and where we are
COP21 in 2015 adopted the Paris Agreement, a treaty approved by 195 countries whose goal is to keep the increase in the world's average temperature well below 2°C with respect to pre-industrial levels, and promote efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C.
In contrast with the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement came into force in record time — within a year — after it had been ratified by at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of the world's emissions.
Almost two years later, on the eve of COP23, a total of 168 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement; they represent 87.6% of the world's emissions, confirming that the world is united on the roadmap to a decarbonised economy. So, what do we expect from this summit, which is being held in Bonn?
What to expect from COP23
Maintain and step up the commitment
Despite the announcement (not yet effective) that the US is withdrawing, the governments of the other countries must stand firm; in particular, China, Canada and the European Union are expected to take the lead. It will also be vital for NGOs and civil society to support and drive climate action.
Advancing the rules: the Paris Rulebook
It is necessary to standardise procedures for measuring, assessing scopes and, above all, guiding the countries that did not implement the Kyoto Protocol's reporting structures. It will also be vital to ensure transparency so that the Agreement works and is credible, leading to action by business.
Increase the ambition: facilitative dialogue
That is the tool for stepping up ambition as a result of the five-yearly analysis and review of the countries' commitments, the first of which is scheduled for 2023. By the end of COP23, the design of the facilitative dialogue and its structure and agenda are expected to be in place.
Specify the instruments for decarbonising the economy
This roadmap, specifically article 6 of the Paris Agreement, offers the possibility of developing instruments that efficiently pave the way to a low-carbon economy. Consequently, discussions about instruments, particularly carbon pricing, will be important.
By September 2017, just 43 countries (including 9 developing countries) had undertaken to contribute to the Green Climate Fund. The fund, which was established by COP17 in Durban, needs additional commitments to achieve at least 100 billion dollars per year from 2020 onwards to assist developing countries, particularly island states, in combating climate change.
Consequences to date: loss and damage
Since taking the presidency, Fiji, a country that has suffered the impact of extreme weather events, has managed to drive high-level discussions on the losses and damage caused by climate change. It achieved this prior to COP23 and is expected to maintain interest in this issue.
A summit for the technical-minded
It could be said that COP23 is a climate summit for technicians and specialists as it will flesh out the Paris Agreement, a very necessary step that will shape the ambition of what comes next. This summit, with Fiji in the presidency, is charged with symbolism: poor vs. rich, small vs. great. By the time it concludes, it is to be hoped that international unity, like David's sling, will be the key to overcoming Goliath.