/ 19 June 2024

Bonn climate conference leaves much to be desired

Greta Thunberg At A Rally In Bonn
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (M) raises her fist at a rally on the subject of "Kick Big Polluters Out". Photo: Benjamin Westhoff/dpa (Photo by Benjamin Westhoff/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Germany played host to a crucial set of climate talks this month ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 29) in November. The meeting in Bonn sets the scene for the conference’s agenda. 

Several incidents at the Bonn Climate Change Conference were indicative of the broader problems associated with the climate crisis — injustice and racism Africans face in European countries. 

As the conference kicked off, two protestors took to the stage. They carried a Palestinian flag and a placard that read: “No B.A.U. [business as usual] during a genocide.”

The pair were identified as Climate Action Network (CAN) International’s executive director, South African Tasneem Essop, and Argentina’s Anabella Rosemberg, the CAN’s head of global political strategy and a senior adviser on the just transition. They were promptly escorted off stage by security and their badges to attend the event were removed. 

Footage also surfaced showing a security guard saying “good” when he was told he was hurting an activist he was removing. It goes back to the song many have been singing, there can be no climate justice without human rights.

While on the topic of human rights, African delegates were denied visas to participate in the talks. German officials said they had reason to believe the African delegates would stay in the country and not make their way home once the talks were concluded. 

There was a backlash and the country will probably have to field questions about racism, unequal access and excluding critical voices who are generally the most affected by climate change. 

One of the most pressing issues, climate finance, has been problematic since 2009, when developed countries at COP15 in Copenhagen committed to the goal of mobilising $100 billion a year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries.

Now, as calls for more finance are peaking, the conference saw the usual acts of, drag, delay and divert talks away from this. There are calls from African countries for $1.3 trillion a year by 2030, saying it’s the minimum needed to deal with the climate disasters already ravaging parts of the continent. 

African representatives believe this is the bare minimum needed to make all climate talks a success. Representatives of these countries hope to agree on a new global climate finance goal, the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) at COP29.

The money is needed for mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage and to achieve just energy transitions. It is also important as countries look to draft their nationally determined contributions, the plans to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, which are due by February 2025.

The talks are all the more crucial as rich nations shy away from realising their financial commitments as budgets are cut and financial pressures remain ubiquitous.

At the talks  in Bonn, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Simon Stiell said finance is the “great enabler of climate action”, signalling his view on how important climate finance is. 

But Africans have unanimously signalled that the Bonn talks were a damp squib. Nothing concrete came out of the talks from a climate finance perspective, leading to many saying that too little progress was made ahead of COP29 in Baku, Azerbaijan. 

The main criticism was that wealthy nations dragged their feet and no actionable outcomes were reached. A broad definition of climate finance was also missing.

The major issues at Bonn were disagreements between nations on the financial targets, how much should be paid and how the money will be received — and who must provide the money and who will receive it.

Global South nations placed the most importance on finance. African leaders must be united at these meetings. They need to have a united voice because, without it, their finance arguments will be picked apart.

Once again, whether climate talks actually bear any fruit is reliant on wealthy nations meeting their obligations to the climate finance issue.