What is happening?
The world’s nations are meeting for the 23rd annual “conference of the parties”(COP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which aims to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, ie halt global warming. It is taking place in Bonn, Germany from 6-17 November.
Why does it matter?
Climate change is already significantly increasing the likelihood of extreme weather, from heatwaves to floods. But without sharp cuts to global carbon emissions, we can expect “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” for billions of people and the natural world. The landmark Paris agreement at COP21in 2015 delivered the first truly global deal to tackle climate change, but national action needs to be significantly toughened to meet to goal of keeping global temperature rise to well below 2C, and 1.5C if possible.
All the science, and the battering that extreme weather has inflicted this year from floods in India and Nigeria to hurricanes in the Caribbean and wildfires in the US and Europe, indicates that global emissions need to start falling urgently – in the next few years. The Paris agreement set out principles, but not the details, with one diplomat likening it to having a brilliant new smartphone but no operating system. The Bonn meeting will be vital in building the rules that will enable the Paris deal to work.
COPs are always run by a designated nation and for the first time this will be one of the small island nations that are most at risk from the sea-level rise and extreme storms that climate change is bringing. Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, is the COP president, though the summit is being held in Germany for practical reasons. Fiji suffered damages of well over $1bn after Cyclone Winston struck in 2016, which is likely to focus attention on the contentious issue of compensation for climate damage and adapting to future threats, as much as cutting emissions.
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