Durban Dreams… (UNFCCC conference 6-17 June 2011)

By Katrin Heer

Once per year the world’s policy makers meet under the auspices of the United Nations in order to negotiate on common strategies to tackle climate change. Between and as a preparation to these annual high-level conferences, there are several intermediary climate change conferences where advisory committees and working groups to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet. The second of these intermediary climate talks in 2011 took place from 6 till 17 of June in Bonn, Germany. The Bonn conference was meant to pick up on the outcomes of the 16th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in Cancún last December and prepare for the 17th COP in Durban this December.

Generally, the negotiations are closed to the public. YES-DC, however, holds an observer status and can delegate its members to join the conference. As an observer you can join many (not all) of the panel discussions and workshops. Besides the main agenda, there are several site events organised by different interest groups. It is fascinating to see the ongoing climate talks from the inside and it gives you the opportunity to meet other professionals that work in some way or the other on climate change mitigation.

For the time being, pressure on international policy makers is high. The Kyoto Protocol runs out by the end of 2012 and the global community is still far from a successor agreement that would put down new comprehensive obligations for all big emitters of greenhouse gases. 
Unfortunately, the Bonn climate talks ended with no agreement on key areas which clearly put a dampener on the cautious optimism that could be felt after last year’s COP in Cancún. Indeed, the Bonn talks revealed major issues that are hindering the progression of outcomes achieved in Cancún. In particular, the Parties are not in agreement about the future of the Kyoto Protocol and the concrete implementation of the previous agreements achieved. Amongst others, this relates to the much needed clarifications on the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund and nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs).
Parties will attempt to further discuss and eventually resolve these issues during the COP17 in Durban. It remains to hope that the Parties find back to a more proactive working attitude then that actually allow for the important decisions to be made.

By Malte Schubert

I’ve never been to a conference in my time as a student so when the invitation from YES-DC came, I was happy that I could take the opportunity to join this event. By coincidence, long before the invitations were sent out I planned to be in Cologne the weekend before the conference started and with no class on Monday and Tuesday I attended the first two days of the meeting at the Maritim hotel in Bonn.
The first surprise came at the entrance. I did not expect security checks like at airports. Getting the personal UNFCCC id was no problem, everything was well organized. On the agenda for day one there were opening meetings that were supposed to start at 10:00. I sat down in one of the last rows of the conference room at 9:40 and started reading information material of various organizations that had a booth in the hallway. At 10:45 someone finally went to the microphone and announced that the session would start 90 minutes later. When I came back there was a powerpoint slide stating that the start was postponed until 14:45. Unfortunately there were only three side events at the first day of the conference and they were all at the same time. I went to a presentation about Japan’s support to vulnerable countries in the past, present and future and afterwards home.
The next morning I attended one of the opening sessions where the chairman apologized for the delay because it was obviously scheduled for the day before. Later I went to a presentation of the IPCC special report "renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation" which was well attended.
It was very nice to see that not all attendants of the conference were wearing the classical business outfit but also traditional clothes from their countries. That way a very international atmosphere was created. I really enjoyed my visit, even though I did not understand most of the abbreviations that were used in the speeches, but I was later told by someone that it will take about a year to have no problems with that anymore.