Normally obscure, interim climate talks opening today in Bonn offer a glimpse at a shifting world order...

An obscure negotiating session of the UN climate talks is suddenly in the spotlight – but for all the wrong reasons.

The United Nations opens its interim talks here in Bonn on Monday, a two-week negotiating session that traditionally sets the agenda for the larger fall meetings. 

The geopolitics has all gone wrong since Paris.
– Clare Shakya, IIED

But as with so many political issues this year, the climate is anything but quiet: President Trump is mulling an exit from commitments Barack Obama inked in Paris in 2015, Europe stands poised to abandon its leadership role in emissions reduction, and delegates are watching to see if China, India or another country steps to the front and assumes the mantle of climate leadership. 

"There are lots of questions about the intentions around the commitments made by northern countries," said Clare Shakya, director of the Climate Change Group for the International Institute for Environment and Development, a London-based group negotiating on behalf of a coalition of the 48 nations deemed by the UN as the least developed countries in the world.

"The geopolitics has all gone wrong since Paris."

In Paris two years ago, almost 200 nations inked a landmark, albeit nonbinding, agreement to cut emissions to stem climate impacts. Left for future negotiations were the details—rules, accountability, transparency and governance. Drafting this so-called "Paris rulebook" is agenda item No. 1 in Bonn.

"This is basically the user's manual of the Paris agreement," said Paula Caballero, global director of the Climate Program for the World Resources Institute. "It's important to help clarify the pace and the trajectory of climate action by all parties."

"This is what's going to give both companies and countries confidence to ramp up their climate ambition."


Storm clouds loom

Trump advisors meet on Tuesday to discuss whether the U.S. should withdraw from the pact. The United Kingdom, distracted by Brexit, appears inclined to use its climate finance moneys for trade deals, Shakya said. UK's absence imperils European leadership, she added, as France and Germany alone might not have the pull to bring more reluctant countries, such as Poland, along. 

"We might see the disappearance of the EU," Shakya warned. "The U.S. was only there for a moment, but it was there."

China has traditionally focused inward on the global stage. "The question is, 'Can they step up and become a global leader?'" Shakya asked. "They're seeking to."

The United States will still have a negotiating team at the talks, although it will be small, with little real power. The U.S. still co-chairs the committee working to improve transparency in efforts to track progress on emissions cuts, said Andrew Light, a former senior advisor to the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change who is now a fellow at the World Resources Institute. And many of the negotiators are unchanged from the team that helped put together the Paris deal.

On the question of whether a U.S. withdrawal creates a difficult backdrop, Cabellero said, "the answer is definitely 'yes.'"

"But this is not the first time these talks have faced difficulty."

Several signposts suggest global efforts to curb emissions can succeed despite the absence of the globe's economic heavyweights:

  • Almost 30 countries have submitted emissions reductions plans for review in Bonn. China's president, Xi Jingping, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, called Paris a "hard-won achievement" that all parties should stick to "rather than walk away."
  • The private sector, where much work on climate solutions is underway, needs a rulebook to ensure the playing field remains fair and level. "There will be collateral damage to the United States' businesses if the U.S. becomes a pariah on climate negotiations," Light said.
  • India intends to triple its renewable energy capacity and is walking away from coal, hoping to use the Bonn talks to show off both that data and their commitment to increased transparency and ambition, said Yamide Dagnet, a senior associate at WRI's Climate Action Initiative.
  • Mexico, Brazil and some of the Least Developed Countries could become climate leaders. "There are huge opportunities for the emerging economies to step into the vacuum," Shakya said. "We're very excited by the power that is coming to this grouping."

That shift in global politics could be the main story out of the climate talks in Bonn the next two weeks. 

"International leadership on climate is more diffuse than ever before," Caballero said.

"Obviously it would be ideal and we would prefer if the U.S. stays in the agreement and works to develop rules that will underpin Paris.

"But the negotiations on the Paris Agreement will proceed. The willingness is there."

UN Sat Trucks

Douglas Fischer is director of Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of and

The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service covering energy, the environment and climate change. Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski [at]

Credit for all photos - UNFCCC/flickr

  Find more Daily Climate stories in the TDC Newsroom

 Recent coverage

© EnvironmentalHealthNews 2003-2004

7 May As US, EU step back, climate talks could signal geopolitical shift. Normally obscure, interim climate talks opening today in Bonn offer a glimpse at a shifting world order.

4 April Made in America: Trump embracing offshore wind? Without officially saying so, the Trump administration is deciding that the windmills can be made here after all.

17 February Critical condition: Health experts sound the climate alarm. Experts paint a dire portrait of climate change’s public health impacts, but leave a little room for hope.

15 February Clean energy grows, but many of the poorest remain in the dark. Energy access, efficiency and renewables are on the rise in many developing nations, but in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, the energy situation is still grim.

7 February The Holocene climate experience. The history of climate and human health gives us a glimpse of the dramatically amplified risks we face if present trends continue.

2 February After decades of decreases, mercury rises in Great Lakes wildlife. Toxic mercury is once again increasing in some Great Lakes fish and birds after decades of consistent, promising reductions.

26 January Essay: Meteorologists and the sacred position between people and science. Whether doctor or meteorologist, when we fail to look at the systemic causes of the immediate problems in front of us, we are guilty of malpractice.

22 January At the Women's March, a call for climate protection, too. Amid a sea of signs and pink hats, plenty of people also marched for environment and climate science.

17 December Meet Debbie Dooley. Her candidate won the White House. Can she still win with clean energy? Debbie Dooley is high-energy and passionate about politics and Alabama Football.  Louisiana-born, Dooley is one of the founders of the Tea Party movement.  She’s made waves and headlines throughout the Southeast for two seemingly dissonant passions—clean energy and Donald Trump’s election.

18 November Fighting a pipeline in the age of Trump. Politics and property rights take center stage as Mid-Atlantic pipeline opponents strategize post-election.

May 8, 2017


By Douglas Fischer
The Daily Climate

Editor's note: Douglas Fischer is in Bonn with a delegation of Montana State University students. We'll publish a selection of their observations and assessments over the next week. Follow them online at #climateclass.


original story HERE


Get the new Climageddon book:

Click here for a new book about the global warming emergency and what you can do.

Share This Blog Post: If you would like to share this blog post, go back to the original shorter version of this posting and look to lower right for the large green Share button.

Sign Up for Free Global Warming Blog  RSS feed by 

clicking here.

To View Our: current positions, opinions, agreement or disagreement with this blog article or its facts, click here.

Donate to help end Global Warming


Sign up for the Global Warming Blog for free by clicking here. In your email you will receive critical news, research and the warning signs for the next global warming disaster.

Click here to learn how global warming has become irreversible and what you can do to protect your family and assets.

Click here to learn about the most disruptive new book on global warming facts and research. Climageddon, The Global warming Emergency and How to Survive it.

To share this blog post: Go to the original shorter version of this post. Look to lower right for the large green Share button.

To view our current agreement or disagreement with this blog article, click here.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
Sign Up For Newsletter Take Action Donate