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Halfway to COP29: What is the Bonn Climate Change Conference and why does it matter?

Participants meet at last year's the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany
Participants meet at last year's the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany Copyright AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Copyright AP Photo/Martin Meissner
By Rosie Frost
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Around 6,000 people will gather for discussions halfway to COP29 in Azerbaijan this November.

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Delegates from 198 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany this week to prepare for COP29.

Marking a midway point to the UN Climate Change Conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, this November, the Bonn Climate Change Conference will help pave the way for the major decisions to be made there. Thousands of people will gather in the home of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to discuss the most pressing environmental issues.

But what is the Bonn Climate Change Conference and what topics will be up for discussion in Germany this week?

What is the Bonn Climate Change Conference?

Around 6,000 people - mostly from national delegations and civil society groups - will meet in Bonn from 3 to 13 June. These inter-sessional meetings are hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at its headquarters to ensure that each COP can continue to effectively address the most pressing issues.

It is the only other regular climate summit that the UNFCCC hosts.

The annual conference provides an important waypoint as COP29 approaches. Typically, Bonn sees parties negotiate mechanisms for implementing the agreements made at the previous COP. They will work on language, moving towards draft conclusions that are then submitted as formal recommendations at the next COP.

Because of this, the current COP presidency (Azerbaijan) will likely send a bigger delegation. Intergovernmental organisations and UN agencies as well as youth, Indigenous and industry representatives will also attend as observers.

What is on the table at the Bonn Climate Conference?

The results of these negotiations will be highly influential on the decisions made at COP29 this November.

Issues up for discussion at Bonn this year include, among many other topics, climate finance, countries’ national climate action plans, ensuring a just transition away from fossil fuels and national adaptation plans.

So what are some of the hottest talking points in Bonn this year?

Climate finance is once again in focus

Setting a new goal for climate finance from developed nations to developing nations will be a key task at COP29 later this year.

At the conference in Bonn, countries are tasked with reaching agreements that will serve the negotiations at the UN climate conference in Azerbaijan. It will help to narrow down what the climate finance goal could look like post-2025 and intermediary goals for spending on things like mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. It will also help determine what form this finance takes - grants or loans.

Activists protest against fossil fuels at the COP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai last year.
Activists protest against fossil fuels at the COP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai last year. AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

The Climate Action Network (CAN) says the EU must make clear moves in Bonn in support of an ambitious climate finance agreement at COP29 as a “cornerstone” of transforming the current “unjust financial system”.

“The EU must be a driving force for agreeing a robust new climate finance goal for post-2025 that centres public finance and is needs-based, fair and equitable, and reflects developed countries' particular legal obligations,” says Emilia Runberg, Climate & Development Policy Coordinator at CAN Europe.

Can progress be made on loss and damage at Bonn?

Adjacent to discussions about climate finance are decisions on loss and damage funding. The third and final session of the Glasgow Dialogue is expected to happen in Bonn this June.

This series of dialogues was set up at COP26 in Glasgow in 2022 to “discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimise, and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change.”

At COP28 last year, the Loss and Damage Fund was operationalised. The decision was controversial as it entails having the World Bank host the fund and developed countries having no obligation to contribute.

There are no specific goals for this final session of the dialogue in Bonn, however. Parties and non-party stakeholders are expected to continue talking about the fund.

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National climate plans and phasing out fossil fuels

Probably the biggest pledge to come out of COP28 was the global agreement to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables and energy efficiency. It was billed as the “beginning of the end” but now come the talks that will hopefully make that pledge a reality.

Countries are due to submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) - commitments they make to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions - early next year. Bonn is a chance for further discussions about integrating the COP28 fossil fuel pledge into these commitments before they are finalised.

United Nations Climate Chief Simon Stiell, from left, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber and Hana Al-Hashimi, chief COP28 negotiator for the United Arab Emirates.
United Nations Climate Chief Simon Stiell, from left, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber and Hana Al-Hashimi, chief COP28 negotiator for the United Arab Emirates.AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

Following the first Global Stocktake (GST) which measured collective progress towards Paris Agreement goals, this is an opportunity to work out what a good NDC looks like. Bonn provides an opportunity to interpret the outcome of the GST in a way that puts the world on track to limit global warming to 1.5C.

It’s also a chance for ambitious, early movers to get ahead, deliver their NDCs early and help accelerate the global shift to renewable energy.

The EU is one of these potentially ambitious early movers as it discusses its next 2040 emissions reduction target. But, currently lacking a clear way forward and with European Elections imminent, it remains to be seen what progress the bloc can make at the conference in Bonn.

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