Explainer: Bonn vs COP: What you need to know

Bonn Vs COP: What's the Difference? An Eplainer

What you need to know:

  • Delegates and experts engage in detailed technical discussions on climate-related topics.
  • The sessions evaluate the progress of existing climate initiatives and agreements.
  • SB60 is crucial for drafting and refining proposals and documents presented at COP29.

As the world readies for COP29, the crucial climate change conference later this year in Baku, Azerbaijan, technical discussions are underway at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) headquarters in Bonn.

These talks are a meeting of two bodies: the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

These discussions serve as a precursor to the highly anticipated 29th Conference of the Parties (COP29). While both events play crucial roles in the global fight against climate change, they serve different purposes and are integral to the broader framework of international climate diplomacy.

SB60: Setting the Stage

The SB60 talks in Bonn are a series of preparatory meetings organised by the SBSTA and the SBI. These sessions focus on climate agreements and policies' technical and operational aspects. 

Cecilia Kinuthia-Njenga is the director of Intergovernmental Support at the UNFCCC, based in Bonn.

Her day-to-day job involves planning both the Bonn talks and the COP. "So the subsidiary bodies are where the technical work under the convention, the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol are advanced. So what we mean by technical level is where concepts and ideas and positions are articulated by the negotiators in terms of agreeing on what it is that can go to the political level for decision making and what can go directly to policymakers to start implementing and including climate change issues in their own agenda. So, the subsidiary body meeting should actually be purely a technical meeting of environmental directors or other technical people addressing the topics on the agenda of the SBs," she explains.

The key objectives of SB60 include:

  1. Technical discussions: Delegates and experts engage in detailed technical discussions on climate-related topics, such as greenhouse gas inventories, adaptation strategies and technology transfer.
  2. Implementation review: The sessions evaluate the progress of existing climate initiatives and agreements, ensuring that countries are on track with their commitments under the Paris Agreement and other frameworks.
  3. Drafting proposals: SB60 is crucial for drafting and refining proposals and documents presented at COP29. These proposals often include new mechanisms, funding structures and collaborative efforts.
  4. Capacity building: The sessions provide an opportunity for capacity building, particularly for developing nations, ensuring they have the necessary tools and knowledge to meet their climate goals.

Here, representatives from various countries delve into the nitty-gritty of climate action, hammering out the details that will pave the way for significant agreements at COP29.

"These talks are actually the technical negotiations that help to identify the landing ground for the COP. The COP is primarily a political negotiation between ministers. So these preparatory negotiations in the subsidiary body, and now we're in the 60th subsidiary body meeting (SB60), are meant to actually help define the options that ministers can be able to choose between," explains Mohamed Adow, the executive director of PowerShift Africa.

"Bonn is a meeting of experts like myself," says Michael Okumu, the deputy director of climate change negotiations under the Ministry of Environment in Kenya.

"This means that this meeting is driven heavily by science, so there is a lot of comparing of notes because what science says in South America is not what science says in Africa. So we have to compare notes, find common ground and agree on that common ground."

"And so you approach these negotiations from a technical perspective, like if you need climate finance, what is a quantum? Who's going to be the contributor? Who's going to be the recipient? You can objectively arrive at those things through scientific methods," Mr Adow adds.

There are more than 100 issues on the agenda, including:

  • Climate finance goals: Developed nations are expected to agree on a new financial target to support developing countries' climate efforts beyond 2025. SB60 is where these discussions gain momentum, ensuring a clear roadmap for future financial commitments.
  • Carbon market mechanisms: Countries are working on carbon trading rules under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. SB60 facilitates these discussions, ironing out the wrinkles in how countries can trade carbon credits to achieve emission reduction goals.
  • Strengthening NDCs: Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) represent each country's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In Bonn, experts brainstorm ways to help countries strengthen their NDCs, ensuring more ambitious emission reduction targets.

"The completion of work or how well we advance the work at the SBs in terms of completing the technical work becomes crucial. It makes it easier for the policymakers who meet at the COP to advance the work to making the decisions that are gavelled," Cecilia says.

"Out of Bonn, we will have procedural or substantive conclusions. What does that mean? A procedural conclusion could be when the negotiators' meeting does not agree on a negotiation issue. Therefore, procedurally, they decide that that matter could either be made to rest or secondly agreed upon at the next session. So, where they will not be able to make conclusions by consensus because our process is consensus-led, the SB chairs will present that conclusion to the president of the COP for consideration," Ms Njenga adds.

COP: The decision-making arena

In contrast, the COP is the decision-making summit where high-level negotiations take place, involving ministers and heads of state. This year's session, COP29 will be the primary platform for finalising and adopting key climate decisions. The core functions of the COP are:

  1. High-level negotiations: COPs host intense negotiations among countries to reach a consensus on major climate policies and commitments. This includes updating Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and setting new targets for emission reductions.
  2. Policy adoption: The conference is where the proposals and drafts developed during SB60 and other preparatory meetings are debated, modified, and formally adopted.
  3. Global climate commitments: COP29 will see countries pledge new commitments and announce significant climate actions. It will also serve as a platform for launching global initiatives and partnerships aimed at accelerating climate action.
  4. Public and private engagement: COP29 will attract many stakeholders, including government representatives, NGOs, scientists, and business leaders. This diverse participation will help foster inclusive dialogue and innovative solutions.

"In the COPs, the talks will move to ministers, who will make choices based on their political understanding of the issues and partly in recognition of the political constant in some countries. So they are narrow, political and high-level because that's what the world looks for in terms of real outcomes. At that level, we have what the world calls climate pacts. We won't have a pact in the subsidiary bodies. We have conclusions and decisions, but those decisions need to be approved by the ministers and that's what you get in a COP," Mr Adow says.

"As technical experts, we can come up with decisions that are technically and scientifically correct, but not politically correct. That's why we need the COP so that our outcomes in Bonn can be translated into action," Mr Okumu adds.

The importance of SB60:

Think of Bonn as a committee meeting before a crucial board meeting (COP29). These technical discussions lay the groundwork for the major decisions at COP. The technical expertise and groundwork laid in Bonn are essential for the success of the high-stakes negotiations that will take place in Baku.

By tackling the intricate details beforehand, countries can approach COP29 with more focus and a greater chance of reaching concrete agreements. The success of COP29 hinges on the progress made in Bonn.