ClimateWire's Friedman discusses expectations for Bonn climate talks, G-7 meeting

As climate delegates convene in Bonn, Germany, this week for the next round of negotiations on an international agreement, how will the discussions pave the way to December's final negotiations in Paris? On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire deputy editor Lisa Friedman discusses the goals for the Bonn meeting and the impact resistance to climate action in the United States is having on the international talks.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the Cutting Edge. Climate delegates are convening in Bonn, Germany, this week for the next round of international negotiations, and ClimateWire's Lisa Friedman is heading to Germany later today. Lisa, we are six weeks out from the big Paris meeting. Tee this up. What's happening in Bonn? What are the expectations?

Lisa Friedman: Thanks so much, Monica. We're six months out, but we're actually less than 20 negotiating days away from a Paris negotiations, from a Paris deal. So these meetings happening in Bonn this week are pretty significant. Like you said, diplomats are gathered there this week and next, and the big thing on their agenda is going to be to slice down what is now a 90-page text, way too long.

Another big item that they'll be doing is taking a look formally at the promises that countries made back in Copenhagen to cut emissions by 2020. They'll have a formal chance to ask countries how they're doing and whether they're meeting those targets. The U.S. was on the hot seat last year. Today Australia and Canada, and there have been some pretty pointed questions for these countries.

Finally, in the background, we're going to hear and we have been hearing a lot of hallway conversations and discussions about the Paris targets. These are, in the lingo of the U.N., called intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs, and these targets make up the heart of the Paris agreement. There isn't a formal place to review these at this meeting, but this is going to be the first time that diplomats will be gathered since the U.S., Europe, Canada and some others have submitted their plans. So there will undoubtedly be a lot of hallway conversations and small room bilaterals about what countries are doing, how they're going to get there and pushing others to get onboard sooner than later.

Monica Trauzzi: So from your reporting, would you say that the Paris agreement is starting to take shape?

Lisa Friedman: I would never make any predictions about anything to do with climate negotiations; however, I will say that I have been hearing a lot of optimism from a lot of quarters, starting with the U.S.-China agreement last year. Earlier this week, we had a call from BP, Shell and other major European oil companies to put a price on carbon. That was pretty significant. When I talked to the Peruvian foreign minister -- pardon me, the Peruvian environment minister, who led a pretty acrimonious negotiations in his country last year, he said he was completely confident that there was going to be an agreement by Paris. You didn't hear this kind of confidence before Copenhagen, for example. The concern that I hear most often from environmental groups, frankly, is not whether there's going to be an agreement in Paris, but how ambitious an agreement will be.

Monica Trauzzi: The Obama administration is trying to move forward with regulations and aggressive targets here in the U.S., but there's increasing resistance to these steps. So how is that resistance playing into the international negotiations? What are you hearing from people about what's happening in the United States?

Lisa Friedman: Yeah, good question. I hear a lot of nervousness, frankly. Countries absolutely see that the EPA Clean Power Plan is under attack in Congress, in the courts, and there is not a single diplomat that I've spoken to who is not aware that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a few weeks back put out a statement saying the countries should be wary about getting into an agreement on climate change with the United States. So there is certainly nervousness. A lot of countries have told me, you know, look, we were burned by the U.S. back in 1997 when the United States signed but didn't ratify Kyoto.

On the other hand, what's also true is that there is a lot of positive response to the way President Obama and Secretary Kerry have been talking about climate change. What I also hear from -- and I've spoken in recent weeks to leaders of Peru, diplomats with Marshall Islands, Maldives, a number of countries. Every one of them have mentioned things like President Obama's speech to the Coast Guard, speaking about climate change. This is really resonating. They like that they're hearing the U.S. put this issue out front. So I would say that there is cautious hopefulness about the U.S.

Monica Trauzzi: So also in Germany, starting on Sunday, is the next G-7 summit. How are you expecting climate to play there?

Lisa Friedman: It's a big deal at the G-7. President Obama arrives in the -- in Bavaria in -- on Sunday. On Monday, there will be a working group session on climate and energy. The White House this morning called it an important milestone for the G-7. You have all these industrialized countries that will hopefully come out with a common message about the importance of a Paris deal. There also, however, is going to be a lot of pressure on these G-7 countries. Canada and Japan are both under attack by environmental groups for what many see as weak climate targets for Paris. There are a number of calls for Germany and Japan to start phasing out their financing for coal projects overseas. And Obama himself will be headed to the G-7 just after Congress -- just after House appropriators have swatted down his effort to get funding for the Green Climate Fund. This isn't going to be his last bite at the apple at getting that money, but it will, of course, be, you know, undoubtedly a time when he will have to explain to negotiators -- pardon me, to other leaders, what the U.S. is doing and how it intends to keep its promises.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. A lot to watch, Lisa. We will look out for your reporting from Germany, and I know you have some very exciting reporting plans for later in the summer, which we'll watch out for as well. Thank you for coming on the show.

Lisa Friedman: Thank you so much.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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