News | Socio-ecological Transformation - Climate Justice Hypocrisy and Dystopia in Bonn

Climate finance and global conflicts will dominate climate policy in the coming months


Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Simon Stiell arrives to a plenary meeting during the climate change negotiations in Bonn, 10 June 2024.. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Press Wire

Last year broke all temperature records, yet another signifier of the ever-increasing severity of the climate crisis. The frequency and intensity of droughts, hurricanes, floods, and heatwaves are escalating with every degree of temperature rise, with researchers projecting a 19-percent income reduction within the next 26 years as a result of global warming. The largest losses are to be experienced in regions with lower overall incomes as well as lower contributions to historical emissions.

David Williams directs the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s Climate Justice Programme in New York.

Tetet Lauron lives in the Philippines and works as a consultant to the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s New York Office.

Ibrahima Thiam works on climate change and natural resources at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s West Africa Office in Dakar, Senegal.

At the same time, the costs of adapting and responding to extreme weather events, as well as decarbonizing economies in a just and equitable manner, are skyrocketing. The big questions in this regard remain unanswered: who should pay, and how much? These were the central points of discussion when around 6,000 diplomats, policy-makers, scientists and activists convened in Bonn on the almost overflowing banks of the river Rhine after extensive flooding in southern Germany for the intersessional climate change negotiations last week.

These big questions of who should pay and how much are currently being thrashed out under the New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance (NCQG) process. The preamble of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), agreed upon in 1992, formulates the obligation of adhering to the Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) principle, which implies responsibility of developed countries for the historical and current damage they have caused. The Paris Agreement also affirms this, stating that “developed country parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country parties” for mitigation and adaptation to the climate crisis.

Discreditably, developed countries have repeatedly tried to undermine the centrality of principles enforcing their responsibility by removing references in the negotiation text — one of numerous tactics employed by developed countries during the negotiations, illustrating the vast ocean between developed and developing country parties in regard to a just way of dealing with the climate crisis.

Historical Responsibility or Conditionality?

Developed country negotiators have avoided coming up with a specific number for the necessary amount of climate finance, only providing the wording that it should be commensurate with the needs of vulnerable communities. Negotiators from developing countries were far clearer in this regard, proposing the amount of 1.3 trillion US dollars to reflect the needs of those affected.

On the question of who should provide finance, developed countries insisted on widening the contributor base, meaning they should not have to shoulder the financial responsibility on their own, increasing the dependence on the private sector and other developing countries. In addition, they suggested that climate finance provided should be distributed only to countries who had chosen pathways towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development — a proposition flying in the face of historical responsibility, accountability, and the right to self-determination. 

Developing countries, on the other side, were clear on how finance should be provided, namely in the form of non-debt-incurring grants, and not in form of loans which would further exacerbate the debt crisis. While, according to their proposal, the focus should be on public funds, negotiators from developing countries also suggested innovative sources such as taxation, making the link to the UN Tax convention currently being deliberated.

Negotiators from developing countries also emphasized the importance of including Loss and damage, payments for climate-induced losses and damages, in the NCQG process, arguing that otherwise a key funding component would not be reflected.

Finance and Peace

With civil society representatives voicing significant disappointment at the outcomes of the intersessionals in Bonn, negotiations on the NCQG will be the key issue of COP29 in Baku, already titled the “Finance COP”. It appears to not be the only issue the Azerbaijani presidency would like to focus on, however, as it increasingly pushes a global peace agenda — to mixed reactions.

Building on the declaration on climate, relief, recovery and peace from COP28, the presidency convened consultations on mobilizing efforts for a “COP truce” for the duration of COP29. This would include close coordination with other UN bodies — as thus far the issues of climate and conflict have been dealt with in a siloed manner.

While these efforts were welcomed by numerous parties including France, the US, the EU, G77, and others, they were severely criticized by the Armenian representative, who warned the presidency to not misuse their mandate to host COP29 for narrow political agendas. Subliminal accusations of hypocrisy by the Armenian representative are rooted in Azerbaijani officials showcasing themselves as forces of peace in the international diplomatic arena while at the same time committing atrocities in Nagorno–Karabakh against ethnic Armenians.

In light of the extensive war crimes being committed by Israel in Gaza, and the connection between Gaza and climate justice, negotiations around a “COP truce” seem fantastical. In preparation for the intersessionals in Bonn, more than 100 climate justice and human rights organizations called on the German government to end the silencing and repression of pro-Palestinian voices in Germany. Civil society groups organized numerous preparatory seminars for those attending in Bonn to be able to protect themselves from increasing forms of repression and disregard for civil rights by the German state when it comes to pro-Palestinian activism. The issue came to a head during the opening plenary, which was interrupted by two activists protesting “no business as usual during a genocide”. They were subsequently de-badged, thus excluded from further attending the negotiations. 

Prior to COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2022, the German government called on the Egyptian government to adhere to the principles of human rights and free speech. Whether Germany is planning the same for Azerbaijan, a country that ranks 164 out of 180 in terms of press freedom, and has arrested or sentenced 25 journalists and activists this year alone, is not yet clear. What is clear, is that the call for “no climate justice without human rights” is more critical than ever in a time when civil liberties and human rights of so many people are being treated with contempt. Whether the German state is currently the most suitable proponent of this cause is thus up for serious debate.