The Bonn Climate Change Talks and UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies 6 – 17 June 2011

The session included the two subsidiary bodies, the 34th sessions the SBSTA and SBI, as well as the fourteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and the sixteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments of Annex 1 parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP).

Agreements reached in COP 16 in Cancun in December 2011 were hailed as a “balanced” outcome that represents an important stepping stone toward a final agreement. After this month’s meeting in Bonn there is cautious optimism that this could happen at COP17 in Durban, South Africa in December 2011.For the past three years, UNFCCC has been engaged in parallel-track negotiations under two ad-hoc working groups.  One addresses actions of all parties under the Convention, including on climate change mitigation, adaptation, financing, capacity building and technology transfer.  The other focuses on further emission reduction commitments of Annex 1 countries under the Kyoto Protocol.   The goals are to advance collective efforts to limit global warming to within 2o C above pre-industrial levels to avoid severe consequences of climate change and to promote adaptation to the inevitable consequences of climate change.

While some progress was made on technical issues related to the implementation of the Cancun Agreement, several topics were held back due to the interconnectedness of the two negotiation tracks, and some parties reconsidered provisions of the Cancun Agreement. The question of the future of the Kyoto Protocol, i.e. a second commitment period and the looming regulatory gap between Kyoto Protocol commitment periods, surfaced in many groups, with back-and-forth exchanges among developing and developed countries.

It was agreed to resume the session of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP before Durban this next round of AWG meetings will take place from 1 to 7 October 2011 in Panama City, Panama and parties have expressed their intention to start drafting text then, in order to ensure a successful outcome for COP 17.

Issues related to forests

The forest issues addressed at Bonn included REDD+ and forest management accounting rules for Annex 1 countries under the Kyoto Protocol (LULUCF).


The Cancun Agreement (COP16) confirmed the scope of REDD+, outlining five mitigation activities as well as principles and safeguards to be respected while undertaking these activities. The focus in Bonn was how to deal with the unresolved issues related to reference (emission) levels; the financing of REDD+, modalities to address measuring; reporting and verification (MRV) of REDD+ activities; and how countries will provide information on safeguards.

As part of the decision from Cancun, SBSTA was requested to work on these technical/methodological issues in relation to REDD+ and the AWG-LCA was asked to continue to work on the issue of REDD+ financing and report to COP17 in December 2011. 

The developments in the SBSTA session in Bonn:

Forest reference emission levels and forest reference levels

SBSTA discussed the issue of national forest reference emission levels and/or forest reference levels as a benchmark to assess the changes in forest cover and carbon stocks. Clarification is needed on many issues, including the difference between forest reference emission levels and forest reference levels, the definition of forests, adjustment of reference levels according to national circumstances, consistency between national and sub-national levels, and the possibility of including safeguards.

System for providing information on how the safeguards are addressed

Parties identified (but did not agree to, in the end) a list of principles for the system(s), including transparency, reliability, adaptability to national circumstances, regularity, predictability, consistency and comparability. Some parties supported using national communications to report on safeguards. The draft conclusions adopted by the parties consist of a list of points to be considered as general guidance for submissions. This guidance indicates that information system(s) should include characteristics, design, provision of information, potential barriers for addressing and respecting safeguards and other relevant issues. 

Measuring, reporting and verification

Parties discussed what characteristics MRV for REDD+ should have, inter alia: they should be consistent with any guidance on MRV for NAMAs; non-intrusive and respectful of national sovereignty, circumstances and capabilities; simple; transparent; flexible; and cost-effective. However, in the final decision, countries only agreed to the fact that the characteristics for MRV should follow what is already agreed in appendix I of 1/CP.16.

Parties also agreed to request the Secretariat to facilitate an expert workshop on REDD+ before COP 17 in Durban. They also invited submissions from parties and observer organizations on issues related to the discussion in SBSTA. 

In Bonn the AWG-LCA also addressed the question of the REDD+ financing modality (e.g. fund-based, market-based or a mix of the two), also with the aim of reporting to COP17. Many developing country parties raised the issue of the additional funding required for REDD+ readiness, including the need for more focus on capacity building from the early stages. Also, some parties said public financing should play a greater role in the readiness phase of REDD+ – with a focus on capacity building - and that the third phase should build on “a basket” of (alternative) financing options. This could include public funding at the national and international levels; a possible REDD+ window under the Green Climate Fund (see points under Finance below); and market mechanisms. However, several parties warned against using market mechanisms for REDD+. Finally, it was emphasized by many parties that each country should be able to decide on the sources of funding they would seek. Highlighting information gaps, many countries underscored the importance of MRV of finance for REDD+.

Also on finance for REDD+ separate negotiations are taking place in the Transitional Committee of the new Green Climate Fund. The Green Climate Fund is intended to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing countries using thematic funding windows. Funding for REDD+ could be a separate thematic funding window.

Clean Development Mechanism

Discussions on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) were linked with the key issue of what happens in the case of a gap between the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the next commitment period, or if agreement cannot be reached to continue the Kyoto Protocol.

Many parties expressed concerns about the fact that, should access to CDM credits be made conditional on second commitment period targets, parties might be forced to create their own rules through bilateral deals. Other parties emphasized the role of the CDM in promoting sustainable development and technology transfer in non-Annex I countries. A group of parties underscored that access to the flexibility mechanisms, including Joint Implementation and the CDM, would be difficult to agree to in the absence of a second commitment period.

The earlier discussion on including additional forest activities in the CDM, such as those related to replanting or restoration of “forests in exhaustion”, i.e. forests which are no longer productive, was not continued. SBSTA however requested the Secretariat to prepare a synthesis report based on parties’ submissions and will continue considering the issue at SBSTA 35 in Durban.

Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF)

Under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, accounting for emissions from a number of land use activities has been voluntary. This could potentially undermine the effectiveness of emission reduction targets. Because of this, parties have been negotiating possible changes to the framework of LULUCF for the last three and a half years.

The discussions under the KP negotiation track on carbon accounting rules for forest management -- a complex and controversial issue – have stimulated debates on what constitutes good forest management and how to incentivize it.  Of relevance to the climate change community is how forests could contribute more to climate change mitigation, while of interest to foresters is whether incentives for better forest management will be forthcoming as a result of climate change decisions. 

The discussions under the KP negotiation track on carbon accounting rules for forest management -- a complex and controversial issue – have stimulated debates on what constitutes good forest management and how to incentivize it.  Of relevance to the climate change community is how forests could contribute more to climate change mitigation, while of interest to foresters is whether incentives for better forest management will be forthcoming as a result of climate change decisions. 

The key issue in relation to LULUCF lies with accounting rules for forest management, for which reporting was made optional under the first commitment period. One of the central unresolved issues is the baseline for accounting for changes in emissions from forest management. This is important because the determination of whether emissions have gone up or down entirely depends on how the baseline is set. Agreement on this issue remains elusive after the Bonn session.

Apart from the overall discussion on forest management, the areas of debate include: whether a cap should be applied to emissions and removals from forest management; if and how emissions from extraordinary occurrences (“force majeure”) would be accounted for; how to set a baseline or forest reference (emissions) level; and how to factor in changes in forest carbon stocks that are not caused by human intervention. In Bonn, progress was made on how to address harvested wood products and how to deal with force majeure. 

Parties also addressed technical questions. A proposal was made for flexible land use for planted production forests. References were made to full land-based accounting and definitions related to forests. A very comprehensive streamlining of the text was also agreed, integrating various options and parties’ concerns, and reducing the negotiations text from 40 to 12 pages.

Apart from being a major issue in relation to forestry, agreement on revised LULUCF accounting rules for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (after 2012) could influence the level of emission reduction commitments by Annex 1 parties and thereby have a significant influence on emission pledges by parties. Furthermore, the approaches agreed under LULUCF might have an effect on developing countries as they might be reflected in the modalities to be agreed upon for REDD+.



last updated:  Friday, February 10, 2012