Europe

Climate talks: Nations to gather in 2018 to work out how to limit warming

A replica of the Statue of Liberty by Danish artist Jens Galschiot emits smoke in a park outside the climate talks in Bonn.
A replica of the Statue of Liberty by Danish artist Jens Galschiot emits smoke in a park outside the climate talks in Bonn. Source: AP

The UN climate talks continue in Bonn, but countries have reached agreement in a number of significant areas.

The world will gather in 2018 to work out exactly what must be done to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.

Agreement over this discussion - now known as the Talanoa dialogue - is the key outcome for the UN climate talks and Fiji's presidency.

But talks dragged on into the early hours of Saturday morning with last minute arguments over developed countries' funding of poorer nations to meet their climate targets.

On the Talanoa dialogue, diplomats and environmental groups alike have hailed the achievement.

It might not have happened if not for Fiji's creative, inclusive leadership, says Mohamed Adow, from Christian Aid, part of the Climate Action Network.

"The switch for the Talanoa dialogue has been switched on and it's now alive and it's not static," he told reporters at COP23 on Friday.

Battle lines drawn over coal at UN climate talks
Battle lines drawn over coal at UN climate talks

"It's going to help countries actually get back to the table over time to be able to help us achieve the Paris ambition."

Mexico's representative told the closing session Fiji's approach "repeatedly helped to move the negotiations forward" on many matters.

Australia also believes the presidency has done a good job with the design and winning all countries over.

Fiji wants the year-long consultation starting in January to be conducted in the Pacific tradition of Talanoa, with open and inclusive debate and storytelling that avoid finger-pointing and lead to wise outcomes.

It has posed three questions for the world to ponder. Where are we now? Where do we want to be? And how do we get there?

The aim is to make governments to seriously think about how much to lift their emissions reduction targets, given all evidence says pledges to date will lead the world to warm by at least three degrees.

Tensions emerged in the first half of the conference over the desire of developing countries for a formal discussion of climate action before the Paris agreement starts in 2020.

There have been accusations industrialised nations responsible for the problem aren't doing enough now.

But the Fijian efforts saw this resolved as leaders and minister arrived in Bonn on Wednesday, with early actions to mitigate climate change and support developing countries to do the same forming part of the Talanoa dialogue and being specifically assessed in 2018 and 2019.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg was happy to see this focus, saying Australia had a good story to tell.

What is the Paris Climate Agreement?
What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

"Australia has already established ambitious targets and our goal is to meet and beat them, just as we did with the first Kyoto target," he told AAP.

Greens environment spokesman Adam Bandt wasn't sure the minister should be so upbeat.

"When other countries meet their targets early, they see it as a good thing and they then use that as an opportunity to consider ratcheting up their ambition in future years," he told AAP.

"Australia is one of the few countries here that says we're on track to meet incredibly low targets and we're not going to do any more."

Other wins for Fiji's leadership were landing UN Climate's first gender action plan and deciding how to include Indigenous voices in the process.

Negotiations over writing the Paris rulebook are widely seen as having made good progress, creating a skeleton to flesh out by December 2018.

"The worst case would have been for this conference to end with just empty pages. This is not the case," senior German official Jochen Flasbarth said.

However, tensions remain and the formal COP23 decision urges that work accelerate ahead of the 2018 deadline, a point underscored by several countries in their closing statements.

Notably, discussions on transparency around how richer countries would fund climate action in developing nations and the role of the adaptation fund in this occupied most of Friday, pushing negotiations well past their scheduled finish.

Several reports say Australia was among the countries pushing back against the demands.

Many NGOs were also disappointed talks on compensation for loss and damage from climate change had been shunted to a side meeting in 2018, especially for a COP led by a Pacific island nation that is already feeling its harsh effects.

However, Mr Adow said there was a deliberate choice by Fiji to focus on the Talanoa dialogue and convincing countries to boost their pledges instead.

"What Fiji and other vulnerable countries require more than anything are more ambitious emissions reduction commitments so they can avoid further losses and damages," he said.