Halfway to COP28: The 2023 Bonn Climate Change Conference

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In June 2023, Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement will meet in Bonn, Germany, to continue where they left off at COP27, the last major global climate change conference, which took place at the end of 2022. The Bonn Climate Change Conference—technically, the 58th sessions of the subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC (SB58)—takes place every year between the main meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP), the next of which will be convened as COP28 in November/December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Key topics of discussion at the Bonn Conference will include climate change mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, climate finance, governance, knowledge-sharing, capacity-building, and action for climate empowerment, among others. The Bonn Climate Change Conference 2023 is significant in being the first opportunity for all Parties to meet since COP27, where a historic decision towards establishing a fund for loss and damage was taken. It also presents a pivotal milestone on the way towards defining and operationalising both the Global Stocktake (GST) and the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and preparing for the final negotiations at COP28.

Loss and damage finance

Loss and damage—that is, the impacts of climate change that go beyond the theoretical or practical limits of adaptation—was a key focus at COP27, where it finally resulted in a decision to establish funding arrangements and a dedicated fund for loss and damage. The topic has continued to be in the limelight in the first half of 2023 and will be significant at SB58 as well, where it will garner more public attention than the technical workshops and meetings that already took place throughout the past months. 

For vulnerable developing countries, addressing losses and damages resulting from climate-induced disasters and other events is a priority, as these impacts are becoming increasingly frequent and intense. Countries such as Sri Lanka need finance and other forms of support to effectively address this and provide protection and compensation for frontline communities and affected economic sectors, for example through risk transfer mechanisms, social protection systems, or relief funding. Furthermore, there are many non-economic losses and damages as well that are even harder to quantify and address, such as those to human health, psychosocial wellbeing, social cohesion, cultural heritage, and local or traditional knowledge.

Work towards the loss and damage fund continues through the meetings of the Transitional Committee as well as thematic workshops. However, as part of the sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), loss and damage will be covered through other workstreams as well, such as the second Glasgow Dialogue or discussions related to Global Stocktake, which aims to assess collective progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement every five years.

The first Global Stocktake

The first GST has Parties sailing into uncharted waters, as they must assess the world’s progress on mitigation, adaptation, and means of implementation in a holistic, and comprehensive manner with a balanced allocation of time between the three thematic areas. The GST is anticipated to be one of the biggest deliverables of the multilateral climate change process in 2023, with the opportunity to highlight gaps, needs, and opportunities for strengthening decisive climate action.

Ae part of this process, the Bonn Conference will see the third and final meeting of the technical dialogue of the GST, wrapping up the information collection and preparation component as well as the technical assessment phase. This will be followed by a consideration of outputs from this process during COP28 to discuss implications of the findings of the technical assessment and inform Parties on updating and enhancing their actions, support, and international cooperation.

Scaling up climate action and support

For developing countries such as Sri Lanka, investing in adaptation and responding to loss and damage are crucial priorities to ensure the wellbeing, prosperity, and sustainable development of their people. Sri Lanka, for example, is particularly vulnerable to climate-induced extreme weather events as well as long-term processes that erode the livelihoods and economic foundations of key sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, tourism, human settlements, or natural ecosystems.

In the context of increasingly severe climate change impacts, the discussions and decisions at SB58 will have a significant importance for Sri Lanka’s future plans and policies. Key measures to address climate change, such as mitigation and adaptation, financial instruments, and international cooperation, could accelerate the country’s efforts to prevent avoidable impacts and strengthen the safety nets and coping capacities of communities to brace against unavoidable ones. The outcomes of the conference could also influence Sri Lanka’s future actions related to climate change, economic recovery, and sustainable development​.

(The writer works as Director: Research and Knowledge Management at SLYCAN Trust, a non-profit think tank based in Sri Lanka. His work focuses on climate change, adaptation, resilience, ecosystem conservation, just transition, human mobility, and a range of related issues. He holds a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Cologne, Germany and is a regular writer to several international and local media outlets.)

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