A Bone of Contention in Bonn: Fighting Inequality for Climate Justice, an Introduction to Cap and Share
As the one percent of the world once again meet in Bonn for the annual climate ritual of setting the 28th Conference Of Parties (COP28), the 99% remain in their communities without a voice or a seat at the table.
The 2023 Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB58), which will run from June 5 to 15, shapes the road to Dubai and is expected to tackle many of the topics that will be key to the COP28 negotiations, scheduled to take place in December. Formally known as the 58th session of the Subsidiary Bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), SB58 will be held at UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn, Germany, which has hosted an intersessional session of this kind every year since 1997.
For 28 years the world has been meeting to deal with the climate crisis and regardless of the information set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on both the status and projection of this global crisis, climate diplomacy has overshadowed the need for a rapid and radical response. As the global temperatures continue to rise and nations in the Global South suffer the very real effects of the climate crisis, the slow and noncommittal Global North must be the priority focus at Bonn Conference.
The key issues from the Global South have always been climate finance, loss and damage, and the resolutions on transition from fossil fuels. At COP27 there were big shifts on these issues, but unfortunately climate injustices are unlikely to be resolved by the progress so far, given the influence of big corporates and emitters who lobbied for false solutions as a way of allowing them to continue emitting. From a climate justice perspective COP27 had very little to celebrate: a point which was hammered home by the venue choice and presidency of COP28.
Loss and Damage: With increased climate disasters and shocks, many countries in the Global South have seen loss of life and property, and destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity. This happens amidst very poor economies and often affects low greenhouse gas emitters who are not responsible for the crisis they are experiencing, nor do they have the adaptation capabilities to weather the storm. Between COP26 and COP27, the Global South has witnessed serious climate induced floods in Nigeria, South Africa, Bangladesh, major droughts in the Horn of Africa and Madagascar and periodic cyclones in Malawi, Zimbabwe, the Caribbean and Mozambique, to mention just a few. The affected communities are not only poor, but their assets are not insured and government or aid funds may not reach many of the affected people. The destruction of people’s lands, livelihoods and infrastructure and the resultant impact on food security should give our leaders at the Bonn Conference the motivation to ensure that they come up with a mechanism beyond just financing loss and damage, but incorporating justice aspects of reparation and compensation. This fund must not be premised on false and unsustainable solutions.
Climate Finance: The non-movement on the $100 billion pledge from COP26 by the Global North became clearer when the United States Special Envoy on Climate Change, John Kerry, highlighted that nations must approach the private sector to get financial support for just transitions. This shifted the ambitions of many of the Global South nations towards embedding themselves in carbon trading, in the hope that this may prove to be a new potential source of climate finance. UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement was then made to change the text of its Article 6. When the Paris Agreement was approved in 2015, its Article 6 was viewed as a major advance for achieving the objective of the UNFCCC and the evolving international climate regime, given that it embraced more clearly the notion that “cooperative approaches” (often indicating “markets”) could help nations achieve their national carbon reduction and removal targets. In the six years that followed, however, negotiators struggled to agree upon the detailed rules for how these “cooperative approaches” would function. At COP27, Parties reached new agreements for market mechanisms, essentially supporting the transfer of emission reductions between Parties while also incentivising the private sector to invest in climate-friendly solutions.
However, those gathering in Bonn must question the implementation of such cooperative approaches that have brought out elements that are unjust, such as community contribution versus benefits, the labour relations of the companies involved and the governance framework deficit. As the Bonn Conference moves towards strengthening carbon trading as an addition to UNFCCC climate finance, transparency, accountability and fairness become key within the climate justice narrative. The Global South must take this opportunity at the Bonn Conference to ensure that it proffers its alternative to the neoliberal driven market-based approach to solving the climate crisis.
Fossil Fuels: Our future must necessarily be one without fossil fuels. It has been proven that fossil fuels remain the source of the highest emissions and have caused the current climate crises. The “keep it the ground” principle must be discussed at the Bonn Conference to influence beyond the geopolitics currently at play. The final text at COP27 contained a provision to boost “low carbon emissions energy”. That could mean many things including fossil gas, which has lower emissions than coal yet is still a major fossil fuel. Upon realising this, many African countries at COP27 such as Senegal, DRC and Nigeria rushed to strike lucrative deals. India, who at COP26 pushed for “phase down” (on new fossil fuels by 2030 for developed countries and by 2050 for developing countries), at COP27 was pushing for “phase down on ALL fossil fuels”. This was not adopted and the COP26 text was retained. The emergence of the BRICS+ economic block (including potential new members) as a global political and economic powerhouse must also be interrogated at the Bonn Conference, as this has become a new alliance of big emitters, albeit from “Global South”. Whilst economies must grow, it’s a huge reversal to converge economies on fossil fuels investments.
Climate Justice Beyond Borders at Bonn
As the world’s one percent meets to continue diverting the hopes and aspirations of the 99% using false solutions and winding text, it is time for the Global South to become more radical in its approach on climate finance and sustainable mitigation pathways. Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the only option. We therefore propose that the Bonn Conference and the Global South climate justice movements converge on a new approach: the cap and share model, which will answer many of COP’s outstanding issues.
How it works
Cap and share has, at its core, a simple idea: to cap fossil fuel extraction, make polluters pay, and then share the resulting wealth amongst communities and their citizens.
A number of cap and share proposals have been put forward. The system proposed here is one variant, which could be implemented globally or by a group of forward-thinking countries acting together.
Impacts of cap and share
This system is big and radical, because it does what needs to be done. For a single policy, cap and share packs a lot of punch. Via a simple mechanism it has the potential to prevent runaway climate change and build the alternative, while simultaneously reducing global inequality and ending extreme poverty.
Climate mitigation: The need to transition away from fossil fuels and achieve Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) has never been more urgent than it is now, as the world becomes more vulnerable. The cap would progressively halt fossil fuel extraction and close down polluting extraction sites, while the associated carbon charge would fund the green transition.
Global economic justice: Climate justice demands action that provides redress to the Most Affected People and Areas (MAPA). Cap and share would transfer trillions of dollars each year away from fossil fuel companies and high consumers to both climate initiatives and the household budgets of the global majority, compensating those with the least responsibility for the crisis, and providing economic security to people everywhere.
As outlined above, the Global South will remain vulnerable to climate shocks and disaster for as long as the North remains reluctant to meet its COP pledges. A strong South-to-South and South-to-North network should aim to ensure that the cap and share model becomes the alternative: a sustainable and inclusive proposition to resolve the perennial sticking issues that the Global South has been facing. We urge the leaders at the Bonn Conference to accommodate this new thinking that is just and fair, and strongly call upon climate justice movements worldwide to take this approach and together decarbonise the world.
By Sydney Chisi, Senior Campaigns Manager at Equal Right