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Instruction manual for the climate treaty

The world community forged an agreement in Paris; Bonn is now working on its implementation. Why COP23 is important.

Steam clouds rise from the cooling towers of a lignite-burning power plant © dpa

What are the main issues in Bonn?

COP23 in Bonn is regarded as a 'technical conference'. This means that unlike in Paris in 2015, when a new global climate treaty was agreed, no major, fundamental decisions are expected. Now it's a question of fleshing out the details, rather like writing the instruction manual. According to Germany's chief negotiator Karsten Sach of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, the aim in Bonn is to deliver "text proposals for the small print".

What specific issues are on the agenda in Bonn?

COP23's mandate is to prepare the first revision of the Paris Agreement, which is scheduled for 2018. This had been agreed in Paris. COP24, to be held in the Polish city of Katowice, will then examine whether the commitments made by states to reduce and limit greenhouse gas emissions will be sufficient to ensure that the world remains on course to limit global warming to 'significantly below two degrees', or better still to 1.5°C.

The Bonn conference's work assignment is therefore to formulate a first draft of 'Implementation Guidelines', a kind of rule book for putting the Paris Agreement into practice. Put in simple terms, the participants must agree on what is counted, how it is counted, and what can be offset against what – and, of course, on how to create across-the-board transparency allowing climate-protection measures to be reviewed.

What role is Germany playing?

In fact, Fiji is the actual host of COP23. But because the small Pacific island nation does not have the necessary infrastructure and resources to stage a conference with an expected 25,000 participants, the COP is being held in Bonn with German support. So Germany is not a co-host, but the 'technical host'.

Why is Bonn important?

COP23 is the first climate change conference since US President Donald Trump announced his country's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. So far, Trump stands alone; furthermore, he has recently toned his remarks down. But the question remains: what consequences will this have for climate diplomacy? How is the balance shifting? At least, says Germany's Federal Government, the climate change conference is a strong sign that multilateralism works and that the search for common solutions makes sense.