Three days down in Bonn! We had another full and fulfilling day at COP23. Students spent the day attending panels, receptions, and negotiating sessions. The Duke delegation also had the chance to meet one-on-one with high-level officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the International Emissions Trading Association, offering unique insight into experts’ views on the negotiations.

Tomorrow kicks off the unofficial U.S. pavilion, which is located outside the accredited COP zones. Coalitions such as We Are Still In and We Mean Business are leading efforts to represent U.S. subnational, nongovernmental, private sector initiatives in Bonn. Check out today’s updates below and tune in tomorrow for updates from the U.S. pavilion!

Sanjeev: Before coming to this COP, I would have told you that climate change-induced displacement was an issue very few people at the COP gave serious consideration to. I had tried to look up events at previous COPs on the topic before coming here but had hardly found anything. And my conversation today with someone from UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – also confirmed my initial conclusions. She confirmed that three years ago, there would probably be just one side event on climate change-induced displacement at COPs. That has changed. This year there are 17 side events on the topic, four of which I attended today. And there couldn’t have been more diverse participation on the panels. In one we had two individuals from Bangladesh recounting their personal experiences, a representative from the Platform for Disaster Displacement, a representative from the Norwegian Refugee Council, and someone from Oxfam. The second one was composed entirely of representatives from UN agencies, ranging all the way from UNHCR and IOM to UN Women and the ILO. In all ten, agencies, plus someone from the UNFCCC secretariat, spoke at the events.

The next one couldn’t have been more different. There were representatives from two very small NGOs in India and Cameroon on the panel with another representative from UNHCR. And the last one was composed largely of people from the health field, discussing the nexus between climate change, migration and health. All I can say is that things have changed a lot in the space of three years. Climate change-induced displacement is definitively on the agenda now.

Danielle: Today was a slower day for Article 6 negotiations with only one afternoon session. That meant that I finally had time to explore the Bonn Zone and all its pavilions, exhibitions, and side events. Many countries set up elaborate pavilions with informational displays, technology demonstrations, and space to mix and mingle with other climate professionals. Country pavilions often try to capture the flavor of the country’s culture, which makes for some beautiful and impressive displays. My personal favorite? The Nordic Pavilion, which features real dried fish as lanterns– a new sustainable lighting trend? Well, perhaps not.

Nordic Fish Lantern


Tasfia: Transparency is a focal point of the COP this year, as it deserves to be. This was made apparent through the events I attended (or didn’t attend) today. I noticed three different aspects of transparency that are crucial to the successful implementation of the framework.

  1. Transparency between nations in negotiations: I met with a national delegate who shared that there has been a lack of progress in his sector for several years because of lack of open conversations (Talanoa anyone?) between and within blocs. If nations were more transparent about their optimal individual and shared goals, they could work backwards to compromise on mechanisms.
  2. Transparency in finances: In a one-on-one meeting with a leader in the international climate policy field, I learned about concrete examples of how lack of transparency in grant funding has led to corruption. Strong institutional frameworks in the funding process can restrain this corruption to ensure finances are going where they’re needed most.
  3. Transparency with the media and non-party actors: I was excited to attend the SBI/SBSTA negotiations on loss and damage within the Warsaw International Mechanism today. However, after the event began, Kuwait forced the secretariat to kick out all NGOs and media groups. The COP has been stressing the importance of involving non-party actors in the negotiations process. Whether this has been the case is up for debate. I cannot imagine how excluding these groups, including research institutes and universities, from observing the parties is advantageous. I hope to see these groups gain more access to meetings over the coming weeks, or gain insight into why their exclusion is beneficial.

Sam: I opened the third day of COP 23 with a seminar on land degradation led by the vice-chair of the IPCC. The talk focused on breaking the sub-Saharan African cycle of land degradation and migration by utilizing knowledge transfer. Following this was a meeting with USDA senior policy analyst Mark Manis, who discussed the role agriculture played in past COPs as well as today. This helped provide intriguing insight into the U.S. negotiating perspective on the global topic of agriculture.

Galen: The Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, created in 2013 at COP19, was the first time Loss and Damage language made it into the final UNFCCC. A topic that has come up numerous times in the Loss and Damage side events is that the Warsaw Impact Mechanism needs to be fleshed out at this COP. At the end of the day, I was thrilled to see that there was a session happening titled SBI/SBSTA informal consultation on the report of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. Upon seeing this, I raced to catch a bus from the Bonn Zone to the Bula Zone. As an observer, I took one of seats in the back that surrounds the negotiating tables. It was particularly exciting to see that the woman I am assisting from Climate Analytics was sitting at the table, representing the country of Timor Leste. In an unfortunate turn of events, Kuwait objected to having observers in the room. While Canada tried to defend us being there, the Secretariat ruled that these sessions are open to observers unless a Party objects. It was not up for negotiation. Alas, all of the observers, including myself, were asked to leave.

Rachel: This morning I went to a panel on how non-state actors can aid in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The panel included speakers from the Turkish government, Sweden, and Germany. Afterwards, I spoke to the speaker from Sweden about how the country has been able to implement its bold renewable energy goals and how these actions can be implemented elsewhere.

In the afternoon, I met with Mark Manis, a Senior Policy Advisor and Negotiator for the USDA. He talked about how agriculture affects countries NDC’s and climate commitments. He also highlighted how difficult the negotiations process can be. If a country delegation doesn’t want to discuss an issue, it can be tabled for the entire COP.