My first day observing the COP23 negotiations serendipitously marked a momentous occasion in COP proceedings. I was swept up in the energy and excitement of what one delegate described as “a monumental and milestone achievement, likely to be the main success of COP23”.
On this first day of the second week of the Climate negotiations in Bonn Germany, it was agreed that agriculture and its contribution to climate change would be included into future talks, as well as into the COP23 final document, ending a gridlock over the last several years. Parties agreed to ‘jointly address’ agriculture’s link to climate change moving forward, setting a deadline for the end of March by when countries will submit their positions on what should be included.
Agriculture within UNFCCC has been discussed and disagreed on for years. The lack of consensus had prevented country delegates from moving forward on the more substantial content of the issue. Pictured above are country delegates following the agreement, with representatives from the United States, Gambia, and Malawi in the forefront who have been working on this issue for the entirety of the working group-since 2009. The many countries praising and congratulating each other also pointed out the important victory for the US delegate Mark Manis, the Senior Climate Change Policy Advisor from USDA, (picture above) who announced this would be his last Conference of the Parties (COP) and will soon be retiring.
This was an important “win” for this year’s climate negotiations because of the relative lack of ambition and progress in other areas. This COP did not necessitate a major decision or document, however was a vital step in establishing the ‘Paris Rulebook’ or roadmap for detailing and implementing the Paris Agreement. This included details on loss and damage, financing mechanisms, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) plans for measuring and monitoring emissions, and specifics of the Global Stocktake, among others.
As an International Development Policy Masters student concentrating on food security, I was invigorated by this decision on agriculture and excited to witness these proceedings on the international stage. However, the lengthy amount of time focused on the process alone was a bit disheartening. As the week progressed more and more observers expressed their disappointment in the overall lack of ambition of COP23; those same observers were also unsurprised by it. This fact makes the importance of the smaller positive outcomes from this COP- agriculture, gender, and Talanoa dialogue process-all the more worth highlighting, in hopes of increasing the urgency for agreement and progress.