Without the rules, the Paris Agreement stays an empty shell. Now is the time to set up those rules.
This is considered the most important year for international climate diplomacy since 2015 - the year the Paris Agreement was formed. Countries will have too decide on the rules and guidelines that will help to govern and implement the Paris Agreement from 2020 onward.
David Waskow from the World Resources Institute compares the Bangkok session to developing the legislature of a law that has been passed.
"These implementing guidelines, these rules and procedures for the [Paris] Agreement will really breathe life into it in a concrete sense. Without the rules the Paris Agreement stays an empty shell," Waskow explained in a press conference last week.
Why is there an additional UN climate summit?
Negotiators in Bangkok will be continuing the unfinished discussion from the UN summit in Bonn, Germany, six months ago.
The Bangkok negotiations are a response to the insufficient progress on the Paris rulebook that is supposed to be finalised by the end of this year.
In December, environmental ministers and heads of state will gather in the UN Climate summit in Poland (the so-called COP24). Where they will have to agree on a full set of rules to govern the Paris Agreement.
Why is this proving to be such a challenge?
Creating the international legal framework to implement the Paris Agreement is a huge task, and many technical issues remain unresolved between negotiating parties.
Therefore an additional week of diplomatic muscle flexing is underway as officials operate on borrowed time to meet the deadline.
Severe heat waves across the Northern Hemisphere this year have ensured that diplomats are definitely sweating as the pressure to achieve results increases.
With insufficient progress during the last climate summit in Bonn, and Poland hosting the upcoming summit this December, concerns have been raised that the coal-loving country might be reluctant to show the diplomatic leadership needed to complete the Paris Rulebook. The additional session in Bangkok hopes to compensate for this lack of leadership.
What are the expected outcomes from Bangkok?
The work on the table at Bangkok is referred to by negotiator as the "COP Package": since many elements are strongly interlinked, and progress on one element of the Paris Agreement needs to be matched by progress on others, the only way all parties can agree on the Paris Rulebook is when they agree on a clear and full set of rules.
The Key element of this COP24 Package, and the questions that need answering in Bangkok, are:
- The Paris Rulebook: How will countries communicate their national climate plans for Paris? And how can parties design a clear mechanism for providing feedback and monitoring to these climate plans?
- Finance: Will developed countries manage to gather the promised 100 billion USD in climate financial aid to developing countries by 2020? How will this financial aid be managed and increased over time?
- The Talanoa Dialogue: A mechanism that was set up during the last UN climate summit, the Talanoa Dialogue is an inclusive dialogue between governments, NGO's, bussinesses and social groups, to ensure that as many voices and concerns from the global community are included to form the Rules for Paris. How this dialogue will be incorporated in the UN negotiations is still unclear.
- Pre-2020 Ambition: The Paris Agreement will effectively take effect from 2020 onward. Are countries doing enough before Paris effectively takes action? And what are the needs of countries before 2020 to implement th Paris Agreement and to increase their ambition over time?
What if the Paris Rulebook is not agreed on by the end of the year?
There is no reason why we can’t have strong foundational rules to implement the Paris Agreement by this year.
Some issues, however, won’t get totally resolved at the UN climate summit in Poland.
"But the foundational dimensions can and ought to be clearly identified and adopted to accelerate the rapid and deep emissions cuts we need to see to transition to a low-carbon economy," said Harjeet Singh from Action Aid International at the Bangkok conference.
On a practical level, setting the Rules for the Paris Agreement in 2018 is needed to provide direction, clarity, and to create the institutional structures to get it up and running by 2020.
If that happens, the Paris Agreement might actually be able to protect the current and future generations from runaway global warming.
Arthur Wyns is a tropical biologist and science journalist who writes about climate change, environment and migration. He reports from the UN negotiations and is the program manager of Climate Tracker, an organisation supporting environmental journalists worldwide to bring climate change into their national debates. Arthur tweets from @ArthurWyns