Climate Conference in Bonn: What's the upshot?

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn attended by almost 200 states comes to an end today, Friday. One main bone of contention was whether industrial countries should support poorer, developing states. Commentators have harsh words for the rich nations' lack of solidarity and take differing views of the coal phase-out initiative proposed by some countries.

Open/close all quotes
Avvenire (IT) /

The innocent continue to pay for our affluence

Avvenire is disappointed at the results in Bonn:

“It's the classic politics of double standards. Binding rules - hard law - to protect companies; voluntary rules - soft law - to protect people. ... Most of the rich countries avoided binding declarations because they could be interpreted as an implicit admission of guilt for environmental damage. ... The Green Climate Fund has approved 54 projects and made 131 million dollars available to date. That's too little to prevent more innocent people from suffering the consequences of our excesses. And at the same time a blatant and scandalous confirmation of indifference and denial of responsibility - which only worsens the crisis and the injustice.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

A glimmer of hope despite Trump

Around 20 states including Canada and Britain have formed a coal phase-out alliance in Bonn. This is the right response to Donald Trump's environmental policy, Corriere del Ticino believes:

“The lack of seriousness on the part of the current tenant of the White House in the present state of emergency regarding air pollution was plain to all in Bonn. The US government organised a series of discussions in a side-event with a title that sounds more like mockery than anything else: 'The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation.' But even if Trump has achieved his goal and freed his country from the obligations of the Paris Agreement to promote the US coal industry, the fight against climate change will continue. The Bonn conference made that unmistakably clear.”

Die Welt (DE) /

The other side of the coal phase-out coin

Die Welt, on the other hand, isn't impressed by the intiative:

“Leader of the initiative Canada, which thanks to its vast natural resources gets 60 percent of its energy from water power, relies on coal for just 8 percent of its energy. ... So it's easy for it to make do without. ... Most of the countries in the anti-coal alliance aren't worthy role models because unlike Germany they haven't renounced nuclear power - and they're taking all the more credit now as saviours of the climate. Again, this applies to Canada, which has been busily modernising its ancient reactors over the last few years. ... The rejoicing environmental groups are doing their best to conceal the other side of the anti-coal coin.”

The Economist (GB) /

Negative emissions are the only solution

Much more focus should be put on developing the so-called negative emissions, The Economist demands:

“The Paris agreement assumes, in effect, that the world will find ways to suck CO2 out of the air. That is because, in any realistic scenario, emissions cannot be cut fast enough to keep the total stock of greenhouse gases sufficiently small to limit the rise in temperature successfully. But there is barely any public discussion of how to bring about the extra 'negative emissions' needed to reduce the stock of CO2. ... Unless that changes, the promise of limiting the harm of climate change is almost certain to be broken.”

Le Monde (FR) /

No time to lose

15,000 scientists have signed an appeal published on Monday in the journal Bioscience calling on decision makers to do more to combat the destruction of the environment. Le Monde seconds the call:

“The negotiations are being obstructed due to a lack of political will. And because some people fear that the measures will put them at a disadvantage. The commitments laid out in the 2015 climate agreement won't prevent a temperature rise of three degrees centigrade compared to pre-industrial levels. ... The key difference between 1992 [the year of the first major declaration on environment and development] and today consists in the fact that the consequences of environmental destruction are more palpable than in the past and no one - aside, that is, from a group of irresponsible people who have seized power in Washington - can deny them.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Stop climate change with new laws

The climate meeting in Bonn is entering its decisive phase and bold measures are desperately needed, Berlingske believes:

“We must not be blinded by the benefits of technology or by capitalism's eternal ability to come up with stop-gap measures. A better world can only be created in the interplay between laws and agreements on the one hand and individual initiatives on the other. ... From a scientific point of view there is no doubt that humanity is polluting the planet, contributing to global warming and causing sea levels to rise. For that reason we're duty-bound to protect ourselves and our descendants from the consequences of climate change as much as we can. However, meat-free days and biking holidays aren't effective solutions. Our hope lies in humanity's fantastic ability to innovate.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Follow China's example

The PRC's efforts in environmental protection should serve as an example for other countries, the Financial Times comments:

“Beijing's ambition deserves recognition. It must now be matched by more determined efforts by other national governments and, given the delinquency of the Trump administration, by states and non-governmental actors in the US. The gap between the scale of emissions cuts needed and the commitments governments have made is, as the UN notes, alarmingly large. The longer they delay the effort needed to close that gap, the harder it will be.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

EU takes cautious approach on emissions trading

The EU has agreed among other things to issue fewer certificates for European emissions trading as of 2021, thus making them more expensive. As far as Dagens Nyheter is concerned things aren't moving fast enough:

“Streamlining and developing climate policy is one of the topics the EU urgently needs to tackle. Thursday's deal on emissions trading is unsatisfactory. The planned tighter measures won't fulfil the targets set by the UN agreement and the climate researchers. French President Emmanuel Macron has revived an old idea, the introduction of a kind of tariff on carbon dioxide. Practical, political and legal obstacles stand in the way of this strategy. But the EU should nonetheless consider such measures and assess their viability.”

Trends-Tendances (BE) /

How powerful are images of disaster?

The French business paper Les Echos has called for climate sinners to be named and shamed. That's understandable, writes Amid Faljaoui, editor-in-chief of Trends-Tendences:

“Basically, the experts are saying that the people should take charge when it comes to protecting the environment. The most optimistic say that the recent images of hurricanes in the Caribbean gave a terrible foretaste of what our grandchildren's fate will be if we don't act soon. In this respect the television images have been a salvation. Alas, however, the most cynical say that people are like goldfish, that they have no memory and that by the time they've swam around the fishbowl once more they've already forgotten everything. In other words, one wave of indignation is followed by the next ad infinitum, according to the whims of the social media. Let's hope the latter are wrong!”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

We're all responsible

Citizens and governments must stop burying their head in the sand and clinging to old habits, author Eva-Maria Bachinger warns in Wiener Zeitung:

“When the going gets tough we stick stubbornly to our course: the third runway must be built, never mind climate change. The next cheap flight has already been booked, and on Saturday we'll go on another big shopping spree. ... Only a handful of romantic nature-lovers shed tears for all the animal and plant species that are dying out. ... 195 states agreed at the Paris climate conference to take measures to limit global warming to roughly two degrees. States affected by the phenomenon are to receive financial aid. They, too, have undertaken to help those driven out of their homes by climate change. But many politicians are talking about walls that need to be built to stop migration. ... Don't they know what's actually going on in the world?”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Not only governments must fight climate change

Cities and companies bear a major responsibility in the fight against climate change, Helsingin Sanomat stresses:

“So far 169 states have ratified the Paris Agreement. The US's decision to withdraw from it is a setback whose impact is most visible in the financing of research. ... But in addition to the states, companies and cities have a key role to play in implementing climate protection measures. Many of them in the US have taken this responsibility seriously and begun to act. Sustainably profitable business operations are not possible if the effects on the environment aren't taken into account. Progress in this direction is also determined by the attitudes of consumers.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Publicly denounce the destroyers of the planet

Les Echos describes what should be done with climate sinners:

“Since the eco-sinners can't be punished, the climate agreement should start to force everyone to face their responsibilities by developing climatic stress tests and then by publishing simple indicators of ecological behaviour, along the lines of what the WWF did for the European states this spring. The objective is to put public opinion in a position to denounce and condemn, according to the Anglo-Saxon model of 'name and shame', those who sabotage the planet. Perhaps a Twitter campaign could help to bring hidden details to light. The people must take charge when it comes to environmental protection. That's what's at stake in Bonn.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Climate can still be saved

In the run-up to the Bonn Climate Change Conference there has been no shortage of reports underlining the deletrious impact of global warming. But it's not too late to save the climate, Sydsvenskan believes:

“Luckily the situation regarding the climate talks is not as dire as many had feared. When US President Donald Trump said the US would drop out of the Paris Agreement many people were worried that more countries would follow suit. But that hasn't happened. Instead more countries have come on board, and China - which is responsible for the bulk of carbon dioxide emissions - continues to show an interest in adopting a leading role. ... Of course the process that is meant to stop climate change is advancing at a frustratingly slow pace. Nevertheless, for the most part researchers believe it's still possible. There is simply no alternative.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

Germany must learn from others

Contrary to its own view of itself, host Germany is a bad example when it comes to climate protection, Zeit Online criticises:

“Precisely because German politicians, first and foremost Angela Merkel, have presented themselves as being so progressive on the international stage, they have been able to neglect the real work at home. That would have involved supporting the switch to a CO2-free energy supply. Overhauling the coal regions. Resolutely standing up to the lobbyists from Daimler and Co. ... When a patient suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder, psychotherapy can help them change certain behavioural patterns. But the Bonn Climate Change Conference is not a therapy session. However, at least it offers the opportunity to learn from others: from the Norwegians and their electric car boom, from bicycle paradise Denmark, or from the British tax laws that favour climate-friendly cars over gas guzzlers.”