On Monday and Tuesday, two sessions of the working programme on just transition pathways or, to translate it, the pathways to a just transition took place.  

Monday’s session began with the announcement that one of the two chairs of the work programme, from Germany, will not continue his role as facilitator due to impending commitments with his home country incompatible with the role of chair, leaving the task of leading the work to the second co-facilitator from Zambia. One wonders if there is any relation to what happened later in the session. 

First, early Monday morning, at 7 am in Bonn, an informal note prepared by the co-facilitators on the goals and objectives of the working sessions was shared. The note recognised the importance of the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), cited Article 2.2 of the Paris Agreement and the principle of equity. Reference was made to human rights and the right to development; national circumstances and the importance of respecting different paths and speeds of development were mentioned. 

Finally, the note recognised the importance that a just transition does not result in the same structural inequalities that have led to such a high disparity in income and development between the global north and global south today. 

In practice, it is now clear that just transition pathways are recognised to have a global dimension, so developed countries must take the lead in demonstrating such transitions within their borders and help mobilise funding for the implementation of such pathways in developing countries, in accordance with Article 4.4. This is the same article cited by the LMDC negotiating group countries as we explained here. In fact, the note also refers to Article 2(1) of the Paris Agreement, a paragraph in which climate finance (‘financial flows consistent with a pathway to low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilience’) is mentioned. 

The informal note did, however, set off an uproar in the room. 

The US opened the discussion by loudly stating that it has no intention of accepting any decision in which the choice of words deviates from the ILO definition of just transition and the preamble of the Paris Agreement which mentions the concept of just transition (‘Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the labour force and the creation of decent and quality jobs, in accordance with nationally defined development priorities’). For the US, just transition is a domestic workforce issue and if any country disagrees, they should have said so at COP27, not in Bonn. For the US this workstream is not about climate justice, nor is it about climate finance. 

The Zambian co-chair responded to the US by saying that what is contained in the informal note reflects the mandate received in Sharm el Sheik. 

This was followed by a string of speeches from the UK, Australia, Canada, Japan and the EU, which supported the US position without exception and confirmed a united negotiating front of developed countries against the negotiating group of developing countries. The same political clash that is keeping the intermediate negotiations in chaos we talked about here. In general, the EU seems to support the position of the developed countries’ front, but less openly than the US, UK and other countries, limiting itself to technical comments on the text. 

The G77 negotiating group led by South Africa, on the other hand, fully supported the content of the informal note and the fundamental importance of linking the issue of climate finance to the discussion on just transition. A position reiterated by the LDCS group, Brazil, African countries, and Saudi Arabia. 

What emerges, then, are two united fronts between countries of the North and South, without the possibility of opening up to dialogue, a situation that is being repeated on several working steam at these intermediate negotiations as we have explained here

In addition, the tones were kept high with a direct accusation by Saudi Arabia towards the developed countries that are clamouring for a phase-out of fossil fuels but are the first not to translate their own demands into concrete action, continuing to burn fossil fuels. 

In short, there do not seem to be the best preconditions for reaching an agreement before the end of the interim negotiations scheduled for Thursday. 

Article by Margherita Barbieri, ICN Volunteer

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