The big news out of the global climate summit is that Donald Trump didn't blow it up.

Want to know what else happened?

Here's the roundup from the only Canadian media outlet on the scene at this year's international climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany.

  • Donald Trump didn't blow it up
  • Canada triggered a revolt against coal
  • The Montreal Protocol may save us 0.5 degrees
  • Financing for developing countries is in limbo
  • There was bare minimum progress towards a "rulebook" to implement the Paris agreement
  • Canada aligns with America's 'We are still in' delegation

Donald Trump didn't blow it up

President Trump announced the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris agreement earlier this year. And true to form, the American delegation's only public event in Bonn was a much-jeered promotional event for nuclear power and fossil fuels such as coal.

But while many expected Trump's team to interfere with international negotiations at the conference, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks told reporters during a news conference on Nov. 17 that the official White House delegation played a neutral and constructive role in Bonn.

This allowed countries to make some progress in reaching a consensus that will allow them to make progress on key issues such as gender equity and Indigenous rights.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada has followed international negotiations closely for several years and agreed that the White House played a low key role in Bonn.

“I think what that means is the U.S. isn’t blowing anything up,” Abreu said in an interview on Nov. 17 in Bonn. “Some people were feeling concerned that given the attitude that the White House has to climate change and climate action, we might see a very particularly adversarial and obstructive role from the U.S. negotiators on the ground."

Of course, the members of Trump's delegation weren't the only Americans in town. There was also a separate U.S. contingent at the conference that appeared to outnumber and overshadow the White House's representatives.

There were more than 100 leaders in this rogue group. They came from U.S. states, cities and businesses to send a message: "We are still in."

Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada and Erin Flanagan, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute, speak to National Observer managing editor Mike De Souza on the sidelines of the UN climate change talks on Nov. 17, 2017 in Bonn, Germany. National Observer video

Canada triggers an anti-Trump revolt

In Bonn, Canada used the summit to lead a charge against Trump's pro-coal message.

Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna took centre stage, with British Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry Claire Perry, spearheading a global coalition to phase out coal-powered electricity before 2030. Coal is one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas pollution as well as air pollution linked to severe and life-threatening health problems.

"The markets have moved on, the world has moved on, coal is not coming back," McKenna said on Nov. 16. "That's really the message we heard here, over and over, in Bonn."

More than 25 governments joined the coalition to power past coal, including at least two American states.

Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speak to reporters in Bonn, Germany on Nov. 17, 2017. File photo by Mike De Souza

But the summit’s host didn't join. Germany is struggling to negotiate a coalition government following elections this fall. Barbara Hendricks, the German environment minister, said at a news conference on Friday that it was unlikely that Germany could meet the 2030 target.

In addition to showing leadership abroad, Canada must also show leadership at home, argued Erin Flanagan, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank based in Calgary. Flanagan said it's critical that Canada stick to the 2030 deadline, and not allow provinces to continue burning coal past the deadline.

Four provinces currently have coal in their energy mix — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Ontario has already succeeded in phasing out its coal power plants. Alberta expects to phase out its remaining plants well before 2030, while the other provinces are negotiating agreements with Ottawa.

Flanagan said the federal government needs to share its expertise and funding to help provinces stick to that timeline and lock in clean energy, instead of locking in more fossil fuel consumption.

"We can't claim international leadership if we, at home, are letting our policies slip," Flanagan said. "There is a risk, but I think the announcement (in Bonn) demonstrates that Canada is really serious about this timeline."

McKenna and the Canadian delegation also played a strong role in helping the summit reach a consensus on a Gender Action Plan and the Indigenous and Local Community Climate Platform.

Both initiatives promote a greater role in all countries for women and Indigenous people in reaching decisions and developing policies, while recognizing that they are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna speaks to National Observer in Bonn, Germany on Nov. 14, 2017 about the Gender Action Plan at international climate change negotiations as well as efforts to improve government policies. Video by National Observer

Montreal Protocol may save us 0.5 degrees

Another important development in Bonn could help prevent up to 0.5°C of warming before the end of the century, according to the United Nations.

It was triggered when countries agreed to implement an amendment to the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances that cracks down on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

This substance, primarily used in air conditioning and refrigeration, is an ozone-depleting substance that also happens to be a powerful greenhouse gas.

The conference was told that the amendment, originally introduced in Kigali, Rwanda in October 2016, would soon come into force because the magic number of 20 countries had accepted the deal.

Financing for developing countries in limbo

The biggest question mark hanging over the Bonn negotiations was how to pay for the billions of dollars in costs associated with adapting to climate change and helping prevent it from getting out of hand.

This is one of the areas where the Trump administration did slow down progress, according to Catherine Abreu, and others who were inside the negotiating rooms. Trump had scoffed at offering any more international aid money, and this was one of the areas where the official U.S. delegation raised objections in Germany.

Other developed countries like Canada didn't do as much as they could have done to counter this obstruction, Abreu explained:

“What we’re seeing in a number of areas where the U.S. is being somewhat oppositional, is that other developed countries aren’t necessarily siding with the U.S., but they’re also not differentiating themselves from the U.S."

Countries have set a goal of mobilizing $100 billion in the Green Climate Fund by 2020 as part of the Paris Agreement. Some of this money would come directly from governments as well as from private companies. But there's a long way to go to achieve this target.

The fund raised about $10 billion in 2014, and it allocated about $1.5 billion for a variety of projects in 2016, according to its website. The Obama administration contributed about $1 billion to the fund in separate payments in 2016 and 2017.

Canada has pledged to invest about $277 million. Ottawa is on record promising $2.65 billion in international commitments over five years for climate change financing.

'Bare minimum' accomplished to finalize Paris agreement rulebook

Under the 2015 Paris agreement, each of the 197 countries was asked to submit a list of fossil fuel-reducing commitments they intend to keep as part of their end of the agreement.

But they haven't set up a framework to track progress. So the next step is to complete a rulebook for the Paris deal to spell out exactly how countries intend to keep their promises and strengthen them.

"A lot of good work has been done, but it’s basically the bare minimum of what needed to happen to have the Paris rulebook ready for (next year),” said Canadian Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who stayed up all night watching developments as the conference concluded.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May speaks to National Observer's Mike De Souza on the sidelines of UN climate change negotiations on Nov. 15, 2017 in Bonn, Germany. Video by National Observer

Canada aligns with America's 'We are still in' delegation

At the Bonn summit, the rogue U.S. delegation set up their own tents and a pavilion called the U.S. Climate Action Center. They drew large crowds and attempted to broker their own side deals and bilateral agreements with other national and sub-national governments. Taking a stand against the Trump administration, this U.S. alliance says it is "still in" the Paris agreement and wants to accelerate efforts to fight climate change.

Canada allied with that U.S. alliance, along with Mexico, forming a coalition that pledged to strengthen their climate change policies. Unofficially, this group is now part of the resistance against Trump's climate and energy policies.

And even the Terminator, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the conference, using one of his best known lines to deliver a message to fossil fuel companies.

Former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, delivers one of his most famous movie lines as he discusses how his administration defeated oil and coal companies in a referendum about legislation that was designed to make them pay for pollution. National Observer video

Several Canadian provinces also sent senior officials including Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. California and Quebec have already adopted a joint system requiring polluters to pay for their emissions through a market-based approach that is commonly described as a cap and trade system.

Ontario has already agreed to bring its industries into this market in the new year, while others such as Washington, Oregon, and Nova Scotia said in Bonn that they might also join.

The subnational governments say they are on the front lines of the battle against climate change and have all the tools to implement solutions. Now, they say, it's up to the rest of the world to follow.

Investigative journalism has never been more important. Will you help?

Subscribe

Comments

Today's must read