(c) Melanie Coath (RSPB)

 Today’s blog is written by Melanie Coath, Principal Policy Officer, reporting on the Bonn climate talks taking place over the last two weeks.


To give you a sense of what has taken place at the Bonn climate talks, what it meant for nature and how the RSPB has been engaging, here are three days in the life of our climate change lead, Melanie Coath, during the week she spent at the talks. 


You might remember all the fanfare around COP26, the global climate negotiations that took place in Glasgow in November last year. But did you know that the first set of climate talks since COP26 have been taking place this week, away from the eyes of the press and the glare of public scrutiny? 

The Bonn Climate Change Conference has been the first opportunity for all countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to meet since the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact at COP26 last year. In Glasgow, governments agreed a package of decisions that pave the way for full implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Here we report on this vital stepping stone from COP26 to COP27 in Egypt later this year.


Day 1

It’s great to be back in the Bonn UN Conference centre after 3 long pandemic years away. My first stop on arrival is to catch up on the latest intelligence on the negotiations in the daily NGO Political Coordination Group meeting. Feeling well briefed, I enthusiastically accept the opportunity to meet with Alok Sharma, COP President and the UK head of delegation lead. I share with him our desire to see concrete progress in anchoring the excellent nature outcomes achieved at COP26 in the Mitigation Work Programme countries are discussing here in Bonn. This is essentially looking to substantially increase countries efforts in tackling the causes of the climate emergency.

Next a chance to check in with the UK Government contacts working on nature and dive into the detail. The UK still holds the Presidency of the climate talks until November so plays a neutral role in the negotiations but we share with them our reflections on what opportunities we see here in Bonn and what needs to happen over the next couple of years.

After lunch, I co-chair a meeting of the group of NGOs working on nature in the negotiations. We share our intelligence from meeting negotiators and plot our strategy for the week. Later on, my colleague at BirdLife International hosts an excellent side event along with our Egyptian BirdLife partner, Nature Conservation Egypt. This is on how to support both wildlife and local communities in Africa via nature-based solutions to climate change and renewable energy in harmony with nature.

As the event wraps up, we all have a chance to go for dinner, catch up with old friends and reacquaint ourselves with the city of Bonn.

BirdLife International and BirdLife Partner Nature Conservation Egypt on a side event about nature-based solutions (c) Melanie Coath, RSPB


Day 4

It’s the middle of the session and it is clear that a key game in town at this round of talks is the Global Stocktake. Let me explain. When the global climate agreement, the Paris Agreement, was reached, countries recognised that setting a goal to limit global warming was critical. However, they also agreed that equally important is checking if we’re on track to reach that goal. This is where the Global Stocktake comes in – by the end of 2023 a huge assessment (or stocktake!) will have taken place assessing everything countries are doing and evaluating if it’s enough. It will highlight where we need to do better, and where we need to address the gaps.

We have a clear message to share on this: protecting and restoring nature on land and sea will play a critical contribution to limiting temperature rises to 1.5ºC - and assessing how nature contributes to the Paris goals is critical for the Global Stocktake. However, as RSPB’s own research underlines, supporting and investing in nature’s role must be alongside, not instead of the urgently needed just transition away from fossil fuels and industrial agriculture. Some negotiators seem to be implying that relying on exotic forest plantations or biofuels are a key part of the answer. Not only these plantation can harm wildlife they are also unproven as climate solutions and often fail to protect human rights and development needs.

To get these messages across, we write an article for the NGO newsletter ECO on this, emphasising these points in meetings with key land use negotiators, including from the EU, and ensure this is featured in an official NGO intervention on the floor of the talks.


Day 7

It’s the second to last day in the conference centre and it’s a busy one! In the Mitigation Work Programme progress has stalled: rather than agreeing shared conclusions, a number of countries are pushing for an outcome that means that the discussions that have taken place that means 2 weeks of negotiations are barely acknowledged or perhaps dismissed entirely. Do they really want to start all over again in Egypt at COP27?! The politics are complex and all sides have their reasons but the lack of progress is intensely frustrating. In the Global Stocktake discussions, there is considerably more enthusiasm and, fortunately, general agreement in the room that significant progress has been made. 

The RSPB’s Melanie Coath outside the UN Conference Centre at the Bonn Climate Talks (c) Melanie Coath, RSPB


It’s been a big week and we have been working hard to influence the process and embed the role of nature in the new programmes of work following the high-level wins at COP26. But in the light of the latest science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) progress can seem painfully slow and the politics tortuous.

There is still a lot more that needs to be agreed but more informal meetings have been planned and we are at least seeing some momentum on the road to COP27 at Sharm el-Sheikh in November this year.


Further reading:

RSPB Nature Based Solutions webpage 

RSPB Nature and Climate Change webpage