This Friday, Nov. 17, the 197 countries which took part in the United Nations negotiations on climate change concluded another round of talks on the Paris climate agreement. The agreement signed in 2015 in the French capital provides that we cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming. This time, the climate conference was held in Bonn, Germany — and it was the first big climate reunion since President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw his country from the agreement.
Despite Trump's strong rhetoric against adopting measures to fight climate change, the American delegation was not the center of attention. The United States went to Bonn with a smaller delegation compared to previous years, and participated more discretely than in the past. However, the delegation did not create any obstacles during the negotiations. "This year's conference showed that the negotiations are still on track, with or without the United States," said Maureen Santos, social-environmental justice coordinator at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, who observed the negotiations.
According to Santos, America’s exit will not affect the integrity of the deal. The question now is whether the Paris climate agreement will be capable of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (approximately 36 degrees Fahrenheit) without the American government's involvement. The good news is that there is strong participation from other sectors of American society, such as state and municipal governments, businesses, and civil society. These groups attended the Bonn negotiations and asked to take part as if they represented a country. The Trump administration, however, will continue being a part of the negotiations for the time being. According to the agreement's rules, Trump can only officially withdraw from the deal in 2020.
Brazil, on the other hand, experienced moments of contradiction during the negotiations. The country still plays a fundamental role in the diplomatic aspects of the agreement and is a good negotiator on behalf of the important issues. The Brazilian government presented a proposal to host the 2019 Climate Conference and presented numbers highlighting a reduction in the Amazon rainforest deforestation. But none of this was enough to prevent criticism of the way President Michel Temer is conducting domestic policy.
"Brazil was strongly questioned during the negotiations," says Carlos Rittl, executive secretary at Observatório do Clima (Climate Observatory), a network of nongovernmental organizations involved with climate change. "Executive Order 795 was starkly criticized, and so were the energy plans for the next 10 years, in which it is predicted that 70 percent of Brazil's investment will be in fossil fuels." Executive Order 785 establishes subsidies for fossil fuels such as oil and gas. The burning of fossil fuels is the leading cause of the increase in the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere, which results in climate change. During the last week of negotiations, Brazil was chosen as the recipient of the "Fossil of the Day" prize, a sarcastic award given by activists to countries that stand in the way of the climate negotiations.
Despite these issues, this year's Climate Conference was generally more bureaucratic. Since Paris in 2015, countries have worked hard to make the deal work. Thus, there are no big political conflicts. Three documents were published at the end of the conference. The first is a draft of the rules of the Paris climate agreement, the second concerns the goals established before the agreement, and the third is a conversation about increasing the level of ambition in the future. "Everything the conference promised was delivered. But we still couldn't translate this into a reduction of emissions or financial resources, which are the most important issues," says Rittl. These issues probably will only be defined at the 2020 conference.