Over the next two weeks, governments will meet in Bonn, Germany, for the latest round of climate change negotiations held under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These talks are pivotal to the success of COP21 in Paris, which is expected to culminate in a new international climate change agreement. BSR’s climate team is in Bonn and will report out via the BSR blog and Twitter.

Over the coming fortnight, we will be watching these negotiations with the hope that government leaders capitalize on the momentum for ambitious climate action that has been building among business and government leaders. In particular, we hope to see negotiators begin crafting a policy that provides both the certainty business needs and the ambition required to meet our 2°C goal.

There is an old saying in UN circles that diplomacy is the “art of building bridges for others to cross.” At their best, UN negotiations are acts of construction, with different stakeholders coming together to build bridges for mutual benefit. This spirit has often been lost inside the UNFCCC, with some rounds of discussions characterized by hostile parties yelling at each other across wide canyons. This is about to change. The government representatives gathering in Bonn are committed to using this time together to reach an ambitious and inclusive global climate agreement at the end of the year.

The recent Business and Climate Summit helped generate this momentum. Meeting in Paris May 20 and 21, 25 business networks working with companies from more than 130 countries pledged to lead the global transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. They further called on governments to build the enabling environment for this economy through smart policies that encourage private-sector finance, establish robust and predictable carbon pricing, and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Importantly, they also called on all governments to commit to achieving net zero emissions well before the end of the century.

Governments are similarly driving momentum through the development and submission of so-called “intended nationally determined contributions,” or INDCs, which UNFCCC Executive Director Christiana Figueres has usefully called “carbon-management plans.” These outline both the scale and methods of emissions reductions planned within countries. The United States has already come forward with a commitment to reduce its GHG emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels during the next decade, while the European Union has announced ambitious plans to reduce emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. By the end of June, as much as 70 percent of global emissions are expected to be covered by INDCs.

During this session, negotiators must use this momentum to construct the key elements of the Paris agreement—a policy that must provide both the certainty business craves and the ambition science demands.

To provide this, the core agreement must signal long-term decarbonization to set the direction of capital investment and provide the means to achieve this decarbonization. To this end, business is calling on governments to use this session in Bonn to:

  • Set a global objective of net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century, which will set the direction of investment and which business can operationalize alongside government.
  • Establish a five-year cycle of commitments that repeatedly pushes the global emissions trajectory down toward our 2°C goal.
  • Align this cycle of commitments with IPCC reporting to ensure that governments are setting science-based targets capable of closing the emissions gap and responding to climate risk.
  • Create shared rules that ensure governments are held accountable for their commitments, emissions reductions are accurately accounted for, and progress toward the 2°C goal is clear to business, civil society, and the public. 

With roughly 30 days of negotiating time left and an 86-page negotiating text on the table, the time to capitalize on this momentum is now.