The final round of preliminary climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany came to a close Friday without much consensus on some of the most pressing issues, including cementing wealthy nations' financial commitments to guarantee assistance for developing nations grappling with the impacts of global warming.
The talks in Bonn represented the last chance for United Nations (UN) member states to settle on a draft climate treaty ahead of the upcoming COP21 talks in Paris, where leaders will finalize a global agreement on curbing global warming.
Without substantial progress, climate advocacy groups said Friday, frontline communities around the globe face imminent threats.
"The deplorable inaction at the climate negotiations is a calamity for people across the world," said Dipti Bhatnagar, Friends of the Earth International's climate justice and energy coordinator. "We are facing a planetary emergency with floods, storms, droughts and rising seas causing devastation. The risk of irreversible climate change draws ever closer, and hundreds of thousands of people have already paid with their lives."
As the talks concluded, delegates expressed ongoing concerns that wealthy nations were still attempting to foist their aid obligations onto independent financiers like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which the Group of 77 (G77) plus China coalition of developing nations said was an underhanded attempt to evade financial responsibilities at any cost—even if it meant derailing the entire treaty process.
Mattias Söderberg, chair of the ACT Alliance climate change advisory group, told Deutsche Welle the pace of the talks was frustrating and disappointing.
"From our perspective, where we work with those who are affected by climate change, the progress is far from enough," Söderberg said. "Parties need to leave their comfort zones, to look for common understanding. Now they stay in their corners, sticking to old positions."
Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, added, "We need a fair agreement, a fair process and fair shares of climate action. What we have on the negotiation table now is increased effort by more than 140 developing countries but it won’t avoid catastrophic climate change unless rich countries have a dramatic change of heart. We need rich countries to urgently commit to do their fair share."
The draft agreement that came out of Bonn was still riddled with "technical disagreements" and was unlikely to provide much guidance to minsters during the Paris talks, Söderberg said.
"An example is on loss and damage [where adaptation to climate change is no longer possible]. Some rich countries want to cut it out, while developing countries, led by LDCs [least developed countries] and small islands, want to include ambitious text. There is no middle ground," he said.
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Harjeet Singh, climate policy manager for ActionAid, said the week's events showed "there is still a mountain to climb before a deal emerges on the horizon at the Paris summit in December."
"It seems that the [European Union] forgot its claim of standing together with the world's poor and vulnerable," Singh added. "For months it has remained undecided on how the Paris deal will help poor communities already being battered by climate change. The EU hangs at the threshold dithering on whether and how it should go out and help the people in the storm."
G77 delegates have asserted that the rift was not simply a disagreement between ministers—it was a matter of life and death. "It is not a photo opportunity; it is not an instagram or selfie moment. It is a reality we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis," said G77 chair and South African climate envoy Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko.
"Whether Paris succeeds or not will depend on what we have as part of the core agreement on finance," she said during a press conference Thursday.
Jamie Henn, strategy and communications director for climate advocacy group 350.org, reported from Bonn on Friday that the week had been "frustrating" for climate ministers and that many disagreements remained over the "level of ambition" by world leaders to move away from fossil fuels and financial support for developing countries.
He also said there were "huge preparations under way" for direct actions outside of the COP21 summit, including marches and other demonstrations around the world.
"No matter where you are, you can play a huge role in this movement by continuing to keep pressure up for strong action in Paris and beyond.... The only way we're going to see progress is with a strong grassroots movement that can take on the power of the fossil fuel industry," he said.
Scherbarth added, "People will have the last word in Paris. But the demonstrations in Paris will not be the end. The struggle will continue, as it must, because the job will not be done in Paris."
Watch Henn's video below: