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From Bonn to Baku: Finding success in a geopolitically challenged year for climate action

June 13, 2024

As climate negotiators wrap up meetings this week in Bonn to lay the groundwork for COP29 negotiations in November, geopolitical and economic fragmentation continue to complicate multilateral climate action. Worsening trade disputes, ongoing conflicts across regions, and persistent inflation in major economies—during a year in which more than half the global population will vote in democratic elections—are driving uncertainty in the energy transition and making international climate action more challenging.  

Yet these challenges make international cooperation doubly important, and success at COP29 will require governments to focus their efforts on a key set of objectives within the negotiations and also pursue climate action outside of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) process. 

Prioritizing for impact at COP29: Key themes for Bonn and Baku 

Despite the challenges faced by negotiators in Bonn, COP29 is expected to feature a landmark new agreement on climate finance, calls for renewed ambition in countries’ Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs), and increased scrutiny of the commitments and roles of major oil and gas producers.  

A year after the first Global Stocktake showed that the world is falling far short of its climate targets, eyes will be on Baku to see how governments respond. To maximize impact and progress, COP29 must focus on the issues most critical to achieving global climate targets and ensuring the implementation of previous COP commitments: 

  • Finance: Reaching an agreement on a new collective quantified goal for international climate finance will be the priority at COP29. Beyond goals, however, governments must outline credible and scalable strategies and solutions to close the global climate financing gap, which is estimated to be between $4.5 to $10 trillion dollars per year. Emerging and developing economies (EMDEs) are most challenged due to limited capital supply, high cost of capital, and competing demands for capital from economic and social needs. EMDEs are estimated to require at least double to quadruple today’s level of clean energy investment, an estimate that does not include adaptation or other development goals. Fault lines will abound—around the level of finance promised, which countries are included as contributors, and mechanisms to ensure delivery. 
  • Methane abatement: The Global Methane Pledge has been one of the major successes of recent COPs, with over 150 countries pledged since COP26 and over $1 billion in new grant money raised at COP28 to support mitigation efforts. Azerbaijan hosting COP29 will again bring a focus to oil and gas methane leaks and flaring, and to the Central Asian region, which has seen some of the worst methane leaks ever recorded. COP29 should support the delivery of additional finance, policies, and projects to drive methane mitigation. 
  • Oil and gas: Following on major commitments through the Oil and Gas Charter and the Global Decarbonization Alliance at COP28, COP29 should look to expand commitments to international standards for emissions monitoring and reporting and establish a clearer sense of shared responsibility between producing and consuming states. Building on COP28’s landmark agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, focus is likely to shift toward phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies—in line with an agreement from COP26—but that political flashpoint should not distract from also enabling the technologies and financing necessary to rapidly cutting emissions from energy supply chains. 
  • Empower emerging economies and regional solutions: COP29 must elevate a global discussion of how different regions and countries can achieve mutually beneficial partnerships to advance development and decarbonization, after COP28 recognized the need for region-centric visions. Focusing on the development and implementation of region-centric energy transition plans to 2030, as well as the capabilities needed to prepare and deliver those plans, will be especially important. Just as there will be no silver bullet technology, there will also be no one-size-fits-all decarbonization strategy. Importantly, COP29 can embrace momentum from COP27 and COP28 to create a more development-centered climate finance system and recognize developing countries as co-equal voices in climate action, with unique opportunities and capacities as producers of clean energy, rather than as policy and technology “consumers.” 
  • Enable critical technology partnerships: The rapid commercialization and diffusion of decarbonizing technologies is essential to achieving global climate targets, and impossible without strong international collaboration. Yet geopolitical and economic tensions—and their impacts on trade and supply chains—risk limiting technological partnerships and slowing the diffusion of technologies across borders and regions. COP29 should support innovation partnerships and enshrine the diffusion of clean energy technologies as a goal that must persist through economic tension. Part of doing so requires leveraging and enabling current technological agreements and pledges—such as those on carbon management technologies and nuclear energy—and establishing agreements to accelerate the development and deployment of other key technologies such as superhot rock geothermal and fusion energy. Another key consideration will be strengthening the supply of key inputs for the energy transition, such as critical minerals, by supporting the development of key resources and supply chains. 

Missing regional climate weeks 

Unfortunately, a critical mechanism for advancing these priorities is unavailable this year: the 2024 regional climate weeks were cancelled due to resource constraints. Regional climate weeks have become a critical instrument for generating more effective climate cooperation and for empowering countries that have historically been sidelined at global conferences and that are also the most impacted by climate change.  

Each region faces a unique set of opportunities, challenges, and resources in the energy transition, and regional infrastructure solutions will be necessary to efficiently address climate change. The cancellation is especially disappointing after the COP28 negotiated decision’s landmark recognition that different regions will have different timelines and pathways toward net-zero.  

While targets can be set in global negotiations, many solutions will need to be regional. There is a risk that without opportunities to explore regional solutions and elevate the perspectives of more countries, the COP process will fail to produce durable, equitable solutions this year. 

Looking beyond the UNFCCC and COP 

To counter that risk, it is imperative that governments renew efforts to advance climate action outside of the UNFCCC process through bilateral and regional collaboration on technology development, infrastructure, and finance. In fact, many of the landmark accomplishments of recent COPs require such cooperation, including the Global Methane Pledge, the agreement to triple renewable energy capacity, and major technological agreements outside the negotiations, including the Carbon Management Challenge and pledge to triple nuclear energy generation.  

Where shifting supply chains and deglobalization offer challenges to global climate action, they may also offer opportunities for countries to strengthen collaboration with key regional partners and to forge new partnerships. Those opportunities must be taken. If climate action cannot adapt to fit and support new geopolitical realities, it will fail. 

Achieving global climate targets was always going to require cooperation in the face of tension and conflict. And if the window for consensus-based action through COP is narrowed by that tension, governments must find other avenues to enhance cooperation and redefine climate action as a key piece of geopolitical and economic strategy, rather than a luxury. This may be the year to prove that it is possible. 

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