Some reflections on the Bonn Climate Change Conference 2023

In the past weeks, Parties (namely government delegations) prepared and advanced the discussions during the Bonn Climate Conference (SB58*) around multiple pressing climate issues that will be decided at the next Climate Conference (COP28), in Dubai. 


Fossil fuels phase-out denial 

Civil society organizations had higher expectations of the Bonn SB58 session for providing a strong roadmap for COP28 that raised ambition and tackled the key drivers of the climate crisis: fossil fuels.  

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides the best available science on climate, has outlined very clearly that we are not on track: no country is aligned with a trajectory of limiting warming of 1.5°C. The same report states that we have only until 2030 to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all, otherwise our actions will impact humanity now and the planet for thousands of years.  

The legitimacy, credibility, and transparency of the UNFCCC are at stake due to the corporate capture of this multilateral space based on the unacceptable increase of fossil fuel lobbyists in the discussions and negotiation rooms. A significant step has been taken by campaigners, activists, and UNFCCC right-holder constituencies as a triumph for accountability and transparency in the polluting industries: starting at COP28, everyone who attends the global climate talks must disclose whom they work for. Fossil fuel lobbyists will have to identify themselves – making this information publicly available online. 

Movements, coalitions, constituencies, citizens from all around the world are joining the global fight to end fossil fuels – fast, fair, and forever. The largest-ever, unbranded, and globally coordinated action to demand that governments end fossil fuels. Join the 15 & 17 of September with your own creative actions, speakouts, art installations, marches, protests, strikes, occupations, forums, gatherings, civil disobedience or digital mobilisations. 


The Global Stocktake (GST): Getting back to track with accountability and human rights 

GST is the mechanism of the Paris Agreement for assessing countries’ collective progress towards limiting global temperature rise to 1.5° C and to raise climate policy ambition. 

Unfortunately, although effective, feasible and affordable technology options already exist, we saw many Parties in Bonn reluctant to engage in an ambitious and inclusive political process for the GST, but instead promoting costly, unproven, and dangerous distractions. Examples of these are Geoengineering, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Solar Radiation Management, among other alternatives part of a “greening” of technological capitalism and colonialism that can thus hide deep inequity, injustice, and affect once again disproportionally communities that have contributed the least to the climate crisis.  

By COP28, GST outcomes must serve as a moment of accountability and enhanced national climate targets that will keep global warming below 1.5oC. Governments must translate commitments into: enhanced protection of environmental defenders; guidance and strengthening of human rights integration, promoting gender equality, intergenerational equity and ecosystem integrity; and a fair and funded phase-out of fossil fuels.  


A gender-just transition must be ensured 

One of the main outcomes of COP27 was the creation of a work program on Just Transition Pathways (JTWP) to look at how the transition to a low-emission and climate-resilient economy does not exacerbate inequalities further. At SB58, Parties met for the first time to give more structure to the JTWP.  

WECF, together with members of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC), participated as an observer to highlight and demand the integration of gender across the work program by conducting a feminist analysis that stresses the inclusion of care, domestic, and unpaid work, understanding the socially constructed roles and sectors which will be highly impacted by such transition.  

We celebrate that the informal note mentioned the respect and promotion of human rights, gender equality, and empowerment of women, and recognize the decision to invite observers to submit their views of the work program and to ensure broad participation on the workshop held before SB59.   

Collectively, we call for the JTWP to include gender-responsive approaches as a cross-cutting element in all its activities guided by the GAP, and to adopt robust, clear and equitable language on all fossil fuels phase-out in any decision, accompanied by obligations within agreements. 


Transforming climate finance 

in line with the importance of advocating for gender-just climate finance, we had the pleasure to host, together with Heinrich Böll Stiftung Washington D.C and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Land and Development the side event: “Transforming climate finance to uplift gender-just and inclusive climate action in the context of the Global Stocktake”.  

This event opened a dialogue among governments, practitioners, and grassroot organizations that discussed what a real feminist approach to climate development policies and financing looks like. Together, we highlighted the need to restructure financial mechanisms and fund structures to significantly improve the quality and quantity of gender-responsive climate finance, and to address the structural barriers that hinder local, indigenous women and feminist organisations from accessing climate funding.  



Although there were no formal negotiations on gender in Bonn, three major dialogues mandated by the COP were organised during the intersessional period aimed to explore opportunities for strengthening gender mainstreaming in national policies related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and making the link with other global governance agendas on the protection of biodiversity, the fight against desertification and disaster risk reduction.  

Gender budgeting in national policies as a means of strengthening gender equality in climate financing was one of the relevant dialogues – noting that there is still a great deal of progress to be made, as only 0.04% of all public climate-related aid (more than 33 billion dollars in 2018-2019) targeted gender equality as a main objective.  

The third dialogue brought together the chairs of the constituted bodies, the delegates from the States and the observers, to take stock of the progress made in integrating a gender perspective into their respective mandates. Although many of these bodies have adopted gender policies and action plans, much remains to be done for this to result in real changes in policy planning or action on the ground.  This requires overcoming the structural barriers that prevent women’s groups, including indigenous women, and all local organisations working for gender justice, from accessing the resources, decision-making bodies and funding that enable them to protect their human rights and scale up their climate action.  


Civic Space and Human Rights 

At the intersessional, courageous party delegates , specifically from the Mexican delegation, raised experiences of sexual harassment, including during COP27 and at the Bonn session, facing inappropriate bullying in response, undermining women’s voices, and experiences in this context. This raised the urgent need for the UNFCCC to prevent, protect and guarantee human rights, particularly women’s human rights.  

At the end of SB58, an unprecedented recognition of human rights was integrated into the discussions on Arrangements for Intergovernmental Meetings (AIM) committing to uphold human rights before, during and after COPs. This text notes that host country agreements should reflect obligations under international human rights law with a view to ensuring “all participants are effectively protected against any violations or abuses including harassment and sexual harassment.” 

In addition, right-holder constituencies from the UNFCCC stood firm in solidarity for human rights and justice, for those who have been silenced and imprisoned by defending our right to a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment! 


WECF together with the Women and Gender Constituency commits to engage actively in the next months and mobilize our community toward an ambitious outcome at COP28 that responds to the people and not the profit!


*It is the 58th session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI)