Written by: Kai Sin Lim
Edited by: Yun Qiu Wong and Kieran Li Nair
Bonn Climate Conference (SB58)
From 5 to 15 June 2023, the 58th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as the Bonn Climate Conference (SB58), brought together more than 4,800 participants from most of the Parties at the World Conference Center Bonn (WCCB) in Bonn, Germany. The aim of the intersessionals is to prepare draft decisions for adoption at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP) which will be held in Dubai in December 2023.
As a Malaysian youth and a Focal Point of the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD), I am devoted to climate diplomacy and action. It has been an honour to be granted a badge by Climate Action Network Southeast Asia (CANSEA) to represent CANSEA and MYD at SB58. I also want to thank the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia as well as the general public for their financial support in order for me to attend SB58. This has been a valuable opportunity for me to gain first-hand experience in climate negotiations and policy-making, and I have developed a better understanding of the complicated issues at stake.
Kai Sin’s role in the Bonn Climate Conference (SB58)
At SB58, I represented Malaysian youth at the Intersessionals and followed the topics of Just Transition, Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), and Human Rights. In order to bridge the gap between government representatives and youth for collective climate action, I had the opportunity to share the experience of engagement with different stakeholders and emphasised the importance of youth inclusion at the ACE Focal Point Academy table, which was primarily made up of adults.
To foster international collaboration, I connected with government officials, NGO representatives, youth, and various stakeholders from different countries to enhance knowledge transfer and strengthen collective initiatives in climate diplomacy. Collaborations have been successfully developed with certain organisations to provide opportunities for MYD members to learn more about climate conferences and to lead the MYD’s COP home team in better preparing for the conference.
Overall, I will be sharing my observations and takeaways from the negotiations of the work programme to achieve just transition pathways and ACE that I have actively followed on.
Photo taken with Malaysia’s youth delegate and government officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change (NRECC), the Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR), Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI)
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines “Just Transition” as the transformation of a low-carbon economy and economic system in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the climate transition may result in the loss of at least 80 million jobs, and this will happen amid rising inequality, unemployment, and poverty. Just transition emphasises creating more green job opportunities, boosting green economic growth while also benefiting a wider group of communities. Just transition urges the protection of workers, especially minority and vulnerable groups, to ensure that they do not get left behind as the world moves away from carbon-intensive practices. Therefore, this agenda item is extremely important as it is closely related to climate justice and human rights.
At the same time, just transition extends beyond employment issues to include the just energy transition. As fossil fuels are the primary driver of climate change, accounting for more than 75% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, just energy transition highlights one of the most important mitigation measures for limiting the increase to 1.5°C. It also ensures the transition into greater use of renewable energy, energy storage, and other green industries, at the same time providing communities with significant economic and social opportunities.
One of the most significant outcomes from the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh was the Just Transition Work Programme (JTWP) to enhance a solid, equitable, and rights-based just transition. This work programme was also one of the agenda items at the Bonn Climate Conference.
There was a huge bifurcation between developing countries and developed countries. Developed countries took a firm stance in favour of keeping the work programme in a broader scope, believing that just transition needs to be nationally determined as it would differ according to the local context. They believe that domestic policy is essential while the work programme should primarily serve as a platform or workshop to enhance knowledge transfer between parties. On the other hand, developing countries stand for a more particular work programme that focuses on a just transition that is affiliated with the just energy transition. Developing countries also raised concerns about widening economic gaps between developed and developing countries due to the lack of climate finance and technology to support just transition implementation in developing countries.
During the negotiations, developing countries also emphasised that equity and justice must be central to just transition pathways. Besides that, despite all the arguments over the contents of the work programme, most parties believed that this work programme should be time bounded to contribute effectively to the Global Stocktake (GST) and ultimately the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), but they had a massive fight on the duration of the work programme, with advocates for 2, 3, 4 and even 5 years.
Although the negotiations ran overtime, this work programme was one of the outstanding agenda items which led to the extension of the consultations due to the bifurcation between parties on the final decisions.
However, it is heartening to see Non-Party stakeholders’ involvement at the negotiation table, as YOUNGO (the officially youth constituency of the UNFCCC) and environmental NGOs (ENGOs) intervened to elevate the importance of the inclusion of Observer Constituencies and other Non-Party stakeholders for meaningful input, engagement and support of progress towards a just transition.
Although we recognise that a rapid and equitable transition away from fossil fuels is essential to meet the 1.5°C target, putting an immediate halt to fossil fuels is not realistic. Therefore, we have to advocate for a clear roadmap and inclusive policies towards the phase-out of fossil fuels. Different countries are facing different challenges and opportunities in transitioning to a clean energy economy. Just transition pathways should be tailored to the national and/or local context, taking into account social considerations such as job creation, community development, economic diversification, re-skilling and poverty alleviation.
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE): Enhancing monitoring, evaluation, and reporting (MER)
I was nominated by the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change (NRECC) to attend the ACE Focal Point Academy alongside Farhana Shukor, a Malaysian youth representing the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition (LDYC), as representatives of Malaysian youth. The workshop was organised by the UNFCCC and the ACE team.
ACE is a term adopted by the UNFCCC to denote work under Article 6 of the Convention (1992) and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement. It focuses on implementing climate education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and enhancing international cooperation. All parties are empowered to engage in climate actions. The academy focused on the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Reporting (MER) of national ACE strategies, youth engagement, as well as steps forward at the national level, which are crucial for ensuring accountability and progress in ACE implementation.
UNFCCC and the ACE team recognise youth as an important ACE stakeholder, with the additional acknowledgement that better engagement with youth would help achieve climate goals. The need to respect youth’s climate knowledge, passion and perspective, as well as to include youth participation in climate policies, was highlighted to bridge intergenerational gaps. Youth participation includes capacity building initiatives, communication mechanisms, network forging, as well as partnerships.
During the discussion, we found that the challenge of youth in ACE MER is primarily due to the perception that youth lack technical climate expertise. However, increasing the quality of ACE implementation and engagement opportunities would help with easing this obstacle.
As we explored the challenges of youth participation in ACE MER, small roundtable discussions were also organised to discuss its planning, implementation, engagement, and monitoring indicators.
Farhana and I communicated the importance of enhancing engagement with key stakeholders in ACE, including youth, local communities, and vulnerable groups. This can be achieved by conducting consistent information-sharing sessions, in-depth dialogues, and formal consultations. We believe that youths play a vital role in contributing to ACE and ACE MER by bringing diverse points of view and knowledge onto the table, while also aligning ACE with on-the-ground activities to help consolidate solid implementation plans.
The main takeaway from SB58
SB58 was an important step toward COP28, stressing the urgency of addressing climate concerns while also emphasising the need for greater ambition and collaboration among all stakeholders.
A key takeaway for me was the importance of translating international climate issues into a local context to engage Malaysian youth. As youth delegates, we must identify significant agenda issues pertinent to Malaysia and advocate for the benefits of our country while directing positive change. To secure a sustainable future, it is crucial that we continue building upon existing accomplishments, raising our voices to fight for revolutionary change.
Photo taken with Malaysia’s youth delegates at SB58
Once again, I would like to extend my gratitude to Climate Action Network Southeast Asia (CANSEA) for providing me with a badge to join SB58, and express my thanks to the general public, especially WWF Malaysia, who financially sponsored my journey to SB58. As a follow-up to my work at SB58, I will continue to follow the discussions on the work programme on a just transition pathway in COP28 as well as contribute proactively to the climate space to build an equitable, fair, and sustainable future for all.
The way forward to COP28
As the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) is just around the corner, I hope it will lay a strong foundation and provide a roadmap for all parties to deliver a commitment to a rapid and equitable phase-out of fossil fuel, while simultaneously setting clear and ambitious goals for renewable energy deployments and energy efficiencies. However, with many challenges and obstacles ahead, including the backlash of the COP28 presidency, the outcomes for COP28 are still uncertain.
Since 2015, the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) has played an active role in supporting Malaysian youth delegates to COP as representatives. Therefore, I’m excited to announce that I will be physically attending the coming COP! Regardless of the challenges, MYD has set clear strategies and objectives for the coming COP28. We are open to various modes of collaboration to support our delegation to COP28. Click here to find out more about our goals in the coming COP28. Feel free to get in touch with us through email@example.com.
UNFCCC. Katowice Committee of Experts on Impact of Implementation of Response Measures (KCI) (2023). Implementation of just transition and economic diversification strategies: a compilation of best practices from different countries. https://unfccc.int/documents/624596
InternationalLabour Organization (ILO). (2023) Achieving a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_876568.pdf
UNFCCC. Action for Climate Empowerment: https://unfccc.int/topics/education-and-youth/big-picture/ACE
United Nations. Causes and Effects of Climate Change: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/causes-effects-climate-change#:~:text=Fossil%20fuels%20%E2%80%93%20coal%2C%20oil%20and,they%20trap%20the%20sun%27s%20heat