Earlier this year, five students from our MSc Climate Change Finance & Investment (CCFI) Programme travelled to Bonn, Germany, for the Bonn Climate Change Conference held under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Over the course of two weeks, they each had the chance to observe three days at the conference through the University of Edinburgh. We caught up with Aiesha, Chris, Luisa, Seb and Serin to find out more about their experience.
United Nations Climate Change Conference, Bonn 2023

What inspired you to attend this conference?

Luisa: “The Bonn Climate Change Conference, also commonly referred to as the Bonn intersessional, is held annually in preparation for the UN’s main climate conference – the COP (Conference of the Parties). We thought attending it would be an excellent opportunity to see how the frameworks and policies for global climate action are negotiated and developed after learning so much about them in class. While the Bonn intersessional is typically more focused on the technicalities of climate change diplomacy, there were several discussions and negotiations about using finance to combat climate change, making it relevant to our programme.

We were permitted by the University to attend this conference thanks to the CCFI programme’s Student Professional Development Budget, which allows students to participate in activities that enhance their professional development.”

Tell us about the Conference schedule?

Luisa: “The Conference schedule was extremely busy. There were many sessions facilitated by negotiators and representatives of respective countries and side events held by think-tanks, NGOs and academics on topics ranging from funding for Loss & Damage, the Global Stocktake (GST), Just Transition, the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) and more. This made the schedule quite difficult to navigate and sometimes feeling like we were missing out on important things happening elsewhere.”

MSc Climate Change Finance & Investment students (2022-23) standing outside at the Bonn Climate Conference 2023

What were your observations during the sessions?

Seb: “One negotiation I witnessed stood out to me because I think it is representative of many other negotiations. It was about setting a date to discuss the methodological issues on the greenhouse gas data portal. By all accounts, this was not a very important negotiation, however, over the hour-long meeting there was a refusal to cooperate from both sides.

After discussing the matter with delegates from Kenya and India I learned that this was extremely common. Many negotiations struggle to come to conclusions due to the inability for agreement on the bigger ticket items, especially finance.”

Chris: “Pushing towards an agreement on a global level felt daunting as an observer. You almost wished to chime in and push the conversation along at a faster pace, especially when understanding the urgency of climate change. While the damage inflicted by climate change doesn’t discriminate and impacts nations globally, the reality is that each country has its own agenda and seeing this unfold in person was quite frustrating.”

Aiesha: ”I was struck by how methodical everything was. I also never considered how legally-correct the language of the UN needed to be to maintain diplomacy. It was certainly cool to witness, but it has made me wonder how conducive such a bureaucratic process is to making decisions on time sensitive issues like global climate action.”

Has attending this conference influenced your career interests or aspirations?

Aiesha: “Since completing the taught component of the CCFI programme, I have become extremely interested in the Global South’s access to and utilisation of finance to address climate change. Attending the conference allowed me to see the practical applications of what we have learned in class and has allowed me to learn about the roles and skill sets required in this line of work.”

Chris: “Attending this conference gave me a better insight into how the public sector works. While taking into account that highest level of bureaucracy, I am motivated to become part of the workforce either in the public or private sector because action is needed especially from a finance perspective.”

The Bonn Climate Conference 2023 auditorium

Would you recommend this opportunity to future CCFI students?

Serin: “I’m really grateful for this opportunity to meet influential stakeholders in Bonn, participating in the biggest current debates on climate solutions. As a Masters student in climate finance, this conference was one of my most memorable experiences. Though I learned about climate finance in lectures and articles on my programme, I found that watching live negotiations was a completely different experience. It helped me to better understand the whole decision-making process.

I would definitely recommend other students participate in this conference, especially if you are keen to have a real-life insight into international climate finance.”

Aiesha Joseph, Chris Kina, Luisa Weber, Sebastien Engelmann and Serin Oh are MSc Climate Change Finance & Investment students (2022-23).

Photos: UNFCCC Flickr