Friday, December 19, 2014

World leaders have failed to safeguard the vulnerable countries | ClimateDev

By Quamrul Chowdhury, ClimateDev

Ministers and delegates from 196 countries, after many hurdles, adopted the Lima Call for Climate Action in the early hours of December 14. It sets a fragile course cutting back on global emissions and avoiding runaway climate change.

The Lima outcome also keeps lot of issues to be resolved and leaves many a questions unanswered prior to the 2015 treaty to be signed in Paris next December. The question of urgency, as dictated by the science, was most unfortunately ignored again in Lima.

History will tell whether the Lima Call for Climate Action would really help craft a robust, ambitious and equitable global agreement at the next UN climate conference, which will limit global warming to the agreed 2ºC rise above pre-industrial levels, preferably 1.5ºC.

But, definitely, Lima failed to rescue the most vulnerable countries from adverse impacts of climate change in the short-run, as enforcement of an early peaking period was glossed over. At the same time, climate-induced “loss and damage” was not mentioned in the operative paragraphs of the ADP decision text. 

An increase of climate finance from 2015 to 2020 could not be clearly indicated to ensure new, additional, adequate and predictable funding over and above existing overseas development assistance (ODA). At best, the Lima Call for Climate Action can be described as ‘business as usual’. It was not even what we in economics call “second best.” 

Delegates, however, agreed for the first time that every country would cut the dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. It was seen as a first step towards reaching a global climate treaty in Paris next December. 

But climate negotiators know only soft issues were addressed in Lima, leaving almost all hard issues to be addressed next year. What negotiators could not deliver after years of discussions, they now aim to do in just couple of weeks negotiations in 2015. Whether this can be done is literally a trillion dollar question. 

The environment minister of Peru and the chair of the UN Climate Talks, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, was quite optimistic saying, “I think this is good, and I think this moves us forward”. He at least saved the talks from collapse and struck a decision in the early hours of December 14th – now officially known as the Lima Call for Climate Action – that, for the first time, requires all countries, rising economies as well as rich countries, to take action on climate change. 

The Lima summit will be seen by developed countries as a victory after they successfully demolished the sharp divide between developed and developing countries – even though industrialised developed countries are squarely responsible for historical emissions and should take the whole burden for dealing with it. 

Lima saw a break from one of the defining principles of the last 20 years of climate talks – that wealthy industrialized countries should carry that burden of cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Now, courtesy of the Lima summit, all countries will share that burden. For the first time, China – whose emissions have overtaken the US since the climate talks began – as well as India, Brazil and other rising economies have agreed they will need to cut their own emissions as well. 

As for the Lima agreement, all countries will need to come up with their own emissions reductions targets in time for the suggested deadline of March 31st, 2015. The United Nations would then weigh up those pledges and determine, whether the collective action will be enough to limit warming to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, the globally agreed goal. 

There was no headway to reduce the adaptation deficit in Lima. Nor could climate-induced “loss and damage” be settled in the contours of a new climate treaty. Developed countries also rejected committing to a scale-up of climate finance after previous “fast-start finance” has run out – as demanded by the most vulnerable countries in order to raise $60 billion in 2017, and $80 billion in 2018, so that funding would reach the level of US$100 billion by 2020. 

Lima summit only saw pledges of US$10.5 billion for Green Climate Fund and some millions of dollars for the Adaptation Fund. I thank all those who have made these pledges. But I am deeply frustrated that no fresh announcements were made for the Least Developed Countries Fund, despite demands from the LDCs to provide at least US$2 billion to support adaptation actions in the 49 LDCs. 

Therefore there is absolutely no clarity in climate finance. In Doha, it was agreed that at least US$30 billion would be generated during 2013-15, but nobody knows how much of that constitutes new and additional climate finance to the most vulnerable countries in 2013 and 2014. So where is the clarity? 

Developed countries now need to quickly ramp up climate finance to reach $100 billion annually by 2020, but there is very little clarity in this regard, as only $ 10 billion has been mobilised so far through the Green Climate Fund, which is only a drop in the ocean. 

The LDC Fund is also drying up, despite that we have asked for at least $2 billion for the fund to meet the most urgent adaptation needs of the LDCs. Similarly, there is no progress on the capitalisation of the Adaptation Fund. 

To help implement climate-smart programmes across the most vulnerable countries, including Bangladesh, we need to know how much long-term finance will be channelled through international climate funds. Yet in Lima, we did not get any signals on future finance flows in the short-, mid- or long-term. 

Climate finance is of paramount importance to developing countries and especially for the LDCs. Preparation for the “intended nationally determined contributions” in any country is an expensive affair. And in resource constraint vulnerable countries, very little can be done without finance, capacity building and technical support. Not least, as planning and implementation scenario changes as soon as you have more clarity on finance. 

Only low hanging fruits were picked up in Lima, but governments still need to compromise over red-lines to strike a climate agreement in Paris in 2015 – and help rescuing the most vulnerable countries like Bangladesh from the adverse impacts of climate change that threatens the planet.

World leaders have failed to safeguard the vulnerable countries | ClimateDev