Climate Negotiations: Addressing Climate Change, Locally as well as Internationally

By Vositha Wijenayake 

Climate Change has become one of the key issues, which the countries of the world are facing today. It has impacts on a global sense, which is spread out the world based on the vulnerability of the people, and countries, which is due to its economic scale and resilience levels depending on the geographical locations. The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol are the two legal documents that address the phenomenon of climate change, which today according to science, and the reports of the IPCC AR5 (Fifth Assessment Report on the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) have provided with a 95 per cent accuracy rate to be human induced.

The UNFCCC is moving to a new phase where the countries are working on putting together a new Agreement to be finalised at the 21st Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC, in Paris. Called the 2015 Agreement, it is worked under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Durban Platform (ADP). The negotiations which commenced on June 04 and extended till the June 15, and two country negotiators, the Director of Climate Change Division of the Government of Sri Lanka Dr Sunimal Jayathunga, and Prof Buddhi Marambe from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, attended this session, in Bonn Germany, representing the Sri Lankan Government.

UNFCCC Negotiations and its Focus Areas

A few issues that were negotiated at this session included the scientific and technical advice related issues on implementation mechanisms associated Adaptation (adaptation involved the humans adapting to adverse effect of climate change,) and mitigation of GHG emission. It also focused on the implementation of decisions taken at the previous COPs, the elements of the 2015Agreement.

Explaining the function of the Durban Platform, Dr Jayathunga said, “The ADP is the platform which works on another upcoming legally binding instrument or Protocol which was established in COP17 in Durban, South Africa to finalise the 2015 Agreement in COP 21 in Paris, which will be applicable to all parties 2020 onwards”.

Sri Lanka and Vulnerability to Climate Change

Dr Jayathunga, the Director of the Climate Change Division, Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy in Sri Lanka further explained the importance of addressing the issue of climate change for Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lanka being a tropical island situated in the Indian Ocean, and a developing country, is highly vulnerable to the adverse effect of climate change. This is especially true when taking into consideration the extreme weather events and slow onset events. Therefore, decisions/outcomes of the above UNFCCC Bodies are highly important and relevant in terms of building the resilience of Sri Lanka in order to ensure the Sustainable Development in the country with special attention on the support of finance, technology transfer and capacity building by developed country parties to assess the vulnerability, implement adaptation actions, prepare and implement Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs),” said Dr. Jayathunga.

Sri Lanka at the Negotiations

Speaking on Sri Lanka’s participation at international negotiations, Prof. Marambe said, “The Sri Lankan delegation closely followed the SBSTA Agenda Item 8 on ‘Issues Related to Agriculture.’ The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) took note of the report on the in-session workshop on the current state of scientific knowledge on how to enhance adaptation of agriculture to climate change impacts while promoting rural development, sustainable development and productivity of agricultural systems and food security in all countries, particularly in developing countries, taking into account the diversity of the agricultural systems and the differences in scale as well as possible adaptation co-benefits. Sri Lanka contributed immensely and strongly stand by the position taken by G77 and China on this matter.”

He further started, “The Sri Lankan delegation also followed the SBSTA Agenda Item 6 on ‘Research and Systematic Observations’, which is also a significant theme in which the country is highly interested in terms of contributing and sharing knowledge to fill the gaps in scientific information/communications. The SBSTA encouraged the research programmes and organisations to continue sharing experiences, knowledge and views, inter alia on ecosystems with high-carbon reservoirs, including on capacity-building elements as appropriate, in particular to developing countries. The SBSTA praised efforts to pursue dialogue between Parties and the research programmes and organisations. The SBSTA invited the IPCC to take note of the work of the SBSTA on research and systematic observation in matters related to ecosystems with high-carbon reservoirs in the consideration, by the IPCC, of future work. Sri Lanka contributed immensely and strongly standby the position of G77 and China taken on this matter.”

Individual and Collective Interests

The UNFCCC negotiations do not simply take place on country level, but also though country blocks such as the European Union, African Group, Least Developed Countries etc.

Dr. Jayathunga explained the role of Sri Lanka in terms of these country blocks, and how the country plays its role in contributing to raising political will and ambition of other countries as well.

“Sri Lanka is a member of Group 77 and China group and Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group on climate change. The position of these groups is in line with the principles, objectives and provisions of the UNFCCC, which is the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” he said.

Addressing the process and focus of the negotiations he said, “The ADP is the upcoming legal instrument that is applicable to all the parties. During the present negotiations, concentrating on the elements of the 2015 Agreement, a Contact Group was established to start the formal and structural negotiations of the 2015 Agreement. However, the consultation process of Parties’ views, opinions, intervention of the elements, process and structure continued rather than the expected formal negotiation text based on the parties submissions, interventions, statements and conference room papers (CRPs) provided, which many parties including G77+China and LMDC expected at the opening of Contact Group on ADP negotiations.”

Prof. Marambe highlighted that adaptation as one of the key areas that would be important to the country. He is also the Chair of the Expert Committee on Adaptation in Sri Lanka and stated, “In terms of implementation Sri Lanka gives priority to adaptation to ensure sustainable development, while taking action to support global mitigation efforts.”

Actions in Sri Lanka to Address Climate Change

Speaking on the next steps that Sri Lanka will be taking to address the issue of climate change, both Dr. Jayathunga and Prof. Marambe highlighted that the work that they would be conducting in the country as important steps to play a role in the international level.

One of the key actions that the country will be addressing in the coming months is starting the process on Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDCs). Dr Jayathunga added that this process will start in the second half of this year.

“Sri Lanka has established two experts committees namely National Experts Committee on Climate Change Adaptation (NECCCA) and National Experts Committee on Climate Change Mitigation (NECCCM). The membership of these two committees consists of representatives of the state sector including Universities, and private and Non-governmental organisations that are actively involved in climate change related work. The National Focal Point (i.e. Ministry of Environment) with the assistance of the NECCCA has taken the initiative for preparing National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and the Third National Communication to be submitted to UNFCCC,” he said.

“Based on the outcome of the Bonn sessions, Sri Lanka is eager to make submissions on the Agenda 8 (Issues related to Agriculture) and Agenda 6 (Research and Systematic Observations), in particular, to consolidate the position of the country on these matters in the global arena under guiding principles stipulated in the UNFCCC,” concluded Professor Marambe.

The next session of the UNFCCC negotiations on ADP to develop the 2015 Agreement will be begin on October 20, in Bonn as an inter-session leading to the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC for this year, to be held in Lima, Peru.

About The Author:

Vositha Wijenayake is the Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of CANSA and, Regional Facilitator for Asia for the Southern Voices Programme. She is a lawyer by profession and has an LLM from University College London. She specialises in International Environmental Law and Human Rights Law. She has been tracking the UNFCCC negotiations since 2009 with a legal and gender focus.