By Vositha Wijenayake
As the SB40 and the negotiations of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Durban Platform reaches its second week, the Chair of the Least Developed Country (LDC) block spoke to Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) on his views on the progress of negotiations, and their implications for the South Asian region.
The process of ADP discussions moving forward was one of the key discussions of the intersession. In this context, some countries have called for “real negotiations” to start, while the others are content with the Contact Group process.
Addressing this issue, Mr Mathema stated, “The mandate of this session is to discuss the elements. I think we need to discuss the elements first. The Co-Chairs have proposed how to do this. I think we should let the Co-Chairs to move forward.”
“We did agree in Bonn in March that we will have a contact group and we would collectively construct the text. We should stick to that,” he added.
Speaking on the elements of progress in this session of negotiations, he considered the text on LDC matters as one of the most important agenda items addressed successfully.
“It was one of the first things to be tabled. In that way, we are happy. We are hoping that the other matters will advance in a positive manner as well,” he said.
While being hopeful that the negotiations will move in the correct direction, he also highlights that decisions on issues such as finance and technology might take a while.
Loss and Damage
One of the emerging areas of focus is Loss and Damage, which is of importance to the South Asian region. While a mechanism exists to address this thematic area, the importance of establishing a Committee to move the process forward remains important.
Mr. Mathema explained that a number of parties were organising their own internal co-ordinations. They had also achieved some preparation meetings and had a strategy session on Sunday, which involved a frank discussion on various matters.
“Discussions are continuing on the Work Program, exchanging information and gathering information. It may be too soon to expect actions and finance, we would like to see a more permanent committee for loss and damage as for adaptation,” he said.
“Now it is not like the Adaptation Committee, but only a mechanism. So we need something in the form of a committee on loss and damage.” He noted.
Further elaborating in which manner the LDC see the Committee being construed, he stated that there needs to be more representation, and inclusive. “We want the committee for Loss and Damage to be more representative, the one we have is an interim one, and we want to have fair representation in the executive committee.”
“The composition is very important. We also need to discuss the procedure and the governance of the Committee. It is very difficult and we know that it will take a long time to agree on this. We do have options for structure, and procedure. On this we are working with G77 and Africa and other groups,” he added.
LDCs and Negotiations
One of the key issues that developing countries undergo is the lack of delegates to be attending all the sessions that be present in parallel. Answering on his experience in the UNFCCC process as well as the LDC Group as a collective, the LDC Chair pointed out that there are delegates that change frequently, which hinders the development of capacity in LDC countries.
“LDCs have about 25 very active and experienced delegates who are well-versed with the history and background. There are new delegates every year. But some of them do not continue the process in a regular manner.”
He continued, “This situation is unfortunate. We would like to have the same person following the process, which would add value, as they would gain experience. But for LDCs this is a little difficult to achieve.”
Speaking on himself, Mr Mathema said, “I have been in the negotiations for 3 years, but I think being the LDC chair made the experience more hands on.”
Collaborating with the Civil Society
Throughout the process, the LDC block has gained a reputation for being one of the most accommodating to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and collaborating in and outside of the UNFCCC on climate action. They Group has been forthcoming in holding bilateral meetings with the CSOs, and exchange of ideas.
“Through bilateral discussions with CSOs, we get feed- back, their perspective, and new information. So I believe that these are very important,” he said.
Mr. Mathema also addressed the issue relating to side events in Lima, and the suggested payment of USD 1000 per side event, “We have not made a statement on this, but we are worried about this. Many of our CSOs in LDCs cannot support this. To come to this event, it costs a lot. It would reduce their representation. Some members have not attended the Bonn session in order to save funds for Lima. Even 100 euros would have a huge impact on them, and in this case we are talking in terms of thousands.”
He was welcoming of the actions organised by CSO.
“Windmill action was very symbolic, and many parties identified with it. Simple but innovative actions would help send the message out. And we are for actions done by NGOs,” he said.[Photo Credits: IISD]
LDCs and South Asia
South Asia is a combination of diversity. While India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are part of the Like-Minded Developing Country block, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan form part of the LDC group. Maldives is a member of the Alliance of Small Island States. Given the representation of different country blocks, in the negotiations the needs highlighted by region remain common in some forms, while different in others.
“We don’t meet as SAARC countries in this process. But in SAARC’s perspective, we share many similar problems. On some issues, though we are in different groups, we share the same views. Some of these are the need for developed countries to take the lead for mitigation, to fulfil their financial commitments, the need to support our adaptation actions, loss and damage, technology, capacity building. These are some common things,” added the LDC Chair.
He however highlights that despite the general commonalities there remain also visible differences.
“When we go to nitty-gritties there are some differences, we have changes due to our national stances, and this is understandable. But we can work within SAARC to amplify the messages which are common to all our countries in the regions,” he concluded.
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.