Road To Paris: The Dice Is Still Loaded Against The Developing Countries1

By Sudhir Sharma

The last session of ADP prior to Paris came to an end prior to the last lap in Paris, and dramatic session it was. Session was about developing countries coming together to demand their fair share, figuratively speaking, in a text that becomes a negotiating text. After Lima, this was another unprecedented show of unity by developing countries to restore balance to a blatantly unbalanced text prepared by the co-chairs, in whom the developing countries Parties had placed their trust in preparing a fair text that could address in a balanced manner the asks of developed and developing countries.

The co-chair’s proposed text (hereafter referred to as the text) completely re-wrote the Convention, which is what the developed countries have been seeking to reflect, their oft-repeated refrain, the changing world circumstances. A key element underpinning the Convention is the principle of “equity” and “common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR)”. The text only refers to it once and that to in the preamble section, thus consigning the key principles to dustbin of history. This key principle defines the responsibilities of countries, and enjoins upon developed countries (Annex I countries) to take lead in addressing climate change and also to provide support to those who have lesser responsibility and lack capability to address climate change (read developing countries). The developed countries since Bali have been trying to throw off the yoke of these principles and shift the burden of responsibility on to the developing countries.

To understand the implications one needs to read through mitigation and finance section of “the text”. The mitigation section essentially puts all countries on equal footing and the only differentiating factor being “national circumstances”. This term has a specific connotation and refers to specific country resource availability or structural situations that limits the action that country can take to address climate change. Thus in absence of the principles of equity and CBDR, USA and Bangladesh, are the same and only differentiated by their national circumstances. Developed countries could easily use the excuse of high cost of mitigation, one of the factors of fair share used in Switzerland’s INDC,  as a national circumstance to dilute their efforts. Developing countries with low cost of mitigation could be asked to take bigger shares of GHG reduction, given historic responsibility and capability are no longer the determining factors.

The finance section of the text was another place where the convention was subverted by diluting the commitment of developed countries to provide finance to developing countries in addressing climate change, both, mitigation and adaptation. The Text only includes a generic reference to developed country Parties taking lead in providing support to assist developing country Parties. This reference also expands this responsibility to other developing countries. Further, rather than a defined goal for finance, as was demanded by the developing countries, the Text let the developed country off the hook by providing generic request for developed countries to “periodically communicate information on the projected levels of public climate finance.”

The final straw was the dismissal of Loss and Damage from the Text, for which LDCs had fought so hard in Lima, given they are the most vulnerable and already facing huge damages due to 0.8 0C of warming for which the main responsibility lies with the developed countries. The Text made a mere reference to this important issue.

Remember this is not a final text. This was to be a text with options for all the issues, reflecting, both developed and developing country positions. In effect what the co-chair’s had done was to take out the options that developing countries wanted to be reflected in the negotiating text and leaving most of the options preferred by the developed countries thus tilting the balance heavily in favour of the developed countries.

In contrast the developing countries have voluntarily agreed, even before the agreement, to step up to the needs of climate change and put forth ambitious climate change actions within their capabilities. Around 100 developing countries have submitted their INDCs to the UNFCCC. The developing countries in fact had stepped up to the plate post Cancun Accord too. Big developing countries like China, South Africa, Mexico, South Korea, India, etc had put forth economy wide NAMAs to mitigate their GHG emissions. A number of smaller developing countries had developed sectoral and sub-sectoral NAMAs seeking international finance, in response to the pledge by developed countries to provide climate finance ramping it up to 100 billion USD by 2020. The Civil Society Review of the INDC[2] has clearly demonstrated that INDCs put by developing countries are more than their fair share. The assessment shows that the net reduction below BAU through actions pledged by developing countries is 8.3 GtCO2e, as opposed to its fair share of 6.6 GtCO2e. Further, developing countries have shown a willingness to go further by putting forth additional actions conditional on support, which reduce emissions by further 1.8 GtCO2e.

In contrast, the developed country INDCs pledge are way less than their fair share, 5.5 GtCO2e against their fair share of 24.2 GtCO2e. This is where the financial obligations of developed countries become relevant, as it is clear technically this level of reduction is not possible within developed countries without causing major economic disruptions. Thus developed countries are expected to provide financial support to developing countries to address the gap in pledges of 15.1 GtCO2e if we want to keep the GHG emissions in line with the pathways to limit the temperature increase below 2 0C.

The story is the same if one looks at the actions pledged by developed countries for pre-2020 period. The developed countries, as per science, were required to at least reduce their emissions between 25 – 40% below 1990 levels, whereas, the actual pledges by these countries will only result in 16% reduction below 1990 by 2020. Again studies had shown that economy wide NAMAs submitted by China, India, etc were more ambitions and reduced more than their fair share. Not only did developed countries fail to live up the expectation of leading on the emissions reduction, they have also failed to deliver on their promise to ramp up the climate finance support to USD 100 billion by 2020. Developed countries have steadfastly refused to provide either any indications or information on how they will provide these pledged climate finance in a predictable manner. Developed countries used OECD to publish a report to try and show that they have delivered a significant share of finance pledged. But these estimates include commercial loans provided and private sector investments. These are investments that are made with the objective of making market profits and can’t be counted as climate finance. Private sector finance moves in where there is profit to be made, so profit sector finance in mitigation in developing countries should actually be counted as credit of developing countries because they made conditions conducive for investment.

The developed countries have constantly tried post Kyoto to shift the responsibility to the developing countries. The Text by removing the inclusion of principles of equity and CBDR as well as obligation of developed countries to provide climate finance makes it difficult for developing countries to demand developed countries to their fair share. This is the reason the developing countries stood up strongly as one to bring back these provisions in a text that now has been approved as the negotiations text.

There has been a lot of criticism that developing countries insertions have led to ballooning of the negotiation text making it impossible to define clear options based negotiations text. This is unfair to developing countries. They would have been most happy not to do so if in the first place the co-chairs had produced a fair and balanced text reflecting, both, developed country and developing country options for all sections.

It was heartening to see most of the developed country civil society organizations supporting developing countries right to bring balance to the Text by making insertions. At the same time it was really sad to see that most of the developed countries CSOs have shied away from endorsing the CSO review that highlight the in-equity in the present situation of climate change actions. Only a handful of organizations from developed world (Oxfam, Christian Aid, Friends of Earth, WWF International) signed up for it, whereas some big names such as Greenpeace, who have been at forefront of the climate change have shied away from endorsing it. Their solidarity at this juncture would have been important to achieve a fair agreement.

Though one would like to congratulate Greenpeace for recently submitting a bid to take power company in Europe and to show how this business could be run using renewable energy. I have always been fan of constructive suggestions rather than obstructionist approach to addressing climate change or for that matter any issue. I wish Greenpeace would do the same in developing countries, such as India, where they have too date been active only in obstructing the construction of coal power plants. Instead an offer to provide the same level of energy through renewables would have been a better approach.

So is the fight over for developing countries. By No means!!!! The advantage created by the co-chairs for developed countries will be hard to negate and developing countries will have to stand in unison and fight hard for a fair deal. Developed countries, taking advantage of the situation they have been put in by the co-chairs, have inserted “no text” option all over the text to counter the options introduced by the developing countries in restoring balance. This creates a very difficult negotiating position for developing countries. It is like bargaining with taxi driver who refuses to ferry the passenger to her/his destination. The passenger has no other tool to negotiate then raising the fair on offer. Same in the text, developed countries will stick to no text and in bargain the only option for developing countries is to lower its demands. This is the reason why developed countries, though only Japan said so in the open but other acquiesced by keeping mum, didn’t want the observers in the negotiation rooms.

One hopes that developed countries CSOs will stand behind developing countries in this fight for fairness, as they have nothing else to counter the situation created by the co-chairs and the developed countries refusal to be fair.

[1] The view expressed in the articles are authors and don’t represent CANSA views.

About the Author:

Sudhir SharmaSudhir Sharma is a Senior Climate Change Specialist at the UNEP Risø Centre with over 15 years’ experience in Climate and Sustainable Development in developing countries, Sharma comes from an engineering background and a PhD in Development Economics. His work has focused on mitigation issues in developing countries in the context of sustainable development. He has over 10 years’ experience in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) working both in developing projects and developing methodologies. His present work at URC is focused on NAMAs, both, in terms of supporting capacity development in developing countries as well as analytical work on creating a better understanding of NAMAs. He is presently coordinating the country work on assisting seven countries in developing NAMAs. He is an Advisor to CANSA.