By Senashia Ekanayake
From November 30 – December 12, 2015 roughly 50,000 participants from 195 countries attended the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties organised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, France. Twenty-one years of negotiations and thirteen days of formal negotiations concluded with the Conference having reached consensus on a “Paris Agreement” that require both developed and developing countries to lower greenhouse gas emissions to help avert the worst effects of climate change.
Thirteen Days in a Goodie Bag
The following few paragraphs contain a brief synopsis of the outcome of events and what would most be important to South Asia as a rapidly developing region.
Equity and Differentiation
On the subject of Equity and Differentiation, much has been done to share the responsibility in maintaining the temperature to well below 2 degrees, while keeping the world to a safer 1.5 degree Celsius target, thus making all citizens equally accountable. The text has omitted “historic responsibility” of developed countries and while Common But Differentiated Goals (CBDR) has not been completely removed from the text, it has been rehashed to “in light of different national circumstances”. Continuing with the quest for equity, an institutionalised pledge and review mechanism that is acted upon every five years will ensure that country’ commitments towards curbing climate change. However, if in the event of non-or under achievement of targets, the countries will not be penalised in the form of penalties or levies. The compliance form in the Agreement remains as a facilitation process for countries to reach their commitments, rather than a deterring or penalising one. Further, the Agreement no longer holds reference to “Annex 1 and non-Annex” countries as it once did in the Kyoto Protocol.
One of the key factors from the Agreement was to communicate the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) every five years and improve country climate pledges to achieve the 2 – 1.5 degree Celsius target. Another factor that came up during the discussions was the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that are expected to be increasingly ambitious while the emission reduction targets are mentioned as voluntary and non-binding.
Adaptation and Loss and Damage
Further the civil society cause for “Loss and Damage” have been obtained for developing countries in a separate article at the cost of their right to “liability and compensation”. There is also significant opportunity to enhance south-south collaboration in adaptation and disaster preparedness. In South Asia, India is well-placed to provide technologies such as satellites, early warning system and meteorological services to other countries and Bangladesh has been a front runner in taking adaptation action will be able to provide knowledge to others of the region on best practices. One of the areas of the Agreement requiring clarity include adaptation finance as there is no clear and predictable financial support by developed country parties.
One of the key takeaways is that the new Agreement falls behind on commitment under the Convention. On the aspect of finance, it recognises a variety of sources of climate finance through a wide variety of actions, results-based payments and financing for REDD from GCF. Further a request has been made calling for the simplification of access to funds for developing countries. There seems to be some clarity needed on the part of climate finance, such as the sources for climate finance and a more specific definition. The clause on “New, additional, adequate, predictable, sustained & scaled-up” has been removed and looks at developing countries to also contribute climate finance. On the more positive side of things, the $100 billion climate finance till 2020 stands intact. Developed countries have the responsibility towards $100 billion finance every year till 2025, following which a new finance goal will be established prior to the end of commitment and applicable post-2025.
Business and Private Sector
Businesses and the private sector agrees to include climate change strategy in their business plan and during COP21, business icons have come together promising investment in renewable energy. From the standpoint of CANSA, we are quite certain that we would want to facilitate and enhance relations by formulating sustainable public-private partnerships when working on climate issues.
What else is Cooking?
The Paris Agreement will be open for signature on April 22, 2016. In order for countries to become a party to the Agreement, it must express its consent to be bound through a formal process of approval and it requires approval by at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Up until such commitments are fulfilled, a new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement will meet for the first time when the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies convene in Bonn, Germany, on May 16-26, 2016.
COP 22 is set for November 7-18, 2016, in Marrakesh, Morocco.
About the Author:
Senashia Ekanayake is a writer, an advocate of Arts, Education and climate change activist. She read for her degree in English, dabbled in the corporate world and is now involved with CANSA Communications.