Yeb Sano Speaks to CANSA on the 2015 Agreement

By Vositha Wijeynayake

Yeb Sano’s name became known to many across the globe when in COP19 in Warsaw, when he declared that he would continue fasting till Parties of the UNFCCC are committed to a loss and damage mechanism. Following the devastation that ravaged the Philippines due to Typhoon Haiyan he raised his voice to draw attention to the plight faced by his country and the plight of many more vulnerable communities. He took time off from his busy schedule to answer a long list of questions for CANSA, on the ADP sessions in March, 2015 Agreement and on addressing climate change.

“There are significant steps, but with little impact. We are merely saving the multi-lateral system, we are not addressing the process in the way we should, “said Yeb Sano. He has been following the negotiations for fifteen years, his first COP being in 2000.

yeb photo credts to

Finance for Adaptation

He highlights that we need to address adaptation as one of the key elements in the UNFCCC process. “There is no finance, no support for adaptation. Funds are all targeting mitigation, we do not see the same for adaptation, though the need for resources is staggering and even hard to calculate,“  he adds.

Speaking on the 2015 Agreement, he says, “2015 is an important pillar, post 2020 it is too late for countries like the Philippines, as it all boils down to finance and resources being made available.”

When asked what he sees as options to resolve the issue of finance, he says that developing countries need to spend each and every penny of national resources towards adaptation and to build resilience of communities vulnerable to climate change.  He also suggests innovative corporative initiatives as means of addressing the issue of finance.

“You secure national budgets to build resilience. You also need to focus on initiatives with corporate bodies, elimination of fossil subsidies and utilise them as a source of finance.”

Commenting on the potential for a compensation mechanism for loss and damage, he sees it as a feasible. He suggests there be differentiated standards for the highest polluters and to others depending on their level of contribution. The amount taxed from polluters, he sees as an option to be converted into a funding mechanism.

South Asia a Symbol of Equity

“Negotiations have never been simple. They are not black and white. I am constantly reminded of the whole notion of inequity, over centuries. When we talk about solving climate change in the context of emerging economies, I see South Asia as a region which deserves more on right to development, right of fair share and sustainable development,” he said.

He further adds that he sees South Asia as a symbol of climate change.

“I think South Asia has become the symbol of climate change for many legitimate reasons. We see the region struggling to overcome poverty, also trying to reach its potential. South Asia has a lot of potential for developing models for sustainable development and equitable access of resource.”

India and its Potential

Expressing his view on India in the negotiations he believes the country has huge potential and needs to embrace it.

“India is in a peculiar position, it is a country with complex challenges. While India continues being the voice for equity, symbol for the right to sustainable development, the country also needs to recognise the role and be able to leap-frog to the 21st century without following the path emission path of the industrialisation,” he added.

“Countries like India must be given room to develop, equity is both about addressing climate change in its roots,  the gap between rich and poor and the right to development. Equity will allow us to pursue and protect social wellbeing and uphold sustainable development.“

Sano considered equity discussion as the most profound argument of the negotiations. He added that to fight climate change one must address poverty and issues with regard to development.

“We cannot separate the two battles, the one against poverty and the one against climate change. To fight climate change we need to fight poverty, and we have to address sustainable development,’ he concluded.

Note to the readers:  A longer version of the interview with the delegate from the Philippines, Mr Yeb Sano will be published on the CANSA website in the days to come.

[Photo credits: IISD and The Verb]

About the Author:

Vositha Wijenayake is the Outreach 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.