Reality check

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Nepal is leading the 49-nation Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the 19th Conference of Parties (COP) meeting.

Since assuming the leadership of this poor and most vulnerable group of countries to the impacts of climate change, this is the first time Nepal will be leading the Group at the COP. The conference is being held in the Poland capital Warsaw from November 11-22.

Intriguingly, this meeting is being organised at a time when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is publishing its Fifth Assessment Report (also known as AR5) on a phase-wise basis. IPCC is an international body established in 1988 whose reports are considered the principle basis on which the climate regime is governed.

This September it published its Working Group 1 report focusing on the physical science basics; the full report will be released in 2014. At the launch of the report, IPCC Working Group 1 co-chair Thomas Stocker informed: “Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2°C for the two high scenarios. Heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer.” This signals a grave future scenario.

We have nearly crossed the threshold of the projected world average temperature rise of 1.5°C. The IPCC report further states that it is 95 percent certain that human induced climate change is increasing temperature, glacier melting, sea level rise and extreme weather events globally.

In this context, COP19 needs to urgently deliver on a number of fronts to tackle the problem both in the long and short terms. The LDC Group Chair Prakash Mathema highlighted at the Group’s coordination meeting in Warsaw that this COP would have to deliver on four major fronts: 1) Reducing carbon emission so that the world is on a relatively safer path; 2) Increasing the level of finance for the developing countries to address climate impacts; 3) Establishing an international mechanism on loss and damage to address issues not covered under adaptation; and 4) Agreeing on a clear road map on how the negotiations will progress to produce a deal in 2015. All these issues are seen as politically thorny and are likely to invite heated negotiations when the conference starts next week.

At every COP, new issues emerge and the interests of various powerful countries overshadow the meetings, adding to the complexity of climate negotiations. Gradually, the fossil fuel industry and related private sectors are increasing their influence at the decision-making levels as well. Not only have they tried to derail the climate negotiation, but they also stand accused of distorting and manipulating scientific data. Lately, their financial support to climate sceptics has risen sharply.

Climate negotiation is no longer an issue of developed versus developing countries. Industrialized developed countries have a huge historical responsibility in tackling the problem and supporting the developing countries but since the failure of COP15 in Copenhagen, climate negotiations have changed their course.

Huge internal rift exist within the developing countries on a number of issues. G77, the largest negotiating developing countries’ block, can no longer come to consensus on critical issues such as mitigation actions, global goalposts and adaptation. Even the LDC Group feels that this larger group (G77) no longer shoulders its interests and is dominated by big emerging BASIC countries - Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

The United States not joining the Kyoto Protocol, the instrument which legally binds emissions in developed countries, has left a huge gap in reducing carbon emission. It argues that emerging economies such as BASIC should also be in symmetry with developed countries on the legally binding treaty. Lately, Japan, Canada and Russia have also opted out of this instrument. Such actions do not build trust in the negotiations.

By now, almost all the LDC countries have prepared their National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) to address the urgent needs of adaptation and some are in the process of formulating National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) to be integrated with the sustainable development strategy. However, these plans gather dust on the shelves due to lack of adequate funding. Developed countries have continuously fallen short in meeting their own promises of providing financial and technological support to the developing countries. Without adequate finance, poor countries will suffer more.

However difficult and complex the problem may be, there is no excuse for brushing it under the carpet. The majority of countries agree that the problem of climate change must be urgently tackled. Poor and marginalized people around the world are already suffering and having to even move from their homes and families due to devastating climate events.

COP in Warsaw is expected to deliver a major milestone in reaching an international climate agreement in 2015 - COP21 to be held in France.

Hastily pre-empting any outcomes before the actual negotiation begins may not be helpful but there is widespread speculation that this COP may not deliver much. Poland, the host country and the incoming presidency of the COP, is not seen as a leader when it comes to taking climate actions. It is also charged of dissuading the entire block of 28 European Union countries from urgent action, its coal-powered economy and business sympathetic attitude being the major reason. For the first time, Poland has a plan to give to the business community at the COP and is already partnering with various multinational companies to host it.

The incoming president has repeatedly made assurance of progress on issues like finance, loss and damage and mitigation but it remains to be seen if anything will actually be delivered. For LDCs, the battle will have to be fought hard as the rich and powerful countries might squabble until the very end of the meeting. LDC Group must remain focused and only solidarity in the Group will deliver results.


This article was first published online on 10.11.2013, 01:22, under: