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COP23 and Historical Responsibility in Climate Finance

  • Published at 01:06 am December 14th, 2017
COP23 and Historical Responsibility in Climate Finance
COP23, the second “conference of the parties” since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, was held under the presidency of the small, developing island state of Fiji. The Parties opted to continue to negotiate the rules as to how the agreement should be implemented from 2020 to 2030. Parties have successfully adopted the Gender Action Plan, which highlights the role of women in climate action as well as to promote gender equality in the process. One notable, yet low-profile, outcome from the conference this year was the end of a deadlock on agriculture. Parties agreed to work over the next few years on climate change and agriculture and are requested to submit their proposal by March 31, 2018, about how to improve soil carbon and fertility, assessment process of the adaptation and resilience along with the establishment of quality livestock management systems. Moreover, Fiji also launched the Ocean Pathway Partnership, which aims to strengthen the inclusion of oceans within the UNFCCC process. Representatives from Brazil, South Africa, India, and China reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement during a press briefing at COP23. However, it is already known that the US, under the presidency of Donald Trump, announced its intention earlier this year to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Consequently, during the first week of COP23, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance called for the US delegation to be barred from attending the negotiations, but a low-profile US delegation joined in the meeting. A matter of optimism is that several sub-national actors like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California governor Jerry Brown and, of course, former Vice-President Al Gore, raised their voices against Trump’s anti-climate policies at the Bonn conference. Bloomberg even argued to provide a seat at the climate negotiating table. Bloomberg and Brown are co-chairs of “America’s Pledge” – an initiative to reduce carbon emission voluntarily which includes a coalition of cities, states, and businesses that together represent over half the US economy. On day two of the COP23, Syria announced its willingness to ratify the Paris Agreement while the US, the largest per capita emitter in the world, following its earlier precedence of staying outside the Kyoto Protocol, remains the only country to stay outside of the Paris deal to save the planet. Note here that the Doha Amendment, a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol for the years leading up to 2020, has still not been ratified by larger polluter countries. But when one country fails to lead the movement, someone else will take its place and this time it is China, in collaboration with the EU, playing that role. China was observed not only in COP23 but also in the Ministerial on Climate Action (MOCA) coalition, a joint group consisting of the EU, China and Canada, conceived during last year’s COP after the US election. Moreover, German chancellor Angela Merkel played a mediating role between a commitment to the Paris Agreement and the power struggle with her coalition partners -- the Green party and Free Democrats (FDP). It's matter of irony that the US delegation co-chaired a working group with China on Nationally Determined Contributions (country pledges, often known by the acronym NDCs). Though many US negotiators are the same officials who have been representing the US at COPs, they are now making excuses and irrational arguments when it is time to actually mobilise resources, especially required adaptation and financial resources, and compensate vulnerable countries for “loss and damage.” One of the conflicting issues between developing and developed Parties was to settle the pre-2020 climate action, since developing countries expressed concern that rich countries had not done enough to meet their commitments, especially on finance. It was noted that rich countries have not yet delivered the promised $100bn per year in climate finance by 2020 agreed in 2009 at Copenhagen. Regarding the predictability of climate finance at the last-minute, developed countries agreed to comply with the Agreement’s Article 9.5 that asks them to report the flows of climate finance to developing countries so that they can be aware of fund availability and formulate their climate actions accordingly. Though Parties agreed that the Adaptation Fund, a significant multilateral fund, should serve under the Paris Agreement and the Fund received more than $90m (including $50m from Germany) in new pledges during the COP, the modalities was not fixed at COP23. The same amount was also pledged to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). It is also encouraging that French President Emmanuel Macron assured all that Europe will cover any shortfall in funding for the IPCC. The UK also announced it was pledging to double its contribution. However, it's not clear how much grant-based public finance would be mobilised by developed countries for adaptation in vulnerable countries to meet the adaptation finance need mentioned in NDCs. These are legitimate concerns because Green Climate Fund (GCF) is yet to achieve the 50:50 balance for adaptation and mitigation in allocation of funds. Some developed countries are even opposing UNFCCC's polluters' pay principle and trying to create resistance to allocate fund from the GCF for the vulnerable countries following the definition of middle income country provided by the World Bank. It has also raised questions about the decision at COP23 to encourage “Parties to enter into agreements to grant the privileges and immunities needed for the effective and efficient operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund in accordance with national legislation and circumstances." Why would the GCF Board take such a decision when this fund was not been created for making profits but to ensure climate resilience with the ownership of all Parties, both supply and demand sides. Moreover, the Paris Agreement includes a specific section recognising the due requirements of addressing the loss and damage caused by climate change and recommended that parties should enhance “understanding, action and support” about that. But alongside the promised $100bn by 2020, there are currently no sources of finance for loss and damages in addition to adaptation finance. Moreover, the Paris rulebook didn’t include loss and damage as an agenda point and COP23 included discussions on loss and damage as part of a separate, more low-level technical process called the Warsaw International Mechanism (or “WIM”) which has kept room for imposing private sector led insurance mechanism in the name of crop insurance. A proposed draft text on Transparency Framework under article 13 of the Paris Agreement stipulated that the Parties should agree on ensuring "Whole-of-Governance" principles to avoid free-rider problems. However, applying the decision of COP23 to form the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform to support the exchange of experience and sharing of best practices on mitigation and adaptation, developing countries should be aware of their vulnerable people to claim their legitimate rights for grant-based public finance from the developed countries for climate change adaptation and not to endorse any loan or insurance mechanism in the name of reducing loss and damages. Developed countries have to prove that they are not pushing the climate vulnerable countries into another "Climate-debt-trap" in the name of climate resilience.   The writer is climate finance governance analyst