Climate justice denied. Part II

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Fiu Mata’ese Elisara

O.L.S.S.I. Executive Director


Let me now share my personal assessment of the Bangkok meetings ‘watching’ it all from the comforts of home in Samoa. 

Bangkok, like many climate meetings before it, is yet another costly and expensive missed opportunity.

My 03 May 2018 article published in Samoa Observer detailed what I termed as missed opportunities in this climate discourse. Bangkok again falls far short of expectations.

Parties left without a textual basis for negotiations at upcoming COP24 session and at Katowice Poland in December this year they will have no choice but to delve into repeat discussion of the same issues covered in Bangkok. Inevitably, Parties will deal with the ongoing discourse on the equity principle and failed finance promises to developing countries. 

On the key issue of finance and means of implementation, developing countries rightly argue for the promises made by the developed nations as essential to assist make their contributions under the PA. Without adequate support promised by developed countries many developing countries will fail having no choice but to implement at the lowest possible level.

Raising ambition in the push on small countries like Samoa to deliver will be highly unrealistic and unlikely. 

On adaptation, some progress was made in terms of further guidance from the adaptation communication and mandates under the subsidiary bodies and developing countries see the communication tool workable to move the process forward in Katowice.

On nationally determined contributions (NDCs), this was yet again a failure. Parties left Bangkok without progress to achieve what is required under the PA maintaining the comprehensive and full scope of NDCs in light of equity, common but differentiated responsibility, and of national circumstances.

On the issue of the transparency framework, developing country Parties worked through the enhanced framework for action, supporting three key principles for all Parties to keep in mind. First, the principle of no backsliding.

The PA expects all Parties to enhance existing arrangements under the Convention. Second, the principle of recognizing different starting points. The PA provides flexibility to developing countries because it recognizes our different starting points with regard to capacities in comparison to developed countries.

Third, the principle of improvement over time. The PA calls for an enhancement to transparency and support provided to developing country Parties on a continuous basis to build transparency-related capacity over time.

On the issue of response measures, the importance of fully considering actions to meet specific needs of developing countries arising from the implementation of response measures was re-emphasized, while avoiding negative economic and social consequences, including equitable access to sustainable development and poverty eradication.

On the global stock take (GST) some developing countries were concerned that equity issues, loss and damage, and response measures continue to remain unresolved and these issues are essential to unblock discussions on the design of the GST mechanism. Loss and damage was a specific concern raised by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) which Samoa is part.

Reflecting on COP 24, the developing countries highlighted the importance of finding the right balance at the high level meetings and ones most critical to successfully complete operationalization of the PAWP.

The priority was to focus political messaging on reaffirming support for the multilateral approach to addressing the pressing global challenge of climate change. A priority task of the Katowice Climate Conference is to finalize the PAWP, to successfully complete mandated events, such as the Talanoa Dialogue and high level events on the pre-2020 agenda and finance.

The Talanoa Dialogue being the 2018 facilitative dialogue to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal and to inform the preparation of NDCs..

In the negotiations on technology transfer, this is a serious agenda item in relation to the terms ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries. Rich country Parties are resisting to commit to provide any enhanced support for technology development and transfer, seeking to limit what support they are in fact willing to provide, trying to erase the differentiation between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ refusing to have any reference to these in the text.

Developing country Parties see this as renegotiating the PA’s terms that reflect the continuing differentiated legal commitment under Article 4.5 of the Climate Convention, requiring developed countries to support technology transfer to developing countries. 

Lamenting the insincerity of the Bangkok process, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) which Samoa is a part, reiterated the need to work in a transparent manner recognizing the uneven progress made in most issues.

AOSIS felt that it was critical to maintain the balance achieved in Paris and make comparable progress across the tracks of negotiation on the PAWP, stressing the issue of ‘loss and damage’ “is linked to a number of thematic areas and look forward to working with Parties in maintaining its inclusion in the guidance for adaptation communication, specifically limits to adaptation, in reporting under the transparency framework, Global Stock Take and support. 

Australia whilst expressed concerns about “slow pace of work” went on to allege that one reason for this were efforts by developing countries to address issues outside the mandate of the PA, especially on finance. It added curiously that the “bifurcated approach”, referring to the pushed differentiation between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries, as being “… inconsistent with the PA…” and stressed the need to focus work on “the Paris mandate”.  

The European Union said that the Bangkok made progress focusing on substance and clarifying views, but the outcome is not sufficient to serve as the basis for negotiations calling for urgency to step up efforts for a draft negotiating text and urged the presiding officers to provide textual proposals to bring Parties closer to the outcome at COP 24  

So where do we find ourselves on negotiations over the Paris Rulebook and the PAWP after this Bangkok session? In the assessment of some civil society members who attended the Bangkok meetings, “We are worse off and we see these insincere discussions setting us on a pathway to climate chaos, the negotiations under the Paris Agreement have been captured by the corporations.

The Paris Agreement has let developed countries off the hook, both from their historical responsibilities for climate change, and from meeting binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Big developing countries such as China are also using this Agreement to continue to produce dirty energy and to maintain their low emissions reductions targets.

Adding it all together, the emissions reductions targets from countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) average closer to 4 degrees of warming, is nowhere near 2, let alone 1.5 degrees Centigrade”.

In reality, ‘as we speak’ the impacts of climate change are already visible, and are being felt by vulnerable, frontline communities across the globe, but particularly in the poorest countries and small island nations. To protect these communities, climate finance is an urgent necessity.

But the mythical 100 billion dollars commitment from developed countries is yet to materialize, with no progress towards paying for the loss and damage that climate change causes. The nature of the USD$100 billion commitment is vague with negotiations reflecting an increasing mix of equity, loans, concessional and blended finance.

The Bangkok intersessional post review shows the negotiations stalled and the political leadership has failed to listen to the peoples’ solutions.

We are not only facing a backtracking on commitments to cut emissions at source and to take responsibility for historical emissions through providing climate finance, but we are also facing the even scarier possibility of the climate crisis being addressed through geoengineering, technological fixes, and market-based solutions that further commodify and financialize life on the planet.

The clock is ticking. It is urgent that big emitters and polluters like the US, EU, China and Australia are held accountable, and not allowed to derails the climate process. The voices of communities, Indigenous Peoples, women and young people are key and must be heard and taken seriously in the corridors of the UNFCCC as community-led solutions are real in order to reclaim climate justice.

We owe it to our peoples to hold developed countries to their promises and not allow them to deny developing states communities to give life to polluters to walk away from climate justice and the Paris Agreement. After all, in whose interests are the negotiations?

© Samoa Observer 2016

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