Bonn could be another missed opportunity on climate change

By Fiu Mata’ese Elisara 06 May 2018, 12:00AM

It has been a while since I submitted a write-up on this important topic having been engaged fully in equally important cultural issues and substantive advocacy work in the last year or so. 

But I wanted to shift my focus this week to the global ‘talk fest’ currently happening in Bonn Germany 30 April to 10 May 2018. Undoubtedly, our government is represented by a number of officials attending.

I wonder if there has been any attempt by them to consult our peoples who they are representing about what they see important from their perspectives in respect of the issues and agenda discussed in these climate meetings. After all, that is the legitimacy of their being there! Representing the views of the Samoan peoples! One wonders!

Observing however from the comfort of home in Samoa, let us utilize information avenues available to us to assess the expected outcomes of the two weeks of climate talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 48th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 48), the 48th session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 48), and the fifth part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA 1.5). A key focus is to progress the implementation of the Paris Agreement (PA), known as the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP).

Various decisions regarding the modalities, procedures and guidelines for the implementation of the PA are expected to be adopted later this year in December, in Katowice, Poland by the Conference of Parties which convenes the 24th session of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties, known as COP 24.  

As Samoa officials and participants from the world converge to Bonn, my mind and sense as a Samoan citizen cannot help but focus on the essence of these ongoing meetings! Supposedly to address the urgency of the climate crisis! And I look to those representing us present our demise and reality as climate affected peoples in such global meetings. 

I ask, what are they saying? Are they making a difference? Sadly, after 23 years of global negotiations since the commitments made by developed countries in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 the promises continues to be nurtured into rhetoric far different from reality. 

The rich continue defending their positions of climate injustice and as long as there is lingering lure for accountability on failed promised financial obligation they will take every opt-out escape route, engage in delaying tactic to renege, to stall and stop progress.

The reports on the Bonn meetings have already pointed to the rich countries pre-occupation on this same strategy of running away from liability and responsibility! Saying No to the principle of equity, No to providing new additional predictable and sustainable financial resources, No to support developing countries undertake climate adaptation, No to taking actions based on their historical responsibility on greenhouse gases emissions!  

So what do we hope and expect our officials to focus on in Bonn over the next weeks? 


First on NDCs and Other Agenda Items 

I hope the Samoa delegation will join many developing countries to hold developed countries to account! Refrain from their pursuit to have the Paris Agreement (PA) reinterpreted in relation to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and other Bonn agenda items.

It has to include rich countries commitment to address mitigation, adaptation and means of implementations (finance, capacity building, technology development and transfer), and ensuring the equity principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities’ apply.    

The 266 pages of informal notes that cover the six agenda items - nationally determined contributions (NDCs); adaptation communications; transparency of action and support; global stock take; committee to facilitate compliance; and matters related to the implementation of the PA – all contain the positions of Parties on the various issues.

The co-chairs from Saudi Arabia and New Zealand must insist these and their ‘reflection notes’ form the basis of further work at the current Bonn session.

We understand that developed countries are especially interested in work related to the mitigation component of NDCs, the transparency framework dealing primarily with the mitigation aspects of the framework and matters under Article 6 of the PA relating to ‘cooperative approaches’ including what some countries see as ‘market-mechanisms’.

But we hope Samoa and other developing countries continue to advocate and insist on more progress on issues relating to ‘means of implementation’ (viz. finance and technology transfer) necessary for mitigation and adaptation actions and the full scope of NDCs not only on mitigation but also adaptation and means of implementation.


Second on the issue of finance

We know this is always a problem with rich country commitment as was very evident in all the past COP meetings. At COP 23 last year, this issue proved most contentious between developed and developing countries especially over what should be in the PAWP (Paris Agreement Work Program). The United States in particular, was opposed to the finance issues in the PAWP even though it notified Parties that it did not intend to remain in the PA.

Despite its opt-out intention however, the US remains a Party until it legally withdraws from the Agreement in November 2020. Knowing how President Trump changes his mind daily, we hope by 2020 the erratic US government will have had enough time to make up its mind and change its views to accept the truth that climate change was not a hoax and recommit to its much needed support and leadership on climate change where the US is a major global contributor. 

Last year, at COP 23 in Bonn which Fiji, our neighboring Pacific country, was at the seat of COP President, the US was opposed to part of the PAWP which included ‘modalities for biennially communicating information on the provision of public financial resources to developing countries’ under Article 9.5 of the PA.

US was also opposed to the launch of a process for setting a new collective quantified goal on finance from a floor of USD 100 billion per year to be agreed to by 2025. Yet the US was the lead advocate for this in the Copenhagen COP 15!

As expected, the US view is shared by other developed countries including the European Union that there was no need to include these matters in the PAWP knowing full well that developing countries wanted these issues to be included as they are key and integral to the implementation of the PA. Samoa should watch carefully further deliberations on this agenda item especially the Footnote added to the final decision adopted at COP 23 last year which reflected that there was no consensus on the matters to be addressed under the PAWP.

Third on the Adaptation Fund serving the Paris Agreement (PA)  

Developed and developing countries are divided over the future and nature of the Adaptation Fund (AF) under the Kyoto Protocol when AF serves the PA. The developing countries want the AF to continue in its operational policies and guidelines enabling developing countries access AF when it serves the PA.

Developed countries however want to change the nature of AF from what it is at present if AF is to serve the PA. The EU said “the current composition of the Board has worked well” but “potential revision of the Board composition depends on outcome of preparatory work on sources and levels of funding.” EU also proposes that Parties have to “decide as to what extent the previous guidance to AF, including those agreed before adoption of the PA, shall apply mutatis mutandis to the AF when it serves the PA.

Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the US, on ‘governance and institutional arrangements’, support the EU in that “the AF enjoys appropriate legal personality to enable a new or revised relationship with the interim trustee, the Fund's secretariat, and any other contractual arrangements.” On the operating modalities, “eligibility is restricted to Parties to the PA from the date the Fund begins to serve the PA.,” Fortunately, prioritization is given to Parties such as small island states such as Samoa and LDCs that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

 Given these proposals of developed countries, developing countries were justifiably concerned that the nature of the AF could change when it serves the PA. The final decision adopted last year by COP23 notes “the progress in undertaking the necessary preparatory work to address governance and institutional arrangements, safeguards and operating modalities for the AF to serve the PA, include sources of funding to be defined by Parties. Samoa should therefore pay attention to the recommendations this year on it as it is bound to be difficult and contentious as Parties attempt to bridge the current divergence of positions on the AF serving the PA.

Fourthly on the 2018 facilitative Talanoa dialogue 

Parties had agreed in Paris in 2015 to “convene a facilitative dialogue in 2018 to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal in PA and to inform the preparation of NDCs. At COP 23 last year, the Fijian Presidency stressed the importance of the facilitative dialogue and called it the ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, to reflect the “Pacific spirit” of sharing stories touted by the Fiji Presidency and small island state countries such as Samoa as very important to “ratchet up” the NDCs of Parties under the PA.

Whilst there was discomfort among some Parties on the strong focus of the Fiji Presidency on the design of the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue alleging the design was not negotiated nor was there any discussion on how it was to be reflected in the COP 23 decision, other Parties especially the small island states endorsed the COP23 Fiji Presidency’s informal note on the Talanoa Dialogue structured around the topics of where are we; where do we want to go; and how do we get there.

The Talanoa Dialogue consists of a preparatory and a political phase, with last year Fiji COP 23 President and this year’s Poland COP 24 President, providing a summary of key messages from roundtables scheduled for this year 2018 to send clear forward looking signals of the Talanoa Dialogue outcome on greater confidence, courage and enhanced ambition for the Paris Agreement.

Interesting but not surprising are the US and especially our Pacific neighbor New Zealand siding with the US deliberately not endorsing the informal note on the Talanoa Dialogue claiming it “was not negotiated by Parties” but only a proposal of the two Presidencies. 

The EU said it could accept the design “in the spirit of compromise” whilst Like-minded Developing Countries (LMDC) were of the view the dialogue should be a Party-driven process and reports of the Talanoa Dialogue should not be left to the two Presidencies. They also had concerns about the involvement of ‘expert institutions’.

However, as a result of further consultations, rich countries had their way and Parties agreed to only “welcome with appreciation” the design of the Talanoa Dialogue to start in January 2018. In the next two weeks, the first part of the Talonoa Dialogue will take place in Bonn. Samoa will be well advised to continue its support of the Talanoa Dialogue Pacific spirit of sharing and its stated stock take value on Parties efforts towards the goals of PA. 

Fifth on The Suva Expert Dialogue related to the International Mechanism on Loss and Damage 

Last year at COP 23, developing countries that include Samoa as part of the Alliance for Small Island States (AOSIS), pushed hard for a permanent agenda item under the Subsidiary Bodies to ensure discussions on the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM) take place inter-sessionally to ensure the WIM can be effective in helping developing countries impacted by climate change. 

As expected, developed countries strongly resisted this call. According to the decision in COP23 - the UNFCCC Secretariat under the guidance of the Executive Committee of the WIM and Chair of the SBI were requested to organize, in conjunction with the SBI session in April-May 2018, the Suva Expert Dialogue!

This was to be “an expert dialogue to explore a wide range of information, inputs and views on ways for facilitating the mobilization and securing of expertise, enhancement of support that include finance technology and capacity-building, for averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events - and the secretariat is to report on the Expert Dialogue.”

Given that the outcomes and report of the Suva Expert Dialogue are critical steps towards the review of the WIM in 2019, it is expected to draw much attention from developing countries. I hope Samoa will already have this agenda item fixed in its radar.

Sixth on Reality on Reduced Climate Financing Trends, GEF Reduced Allocation to to Climate Change 

The loud call by developing countries in Bonn lamenting the Global Environment Facility (GEF) reduction in finance for climate change is quiet deafening. The GEF’s recent 7th replenishment meeting concluded with a total of US$ 4.1 billion pledged, yet only $3.3 billion is actually new funding. The analysis points to climate change see a 47% decrease in developing country allocations and an aggregate 37% decrease compared to GEF 6. This is serious!

This indeed and other equally concerning trends in regards the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) do not reflect the progression of ambition articulated in COP decisions and the PA. For many, PA is a landmark agreement that if effectively implemented will have far reaching implications, foremost among them according to the statement by developing countries through G77 and China, point to the abandoning of a development model which prevailed for more than a century and a half, with devastating consequences, and replacing it with a more sustainable one.

Developing countries attach themselves to the utmost importance of the key Rio principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of national circumstances, and continue to seek to ensure these principles are preserved and reflected in the outcome of the PAWP.

We need to navigate this process as much as we can possibly can. Make sure that Parties do not overlook, postpone or otherwise sideline any of the PA agenda items. Rather we should adopt a holistic, coherent, comprehensive and balanced approach which addresses the full gamut of topics including mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity-building and loss and damage.

Developing country Parties expressed concerns over the lack of progress on all finance issues and the reluctance of developed countries to advance on these issues. At COP23 developing countries “advocated for a standalone SBI item on information to be provided by developed country Parties in accordance with Article 9.5 as they consider this information essential for enhancing predictability and effectiveness of climate finance.

The G77 expressed concerns over the application of “unilateral coercive economic measures that affect the capacities of developing countries to finance their efforts in mitigation and adaption to climate change.” In this context it is of utmost importance for all necessary measures to be undertaken to depoliticize the flow of international financial resources such as through the GEF mechanism.

Finally, Samoa needs to support the call for assurance that new, additional, scaled up, sustainable, and predictable financial incentives are made available to developing county parties to support the implementation of PA agenda. Forest mitigation and adaptation activities are such important components. Climate finance, particularly as it relates to defining and ensuring certainty, predictability and sustainability, this remains seriously lacking and requires an even more concerted effort by developing countries to unite under this call for developed countries to deliver on their related promises and financial commitments on this..

As an initial optic on the Bonn process now in progress for the next two weeks, I like the sentiment of the European Union (EU) when intimated that it has already underscored the importance of the 2018 deadline for the work of the PA and keen on making progress.

One of its objectives for the Bonn session is to move towards draft decision texts on all the elements of the PAWP. It further said the modalities, procedures and guidelines should be fit for purpose and build on the collective experiences of Parties, and should be non-punitive. It looked forward to the Talanoa Dialogue to ensure the delivery of the first set of NDCs was on track. 

I also welcome the first part of what Australia said for the Umbrella Group that 2018 was “an important political moment since Paris” and that “we must now bring the PA to life” with the PAWP providing the foundation and mechanism. All that is needed is political will to translate these into reality! Otherwise they are once again missed and costly opportunities.

By Fiu Mata’ese Elisara 06 May 2018, 12:00AM

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