Spare a thought for the Samoan delegation at Poland Climate Talks

Fiu Mataese Elisara

Executive Director of Ole Siosiomaga Society


As we fast approach the end of 2018 and envelop ourselves in the spirit of the festive season on Christmas and New Year celebrations, we need to spare a thought or two for the Samoa delegation these two weeks in Katowice Poland in the collective pursuit by developing countries for a climate package of decisions that ‘leaves no climate related issues behind’. 

The talks opened last Sunday 2 Dec, with the 24th session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (COP 24), followed by the 14th session of the Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 14) and the 3rd part of the 1st session of the Conference of Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1.3) followed by the meetings of the technical and policy Subsidiary Bodies.

Observing the frustrating preparatory climate meetings from Samoa, I know that discussions in Katowice will be quite challenging and difficult. The ongoing discourse between developing and developed countries especially in regards the guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement Work Program (PAWP) will be brought to the fore. 

The Paris Agreement (PA) was a very delicate deal struck between developed and developing countries three years ago in December 2015 following years of intense negotiations. In Paris at COP21 world leaders settled with signing and ratification of the delicate PA that continues to haunt the climate negotiators on its implementation to date. 

The Paris Agreement was heralded as historic and a great success and naturally many who were subsumed with this alleged ‘success’ expected that the negotiations over the rules and guidelines to implement the PA would be smooth sailing. Sadly, this expectation has been immensely misplaced. The deception and the lack of political will to deliver what was agreed and address how the PA is to be implemented continues to expose the deep political divide between developed and developing countries. The biggest challenge in Katowice these two weeks will be how to bridge this political divide and how any compromises reached can assist realize the goals of PAWP in a balanced way going forward. 

I understand that Samoa is sending a high level delegation of representatives from different Ministries that include the Minister of MNRE and Prime Minister to Katowice and assume that they prepared well to engage fully in the challenges of COP24. 

Not being aware of any prior consultations to galvanize the legitimate voices of our peoples to the collective pursuit of developing countries’ concerns in the Katowice climate discourse, we can only surmise there was prudence in the preparations and any contributions that Samoa submit to the COP24 meetings that include a Ministerial high-level dialogue on climate finance; the stock take on pre-2020 implementation and ambition; and the 2018 Facilitative Talanoa Dialogue will accurately reflect the real concerns and aspirations of our peoples.

So for Katowice, Samoa needs to support developing countries to insist on ensuring the fundamental Rio principles of equity and ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR) enshrined in UNFCCC and the PA are operationalized in the outcomes of the talks.

They should stress that while all Parties have a common responsibility to address climate change, the inherent responsibility is also differentiated between developed and developing countries, due to the historical responsibility of developed countries for their past emissions, which cannot be simply disregarded. A focus on just the current and future emissions as imposed by rich and developed countries fails the spirit of climate justice. 

Developed countries will continue to deliberately ignore the globally accepted equity and CBDR principles in their efforts to advance climate positions that refuse to respect the clear differentiation between developed and developing countries. 

Underpinning this is a collective efforts of most rich developed countries to renege and walk away from their climate liabilities and promised obligations to developing countries through undertaking greater emission reductions, provide new additional finance, transfer relevant and affordable technology, assist mitigate and help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

We expect that the Samoa delegation will engage actively supporting these positions of developing countries in this tussle between developed and developing countries as not only will this preoccupation play out in the Katowice PAWP negotiations, but also in the key discussions on finance, the dialogues on pre-2020 and post 2020 actions.

I have observed the foregoing concerns being articulated by representatives of developing countries in the opening statement by the Chair of G77 and China who also represent small island states such as Samoa as part of the global developing countries’ lobbying group. He stressed that as developing countries, “our pressing needs for development and the betterment of lives by lifting people out of poverty must be respected and safeguarded in this process. Herein lies the criticality of support. As developing countries, we committed to this most crucial cause of facing climate change collectively as we genuinely recognized that the existential threat it poses looms upon all of us. However, we also undertook it in light of a clear commitment laid out by Paris that the means of implementation would be readily available”.

He underscored that developing countries have never wavered in their commitment to effectively combatting climate change and dealing with its adverse impacts already witnessed across the world. We have spared no effort to support the process and have approached the negotiations with an open mind and a full willingness to achieve success here in Katowice. We have made it a point to avoid entrenchment and maximalism, and we have done our utmost to build bridges and engage sincerely. We must also respect the core tenets of undertaking the climate agenda in line with efforts to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication.

 The parity clearly outlined in the PA between mitigation and adaptation efforts must also be safeguarded and upheld, recognizing the pressing and existential threats we are facing here and now, and subsequently the resources we are already spending on facing them. Katowice provides us with an opportunity to deliver a balanced and robust outcome which would responsibly and adequately respond to the serious challenges of climate change, most recently highlighted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C which underscored the urgent need for enhanced action”.

So the central issues that the Samoa delegation will face in the Katowice negotiations under the PAWP include nationally determined contributions (NDCs) (Article 4); cooperative approaches (Article 6); adaptation (Article 7); finance (Article 9); technology transfer (Article 10); transparency framework (Article 13); global stocktake (Article 14); facilitating implementation and compliance (Article 15) and possible additional matters related to the implementation of the PA.

1. On the finance side developing countries appreciate the initiation of the first formal replenishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and would continue to seek a “substantial and ambitious” replenishment which must be informed by the “needs and priorities” of developing countries. 

2. On reporting and communication of finance in terms of Article 9 of the PA, key issues are yet to be resolved regarding the modalities and vehicles to be used, as well as of what is done with the information to be reported on as part of the obligation of developed country parties to provide finance and how it is assessed under the enhanced transparency regime. It is critical in Katowice to reach agreement on the process for the establishment of a new global goal on finance to be initiated immediately as issues of finance are of utmost priority and addressing them in a comprehensive, satisfactory manner will create favorable conditions that could unlock a broad array of related and linked issues under negotiations.

3. On adaptation, stress that the final outcome of COP24 give adaptation a key role commensurate with challenges thus support for adaptation actions in terms of the preparation of the adaptation communication, as well as the preparation and implementation of national strategies, plans and programs in accordance with the nationally determined needs of developing countries as a critical element of any acceptable outcome.

4. On the enhanced transparency framework for action and support (ETF), stress that there should no backsliding and Parties should build on their current standard of transparency, and the ETF shall build on and enhance the existing transparency arrangements under the Convention. It must be recognized that “developing country Parties have different starting points and therefore the modalities, procedures and guidelines should have built-in flexibility and allow developing country Parties to self-determine which flexibilities we will apply.” The framework should also “enable improvement over time” and that in the case of developing countries, “this will require support.” 

5. On nationally determined contributions (NDCs), stress the importance of maintaining the comprehensive full scope of NDCs and underscore the importance of maintaining the nationally determined nature of NDCs in light of equity, CBDR-RC, and in the light of national circumstances. 

6. Advocate that in recognizing our shared responsibility advancing the PAWP it is important to remain “faithful to the Convention, its purpose and principles”.

However, as stated above, some key issues of controversy under the PAWP that Samoa need to pay particular attention in Katowice these two weeks are: 

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) - developed countries are not willing to accept the option put forward by the large bloc of developing countries to reflect differentiation among developed and developing countries in the guidance to be developed on NDCs. The view of developed countries is that all Parties would provide information on a certain set of elements and claim that “bifurcation” (the differentiation between developed and developing) is inconsistent with PA. Developing countries are of the view that NDCs are only voluntary and they would do it at their discretion over time.  

There are also differences on the scope of the NDCs on whether it is only about mitigation contributions or if it also includes adaptation efforts, as well as the means of implementation related to finance, technology transfer, capacity building. On the issue of registry of NDCs, several developing countries argue that there is no need to have two separate registries as NDCs comprise both mitigation and adaptation whereas developed countries say the registry for NDCs is only addressing mitigation actions.

On the common time frame for NDCs developed countries prefer having a common time frame for all NDCs as opposed to some developing countries arguing that countries should have the flexibility of deciding whether to have a 5 year or a 10- year time frame.

Transparency Framework - Concerns have been expressed by developing countries that the proposed guidelines to measure, report and verify (MRV) climate actions under the transparency framework enhance the obligations on developing countries, with no enhancement of obligations on developed countries, and which even allow a backsliding of obligations from existing transparency requirements for developed countries. Some developing countries are of the view that there cannot be common reporting guidelines for both developed and developing countries as they have different capacities and oppose limitations arguing that it is up to them to ‘nationally determine’ the flexibilities needed without a top- down imposition of who can and who cannot have those flexibilities. 

Global Stocktake and Attempts to side-line issue of equity - The PA stipulates that the global stocktake (GST) has to be carried out in light of equity and will take place in 2023. An agreement among developing countries reflects that commonly agreed guidance to operationalize equity needs to be designed in the modalities of the GST. Developing countries call for equity to be captured in the negotiating text, not just overarching but also crosscutting in all elements of the GST. They propose several indicators such as historical responsibility, equitable access to sustainable development, carbon space, etc. to measure equity but developed countries will not have any of this kind of approach. 

Finance-related matters – the usual fight on finance issues will yet again be a key battle-ground in Poland as contentious issues have emerged around modalities for ex-ante information on the projected levels of public financial resources to be provided by developed countries to developing countries under Article 9.5 of the PA and for setting up a process for a new collective goal on finance based on the needs and priorities of developing countries before 2025. There are several components of this pivotal issue but important for Samoa is to watch discussions under two important issues relevant for us. 

First is on Adaptation Fund (AF) where developed and developing countries are divided over the future and nature of this under the PA. Currently AF is under the Kyoto Protocol and developing countries want it remain in its current form for developing countries to access AF serving the PA. Developed countries, however, want to change the nature of the AF if the AF is to serve the PA. 

Second, on Technology Transfer where under the PA, Parties agreed to establish a technology framework to provide guidance to the Technology Mechanism promoting enhanced action on technology development and transfer. Developing countries support this to enable access to climate technologies in the private sector, including through the provision of public financial resources. Developed countries are opposed to this and do not want any link to provision of financial support for accessing climate technologies in the private sector. They also oppose support for research and development of technologies in developing countries or transfer of technologies which are ready for transfer.   

The Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance will take place on 10 December and I am sure Samoa will take advantage of this opportunity to raise its voice to pay particular attention to the issue of enhancing access to climate finance. While developed countries will stress that trends in climate finance point to increasing flows, they have provided only USD 33 billion in 2015 and USD 38 billion in 2016. Samoa can prudently support developing countries to highlight that this falls short of the commitment made in 2016 in Cancun for the mobilization of USD 100 billion per year by 2020. 

Moreover, a lack of clarity with regard to the use of different definitions of climate finance limits the comparability of data. With no clarity on the definition of climate finance, developing countries should continue objecting to the counting of loans provided to developing countries as being part of climate finance. Developing countries must also raise issues over the introduction of new terms such as “climate finance providers” due to the stance of the US in the Special Climate Fund avoiding reference to developed countries. This is an attempt to dilute the obligations of developed countries under UNFCCC and the PA in the provision of financial resources to developing countries.

Finally on The Talanoa Dialogue - In Paris in 2015, Parties agreed to convene a facilitative dialogue to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the PA long-term goal and at COP 23 in 2017, the Fijian Presidency through Frank Bainimarama significantly called it the ‘Talanoa dialogue’, to reflect what is the “Pacific spirit” of sharing stories. This was structured around three general topics: ‘where are we’; ‘where do we want to go’ and ‘how do we get there’ and both the COP 23 and COP 24 Presidents will be providing a summary of key messages from the roundtables to be held in Poland next week 10-12 December 2018. 

Important to pay attention to is the key concern of developing countries on the question of ‘how did we get here’ which has been ignored by developed countries deliberately as this signals their blatant and knowingly disregard for their historical responsibility to the causes of climate change.  

The IPCC 1.5°C Special Report is expected to feature in a big way in Katowice and many important findings of the report will be highlighted as clearly articulated in its Summary for Policy Makers (SPM). These include references to “impacts at 1.5°C, such as on global sea level rise, biodiversity and ecosystems, ocean temperature, and adaptation needs, will be lower compared to 2°C. Similarly, climate-related risks to health livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C, but increase further with 2°C.” The report also states that “limiting global warming requires limiting the total cumulative global anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) since the preindustrial period, i.e. staying within a total carbon budget.” A further message reflect that “pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems.” 

For developing countries such as Samoa and the Pacific siland countries, it is vital to advocate in Katowice the statements in the SPM such as  “International cooperation is a critical enabler for developing countries and vulnerable regions to strengthen their action for the implementation of 1.5°C-consistent climate responses, including through enhancing access to finance and technology and enhancing domestic capacities, taking into account national and local circumstances and needs” and that “Collective efforts at all levels, in ways that reflect different circumstances and capabilities, in the pursuit of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, taking into account equity as well as effectiveness, can facilitate strengthening the global response to climate change, achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty.’

To conclude, it is not easy or realistic to strive not to leave any of the climate issues behind in Katowice Poland. So spare a thought for our Samoa delegation in Katowice Poland these two weeks as the key challenges they are facing as intimated in this write-up are challenging and complex.

Indeed as we enter the spirit of Christmas and New Year, we need to not lose sight of our climate reality and envelop a commitment to join many others in the world to see how best we can influence the divergent positions among developed and developing Parties to envelop the Festive Season spirit in reconciling and steer us to an outcome that ensure COP24 outcome decisions are fair, equitable, inclusive, and continue to respect the fundamental Rio principles. 

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