This article is co-authored with Tenzin Wangmo, LDC Lead Negotiator from Bhutan, and was first published on LDC Group official website on 12 April 2019.
Rules alone will not get us anywhere; we need urgent and more ambitious climate action
2019 will be a critical year for carrying forward the momentum on climate action generated last year through COP24, the Talanoa Dialogue and the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C(1.5°C Special Report). Although COP24 delivered on most of the core elements of the Paris rulebook, the rulebook is just one element for achieving the Paris Agreement’s 1.5oC long-term temperature goal and other long-term goals. Without urgent and more ambitious action, even robust rules will not get us anywhere. Therefore, it is important that countries around the world embrace 2019 as a year of ambition and action, taking us towards climate resilient and 1.5°C pathways consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Katowice package for implementing the Paris Agreement
The chief task of COP24 was to agree on the guidelines for implementing and accounting for climate action and support within the framework of the Paris Agreement. The package of rules adopted in Katowice – the result of three years of development and negotiations culminating at COP24 – received a mixed response. Some commentators expressed doubt as to whether the outcome would lead to a scaling-up of climate action, and finance needed for developing countries. However, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) believe that at its core, the COP24 outcome, despite some deficiencies and unfinished business, was still a landmark success in bringing the Paris Agreement to life. Now it’s time to act.
Towards the end of the Katowice climate talks, the COP President, Michal Kurtyka, said that the Poland Presidency has made everyone equally unhappy with the draft package under the Paris Agreement Work Programme. A couple of days later, thethen LDC Chair, Gebru Jebmer Endalew, commenting on the Katowice summit outcome, which adopted the Paris Agreement rulebook, said: “While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted in Katowice provide a strong basis to start implementing the Paris Agreement”. Indeed, the immediate next step for countries is to take urgent action to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments by starting with implementation and bringing increased ambition in the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which need to be communicated by 2020.
Climate ambition is key for 2019
In its 1.5°C Special Report, the IPCC warned that unless the emissions reduction targets in the new and updated NDCs are substantially strengthened, limiting warming to 1.5°C will become out of reach. Warming over 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would mean millions more people exposed to droughts, heat waves and floods; irreversible biodiversity loss; ocean warming that threatens marine life and the people who depend on it; and rising sea levels that can wipe small island states off the face of the earth.
Following the heated debate on the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report during COP24, the LDC Group unequivocally welcomed the report.In an open letterto the UN Secretary-General and the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, the LDC Group expressed extreme disappointment and deep frustration at not being able to unanimously agree to welcome the report at COP24. LDC countries recently declared in a Group submissionthat they will engage actively at the next UNFCCC meeting in June, where participants will further consider the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report with a view to strengthening the scientific knowledge on the 1.5°C goal.
The conclusion of the Talanoa Dialogue was also an important landmark from COP24 and helped build awareness of the scale and urgency of the action required. However, COP24 didn’t deliver the increased ambition needed, as set out in the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report. In response to the ambition deficit that we are collectively still facing, the LDC Group made an appeal to countries at the end of COP24 to revise and enhance their NDCs before 2020 in line with their fair share, and with increased ambition that responds to the science and 1.5oC pathways. We must also see countries bringing forward their long-term, low-greenhouse gas emission development strategies by 2020, as visionary and transformational planning and actions are essential if the world is to limit warming to 1.5oC.
Spillover from Katowice must be completed in 2019
The work related to the highly complex rules under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement necessary to manage the use of market approaches (e.g. carbon crediting mechanisms) has rolled-over to the next round of negotiations in 2019 after/as COP24 delegates could not reach a consensus. These rules for markets are mandated for completion in December 2019 at COP25 in Chile.
The LDC Group wants to see robust rules for markets under Article 6. The rules must maintain environmental integrity, avoid double counting, provide incentives for more ambitious NDCs, and result in real, clear emission reductions. The adopted rules must deliver “overall mitigation in global emissions” that goes beyond offsetting and provide a source of funding for adaptation through a “share of proceeds”.
Reaching a decision this year on a source of funding for adaptation through a “share of proceeds” is critical for the Adaptation Fund to serve the Paris Agreement and continue to support adaptation actions. All mechanisms under Article 6 must also contribute to the sustainable development of countries using the mechanisms.
Among other further work arising from Katowice, additional technical work under the Enhanced Transparency Framework includes work on ‘common reporting tables’ for national inventory reports and ‘common tabular formats’ for reporting the information necessary to track progress, information on financial support provided and mobilized, and information on financial support needed and received. This work has to be completed by COP26 in 2020 and will be an important final component for having transparent information reported by Parties that tells us how we are tracking towards the Paris goals, both individually and collectively.
Climate finance for mobilising actions
International climate finance plays a key role in enhancing ambition. Governments in Katowice not only acknowledged this but also agreed on more clarity in the process and guidelines that will enable greater predictability and transparency of finance post-2020. Parties agreed on the types of quantitative and qualitative information that developed countries shall biennially communicate on the projected levels of public financial resources for financing climate action starting from 2020.
A number of governments made announcements in Katowice about replenishing the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and pledges to the Adaptation Fund and Least Developed Countries Fund. The first formal replenishment process for the GCF, which is aimed to be concluded in October 2019, must be ambitious enough to meet the needs of developing countries.
In reality, the available climate finance made available to date does not meet the actual costs for developing countries to adapt to and address the impacts of climate change, and to implement ambitious plans. Therefore, it is important that richer countries step-in to provide additional, sustainable and predictable climate finance to meet developing countries’ needs, particularly those of the LDCs. Developed countries need to increase their share of public finance for climate action programmes toachieve the USD 100 billion goal per year by 2020. Likewise, clarity on common definitions of climate finance will help to further clarify how much money is genuinely being provided and projected to be provided. Preparatory work should begin soon to start the process in 2020 to set a new finance goal that goes beyond USD 100 billion per year after 2025.
Public finance remains key for LDC countries, as it is difficult to attract private and other means of finance particularly for non-revenue generating adaptation activitiesbecause of market size and low profitability. As highlighted by the new LDC Group Chair in his welcome note, without adequate and sustainable funding, LDCs that are worst affected by climate change will risk being left behind in building resilience and in the transition to a zero-carbon future.
2019 a vital year for Loss and Damage
Many LDCs and other vulnerable countries are experiencing loss and damage from climate change and are faced with the burden of implementing measures to address its unavoidable impacts. The IPCC 1.5°C Special Report has provided valuable information on loss and damage, such as the various factors limiting the ability of developing countries to adapt and the associated losses they face. It clearly shows that even when keeping warming to within 1.5°C, certain sectors will reach hard adaptation limits. This means that even with all adaptation options implemented, countries will suffer unavoidable losses, with adverse effects for human health and livelihoods. More scientific information on loss and damage related to such residual risk, irreversible loss, and economic and non-economic losses caused by slow onset and extreme events, will be presented in upcoming Sixth Assessment Reports of the IPCC to be released in 2022.
At Katowice, developing countries called for the inclusion of loss and damagein the rules under the Enhanced Transparency Framework and the Global Stocktake. In both cases, parties reached a compromise that allows for information on loss and damage to be included in biennial transparency reports and as part of the Global Stocktake. Going forward, parties will therefore be able to report information on loss and damage, including residual impacts, action taken to address those impacts, as well as the support being provided and the support needed. This information will be indispensable in meeting the goal of the Global Stocktake, which is to comprehensively evaluate progress in implementing the Paris Agreement.
As agreed at COP22, governments will meet in 2019 for the second Review of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damage. This Review, which unfortunately takes place against the backdrop of the numerous climate related disasters unfolding worldwide, will be critical for identifying ways in which the WIM can be enhanced and strengthened. .
The first step of the WIM Review will be at the meeting of the Subsidiary Bodies in June this year, where the terms of reference for the Review are scheduled to be finalised. As reflected in the recent LDC submissionprepared ahead of the Review, the Review must strengthen the WIM to serve the needs of developing countries and flesh out activities aimed at completing the third function of the WIM, related to action and support. Close collaboration with other constituted bodiesand the Financial Mechanism will be indispensable. The WIM should continue to serve the COP as well as the CMAunder the Paris Agreement to achieve the maximum benefits and efficiency.
LDCs’ proposals and asks in 2019
The LDC Group, under Bhutan’s leadership as Chair, has already initiated rigorous internal planning on how LDCs can lead by action and example. The LDCs’ mantra to step up from perceptions of victimhood to showing proactive leadership in climate action will guide the Group’s work throughout 2019 and 2020.
Bhutan is well known for its leadership in climate action for many years. The exemplary work done at home by declaring the country to remain carbon neutral and maintaining forest cover more than mandated in its Constitution are strong actions that should inspire others.
Under Bhutan’s Chairmanship, LDCs will not only ask others to commit to ambitious climate action in the lead-up to the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit on 23 September, but will also present its proposal on how poor and vulnerable countries that are least responsible for the causes of climate change can collectively be part of the solution. LDCs have launched a long-term initiativeon renewable energy, and adaptation and resilience, to support the transition towards a low-carbon and climate resilient future, which will bring together LDCs’ collective needs, ambition and actions. LDCs are also striving to formulate strategies that are aligned with meeting the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.
Existing commitments are far from enough to prevent warming from exceeding 1.5°C. As alluded to by the LDC Chair in his welcome note, we need to see countries step up and submit more ambitious plans for climate action. The work done in the negotiating rooms over the past years can be translated into tangible action only if countries come forward with more ambitious NDCs in line with the Paris Agreement goals. Countries such as the LDCs, which are the most affected by climate change and with the least capacity to respond, are already taking ambitious action.
The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit this year will be a key moment to boost ambition and accelerate action to implement the Paris Agreement. The previous LDC Chair met with the UN Secretary-General during COP24, conveying the message that the world’s poorest call for leadership by all governments to implement the Paris Agreement, aiming for the highest ambition and to accept that science is not up for negotiation.
With the adoption of the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement in Katowice, now it is time for political commitments that increase ambition and accelerate action on the ground. Let us all support efforts to make 2019 a year of action and ambition, for which everyone has to act.