Photo: Bangkok Climate Change Conference. Credit: UN Climate Change - Photo: 2018

A Mountain to Climb Before December UN Climate Summit

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN (IDN) – Despite growing calls for urgent and strong climate change action, a crucial round of talks concluded in Bangkok on September 9 with what UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa has termed “uneven progress”.

The Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, Gebru Jember Endalew of Ethiopia finds that “progress has been slow” in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city. Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s International Climate Lead feels relieved that “scuppering the ship” has been averted.

The meeting was the final gathering of countries before they meet to agree the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement at the UN Climate Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland this December.

The implementation guidelines, which have been under negotiation since 2016 and are set to be adopted at COP24, are needed to unlock transparent and practical climate action across the globe.

“In Bangkok, there has been uneven progress on the elements of the climate change regime that countries are working towards,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. “This underlines the urgent need for continuing work in the coming weeks,” she added.

The UN Climate Change Secretariat is based in Bonn, the capital city of West Germany before German unification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The provisions of the Paris Agreement that countries are working towards operationalizing include increased action to deal with the impacts of climate change and increased and transparent support for developing country action in the form of finance, technology cooperation and capacity-building.

Of vital significance is that the provisions to be operationalized also include the goal of limiting global temperature increase this century to well below 2C, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5C through transparent and ambitious emission reductions.

“In preparation for COP24, it will be critical to achieve balance across all issues. This is important because all parts of the regime need to function together in an inter-connected manner,” Espinosa underlined.

She pointed out that Countries have been grappling with how to reflect the contributions and responsibilities of developed and developing countries given their different national circumstances. Of key concern are items that relate to transparently and regularly communicating actions, as well as how to achieve full clarity on climate finance now and in the long-term.

“The Paris Agreement strikes a delicate balance to bring all countries together. We must recognize that countries have different realities at home. They have different levels of economic and social development that lead to different national situations,” noted Espinosa.

“This needs to be reflected in the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement. This calls for a political solution, but time is running short. Leaders need to engage and help solve these issues well in advance of COP24,” she urged.

The need for urgent action is underscored by the fact that this year, the world has witnessed flood-related deaths, livelihoods wiped out by droughts and expensive infrastructure lost across large stretches of the developed and the developing world.

“Clearly, we need to increase climate action significantly. Clearly, fully implementing the Paris Agreement is the way to do this in a balanced, coordinated manner that leaves nobody behind,” she added.

The LDC Group Chair said: “While there was a greater sense of urgency from countries coming into Bangkok, progress has been slow. There remains an immense amount of work to be done and only five negotiating days in Katowice before the  Paris Agreement rulebook needs to be delivered. The effectiveness of the Paris Agreement depends on the delivery of a robust set of implementation guidelines. Nearly 300 pages of text need to be refined so that textual negotiations can begin on day one in Katowice.”

Endalew concurred with Espinosa that a key issue in Bangkok has been climate finance. “The Paris Agreement cannot be implemented without climate finance. Clear rules need to be agreed in Katowice to support developing countries taking climate action. The failure of rich countries to deliver adequate resources has severe ramifications for people and communities in the Least Developed Countries and around the world that are already bearing the brunt of climate change on a daily basis,” he added.

Endalew accentuated that the LDCs and other developing countries lack the tools and resources to cope with the devastating impacts of climate change. “Addressing loss and damage is integral to an effective global response to climate change and the rulebook must reflect this to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he added.

“We have fortunately avoided scuppering the ship,” said Christian Aid’s International Climate Lead Adow. Governments have empowered the Co-Chairs to turn the progress made so far into a more solid basis for negotiations in Poland. “It is now vital for the Co-Chairs to change the course of the negotiations away from diplomatic doldrums towards a win-win approach and craft middle ground options that the whole world can get on board with at COP24.”

The Co-Chairs will have to remain transparent in their process, ensure an even-handed treatment of the options on the table, and refrain from inserting new language in order “to avoid a mutiny” later this year. However, larger concerns remain over the role of one country – and one man in particular – in frustrating progress.

“Under [President Donald]Trump the U.S. has set about renegotiating the Paris Agreement to escape its historical responsibility and get better deal for the Big Polluters it serves,” said Corporate Accountability’s media director, Jesse Bragg. “Led by the U.S., developed countries are trying to strip equity from Paris and force false solutions into the heart of the Agreement.

“But this type of obstruction is nothing new – the U.S. has long watered down multilateral agreements before walking away all together. If we’re to get what the world needs from Paris, we cannot allow Trump to hold this Agreement hostage.”

Particularly frustrating for developing countries and civil society alike was an apparent refusal by developed countries, led by the U.S., to engage constructively on key discussions about finance issues such as their communication of up-front information, the process to establish a new long-term finance goal, and the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund.

Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator at the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development, warned, “the U.S.’ cancellation of $2 billion of its $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund and obstruction of the Fund’s replenishment – these acts are not only denial of its responsibility for the climate crisis. These acts will bring further harm to our people and communities.”

Meena Raman, legal advisor at Third World Network, said: “The U.S. has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement but still negotiates as if it is a Party, weakening international cooperation by not contributing to finance and technology transfer to developing countries.”

After contributing the most to cause the climate crisis, she added, the U.S. now expects developing countries to clean up the mess with no help whatsoever. “This Just Do It Yourself attitude risks infecting the entire process and will hinder the much needed implementation of the Paris Agreement,” Raman warned.

“The Paris Agreement is on the brink. Developed countries are going back on their word and refusing to agree clear rules governing climate finance. If they remain stuck in their positions and fail to loosen their purses, this treaty may collapse,” Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s Global Lead on Climate Change declared.

“We have a mountain to climb before the next climate summit this December. Finance ministers must now step in and deliver on the promises made in Paris,” Singh said.

Rachel Kennerley, International Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, warned: “The U.S.’ siren call appears to be working, big polluting countries are falling in behind.” A case in point is that now Australia is openly talking of scrapping its already weak climate plan and withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. “And other low-ambition countries including the U.K. are hiding in the U.S.’ shadow even while claiming to be climate leaders.”

Kennerley said: “To be a real climate leader the U.K. and other developed countries need to provide real climate finance and phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible.”  [IDN-InDepthNews – 10 September 2018]

Photo: Bangkok Climate Change Conference. Credit: UN Climate Change

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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