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Rehana Dada
By Rehana Dada

Rehana Dada is a journalist and filmmaker who covers global change, development and earth sciences. She works in government and non profit sectors in research, communications and project management through her small company, Sea Witch. She is a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship alumna at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Posted on Friday, 7 November 2014 16:39

When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was asked – at the launch of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report on Sunday (2 November) – why he is an optimist regarding the possibility of timeous action on climate change, his answer was focused on what he considered to be positive developments around the finance arrangements.

He talked to the pledge made at the September Climate Summit that he hosted in New York for $200 billion to be mobilised from private and public funds by the end of 2015, and ongoing discussions to redirect investments from fossil fuel based development into renewable energy.

But a key sticking point in the climate negotiations is exactly around finance. Funds for adaptation in developing countries were previously inadequate and difficult to access.

In the workflow towards the Paris agreement, the Bonn sessions (in the third week of October) ended with developing countries attempting to avoid finance commitments, preferring instead for these to remain voluntary.

Although the form of the Paris agreement is far from decided, countries have in the meantime been preparing Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

A country’s INDC is an indication of how much it is putting on the table to address particular aspects of climate change.

What a country puts on the table is already defined in the climate change convention, and this would be mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer and/or capacity building.

In mitigation, an INDC would talk to the amount of reductions in carbon emissions; in finance, this talks to monies allocated and for what specific purposes; and in adaptation, INDCs refer to indications of adaptation planning and activities as well as recognition of prior adaptation.

Once countries present their INDCs it is not expected that they will reconsider their targets later on.

There is consensus that mitigation commitments need to be mandatory, and developing countries could accept voluntary adaptation targets.

But avoiding commitments on finance is considered to show disregard for a key principle in the climate convention that places an obligation on the developed world to support developing countries in mitigation and adaptation.

Taking mitigation commitments from developing countries without making finance commitments to support those actions also continues the trend of placing greater and greater responsibility for climate change on the shoulders of those least responsible.

Further, it ignores a key condition of developing countries that their mitigation commitments are contingent on finance commitments from the industrialised world.

Spokesperson for the Africa Group of Negotiators, Seyni Nafo, explains that in the convention, “Specific financial obligations apply for developed countries included in Annex II to support adaptation in developing countries. Therefore there is an expectation that those countries would indicate their finance contributions in their INDCs. Adaptation and mitigation are general commitments for all, however developed countries have also specific financial commitments and in no way should they be able to back away from those commitments”.

This avoidance of commitment is not the only concern with regards to finance, as with other matters including concern around existing Official Development Assistance commitments being double counted as adaptation finance – if there is no clear delineation around mainstreaming climate change into development-, limitations around decision making in adaptation by recipient countries, and the high possibility of adaptation costs being shouldered by the public sector in low income countries.

There is no deadline for presentation of the INDCs, but parties are invited to submit by the first quarter of 2015 to allow for processes of clarity and transparency before Paris.

The Fifth Assessment Report leaves one with a feeling that climate change has settled in nicely now, and there really should be some quite serious thinking about taking feet off the desk and figuring out how to move into this future turbulence.

It shows that it is human activity that is responsible for global warming (95% probability), and that warming is occurring progressively – very noticeably in the past half century.

Over the course of this year, even as the IPCC was releasing its reports, scientific journals have been heavily sprinkled with “worse than we thought” papers, as evidence was shared that the onslaught of climate change is faster and worse than previously expected.

Yet there’s no sense of this urgency being echoed in the climate negotiations.

Although there is hope that elements of a text can be put on the table in Lima in December, negotations will take place only next year en route to Paris.

It is likely that these will result in some revision of stances, but it is hoped that even before the Lima meeting, adequate capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund could change the tone, positively.

Certainly Ban ki-Moon is confident that “we can make it happen”.

Sources : Seyni Nafo (interview), Claudio Angelo (interview), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and press conference, International Institute for Sustainable Development reports and briefings, Third World Network briefings, Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Nature Climate Change, Science, other peer reviewed journal articles and reports and policy briefings.

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