After Bonn: Will the global climate caravan head to SA next?

2017-11-18 09:30 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - As negotiations at the global climate conference in Bonn, Germany drew to a close, ministers have welcomed the offer by South Africa to host the next meeting in the first half of 2018. 

The department of environmental affairs has confirmed it has offered to host the 26th BASIC Ministerial meeting, as the group of 77 this year, reiterated their to support Ecuador as the Chair at the conclusion of the 25th BASIC Ministerial Meeting at the Climate Change Headquarters of the United Nations Framework Convention.

SEE: COP23: SA's Environment minister throws shade at Trump, developed countries

But many have criticised that the UN climate talks, sluggish in the need for policy consensus is struggling to remain relevant.

AFP reports the telling moment at the 23rd edition of UN climate talks that underscored both the life-and-death stakes in the fight against global warming, and how hard it is for this belaboured forum to rise to the challenge.

Twelve-year-old Timoci Naulusala from Fiji, a nation disappearing under rising seas, was delivering a testimonial to ministers and heads of state with crisp English and irresistible charm.

Suddenly, describing the devastation wrought by Cyclone Winston last year, his words became measured, his voice hushed.

"My home, my school -- my source of food, water, money -- was totally destroyed," he said.

"My life was in chaos. I asked myself: Why is this happening? What am I going to do?"

The answer to Timoci's first question has become frightening clear: climate change.


With only a single degree Celsius of global warming so far, the planet has already seen a crescendo of deadly droughts, heatwaves, and superstorms engorged by rising seas.

"Climate change is here. It is dangerous. And it is about to get much worse," said Johan Rockstroem, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, a climate change research centre.

The 196-nation Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, enjoins the world to cap the rise in temperature at "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a goal barely within reach that still may not save Fiji and dozens of small island states.

Bangladesh and other countries with highly-populated delta regions are also at high risk.

But Timoci's second question remains open: What is he, and by extension the world, going to do?

'Should' or 'Shall'

At first, the answer - laid out in the 1992 UN Convention on Climate Change - seemed straight-forward: humans must stop loading the atmosphere with the greenhouse gases that drive global warming.

The successful repair of the ozone hole suggested a way forward: an international treaty.

But it took a quarter of a century to get one, in 2015, and even then it is woefully inadequate: voluntary national pledges to curb carbon pollution would still allow the global thermometer to go up 3 C, a recipe for human misery on a vast scale.

Since Paris, the UN climate talks - known to participants as "COPs", or Conferences of the Parties - have focused on working out an operational handbook for the treaty, which goes into effect in 2020.

But as the years tick by, the byzantine bureaucracy - where hundreds of diplomats can argue for days over whether a text will say "should" or "shall" - has struggled to keep pace with both the problem, and what some negotiators call "the real world".

"What is at stake here is the relevance of the COP process," said Nicaragua's chief negotiator Paul Oquist, lamenting a point of blockage and the generally slow pace.

"We cannot risk becoming more and more irrelevant with each meeting."

The UN climate process risks falling out of step in two key ways, experts suggest.

One is in relation to the unforgiving conclusions of science, which show that the window of opportunity for avoiding climate cataclysm is rapidly narrowing to a slit.

This year's climate talks kicked off with negotiators learning that CO2 emissions -- after remaining stable for three years, raising hopes that they had peaked -- will rise by two percent in 2017, a development one scientist called "a giant step backwards for humankind".

Negotiations were also reeling from US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out from the Paris Agreement. America sent envoys to the meetings but White House officials and energy company executives hosted a pro-fossil fuel event on the conference margins.

Meanwhile, scientists warned of invisible temperature thresholds - "tipping points" - beyond which ice sheets would irretrievably shed enough water to raise global oceans by metres.

SEE: 5 Images to put massive Antarctica iceberg break into perspective

"The only question is how fast," James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies until 2013, told AFP.

 'Little adrenaline' 

The UN's 12-day negotiations came to an end Saturday with an agreement to hold a stocktake in 2018 of national efforts to cut fossil fuel emissions.

But the talks are falling behind the response of cities, sub-national regions and especially businesses, which have leaped headlong into the transition from a dirty to a clean global economy.

"For the first time in the history of the COPs, the heart of the action was not in the negotiating arena but in the 'green' zone" showcasing innovations in sustainable development, said David Levai, head of the climate program at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris.

Some 7,500 cities and local governments have set carbon cutting targets, and hundreds of global companies are retooling for a low-carbon world.

A veteran EU climate diplomat, meanwhile, bemoaned the lack of dynamism in the negotiating arena. "I've never seen a COP with so little adrenaline," he told AFP.

Mads Randboll Wolff, a Danish expert in bioeconomics -- a field that didn't even exist a decade ago -- recalled the bitter disappointment of the failed Copenhagen climate summit in 2009.

"The entire world was looking up to the podium, waiting for world leaders to strike the deal that would save us," he said.

"One of the lessons from Copenhagen is that the negotiations are not enough," he added. "We need them. But we also need civil society -- people, citizens - to take action."

PICS: Lewis Pugh’s #ArcticDecade campaign shows ‘runaway climate change ’

Here's a look at 14 outcomes and goals from CO23:

1. Early Paris agreement ratification a hard-won achievement

BASIC Ministers welcomed the large number of ratifications of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) achieved to date (169) and requested remaining parties to the UNFCCC to ratify the Agreement at an early date. Ministers reaffirmed that the Paris Agreement is a hard-won achievement by the international community which enhances the implementation of the Convention in the post-2020 period and strengthens the global response to climate change in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, reflecting equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

2. BASIC’s highest political commitment to Kyoto and Paris

Ministers reiterated that the global effort against climate change is an irreversible process that cannot be postponed. It offers valuable opportunities to promote sustainable development. In this regard, Ministers underlined BASIC’s highest political commitment to the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention, its Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement in all their aspects. Ministers urged all signatories to stay the course and maintain their support to the Paris Agreement for the good of all humankind and our future generations. Ministers highlighted BASIC’s willingness to work together with all Parties and stakeholders to promote global low greenhouse gas emissions, climate-resilient and sustainable development.  

3. Ministers pledged BASIC’s full support to the Fijian Presidency of COP23.

They underlined the importance of COP 23 to prepare the ground towards the completion of the work related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Ministers reiterated that the work on both the pre-2020 and post-2020 should be in full accordance with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. They also emphasised the importance of openness, transparency, inclusiveness and the Party-driven nature of the negotiations. 

4. COP 23 should accelerate the implementation of pre-2020 commitments and actions

The Ministers recalled BASIC's request captured in the COP 22 report for pre-2020 issues to be given equal treatment at COP-23. Ministers further underlined that COP 23 should accelerate the implementation of pre-2020 commitments and actions, including addressing this issue under a dedicated COP Agenda Item. 

5. Comprehensive, party-driven negotiating text needed as the basis for negotiations in 2018

Ministers expressed BASIC’s willingness to continue working constructively with other Parties to adopt balanced and meaningful outcomes, in 2018, related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement in the post-2020 period. With the aim of accomplishing this task, they underscored the need for advancing textual negotiation in order to produce a comprehensive, party-driven negotiating text covering all the matters related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement at COP 23 that can serve as the basis for negotiations in 2018, reflecting all Parties’ views and inputs in a balanced manner. It is important to ensure that the COP-23 outcome captures the range of views as a set of alternatives and that the draft guidance operationalizes equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC), while not reinterpreting the Paris Agreement.  

6. Differentiated responsibilities and obligations of developed and developing country Parties must be made

Ministers reiterated that, as nationally determined contributions to the global response to climate change, Parties’ efforts should cover mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation, taking into account differentiated responsibilities and obligations of developed and developing country Parties under the Convention and Paris Agreement. The guidance being developed under the Paris Work Program should assist Parties with the preparation and communication of their NDCs, while respecting the nationally determined nature of Parties’ contributions.  

7. Support of developed countries to developing countries key for addressing the global challenge of climate change

Ministers emphasised that adaptation is an issue that requires an urgent global response, and reiterated the importance of both the global adaptation goal and of the adaptation communication as a component of Parties’ NDCs in achieving the purpose of the Paris Agreement. Ministers emphasised the importance making progress to define the information and methodologies and approaches to generate such information. They urged developed countries to provide adequate support to developing countries in meeting the cost of their adaptation actions.  
Ministers noted the extent to which developed countries will provide sustained, predictable and adequate finance, technology development and transfer and capacity-building support to developing countries will determine the extent to which developing countries are able to contribute their highest possible ambition towards addressing the global challenge of climate change.  

8. Concern about requested changes for Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund criteria for developing countries

Ministers expressed their deepest concern over attempts by some developed countries to unilaterally apply new eligibility criteria for developing countries’ access to funding under the Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund. They recalled that such criteria are not compatible with guidance from the Conference of the Parties and are a departure from the letter and the spirit of the Convention and its Paris Agreement. Furthermore, they indicated that such attempts violate the terms of the Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured Global Environmental Facility, as well as the Governing Instrument of the Green Climate Fund, falling outside the mandate of the GEF Council and of the GCF Board on eligibility criteria.They stressed the view that such attempts are tantamount to renegotiating the Paris Agreement and potentially undermine the level of ambition of developing countries in the global effort against climate change.  
Ministers emphasised the need for further clarity and robust methodologies to track and account for the provision of finance by developed countries. They further highlighted the importance of discussing modalities for communicating indicative information on the support to be provided to developing countries. Ministers emphasized that effective implementation of developed countries’ legal obligations regarding support will be paramount for trust building among parties in order to create a international enabling environment for a successful implementation of the Paris Agreement. 

9. Call for increased climate finance to USD 100 billion PA  by 2020 for developed countries

Ministers further urged developed countries to honor their commitments and increase climate finance towards at least USD 100 billion per annum goal by 2020, to be scaledup significantly thereafter. In the post-2020 period, Ministers called upon developed countries to provide financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention. Furthermore, Ministers called for collaboration among the various mechanisms on adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building, as well as the WIM on loss and damage. 

10. Acceleration on new Technology Framework needed

Ministers underscored the importance of operationalising the long-term vision on technology development and transfer, as set out in the Paris Agreement. They called for accelerating the work on elaborating the new Technology Framework, including its guidance to the Technology Mechanism. They also emphasised the role of joint innovation and international cooperation on climate related technology in enhancing global actions. 

11. Adoption of  Paris Committee on Capacity-Building at COP 22

Ministers welcomed the adoption of the terms of reference for the Paris Committee on Capacity-Building at COP 22. Ministers called for collaboration between the mechanism on capacity-building and those institutional arrangements on adaptation, finance and technology. They also highlighted the importance of guidance to be provided by the Paris Committee on Capacity-Building to the Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency, and urged developed country Parties to provide additional, continuous and adequate support to developing countries for enhancing their capabilities on transparency of action and support received.  

12. Urgent implementation of pre-2020 commitments and increasing pre-2020 ambition required

Ministers noted with concern that pre-2020 gaps exist not only in mitigation, but also in adaptation and support to developing countries. They stressed the urgency of accelerated implementation of pre-2020 commitments and increasing pre-2020 ambition. In this regard, on the historical occasion of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, Ministers underscored the importance that the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol enters into force without further delay. To date, 83 Parties have accepted the Doha Amendment, while acceptance by 144 Parties is required to bring it into force. They stressed further that developed country Parties should revisit and increase their economy-wide quantified emission reduction targets. Ministers emphasized that enhanced and urgent implementation of pre-2020 commitments is a prerequisite for mutual trust among Parties and for building a solid foundation for post-2020 implementation and ambition, in order to ensure that subsequent NDCs do not become unduly burdensome on developing countries. 
Ministers look forward to an outcome in COP-23 that gives clarity in the design of the Facilitative Dialogue (FD) in 2018. This will be an opportunity to consider collectively the overall progress made on the implementation of all pillars of the Convention in the global effort to address climate change. They emphasised the importance of outcomes that lead to the identification of challenges and opportunities to accelerate climate action and support, in the context of sustainable development, sustainable lifestyles, climate justice and poverty eradication as the overriding priorities of developing countries. Developed countries must take the lead towards closing the ambition gap so as to avoid transferring the burden to developing countries and from the pre-2020 to the post-2020 period. 
In this context, Ministers highlighted the efforts and substantial achievements of BASIC countries and other developing countries in tackling climate change, both pre- and post2020, and emphasised that these represent far more ambitious efforts compared to their respective responsibilities and capabilities. BASIC countries have made notable progress towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. They are committed to sharing experiences and supporting each other as they further develop their domestic climate policies and actions.  

13. Green Climate Fund of a pilot programme for REDD+ results based payments

Ministers welcomed the adoption by the Green Climate Fund of a pilot programme for REDD+ results based payments, noting the need for adequate and predictable support for the implementation of all REDD-plus activities. Ministers underlined the imperative that REDD-plus ensures environmental integrity and, in this regard, reiterated that results-based payments shall not be used to offset mitigation commitments by developed countries. 

14. Call for consistency across global forums

Ministers reiterated that the  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC is the primary international forum to coordinate the global response to climate change. In this regard, they reiterated that measures and outcomes under other multilateral fora addressing issues related to climate change, such as the United Nations General Assembly, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation and the Montreal Protocol, as well as the G20, must be consistent with the UNFCCC and in line with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Ministers further underlined that measures under ICAO and IMO must not place undue burdens on developing countries and not create distortions to international trade.  

SEE: COP23: Growth in SA energy sector, protests over US fossil fuels panel 

A timeline of steps to be taken in the coming years to further international efforts to curb global warming:

December 12, 2017: French President Emmanuel Macron has invited more than 100 world leaders to Paris for the second anniversary of the landmark climate accord forged in the city in 2015. President Donald Trump, who has said he wants to withdraw from the agreement, hasn't been invited to the "One Planet Summit."

2018: Next year's global climate talks take place in Katowice, Poland, from Dec. 3-14. In order for officials to finalize the rulebook there, preliminary meetings will have to be held during the course of the year. These low-level encounters will include the Talanoa Dialogue, a Fijian-inspired process in which countries start to take stock of what's been achieved so far under the Paris agreement and consider what more can be done. The talks in Katowice will be strongly influenced by the U.N. scientific panel's October report on whether the most ambitious goal of keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius can be achieved.

2020: If the US goes through with its threat to withdraw from the Paris accord, the earliest this could come into effect would be on November 4, 2020 — shortly after the next American presidential election. Countries that are party to the Paris agreement have until 2020 to submit new or updated plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), on what they are doing to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.

2023: Eight years after the Paris accord countries will for the first time conduct a full and formal review of what's been achieved to date, known as a global stock-take. The process is meant to be repeated every five years.

2030: Many countries have set themselves substantial emissions reduction targets 15 years from the Paris accord. The European Union, for example, wants to cut its emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels, though some countries including Germany are aiming for a 55-percent reduction.

2050: Climate scientists calculate that the world economy will have to go "carbon neutral" by the middle of the century if the Paris goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) is to be achieved. That can either be done by ending all use of fossil fuels or by finding a way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at an industrial scale. 

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