Close the gap: shift investments

Once the negotiations move into a contact group, ECO can only hope that delegates will see finance as a central pillar of the 2015 package. Developed countries must show a record of year-by-year increases and projections of their continued increase towards 2020. Finance is instrumental to low global emissions and climate resilient development. A failure here will scupper any hopes for success in Paris.

South Africa has reminded everyone that the funding gap remains huge: trillions of investment dollars need to be shifted. All Parties, developed and developing, have parts to play in setting helpful policy frameworks and in adopting fiscal measures designed to make investors think about where their money is going. 

Providing public finance will remain key, too, such as support for adaptation in vital sectors like food production in poorer countries and mitigation in less developed countries. Parties will also have to leverage large volumes of private finance and shift investments much larger than the promised US$100 billion a year by 2020.

The debate over finance is part of the equity and adequacy debate. ECO suggests that the first pillar for developed countries is domestic emission cuts, and the second is the provisioning of finance. ECO can’t help but think that, when developed countries prepare initial offers for their nationally determined contributions, they would be well advised to keep the funding gap in mind, and ensure that their contributions are helping to close it. 

Alongside ambitious offers for cutting their emissions, developed countries should also include information on what public finance they intend to provide now and beyond 2020. It’s also important that they note what strategies they will take to mobilise additional finance to shift global investments.

South Korea (speaking for the EIG) suggested that such contributions could be based on CBDR+RC, and be made by those countries in a position to do so. Developing countries could, when preparing their contributions, explain what finance (volume, instruments, etc.) they would need to go an extra mile beyond what they can do without support. 

ECO, like other observers, has of course noticed the unwillingness of some developed countries to even consider providing finance as part of their contributions to the 2015 deal. ECO wonders if this resistance illustrates a general unwillingness to hammer out a truly fair and equitable deal. We really would like to be convinced of the contrary here in Bonn.

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Fair Shares -- The Basics

Everybody always talks about equity, but no one ever does anything about it. In hoping that someday Parties might, ECO would like to present this quick cheat sheet.

Its not true that equity is in the eye of the beholder. Sure, there’s a lot to disagree about, but the UNFCCC really does give us somewhere to stand. Three places, actually, for when all is said and done, the Convention affirms three high-level precepts: 1) Avoid dangerous climate change, 2) Divide the effort of doing so on the basis of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,” and 3) Protect “the right to sustainable development.” If it’s consistent with these 3 principles, it’s probably fair, or at least a fair enough start.

It’s CBDR+RC, not CBDR. Those last words in the second principle – “respective capabilities” – may be challenging, but they’re not any more challenging than “historical responsibility”. And in any case, they’re not going away anytime soon. Just because some Parties wish that the responsibility issue would simply fade away, that doesn’t mean that other Parties are being helpful by trying to push capabilities off the boat. Two wrongs, as they say, don’t make a right. Not even a development right.

The climate crisis is a global commons problem  with the emphasis on the word global. However you understand your climate obligations, they’re global obligations nonetheless. The responsibility that each nation has to do its fair share is a responsibility to all the other nations, or rather, to all the people (and creatures!) of the world. If you have a lot of responsibility and capability, in addition to more tonnes of carbon to mitigate than is possible within your own borders  then doing your fair share means additionally providing the finance and technology to mitigate elsewhere. Which is to say that finance is part of your mitigation obligation.

Finally, we don’t have to absolutely agree about what’s fair and what’s not. An approximate agreement is a whole lot better than stalemate and standoff.

If we think of the problem politically, the world needs to be able to identify climate leaders (who are actually doing their fair share) and climate laggards (who are doing, or proposing to do, less).  Here a rough common understanding is quite enough. ECO thinks that if we can gain such an understanding, all else will follow.

Well, maybe not “all else” because no common understanding will substitute ambitious finance. We know Paris is not only about finance, but if we don’t get it then COP 21 is going to be grim affair indeed. 

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Adaptation Committee: All Hands on Deck

Entering its second year of work, last weeks 5th meeting of the Adaptation Committee (AC) marks a crossroad for the group. It either has to move full steam ahead providing value to the international response on adaptation or continue to get stuck in the doldrums.

Far from having the winds taken out of its sails, the AC achieved some important outcomes such as:

- The launch of the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) Task Force which will bring different UNFCCC bodies together to support developing countries in formulating and implementing their NAPs and,

- A decision to engage with the Green Climate Fund and ADP Co-Chairs to improve coherence on adaptation related agenda items.

If these achievements strike you as rather mundane, there’s more! Two days ago ECO applauded the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) for moving towards greater transparency, so it should be acknowledged that the AC is already “ace” in that respect, by allowing observers active participation in their procedures. More UNFCCC bodies should follow suit.

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When will Australia increase its pre-2020 ambition?

The independent review by the Australian Government’s Climate Change Authority (CCA) is clear that Australia’s current 5% target is “woefully inadequate”. Instead the CCA has recommended that Australia’s fair share would be a target of a 19% reduction of emissions below 2000 levels. 

So Australia - what will it be? Will you stay on ‘woefully inadequate’ or listen to what your own Authority is saying and increase your ambition to at least a 19% reduction in emissions? Because, let’s face it — as the OECD country with the highest per capita emissions, your weight is pretty hefty…

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Negotiations are a Contact Sport … and Contact Sports Need Contact Groups

We’re pacifists here at ECO, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a soft spot for a good game of competitive sport. And just like the race to a low-carbon, climate-safe future, negotiations can be a good game too – of course we expect everyone to be good sportspeople and act in good faith.

ECO remembers our mothers warning – “games ain’t fun without no rules.” It's time that everyone took that advice to heart. For the games to really get started on the comprehensive, fair and legally binding agreement the world needs, we need rules to guide the discussion. Those rules, under UN processes require Parties to form a “contact group” before formal negotiations can begin. ECO suggests this should happen before the half-time break of this Bonn session. In a contact group (open to observers, as the Philippines on behalf of the LMDC have suggested) Parties can tackle unfair proposals and score goals for ambitious and fair solutions.

It seems the crowd of countries cheering for a contact group is wide and growing to include African, Arab, BASIC, LMDC and some of the Pacific SIDS countries. So that leaves a question as to why the Europeans and Brollies, who usually love rules, seem determined to remain stuck in an eternal warm-up of informal consultations?

ECO is peace-loving at heart but we've already enjoyed two years of reflection, with everyone sharing their "feelings", and time is tight. Parties need to kick off the real negotiations, based on text proposals from parties, in the structure of negotiations. ECO is looking forward to reading a record-breaking draft negotiating text (that is not unwieldy as pre-Copenhagen) in Lima. 

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Putting the Stale in Stalemate

While perusing some of the recent submissions to the ADP, ECO was overcome by an unshakable sense of déjà vu. It almost seemed as though some parties might have resubmitted some of their pre-Copenhagen submissions by mistake.

China’s submission for example contained no less than 14 references to the Bali Action Plan and process. Yet not a single one to the Durban Action Plan beyond the first 3 paragraphs. And, boy oh boy, did that call for 1% of GDP from developed countries for the Green Climate Fund bring back some memories.

China must be aware that simply recycling old submissions and repeating generic principles is not an effective negotiation tactic, especially when the ADP is moving to deeper water. It will neither strengthen your negotiating position vis-à-vis developed countries, nor help developing country peers who are looking to their “big brother” to help protect their interests and rights here. Why not use the many success stories and progress in China to leverage enhanced contributions at home and by others, and to facilitate a strong 2015 global deal?

Then there’s the US with its ongoing insistence on moving past binary categories, in spite of having failed to do its part during the period when those categories actually made sense. Sitting on top of the global economic food chain, and still unwilling to return emissions to anywhere near 1990 levels, the US continues to lack credibility when it lectures other countries on their responsibilities.

These two countries seem stuck in a perpetual time warp. There’s China imagining itself in a pre-industrial state of climatic grace, and the US imagining an idyllic future without fundamental global inequalities and with past failures and omissions forgotten.

ECO is aware that there is an element of faux reality with these negotiations, especially in this belated phase of extreme opening positions. But reality is desperately needed in the face of the dangers posed by the climate crisis, and the sooner the better.

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From Expert Meetings to Action Agendas

Everyone has been waiting for today: the technical expert meetings will conclude with an entire session dedicated to “The Way Forward”. The last two days of presentations have demonstrated that there are many examples of successful ways to deliver clean renewable energy and the enormous potential for scaling up action. However, we haven’t even discussed how the ADP process will help to close the gigatonne gap between now and 2020. That’s what Workstream 2 is about still, right?

ECO suggests that today’s session should focus on areas of common interest, barriers to scaling up renewable energy, and how the UNFCCC could spur on cooperative action and overcome the barriers.

There are key questions to respond to tomorrow: what do we need the Technology Mechanism, the Standing Committee and the Green Climate Fund to do to realise the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency? What decisions are needed in Lima to enable implementation?

UNFCCC institutions can be tasked to contribute in different ways. For example, the Technology Executive Committee could analyse renewable energy (RE) technologies highlighted by the Technology Needs Assessment process and synthesise lessons learned and best practices. The Task Force could also identify RE technology gaps or aid country planning by tracking the price trajectory of promising technologies.

ECO asks that Parties focus on defining areas of homework, ensure that sufficient time is allocated in June to develop detailed strategies, and then use the institutions to deliver on the potential.

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Transparency of Support for Technology Transfer

ECO is a fan of transparency, and we’re encouraged by the general agreement on the need for more of it on mitigation here in Bonn. Parties need to start considering the unique needs of transparency for support– particularly to enable the transfer of environmentally sound technologies.

This discussion opens the opportunity to move beyond standard MRV questions. Instead, we can assess whether support ensures that all Parties are enabled to participate to their fullest extent? And are supported technologies respectful of communities and planetary boundaries?

Such questions reflect the reality that full participation of developing countries is needed to ensure emissions reductions at the required scale, and that support is needed to enable this participation. This would also be jeopardised by the introduction of technologies that put sustainable development at risk, threaten biodiversity or are undesirable from a cultural perspective though.


How can these pitfalls be avoided? Complete transparency.

To achieve this, there must be a comprehensive set of quantitative and qualitative indicators that can appropriately reflect relevant concerns. These should include indicators to measure the participation of countries in the full variety of technology transfer arrangements from bi- to multilateral or business-to-business and the list goes on.

Transparency also demands the establishment of a mechanism that stakeholders can demand redress in the case that climate action is impacting their property or livelihood. This must be accompanied by capacity building and technology assessment tools that could be used to determine the most suitable national fit.

It’s a big job, but there’s no alternative if given that we need to use technology to enable mitigation action without causing other environmental or social problems.

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Is this the Japan of today or yesterday?

Today marks the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident in eastern Japan. Our hearts are with those who suffered and are still suffering from this tragic event.

ECO has no doubt that producing a new energy and climate vision is a hard ask. Yet, as we watched the Japanese government struggle with this task, we found ourselves deeply disappointed in Warsaw when when we heard that the government decided to lower its ambition for emission reductions by 2020.

We are now, again, worried to hear that Japan’s new energy strategy may not include ambitious targets for renewables and energy efficiency. With with no ambitious climate policies or targets, ECO is not surprised to hear that there’s unlikely to be any discussion on the post-2020 commitments.

Three years on from Fukushima, Japan is about to present their new vision and we want to know what’s changed?

Outside of Japan, people were moved by the integrity shown by the Japanese, especially given what was happening in March 2011. It would be extremely disappointing to people both in and out of Japan if the, soon-to-be-revealed energy and climate vision falls short of expectations and is just a continuation of business as usual.

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