New energy emerging around plans for national climate action commitments at COP20

Despite slow progress on the penultimate day of the UN climate negotiations in Lima, new energy has emerged around constructive proposals from Latin American countries on guidelines on what countries in wildly varying positions should put forward as their climate action commitments under the new global agreement due at the end of next year.

The Vasudha Foundation’s senior advisor Rahman Mehta said many countries wanted clarity on the expectations for who will do what, before making their own commitment, or Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, early next year.

A proposal under discussion would see countries choose the kinds of actions they undertake as part of their commitment under the Paris agreement, for example economy wide or sectoral mitigation actions, but the rules about the kind of information they provide on that contribution would be set.  

“That way each country determines their own actions, but they are transparent about what those actions include and the effect they are likely to have,” Mehta said. “This would apply across the board on all actions, including finance and mitigation.”

Developing countries have been clear that a decision on climate finance in Lima which paves the way for the delivery of the previously promised USD100 billion a year in support by 2020, is needed to get a strong agreement.  

“Finance is a big piece of the jigsaw puzzle that could change the whole picture,” Mehta said. “At the moment many of the countries opposing important rules for INDCs are concerned because they feel they do not have the necessary financial support - they want a level playing field and unless they feel this is what they are getting, they are not prepared to face scrutiny over their own commitments.”

Yesterday and today Peru and Colombia pledged funds to the Green Climate Fund in a positive move that could help to shake up the current impasse around climate finance contributions.  

RAC France’s European policy officer Celia Gautier said other ways to ensure climate action headed in the right direction was to turn the so-called “workstream two” element  of the talks into a robust, well-financed platform which could scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency around the world. 

At the start of this week, there was a move by developed countries to rip out of the draft COP decision text language that would see the Green Climate Fund provide cash towards such efforts. 

“Lets be clear, that unless we provide finance and capacity building support to developing countries who are looking to do more, this element of the talks will be a toothless tiger,” Gautier said. 

“This is bizarre - there's been amazing progress this year on renewable energy as well as initiatives to drive efficiency in cities, by businesses and by citizens  and we've been reminded time and time again that acting now is more cheaper and more effective than waiting.” 

“Countries need to find  a way to integrate these developments in this process in a meaningful way which could also land the Paris agreement much more easily.”

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International said “There are many critical issues that must be resolved here in Lima so a deal could be secured in Paris next year. 

“Progress is far too slow,” she said. “But while we must follow these issues closely, sometimes it is easy to forget what these talks are really about. Underneath the technical details we discuss here, this conference is really about human rights. It is about the right to food, the right to water the right to land and the right to stand up for these rights. All over the world people are losing those rights, and it is our job here in Lima to restore them.”