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As we approach the annual UN climate convention to be held in Doha at the end of this month, three things come to mind that would make the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP) the bellwether of climate negotiations. The Doha negotiations are expected to give direction to, one, the Durban Platform, two, the way forward for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and, three, the advancement under the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
It is important to take stock of the journey that began last December in Durban where the 17th COP under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was held. Amid low and high expectations, the Durban roster resulted in some surprises for the world community.
Essentially, the three outcomes that provided some direction from Durban were the launch of GCF, the decision on continuity of the Kyoto Protocol into its second commitment period, and the establishment of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (termed, in short, ADP or the Durban Platform). The last one will be guided by the ongoing work under two important tracks of the convention — the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWGLCA).
The Durban Platform is expected to continue the work that will ensue or remain from AWGLCA, which would end its term at the Doha Conference. ADP’s mandate is to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention that would be applicable to all parties. It seems a tall order for countries to converge on the form of this new global architecture, considering the slow pace and extreme heat that has characterised climate negotiations. And, even bigger a complexity to achieve with a timeline for agreement ending in 2015 for this to become operational by 2020.
The Durban Platform envisages that the outcome must be under the convention, that all decisions taken under COP are brought under consideration, indicating that the existing climate change regime cannot be diluted in any form. The principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities must be the governing principles of ADP to enable a fair outcome within the specified time frame. Else, the world will have to see another long-winding negotiating process with an outcome that would be sub-optimal.
Raising the level of ambition signifies the goal of the Durban Platform. This sounds like a greater promise at a time when the morale of the global community has taken a severe beating from not only the climate negotiations, but also the economic downturn. However, this common goalpost should not forfeit the right of developing countries to build on their social and economic development.
It is crucial that ADP results in an equitable outcome articulating actions to provide enabling and supporting framework for developing countries to live up to their promise of addressing climate change. The actions that will raise the level of ambition would have to be espoused in mitigation, financing, technology, and capacity-building. These would help leapfrog developing country mitigation action, without which the time frame would be extended and the challenges insurmountable. Each of these four pillars should provide an appropriate supporting framework for effective developing country action.
First, financing has not been adequately channelled to where and the extent to which it is needed. Developed countries pledged $100 billion per year by 2020 in Copenhagen. Some estimates state that climate change financing needs of developing countries exceed at least five times their current and prospective flows. There is a wide gap between pledge and practice. Raising the level of ambition would need adequate financial support from developed countries. Much of the financing pledged in Copenhagen would be channelled through GCF. Effectiveness of the fund would depend on its operational framework, simplified procedure for accessibility, governance structure, and coverage. GCF must allow direct access to entities to cut time and transaction costs, and cover costs of technology transfer for developing countries, as well as collaborative technology research and development (R&D).
Second, technology development and transfer for developing countries, the key vitamin for mitigation action, should find strong impetus under ADP. Each element of ADP – new market mechanisms, financing mechanisms, capacity-building structures, and institutional mechanisms under the convention – must be designed to meet this vital objective.
Third, developing countries need assistance to build capacities of small and medium sectors that are most vulnerable to both climate and economic crises. Capacity-building should be part of collaborative R&D and technology transfer arrangements, and all climate change mitigation projects.
The fourth aspect, market-based mechanisms, will play a central role in mitigation action. Doha must provide direction to market-based mechanisms that are formulated on the strong foundations of existing mechanisms, allow carbon markets to revive, and utilise the institutional structures already in place. Doha must show progress on the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol, which would be an important signal for market participants.
All these steps will provide the fillip for enhanced industry action on climate mitigation. An industry that has yielded more than 2,300 clean development mechanism projects from India will not shy away from making giant leaps if there is a clear, long-term regulatory signal.
To close the gap between pledges made till 2020 and what is needed to stabilise global average temperature rise below 2°C or 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, developed countries must show strong commitment and leadership in Doha.
While we ride the journey on the climate train that left the Durban Platform, we hope to embrace a building of trust when we arrive at the Doha junction.
The writer is Senior Director and Head of Environment, Climate Change and Renewable Energy at Ficci