Climate Summit 2017

Rich nations must take holistic view on climate change, says developing countries group spokesman

Excerpts from an interview with Majid Shafiepour, the spokesperson for Like-Minded Developing Countries group, which includes India and China.

On Monday, representatives of 197 countries will meet in the German city of Bonn to hammer out the rules on implementing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which aims to keep the rise of global temperatures in check to avoid any irreversible and catastrophic changes to the planet by the turn of the century.

Even before the negotiations begin, countries have assessed key areas of disagreement that could flare up in the coming two weeks.

To help smooth the process, several countries enter the negotiations as a part of groups of nations that have similar positions. India, for instance, is a member of three groups: the G77+China group comprised of 137 developing countries; BASIC along with three other large emerging economies Brazil, China and South Africa; and the group of Like-Minded Developing Countries.

In this interview to Scroll.in, Majid Shafiepour, the spokesperson for the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries and President of Iran’s National Institute on Climate Change and Environment, explained how the group is seeking more ambitious commitments from countries at Bonn across all pillars of the Paris Agreement.

Could you please explain the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries’ position on the question of countries showing greater ambition to fight climate change in the pre-2020 period – the time before Paris Agreement gets implemented. What do you expect out of Bonn on that count?

If we do not discuss climate action in pre-2020 period it is like moving forward on just one leg on only post-2020 climate change actions and support for these. The other leg is the commitments made to reduce emissions and provide support to developing countries before 2020. But we can there is quite a gap between commitments made for emission reductions and support in pre-2020 period and the actual action undertaken so far. There are quite a few gaps that the developed countries have not filled. We are asking for even greater ambition in the pre-2020 period. The responsibilities of the developed county parties from pre-2020 should not be transferred to developing countries after 2020.

We know that post-2020 is going to be a collective effort put in by the both developing as well as the developed country parties. We have put forward a proposal for the inclusion of an agenda item on the pre-2020 action. We have asked for the implementation of commitments made by the developed country parties. So the way the Like-Minded Developing Countries are following this issue is in order to ensure that the urgency of climate action in the pre 2020 period is implemented. We are calling for accelerated implementation of pre-2020 actions including in terms of enhanced provision of support [finance, technology and capacity building from developed countries to developing countries].

We Like-Minded Developing Countries know that developing countries are bearing the brunt of climate change. We face some emerging and threatening environmental challenges which are being accelerated or exacerbated by climate change. We have this compelling imperative to protect our people and ensure that these gaps and these commitments from the pre-2020 period are not be left unattended and certainly not shifted to the post-2020 period as a burden on the global community.

What are the concerns your group has about the facilitative dialogue to determine the commitments of each member-nation towards reaching the goals of Paris Agreement? How does that reflect your group asking for more ambitious action from developed countries in the pre-2020 period?
I wish to respond by first of all welcoming these facilitative dialogues in 2016 as well the one to be held in 2018. The Fijian presidency [of the Bonn talks] has proposed it to be known as the Talanoa Dialogue [Talanoa is a word used in the Pacific region to describe a process of inclusive and transparent dialogue]. We appreciate the informal note on it. We read it with great interest within the Like-Minded Developing Country groups. We had its different dimensions and implications examined. Of course, we have a number of concerns that I would like to mention. But before I get to the concerns, I would like to provide your readers with a bit of history on how these dialogues were initiated.

Back in Durban in 2011, we agreed that we would proceed on two processes. The pre- and post-2020 climate actions and we all know that there are glaring gaps in the ambition level of the [43] Annex 1 countries [which includes industrialised countries such as the European Union and economies in transition such as the Baltic states] in the provisions of means of implementation, finance and technology transfer and capacity building to developing countries. This dialogue, in line with the decisions in Paris, it is to provide and assessment of the collective effort of the parties in relation to the progress towards the long-terms goal of the Paris Agreement.

Any kind of assessment would certainly be incomplete without taking into account the gaps on ambition of Annex 1 countries and means of implementation offered to developing countries in the pre 2020 period. So, this assessment in order to be as complete as it could possibly be would have to address the pre-2020 ambitious actions that are expected to be performed. And we are asking that within or through this Talanoa dialogue – the FD [facilitative dialogue] – for 2018, we should take into account these gaps in a number of ways, including certainly making reference to sustainable development and poverty eradication and the overriding priorities of developing countries who are battling the increasing impacts of climate change on a daily basis.

We really feel that mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation are interconnected and form equally important pillars of the Paris Agreement. No assessment can be holistic if it is geared towards selective pillars. The developed country parties want to focus on only one pillar – mitigation – after 2020. But that is not holistic. In this context, we within group feel the scope of the Talanoa Dialogue 2018, therefore, should be beyond mitigation. Adaptation, finance, technology and capacity building should also be under the purview of the 2018 facilitative dialogue.

Credit: geograph.org.uk
Credit: geograph.org.uk

What are the concerns about the proposed structure of the facilitative dialogue?
The process often shapes the outcome. It is critical to remember that we are not to be innovative at this stage. We would like to follow a similar process to the one followed in 2016 for the dialogue. The 2018 design should be the same. We would prefer for the design to be kept simple. Because once the process gets a bit complicated there may be reasons for a number of parties on both sides to become more curious and more doubtful about what it is likely to serve and whether its outcome it will provide a service or disservice. So, we feel we cannot have links to the processes outside of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We have to be cautious about inputs particularly, as we have witnessed in the informal notes released by the incoming presidency that indicates that there are to be inputs from non-party actors. We have to be rather cautious and with an urgent imperative of delivering on the Paris Agreement Work Program.

Getting into negotiation on the design of the 2018 facilitative dialogue would prove time-consuming and counterproductive. Therefore, we wish for the presidencies to understand that we would like for them to keep the design of the facilitative dialogue for 2018 as simple as possible. We want to address all different elements so the assessment could be as comprehensive as it is required to be. It has to be very clearly interlinked with the pre-2020 ambitious actions that are expected to come not in writing but in practice from the developed countries.

Some countries or observers would say that is opposing the current proposal for facilitative dialogue because it is against raising ambition. What do you have to say to them?
The group has always been trying to play a very constructive role and seek ambitious outcomes. When required the group functions as the bridge to resolve differences that exist between different negotiating blocks. We need to raise ambition in order to safeguard our countries against climate change and to avoid the situation where our people have to foot the bill of what historically has been the responsibility of the Annex 1 countries of giving or creating this global warming episode that we are facing. The ambition levels still need to be increased amongst all Annex 1 countries within the pre-2020 period by these developed countries taking solid actions in good faith. For instance, the ratification – the accelerated ratification – of the Doha amendment for second Kyoto Protocol commitment period [from 2008-2012], is something that still is not happening.

Developed countries were to raise $100 billion in the form of finance annually by 2020 – not a very significant figure when compared to the few thousand billion dollars needed for the developing countries. That too has not happened. This puts a doubt over real seriousness and willingness of the developed country parties to be ambitious and act. That is why we are calling for both, strong ambition and good transparency of what support (finance, technology and capacity building) developed countries provide and developing countries receive.

But there is a lack of transparency about how even the negotiations themselves proceed? People do not come to know what has actually been said as compared to what is said in press conferences outside at the meet...
We as the Like-Minded Developing Countries have also stood in full support of transparency at the negotiations. If you remember, we have always demanded that the observers and NGOs should be allowed to follow the negotiations. We are asking for the same this year. Everyone should come to know who is saying what and which country is asking for what. It is very important the people know the reality.

After US President Trump’s announcement that the US might walk out of the Paris Agreement, what do you see the role of the US at Bonn this year and for the coming years?
Well, in line with the Paris Agreement, the US is going to have to meet its obligations under the agreement until 2019 – for three years after the agreement entered into force even if they decide to submit a formal letter of withdrawal. They cannot withdraw before November 4, 2019. And based upon Article 28.1 of the agreement it would take them one more year – sometime around November 2020 – to officially pull out. That very much depends on what would happen in the US by then. By then the US would also be seeing its next presidential election.

At the moment they are party to the Paris Agreement. In an event if they withdraw from agreement, they remain party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate change, which is much stronger in terms of its provisions. And when it comes to developed countries, known as Annex I countries of the Convention, they have to foot a much higher bill. They would continue to have all the commitments - which go beyond just the Paris Agreement.

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