In a significant victory even before 197 nations begin negotiations in Bonn on Monday about their commitments to containing climate change, India, China and other members of the Like-Minded Developing Countries block have ensured that the provisional agenda will include discussions about the actions developed countries had promised to take before 2020 to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.
When the provisional agenda for the Bonn round of talks was drawn up in late September, India and others found that it had failed to list this pillar of the climate negotiations – known as the “pre-2020 agenda”.
This refers to the actions developed countries must take to cut their annual greenhouse gas emissions and mobilse funds to help developing countries buy green technologies before 2020, when the Paris Agreement on climate change comes into force. The Paris pact, signed in 2015, is aimed at containing the rise in global temperatures this century at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Noticing the hole in the agenda, the Like-Minded Developing Countries – one of the three groups that represents India’s interests at the talks – sent a formal note to the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change asking for the issue to be reinserted on the programme.
They were successful. When talks open on Monday, the provisional agenda for the two weeks of discussions will include an item on “accelerating the implementation of the pre-2020 commitments and actions and increasing the pre-2020 ambition...”
“It is extremely important for developing countries, including the small island states,” said an Indian negotiator. “When countries deliver against their pre-2020 commitments, they help build greater momentum for actions under Paris Agreement after 2020. We are glad it has been brought back on the provisional agenda for Bonn. Now, we hope developed countries do not block discussions on it when the negotiations begin on Monday.”
Why focus on pre-2020 period?
In 2009, most developed countries committed to undertake economy-wide emission reduction targets that they would achieve by 2020. This was the first time the United States also pledged action along with other developed countries. Rich nations that were party to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 promised to ratify its second phase, which lasts up to 2020. They also took on the obligation to deliver $100 billion annually by 2020 and transfer green technology to poorer nations. The Green Climate Fund to provide long-term financial support to developing countries was set up alongside. Rich countries also promised to try further enhance these commitments.
In return, developing countries such as India and China, also proposed various ways to limit the growth of their emissions. India pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 20%-25% below 2005 levels by 2020. Emissions intensity refers to the amount of greenhouse gases a country emits to produce every rupee of national income.
But then, in 2011, the countries also decided to negotiate a new global compact under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change by 2015. This became the Paris Agreement that all countries decided to implement by 2020. Developing countries took on a greater responsibility to reduce emissions after 2020 than they did ever before. India, China and other developing countries gave yet more ambitious targets to reduce emissions by either 2025 or 2030.
But science of climate change suggests that all these commitments may not to be enough to keep the rise of global temperatures below 2 degree from pre-industrial era levels. Countries would have to undertake even deeper emission cuts in future.
If the developed countries do not meet their pre-2020 emission reduction targets or enhance them, developing countries would have to bear the burden of partially filling up the gap left by developed countries.
The Like-Minded Developing Countries group fears that the transfer of this burden could be effected in Bonn. Fiji, the presidency of the Bonn round of negotiations, has drawn up a proposal for a process that could force all countries to raise their post-2020 emission reduction targets. But the developing countries group has asked that this process specifically include scrutiny of how developed countries fared against their pre-2020 commitments.
“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,” Majid Shafiepour, spokesperson for the Like-Minded Developing Countries, told Scroll.in. “The other leg is the commitments made to reduce emissions and provide support to developing countries before 2020.”
The Like-Minded Developing Countries have reason to worry. A review by global civil society groups in 2015 of pre-2020 emission-reduction pledges showed that while countries like China and India had undertaken to bear more than their fair share of responsibility, developed countries had not. Other global reports have assessed that developed world is likely to fall short of its promise to deliver $100 billion a year.
However, forcing pre-2020 commitments to be included on the provisional agenda is only a small victory. Under the rules of the UN climate change negotiations, an issue on the provisional agenda can actually be discussed in Bonn only after all countries agree to do so by consensus. If not, it gets dropped.
“Consultations between countries held behind closed doors over the weekend has indicated that this consensus may not be easy to arrive at,” said a negotiator from a G77+China group country not willing to be named. “Our consultations suggest that several developed country parties could block the issues being taken up in right earnest.”
The approval of the provisional agenda by all 197 countries will be taken up on day one of the talks. In past negotiations, arguments over accepting the provisional agenda with controversial issues to contend with has stalled negotiations for days leading to delays. This year, the countries have already indicated that they may need an extra round of negotiations in 2018 to complete the work on Paris Agreement on schedule.
Climate Summit 2017
A conference of 197 countries in Bonn