UN outlines criteria for 2015 climate deal pledges

Guidelines for national contributions presented as countries start to formulate draft agreement

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

By Sophie Yeo in Bonn

Governments will have to reveal their planned greenhouse gas cuts, when their emissions will peak, and any adaptation plans by March 2015 as part of a global climate change deal, according to a draft text released by the UN in Bonn on Thursday.

The document is the first indication of what countries might be expected to include in their ‘nationally determined contributions’ to the UN’s 2015 deal, which is the world’s latest attempt to put a stop to dangerous climate change.

So far there has been a lack of clarity over what countries should include in their pledges.

Ronny Jumeau, ambassador for the Seychelles, told RTCC that the draft text was an important development as it “forces the discussion.”

“So you either like it or hate it, but at least you’re going to have to react to it,” he said.

The text emphasises the importance of cutting carbon dioxide emissions and preparing for future extreme weather events.

Liz Gallagher, a policy advisor at environmental thinktank E3G, told RTCC that the proposal was likely to be controversial, as developed countries had pushed for contributions to only include actions on mitigation. She said the emphasis put on adaptation was a “coup for developing countries.”

She said: “It’s in there now. It’s hard to escape, which is a good thing I think because adaptation has been seen as a developing country issue and not a top notch political issue.”

The pledges must be delivered to the UN by March 2015 at the latest, while the final treaty is scheduled to be signed off in December 2015.

Trust concerns

Not all countries have welcomed the proposals of Kishan Kumarsingh and Artur Runge-Metzger, co-chairs of the negotiating process, who wrote the recommendations.

A negotiator from a developing country speaking to RTCC on condition of anonymity said that the draft text was “illegitimate” as the co-chairs were not mandated to issue the text, and that it failed to “build trust” between nations.

An alternative draft text released yesterday by Malaysia on behalf of the Like Minded Developing Countries negotiating bloc, which includes China, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela among others, said that countries should also make promises on “finance, technology transfer, capacity building, and transparency of action and support.”

Another negotiating bloc led by Switzerland has also today released suggestions for what contributions might contain, in a sign that concrete action is now being taken to create a draft negotiating text for discussion at the UN’s annual climate conference in Lima later this year.

Ambition gap

Much of the pushback against including elements beyond mitigation in nationally determined contributions is based on concerns that countries will not be ready to commit large amount of financial support to those in need by March 2015.

By 2020 richer countries have committed to deliver $100 billion a year of low carbon financial support to developing nations to allow them to invest in clean energy technologies and deal with the effects of climate change.

But Jumeau said that many small island developing states would be content with pledges that only included mitigation commitments, as a more simple design would help to “close the emissions gap”.

This is because mitigation commitments would allow intended emissions reductions to be added together, and potentially ratcheted up, before the 2015 climate deal is sealed, he said, ensuring that the pledges were sufficient to stop dangerous levels of global warming.

“For us it’s about ambition, ambition, ambition,” he said. “We think if you put adaptation in there, you’re already sending a message that you can emit, and we can adapt.”

A spokesperson from the EU told RTCC that they “definitely want very clear ideas” on the nature of the contributions to emerge from the current round of negotiations.

Political drought

Separately, two days of ministerial discussions began today in Bonn, although as RTCC recently reported, only a fifth of countries have sent ministers of state.

Those that did turn up spoke about how to raise ambition on reducing emissions prior to 2020, when the UN’s new climate treaty will kick in.

Ioannis Maniatis, Greece’s environment minister speaking on behalf of the EU, focused on Europe’s success in overachieving on its climate goals.

Others, including the G77+China negotiating bloc, complained that only ten of the necessary 144 countries had ratified the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which commits nations to more ambitious pre-2020 emission reduction targets.

Roland Bhola, Grenada’s environment minister, expressed disappointment that no country had yet offered to increase its pre-2020 ambition.

He stressed that, while the EU has put forward a conditional offer to raise its 20% emission reduction commitment to 30%, its current emissions reductions of around 18.8% are “conceded as overachieving”.

Climate impacts

Grenada is one of the 52 small island developing states (SIDS) where the impacts of climate change are predicted to be particularly harsh.

Two UNEP reports, released today to coincide with the SIDS-themed World Environment Day, found that sea level was rising up to four times the global average around these islands, costing trillions of dollars of damage.

Another UN-backed study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) revealed that doubling the world’s renewable energy consumption to 36% by 2030 is not only possible, but would save up to US$740 billion per year on the costs associated with pollution from fossil fuels.

Christiana Figueres, head of the UN’s climate body, said that she hoped that these two days would give ministers an opportunity to “provide negotiators with your vision on how we are going to collectively negotiate that draft agreement” so that it can be ready for Lima.

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