Least Developed Countries say science must drive UN climate talks

Nepal’s Prakash Mathema tells RTCC opportunity to address climate impacts is ‘closing fast’

Farmers in Bhutan face an uncertain future if climate change starts to affect the region's water cycle (Pic: World Bank)

Farmers in Bhutan face an uncertain future if climate change starts to affect the region’s water cycle (Pic: World Bank)

By Ed King

The Least Developed Countries (LDC) group at the UN climate negotiations represents 49 states especially vulnerable to climate change.

Members include Pacific Islands like Tuvalu and Kiribati, smaller Asian states like Nepal and Myanmar, and African countries like Somalia, Eritrea and Gambia.

The group is economically weak, but acts as a collective conscience within the UN talks, offering a constant reminder why it is so important to control greenhouse gas emissions.

Below Prakash Mathema, Chair of LDC Group, outlines his priorities for next week’s set of talks in Bonn in a Q&A with RTCC.

What are your priorities for the meeting in Bonn?

In Warsaw, Parties agreed on clear pathways with concrete activities and timelines for the timely adoption of the 2015 agreement and increasing pre-2020 ambition.

At the Bonn session in March, the LDC Group expects Parties to further advance in elaborating the content of the 2015 agreement; initiate discussions on domestic preparations for intended nationally determined contributions; further elaborate on the opportunities for raising pre-2020 ambition; discuss challenges, constraints and support needed for developing countries; and agree on the next steps for both workstreams of the Durban Platform.

We would like to reiterate that urgency should guide the discussions because science continues to tell us what we have to do and that the window of opportunity to prevent dangerous man-made interference with the climate system is closing fast.

There will almost certainly be some sort of deal in Paris next year. The question is whether it is going to reduce emissions enough to stop potentially dangerous global temperature rises. So what, in your view, does such a deal look like?

Our goal is to agree on a comprehensive legally binding agreement applicable to all Parties in 2015.

To achieve this goal, we need to see the highest global solidarity, one that makes the case to every country on Earth that we are in this together, that rich and poor countries depend on each other, and that collectively we have the ingenuity to overcome this global challenge.

This means, every country taking the responsibility to climate change seriously, doing their fair share and avoiding free riding. However, what mostly matters is fair climate action by those most responsible.

A successful 2015 agreement would include not only concrete emissions cuts but also provide new, additional, sustainable and predictable finance for adaptation and climate resilient development for developing countries.

It will use common accounting rules and a strong compliance regime to ensure the delivery of mitigation and finance commitments, introduce a proper review mechanism to ensure the adequacy of these mitigation and financial commitments, and lead to new commitments when the existing ones are insufficient.

Given negotiations seem to be heading towards an outcome in which countries simply agree to do what they are already planning to do, and given existing commitments are not nearly enough to reduce emissions to a level the IPCC suggests is safe, how do you think a meaningful deal can be achieved?

Equity, fairness and effectiveness should be a central part of the agreement. We will achieve a meaningful deal only if all Parties have the sense that their contributions are fair, not only to themselves, but also to others.

There seems to be a huge political challenge to address the issue of equity and fairness. We believe that the most rational way to move ahead is to acknowledge the scientific evidence and act accordingly.

We all have invested a lot of time and resources in this process and the efforts that we have put together since the past many years rightly deserve to achieve concrete outcomes that can effectively address the problem at hand.

Any delay in global climate action will lead to greater adverse effects, increased needs for adaptation as well as more serious residual and permanent loss and damage in LDCs and other vulnerable countries.

What role do you see the Ban Ki-moon summit playing?

What has been lacking up to now in the climate change negotiation is a strong political will and engagement of top leaders. The UN Secretary General summit will gather the world leaders to focus solely on the issue of climate change.

This is important because in the face of devastating extreme weather events around the world and other climate change impacts, this summit is both the first and the last time world leaders will get together to discuss climate change before December 2015- the deadline Parties have set to reach a new global and legally binding agreement to address climate change.

Most of the Heads of State or Government are expected to attend the summit, and the spotlight of the public and the media will be firmly on this event. Therefore, this summit is a great opportunity to mobilise the necessary political will for a successful 2015 agreement.

We hope that the leaders will declare concrete and meaningful commitments to 2015 agreement at the summit. It is crucial that announcements to be made at the summit are in line with the requirements of science.

It would be a missed chance if the summit turns into a forum to formalize bottom-up approaches and for countries to merely repeat their existing commitments. This summit is a unique opportunity which the leaders should not miss in mobilizing real and meaningful climate action.

When do you think a final text needs to be ready in 2015 in order for the Paris summit to proceed smoothly?

According to the six-month rule of UNFCCC, the negotiating text should be ready by mid- 2015 for Parties to negotiate and adopt at COP 21.

However, the LDC Group has proposed a risk-averse strategy and called for Parties to present the negotiating text by COP 20 in Lima.

Such an approach will allow more time for Parties to negotiate and proceed smoothly towards agreement in COP 21.

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