Lima climate talks “a matter of survival” for world’s poorest

Least developed countries need the rich to make deeper emissions cuts for their survival, says Nepal envoy

Nepal faces increased risks of flooding and water shortages as global warming affects glaciers (Source: Amit Poudyal)

Nepal faces increased risks of flooding and water shortages as global warming affects glaciers
(Source: Amit Poudyal)

By Megan Darby in Lima

The world’s 48 poorest countries have two or three people each at this week’s UN climate talks in Lima. Some of the wealthiest countries have delegations of 80-100 people.

It is a struggle for poorer states, which are among the most vulnerable to climate change, to cover all 100-odd items on the agenda.

Ram Prasad Lamsal, Nepalese negotiator and chair of the least developed countries (LDC) group, tells RTCC that working together is “critical”.

He is “encouraged” that the US and China – the world’s two biggest emitters – have announced action on climate change. But their commitments “are still far from responding to the demands of science”.

And while rich countries have pledged almost US$10 billion to the Green Climate Fund for projects in the developing world, Lamsal has concerns about the fine print.

COMMENT: Can global warming be limited to 1.5C?

The LDC group maintains the world should aim to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, in a deal to be signed in Paris next year.

That is a more ambitious goal than the 2C agreed in 2009 and would require aggressive action to cut emissions.

Lamsal says: “Even if average temperatures were limited to 2C, it is the geographic regions where our countries are situated that will face the most severe warming and strongest adverse effects of climate change, and we will not be able to cope.

“Some of our countries seriously risk disappearing altogether. Anything less ambitious than 1.5C is out of the question.”

In reality, even the UN’s climate chiefs past and present do not expect Paris to put the world on a 2C path. Developed countries talk of a deal that keeps 2C “within reach”.

On the legal nature of the deal, Lamsal is more pragmatic. The LDCs are pushing for a protocol, the strictest option. The main barrier to this is the US, which would be highly unlikely to get such a deal past its Congress.

Lamsal says: “We do not want a weak protocol which only a handful of parties sign up to, just for the sake of having a protocol.”

Near term

In the near term, the LDCs are pushing for stronger action pre-2020 and financial support to protect themselves from climate risks.

One of the top items on the agenda in Lima is to ramp up action this decade, before a new climate deal will kick in. On current trend, greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries are set to rise.

Parties agreed in 2012 to target emissions reductions for 2020, in an extension of the Kyoto Protocol. But only 19 countries have ratified the deal – far short of the 144 needed to make it stick.

Lamsal is calling for “further clarity” on how they will bridge that gap. “I can guarantee that delivering serious emissions reductions for the pre-2020 period will go far in injecting confidence and trust among parties in this difficult negotiations process.”

REPORT: Canada pledges $265m to Green Climate Fund

As for climate finance, Lamsal welcomes progress on the Green Climate Fund, to help poor countries develop sustainably and adapt to climate impacts.

The UN-backed fund has raised US$9.7 billion from developed countries to start with. By 2020, the goal is to mobilise US$100 billion a year, through the GCF and other routes.

Lamsal notes many of the GCF pledges are spread over four years, making them only a small step towards the 2020 target.

A separate fund established in 2001 purely to help the 48 LDCs adapt to climate change has to date delivered just US$1 billion, says Lamsal – short of the US$5 billion they say is needed.

“Parties must deliver on their commitments and close this funding gap of more than US$4 billion dollars and pledges to the GCF should not mean reduced funding to the LDCF.”

Making progress in Lima is “imperative”, says Lamsal – reaching a strong climate deal is “a question of survival” for LDCs.

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