UN climate change Conference approves new global treaty

United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference

THE United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference 2013 came to a close in Warsaw, Poland and approved the new global treaty to be signed in Paris in 2015. The UN climate talks concluded with delegates reaching a compromise on how to fight global warming.  The new global treaty will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set targets for developed countries to cut their green-house gas emissions.  Negotiators agreed that all countries should work towards curbing the emissions from burning coal, oil and gas as soon as possible, and ideally by the first quarter of 2015. Key decisions adopted at the just ended Conference of Parties (COP)-19 include further advancing the Durban Platform, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Long-Term Finance, the Warsaw Framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage and other decisions. A compromise was reached with a new Warsaw International Mechanism by which the victims of disaster will receive aid, but it will not be linked to any liability from developed countries. Another success at the conference was the completion of a new mechanism to keep the world’s remaining forests standing, called REDD+, this has been in the works for most of the last decade. All countries admitted that most of the preparation work for Paris still remains to be done.  The 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) was held from November 11 to 23 2013 in Warsaw, Poland. Lands, Natural Resources, and Environmental Protection minister Harry Kalaba, who led the Zambia delegates said launching of a process to develop a protocol, under the Convention is an important milestone in the history of the negotiations.  Mr Kalaba said the new treaty should present an opportunity to the global community to deliver a tangible product in 2015 that will safeguard the planet.  “In this regard, actual works on the development of a new agreement under the Convention and deliver the negotiation text in Lima, Peru should start now as Zambia wishes to reiterate that the elements of the new agreement should reflect the principles and the provisions of the Convention, including the principle of Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and equity,” Mr Kalaba said. Mr Kalaba said the treaty should be based on science and ensure equitable access to sustainable development and sharing of atmospheric space and resources, taking into account cumulative historical responsibility.  He, however, urged developed country parties to scale up the provision of sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity building to support the implementation of adaptation actions in developing countries in accordance with provision of the Convention.  Mr Kalaba said financing both adaptation and mitigation requires huge amounts of resources, which should be made readily available to the most vulnerable developing countries.   “It is my considered view that there needs to deliver substantial long term financing for climate change through the capitalisation of the GCF.  Mr Kalaba urged the developed country parties to seriously commit to mobilising long term finance as well as provide approaches for scaling up climate finance to US$100 billion per year by 2020.   In order for the most vulnerable countries like Zambia to effectively address the challenges of climate change, Mr Kalaba said the country’s actions have to be enabled by access to technology.  He said issues of intellectual property rights continue to be the main barrier to development and transfer of technology.  “Therefore, we wish to reiterate the urgent need to address the issue of technology transfer, including the identification and removal of all barriers preventing access to climate related and friendly technologies,” he said. With regards to the role of forests in addressing challenges of climate change, Mr Kalaba said it is important that trade-offs as well as providing sufficient incentives for forest dependent communities for managing their forests and land use properly are immediately dealt with.  To this effect, he said future mechanism addressing this sector needs to be broad and focus on empowering forest dependent communities economically and not narrowly on reducing emissions. Zambia Environment Management Agency (ZEMA) chief executive officer Morgan Katati said COP-19 has set a pathway for governments to work on a draft text of a new universal climate agreement. Mr Katati, who represented the civil society at COP-19, said the move was an essential step to reach a final agreement in Paris in 2015. He said the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage will from next year commit developed nations to providing expertise and potentially aid to countries hit by climate related impacts. Mr Katati is optimistic that the new framework would ensure that detailed climate commitments are made by each of the world’s largest economies in early 2015, providing the basis for an international treaty that will be finalised at the Paris Summit. International Institute for Environment and Development head of change group Simon Anderson, however, says there was no sense from the outcomes of Warsaw that climate justice is any closer than before the COP was inaugurated.  Dr Anderson says in a statement that the delays in countries disclosing how industrialised countries would address reducing green-house gas emissions was a concern.  “It would seem that we are moving almost inevitably to a four degree celcius warmer world. Having been billed as a climate finance COP, Warsaw failed to deliver,” he said. Dr Anderson said there is need for both finance and disbursal mechanisms that genuinely reflect and respond to the needs of countries and people that need to adapt and become more climate resilient.  In the absence of an agreement on a mid-term target and a clear pathway, Dr Anderson said poor and vulnerable countries are unable to understand how the developed countries are going to deliver the promised target of US$100 billion annually by 2020.  He said looking at decisions related to long term finance, developing countries can see a few gains, but there were re-assuring words and little else. However, GCF board co-chairperson Manfred Konukiewitz said the GCF is on target and would soon be ready to help developing countries foster climate-friendly development.  “Climate finance is a critical part of the international efforts to combat climate change and address ever more serious climate change impact, as discussions in Warsaw have made this clear.  “The Fund is stepping up its work to deliver effective results in developing countries and ensure that the impact of funding for adaptation and mitigation are maximised,” stated Mr Konukiewitz in a statement.  He said the Board of the Fund has agreed on a number of significant decisions that define a clear work plan for the fund to operate.  He, however, said concerns remains over the key issues of climate financing and the way in which emission reductions should be shared between the world’s largest polluters, such as the United States of America and China. Mr Konukiewitz said the Fund would promote a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development. The GCF is a new multilateral fund that was agreed by Parties at the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference held in Cancun, Mexico.  The Fund’s Governing Instrument was developed throughout 2011.  The Fund’s purpose is to make a significant contribution to the global efforts to limit warming to two degrees celcius by providing support to developing countries to help limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.  If the world is to have a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming, which it is generally agreed would occur of there is a rise in global average temperature by more than two centigrade degrees compared with the late 19th century, annual emissions of greenhouse gases will need to be cut at a much faster rate than is currently planned by countries.