At this week’s negotiations in Bangkok, global leadership needs to come together for the fight against climate change; introducing an effective rulebook would be the first step
Extreme weather events have become more frequent across the world. This summer, Japan, Canada, the US and several Scandinavian countries experienced severe heat waves. Cape Town in South Africa suffered a crippling water crisis. More recently, there were wildfires in Greece, floods in Kerala, and the Arctic’s thickest sea ice broke up for the first time on record.
Despite the growing scientific evidence linking global warming to such extreme weather, the international sentiment towards fighting climate change is weakening. The US has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, Australia has decided to abandon its climate goals, and Germany admitted that it would miss its 2020 climate targets.
Climate negotiations have made snail-paced progress too. All eyes are now on the Conference of Parties (COP24) to be held later this year in Poland, where the Paris Agreement Rulebook is due to be adopted.
The Rulebook, however, is nowhere close to being finalised, despite its early entry into force. Climate negotiators are now holding additional weeklong talks at Bangkok to arrive closer to a consensus around the Rulebook before COP24.
The Rulebook is crucial as it will help operationalise the Paris Agreement by setting guidelines related to transparency, accounting, compliance, and periodic assessment of collective progress on climate actions. Understanding three key issues, in particular, could aid negotiations and help build an effective Paris Rulebook.
The Paris Agreement seeks to enhance transparency for post-2020 commitments to combat climate change. It encourages all countries to submit more detailed information related to climate action on a biennial basis. While developed countries are demanding a common transparency arrangement, India, along with a few other developing countries, is urging for differentiation and greater support from developed countries.
Presently, developing countries are at different starting points in terms of their capabilities. Seventy per cent of the developing countries have not been able to submit their first biennial update report. This is predominantly due to capacity or financial constraints.
Some countries also face the colossal task of coordinating across multiple ministries and departments to streamline reporting. For example, India is engaging with more than 100 institutions across the country for formulating its Third National Communication. Such a mammoth exercise needs greater financial as well as capacity building support to keep pace with the reporting obligations.
Climate finance and capacity building
Not all countries have the knowledge and tools to address climate change. Hence, support in terms of finance, technology, and capacity building is necessary to successfully operationalise the Paris Agreement. So far, developed countries have failed to fulfil their promise of mobilising USD 100 billion worth of climate finance annually.
Hence, developing countries are demanding an inclusion of “accounting of quantified support disbursement and pledges” as one of the key features of the Paris Rulebook. The Rulebook should suggest clear indicators for better clarity, transparency and understanding of the financial commitments.
Further, capacity building is crucial for developing countries, as it goes beyond financing and focuses on improving their technical and technological capabilities. With the inclusion of “identification of capacity building needs” into the review process, a capacity-retention mechanism should be established within developing countries to measure the success of capacity building programmes and to identify opportunities to reduce dependencies.
Tracking collective progress
Strengthening mutual trust and cooperation among countries is at the heart of the Paris Agreement. This was the reason why the Paris Agreement adopted a bottom-up approach by allowing countries to self-determine their climate ambitions and commitments, unlike the top-down approach under Kyoto Protocol.
However, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report released in 2017 found that a complete implementation of all Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) would still lead to a temperature increase of 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. This is significantly above the scientific consensus on the need to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.
While the Rulebook will give shape to the Global Stocktake (GST) process to track the progress made towards these commitments, it could offer a lot more. The GST could be comprehensive in nature and identify key priorities, needs and concerns which prevent countries from achieving their NDCs. Further, an ambitious GST could provide a platform to showcase best practices being implemented and inspire countries to ratchet up commitments while pursuing a low-carbon growth pathway.
The next three months are not only crucial for finalising the Paris Rulebook but also for global climate ambition. Across the world, citizens are increasingly identifying climate change as among the top threats to themselves, their local communities and to national security. Global leadership needs to come together, despite the political climate that is very different from 2015, for the fight against climate change. Introducing an effective Paris Rulebook would be the first step.