The reluctance of rich nations to commit adequate funding to mitigate and adapt to climate change at the Bangkok meeting hindered the drafting of a rulebook to implement the Paris agreement

Rise for climate demonstrators in front of the venue of the Bangkok meeting (Photo by Pongsit Nopmaneepaisan)

Rise for climate demonstrators in front of the venue of the Bangkok meeting (Photo by Pongsit Nopmaneepaisan)

Disagreements among climate negotiators in Bangkok over details of a plan for developed nations to spend USD 100 billion a year to finance climate mitigation and adaptation projects in developing economies led to limited progress on framing a rulebook to implement the landmark 2015 Paris accord.

“In Bangkok, there has been uneven progress on the elements of the climate change regime that countries are working towards,” Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, said at the conclusion of the Bangkok climate change talks held from September 4 to September 9. “This underlines the urgent need for continuing work in the coming weeks.”

The meeting was the final gathering of nations before they meet to agree upon the implementation guidelines for the Paris agreement in Poland this December. Delegates from 178 countries spent the week to narrow down options for a rulebook to implement the Paris accord, in which 190 global governments for the first time agreed to limit worldwide temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times.

The disappointing outcome of the Bangkok meet was underlined by the sentiments expressed on September 10 by António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations. “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us,” he said in a speech at the UN headquarters in New York. “What is missing — still, even after the clinching of the Paris Agreement — is leadership, a sense of urgency and a true commitment to a decisive multilateral response.”

Financing hurdles

Negotiations over financing were among the most contentious topics in Bangkok. The failure to arrive at a consensus on funding means delaying the framing of the rulebook that is aimed at outlining how national government will meet commitments made under the Paris pact, including how rich nations will finance projects in poorer countries.

“The Paris Agreement cannot be implemented without climate finance. Clear rules need to be agreed in Katowice (Poland) to support developing countries taking climate action,” Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, said in a statement. “The failure of rich countries to deliver adequate resources has severe ramifications for people and communities in the least developed countries and around the world that are already bearing the brunt of climate change on a daily basis.”

Delegates at the closing plenary of the Bangkok meeting (Photo by UN Climate Change)

Delegates at the closing plenary of the Bangkok meeting (Photo by UN Climate Change)

A critical aspect of the Paris accord is for rich countries nations to provide financial assistance to developing nations, according to Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change for international non-profit ActionAid. “Wealthy countries led by the US and others such as Australia, Japan and the European Union refused to say how much funding they are going to provide and how that money will be accounted,” he told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

Singh’s sentiments were echoed by Taehyun Park, East Asia Global Climate Political Advisor at Greenpeace, an environmental advocacy group. “These talks have been beset with tension and parties have wrestled with reaching a balanced proposal on the Paris rulebook. Progress has slowed, leaving the heavy lifting for COP24 (climate summit in December at Katowice, Poland). A leadership deficit is the root cause of this slow pace and needs to be immediately addressed,” said Park. “We need to make faster progress.”

On the brink

A funding shortfall threatens the Paris agreement to control global greenhouse gas emissions. “It is on the brink because developed countries are refusing to agree to clear rules governing climate finance,” Singh told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Climate activists have severely criticised the lobbying by the US at Bangkok. This lobbying has happened despite US President Donald Trump saying that the country will withdraw from the Paris pact. “The US has announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement but still negotiates as if it is a party, weakening international cooperation by not contributing to finance and technology transfer to developing countries,” said Meena Raman, legal adviser at Third World Network.

Although the Trump administration does not want to be part of the Paris agreement, many states and local communities in the US are supporting the accord. A large number of climate experts and leaders are expected gather at San Francisco this week for the Global Climate Action Summit hosted by California Governor Jerry Brown.

The San Francisco meeting, to be held during September 12-14, will deliberate on existing climate commitments and achievements, and is likely to make pledges to step up efforts in five key challenge areas — healthy energy systems; inclusive economic growth; sustainable communities; land and ocean stewardship; and transformative climate investments.

 

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