Photography by Rexor Amancio
BANGKOK, THAILAND -- With merely three months away from the Katowice Climate Conference in Poland, tensions were high as governments scrambled to finish the draft text of the Paris Rulebook which lays out the implementation and compliance plans for the accord.
The emergency negotiations for the guidelines of the landmark Paris Agreement concluded Sunday night with a mandate for presiding officers to prepare a joint reflections note by October. This means the preparation of negotiating ‘tools’ that can help parties deliberate better come Katowice.
The week started on a hopeful note with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the president of the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change last year, stressing the urgency of the talks and raising climate ambition during his opening statement. “Ambition can be a very gentle word. [But it means] total commitment, throwing ourselves without holding back one ounce of energy.”
Civil society groups, however, have been wary of claims that a well-balanced formal text will be drafted by the end of the negotiations. Mobilizations in front of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific greeted negotiators every morning for the past four days, with groups composed of farmers, women, indigenous people and workers joining the activities to call for climate justice for all. In a week full of very technical meetings, these served as reminders of the human face of climate change and the unique vulnerabilities of each sector already marginalized by growing inequalities.
“The Paris Agreement Work Program should be informed by the principles of climate justice, human rights, common but differentiated responsibilities, and respective capabilities (CBDR), equity and fair-shares in order to genuinely meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, as well as the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development Goals,” said Sey Peou of the NGO Forum on Cambodia and the Asia Climate Change Consortium.
Climate finance, however, remained the elephant in the room. A coalition of countries led by the United States have reportedly made interventions suggesting change in how climate finance contributions are accounted for. Under the proposal, loans to developing countries will be counted towards a developed country’s contributions to the $100 billion a year fund to be implemented by 2020. The silence of other developed countries has been deafening in a week that saw climate change-enhanced disasters in at least two countries in Asia.
These proposals were worsened by countries offering to have variable reporting deadlines for the Nationally Determined Contributions. The NDCs are each country’s supposedly progressive emissions reductions target and general plan for climate action. With multiple timeframes for implementation - one suggestion is to set it as long as ten years - it could very well stall efforts needed to keep the temperature degree rise to 1.5 degrees.
Without climate justice in the guidelines taking form in real commitments from historical contributors to climate change through ambitious financing and robust implementation, the Paris Agreement will just be an empty shell void of the opportunity to make real changes on the ground for real people.
The Philippines, for example, has committed to a 70% emissions reduction target but it is fully conditional on financing and technology transfer from developed countries.
published in Manila Standard, 11 September as "On the Road to Katowice"