PARIS, France -- While the high level segment of the Paris climate talks opened this week on a hopeful note, it also became clear the success or failure of the negotiations have boiled down to two issues: trust and finance.
The upbeat tone among the 195 countries taking part in the summit was prompted by recent commitments by major players like the United States, China, the European Union and India to resolve such sticky issues as the levels countries should reduce carbon emissions, how to make sure promises are honored, and who pays for all these.
The countries say a deal can be reached that would see a modest progress with guarantees on finance to help poor countries cope with climate change, as well as the long-term goal of emissions reductions to avert catastrophic impacts.
A major breakthrough, though, is the submission by more than 180 governments of their national action plans, or the so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions that detail how they will cut their domestic emissions after 2020.
The pledges, submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, are expected to make up the core of a new agreement, which could be signed by the end of this week.
Climate finance a major hurdle
Perhaps the most contentious issue at the talks is the delivery of money to poorer countries to help them reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
In a powerful speech at the high level segment of the summit on Tuesday, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said: “(The) Philippines is seriously concerned about the fact that there (are) not enough provision(s) in the draft Paris Agreement that provide for adaptation finance for the developing countries most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.”
He noted that the current draft agreement has no reference to how much finance is needed for adaptation.
“My delegation hereby further intervenes to ensure clear reference to a collective target for adaptation with a solid, qualitative and quantitative goal for target setting and progression, and for its review every five years. This collective target should be public, grant-based and concretely anchored on country adaptation needs,” Paje told ministers and lead negotiators at the Le Bourget plenary.
While not a major emitter, Paje said the Philippines has committed to “the implementation of both national development targets and mitigation initiatives necessitate the continuous development and strengthening of the country’s capabilities and capacities” in the national climate action plan it submitted to the UNFCC.
Technology transfer and innovation are needed to support adaptation and minimization of loss-and-damages as well as enhanced capacity for mitigation, Paje said.
“Thus, full implementation of our contribution to global action requires support in the form of adequate, predictable and sustainable financing,” he stressed.
With the negotiations entering late stage, climate finance seems to be the most crucial issue and observers say Paris must agree on a way forward.
The Green Climate Fund aims to raise $100 billion per year from rich countries by 2020.
“Tackling climate change and adapting to its impacts will require significantly scaled-up, new, additional and predictable financial resources, starting from the minimum of $100 billion fund per year by 2020,” the Alliance of Small Islands and States said, adding that this must include provisions to enhance access by small island states to public, grant-based support for adaptation, given the challenges and the threat that climate change poses to their countries.
“Finance is critical to effective implementation, and in light of our capacity constraints, simplified access is essential,” the AOISIS said.
1.5 degrees Celsius global temperature limit
According to the latest scientific report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world is .85 percent warmer than pre-industrial levels, and many people and ecosystems are already experiencing devastating impacts.
Climate expert Rosa Perez of the Manila Observatory, who is part of the Philippine delegation, explained that keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5 C entails immediate mitigation action, rapid upscaling of mitigation technologies available and a rapid shift to renewable energy sources.
“The 1.5 C goal is feasible. It means there is no way to delay action on decarbonization and that the major emitters will need to make deeper and ambitious commitments,” Perez said. “On the other hand, if we keep on emitting greenhouse gases, sea level rise would not stop even in 2050. Monsoon rainfall could be considerably affected.”
The Philippines, which chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum of more than 40 small nations, is leading the call for a below 1.5-degree Celsius global warming limit.
The Manila-Paris Declaration officially launched by President Benigno Aquino III last week has drawn support from more than 100 countries.
While the United Nations endorsed a target of 2 degrees Celsius in 2010, more and more countries are now promoting the 1.5-degree Celsius target as a more adequate limit for dangerous interference.
“It is encouraging to know that this 21st session of the conference of parties here in Paris has provided (a) further venue for other states, civil society and youth groups to declare support to this ambitious 1.5-degreeC limit,” Paje said.
He also enumerated the demands of the Philippines in the negotiations:
- First, to strengthen our leadership in taking national climate actions to ensure progress towards the goal of staying below 1.5°c, up-scaling our own mitigation actions and accelerating our capacity development for adaptation;
- Second, to work in solidarity with developed countries to put in place actions on loss and damage consistent with the Warsaw international mechanism to ensure developing countries are enabled to manage climate risks.
- And lastly, to call for the global community to hasten means by which vulnerable countries are able to access predictable, and scaled-up climate finance, while directing our own resources and capacities towards climate actions.
Dean Tony La Vina, spokesman for the Philippine delegation, called a 2-degree C temperature rise unacceptable since it might soon undermine the survival of their communities.
Another important issue for the Philippines is the inclusion of the concept on human rights in the preamble.
Other issues that the Philippines raised are: the loss and damage mechanism; a review on mechanism that can be incorporated to increase ambition that supports finance, technology transfer and development
“So a good agreement should have a mention of the 1.5-degree C as an ultimate goal that we must have in the next 20 years which is really critical to the Philippines” although the country remains flexible “in terms of how to reach an agreement and the language that will have to get there,” La Viña explained.
He said big players like China, India, the United States and Saudi Arabia must be included in the agreement.
Climate Change Commission Secretary Manny De Guzman earlier made an intervention at the ministerial meeting with other delegations at the COP21 climate talks.
“We are the face of vulnerability. We’ve been absorbing the punches and we will continue to receive these punches as the planet continues to warm,” De Guzman said. “We all know the vulnerable countries suffer the life-claiming brunt of climate disasters already today.”
“We have an opportunity here to make an historic contribution to upholding human rights and affirm our faith in an international system that functions .We are submitting the Special Procedures report for the COP’s attention together with the final report of the Structured Expert Dialogues of the 2013-2015 Review that the Review itself failed to forward for consideration by the COP,” De Guzman said.
“It would be difficult for us accept an agreement that does not contain or make a reference to 1.5 degrees C. By necessity, that means we also require an agreement that makes 1.5 degrees C possible with a mitigation goal that ensures full decarbonization by 2050, and an ambition mechanism that ensures immediate ramping up of the INDCs,” De Guzman said.
Despite disagreements among the negotiators, climate activists were cautiously optimistic.
Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, a network of 40 civil society organizations in the Philippines, said it stands by the principles of the convention especially common but differentiated responsibilities and its consideration in all aspects of decision-making.
It urged that every step of the negotiations be shared with the civil society and the public.
“We also call to the parties to the Convention to take seriously the submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and to the developed countries to provide financial and technology development support to the developing countries,” it said.