We need “A legally-binding agreement for emissions reductions, a financial commitment, and a reporting and verification mechanism”, says Azeb Girmai from Ethiopia.This is how Azeb Girmai, climate activist in Ethiopia, and LDC Watch Steering Committee member of described her hopes for the UN Climate Change Conference. “We know that climate change will impact particularly on the vulnerable, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), so we’re fighting for a binding treaty to replace Kyoto”, she says.
“We need a deal that will trigger drastic carbon emission reductions in line with what science and equity requires. The lives of people who were not responsible for creating the current situation are on the line. We have run out of time, we have gone beyond complacency and excuses. Developed countries, which bear most responsibility, need to support the most vulnerable countries as well as taking action to reduce their emissions.
“Because of years of inaction, the world’s atmosphere is changing and LDCs are facing the impact”, says Azeb. “In East Africa, recent drought and flood, due to the effects of the current El Nino (the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean that raises sea temperatures) have intensified because of climate change, so we have the worst drought in 30 years and typhoons in Asia have become the new normal”.
The biggest sticking-point: non-binding targets
The greatest concern among developing countries, and LDCs is that the Conference may shy away from binding agreements to reduce carbon emissions, replacing these with Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), so that every country has to come up with voluntary plans to reduce emissions.
THE INDCs that were submitted this October have fallen short of their target and developed countries have failed to bear their fair share of emission cuts, based on their historical responsibility, equity and capacity. As Azeb points out, INDCs let developed countries off the hook, as these targets are only ‘intended’ and non-binding, are ‘nationally-determined’, so each country decides how far to go, and are only ‘contributions’ and not commitments.
Her concerns are compounded by statements from US Secretary of State John Kerry that the US is not looking for a binding treaty. “These can’t be voluntary”, she insists, but must be made into a pledge to comply with the global goal of reducing emissions to keep temperature rise below 1.5 0C limit to save lives in the most vulnerable countries.
The latest IPCC report (AR5) set alarm bells ringing when it warned that a global 20C rise will have huge repercussions for LDCs and Small Island Developing States (SIDs), because science says that an average global rise of 20C means a rise of 30C in Africa.
Despite these concerns, she is optimistic that progress can be made in Paris. “There was a huge fight against the eminent danger of an imbalanced text for negotiation in Bonn but now we have a balanced document for COP21 that we can negotiate on.
Sticking to the 1992 Climate Convention
As well as getting developed countries to re-commit to binding emission reductions, civil society groups from LDCs are demanding three other goals: finance to help LDCs with adaptation, loss and damage and mitigation; technological know-how and transfer; and capacity building.
In terms of finance, Azeb explains: “We need to stick to what’s in the Convention (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – Rio 1992), where it’s clearly stated that developing countries, in particular the most vulnerable countries, need sustainable finance for mitigation and adaptation.
“This isn’t charity, it’s an obligation” she insists. The new agreement needs to explicitly reaffirm this and to include a clear road map for post 2020. “We have seen pledges after pledges for years but actual finance at hand for climate change is a different matter. The US has pledged $3 billion, but this amount still hasn’t been transferred into the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and LDCs urgently need financial support to carry out measures to compensate for loss and damage and for adaptation and mitigation in LDCs. This is clearly stipulated in Article 4 of the Convention”, explains Azeb.
On the question of how LDCs should use the finance, given the kleptomania of some leaders, she believes all levels of government have to be involved. “National governments should develop climate change policies and strategies in partnership with all stockholders at all levels and incorporate these into national plans, and local government and NGOs should be brought in to implement these strategies”, says Azeb.
Technology transfer and capacity building
Ethiopia is an example of a government which needs support. In 2011 the government launched its strategy to become a Climate-Resilient Green Economy by 2025. Some of this is based on cutting down on carbon emissions in domestic activities, but much is predicated on the ability to develop appropriate technologies for instance developing renewable energy options that mean leapfrogging to modern and energy-efficient technologies in transport, industry, and buildings.
To implement this strategy it will need resources in the form of finance, technology transfer and capacity building.
Hopes for Paris
Summarising her ambition for Paris, Azeb says she wants:
a) A legally binding agreement for emissions reductions covering all countries based on the principles of the Convention that are based on equity, historical responsibility and respective capability;
b) A commitment for finance for loss and damage and adaptation to be explicitly included in the agreement with clear targets as well as technological transfer and capacity building;
c) Clear mechanisms for reporting and verification for effective transparency and accountability integrated in the agreement for support as well as commitment on emissions reduction.