Dhaka Saturday November 26, 2011

Road To Durban

Saleemul Huq

The poor suffer the most as their houses are deluged in frequent coastal surges caused by climate change.
Photo: Anisur rahman

The seventeenth conference of parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) starts in Durban, South Africa on 29th November and will end two weeks later on 9th December.

Nearly ten thousand people are expected to descend on Durban during those two weeks, which will include several thousand official delegates representing 195 countries who will negotiate the next phase of implementation of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

Fate of Kyoto
This COP is a particularly important one as the future of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) will be decided here, since the first commitment period of the KP expires in 2012. Failure to decide on a second commitment period will throw the entire UNFCCC process into limbo.

However, the political prospects going in to the talks are not encouraging. This is because of the general economic recession in the rich countries as well as the domestic political situation in the United States where climate skeptics reign supreme in Congress.

However, even if there is little progress on the KP and legally binding mitigation targets, there are several tracks where some progress can be expected. These include the negotiating tracks on adaptation, technology transfer, reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) and perhaps finance.

Of these, the finance track is the most critical and its outcome will likely determine the success or failure of Durban.

The issue being negotiated is the form, organizational structure and governance of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) which was agreed in COP16 in Cancun, Mexico in December 2010, and which will manage the 100 Billion Dollars a year from 2020 onwards to provide financial support from the rich countries to the developing countries to support their actions to combat climate change through both mitigation as well as adaptation.

The Cancun agreement set up a Transitional Committee (TC) to meet several times before COP17 and present agreed recommendations for adoption in Durban. Although the TC did indeed meet several times and had almost agreed on their recommendations, they failed to reach a consensus at the last hour of their last meeting due to the objections of only two countries, namely the US and Saudi Arabia. This means that there are no agreed recommendations to the COP and whole thing will become subject to negotiations amongst all 195 countries in Durban.

Bangladesh's role
Bangladesh will be fielding its regular negotiating team to Durban as usual. Over the years Bangladesh's team led by the State Minister for Environment and Forests, has acquired considerable capacities and has enhanced it negotiating abilities. Two practices that have been adopted that are worth highlighting. The first is the holding of pre and post COP consultations with different stakeholders to get their views before the COP and share the outcomes after the COP. The second is the incorporation of non-governmental experts and NGOs in the official delegation. This demonstrates the open mindedness of the government and the recognition that on this issue all Bangladeshis attending these events, whether official government delegates or civil society, have the same aim of drawing attention to the voices of the vulnerable people and countries.

Bangladesh goes to Durban on a high note, having just assumed the chairmanship of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (VCF) after a successful meeting held in Dhaka on 13th and 14th November with the presence of the UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon and the adoption of the Dhaka declaration.

Although the VCF is not a new negotiating bloc, it will nevertheless enable Bangladesh to play a leadership role on behalf of an important group of vulnerable developing countries drawn from across the three negotiating groups of vulnerable countries namely, the least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing states (SIDS) and Africa.

It will give the opportunity for Bangladesh to raise the concerns of the vulnerable countries who are already starting to feel the adverse impacts of climate change and demand much stronger actions from all countries including not only the developed countries, but also from the large developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

So far Bangladesh, along other vulnerable developing countries, has quite rightly, focused on adaptation and funding in the COPs, but now the time has come to focus on mitigation from all countries, as there is a limit to adaptation if countries fail to mitigate. This will require a change in both messaging and tactics.

It remains to be seen how the Durban talks pan out and whether Bangladesh and the vulnerable countries can make their voice count.

Saleemul Huq is Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London and Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh. Saleemul.huq@iied.org

Broken Promises

Alexander Stubbings

Cyclonic storm Sidr caused such havoc along the coast. Photo: Star

As the world's attention over the coming weeks' centres on Durban, South Africa, where the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) will meet for their seventeenth conference (COP-17), a crucial question on everyone's mind is whether, and in particular for the Least Developed Countries, we will finally see meaningful promises acted on.

In a new report out on 21st November by London based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), they emphasise that “two decades of climate diplomacy is on the line in Durban”. This re-emphasises the historical legacy of broken promises made by the richest countries that caused the problem, anthropogenic climate change, in the first place, and which threatens the survival of the Least Developed Countries.

A historical legacy
There is a historical legacy of broken promises made by the rich countries under the obligations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), such as the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries are now more suspicious, than ever before, of promises pledged by developed countries, especially in the aftermaths of both Copenhagen -2009 - and Cancun - 2010.

Why should people care about this legacy of broken promises? Fundamentally, we should be concerned because current adaptation finance fails in delivering the pledges made at the foundation of the UNFCCC in 1992. These pledges stressed that funds should meet the needs of the most vulnerable countries.

Five broken promises
The IIED report identifies five areas where the rich countries have failed to live up to their promises, these include: adequate funding, fair burden sharing, balanced financial funds for both mitigation and adaptation activities, needs-based targeting and transparent governance.

As the fiasco continues surrounding the pledges made at COP-15 around finance, even the agreed figures fall far too short to help vulnerable countries adapt promise one. This is so crucial for the developing countries to adapt. Finance needs to be scaled up along with new and additional sources, sources that don't re-distribute official development aid, which represents a mockery to the people who did not contribute to anthropogenic climate change.

“Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”, relates to the idea of fair burden sharing. At present there are wide discrepancies in financial commitments. Rich countries have, still yet, to provide sufficient finance for both adaptation and mitigation actions.

Both the Copenhagen Accord and Cancun Agreements stressed the needs for balanced financial support for, both, mitigation and adaptation. In reality the efforts made by donor countries is paltry. The IIED report quotes that only US$415 million, out of $2 billion, has been mobilised to help assist developing countries fund their National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPAs).

As the recent Climate Vulnerable Forum has demonstrated, there is a moral obligation that adaptation funds should be prioritised according to those countries most susceptible to the impacts of climate change. In normal English, this refers to a concept called “needs-based targeting”, which was discussed most recently at COP-16.

Lastly, the issue of transparent governance promise five. This is a long-standing historical problem of the UNFCCC, with Bali playing a key role in this. To-date climate finance has been badly documented and, concordantly, difficult to keep tabs on. Most importantly, donors and beneficiaries aren't able to assess where the money is going and how it is benefiting the lives' of the most vulnerable.

Sincere actions
Only time will tell whether developed country Parties can re-position themselves and re-gain the trust of developing country Parties. A successful outcome at COP-17 depends, to a large extent, on whether developed countries can keep true to their word, for a change.

*Nb: the IIED report is referenced as, Ciplet. D., et al., 2011. Adaptation finance: how can Durban deliver on past promises? IIED Briefing. IIED, London

Multi-billion dollar climate changefund hits barrier

Village after village in deep water. Climate change is going to make such scenes frequent. Photo: Star












Plans for a multi-billion dollar fund to help developing countries deal with climate change hit a big barrier this week when countries could not agree on the design of the fund.

The decision came on Tuesday at a meeting of an international committee tasked with designing the fund in time for governments to approve the design at next month's UN climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.

Last year, negotiators from 194 nations agreed to create the “Green Climate Fund” to channel up to US$100 billion a year by 2020 to developing countries.

Developing countries have warned that control of the fund by the donor nations and the burden of bureaucracy that entails would limit their ability to make good use of it.

The Least Developed Countries -- 48 of the poorest nations in Africa and Asia that are particularly vulnerable to climate change were represented on the committee by Bangladesh and Zambia, whose negotiators have called from the outset for a radically new approach.

They argued that national climate-change trust funds in developing nations should be able to access the Green Climate Fund directly, rather than going through a third party such as the World Bank which entails long delays, excessive paperwork and less control over what gets funded.

“Enhanced direct access would empower the recipients of support to take their destiny into their own hands, without having to have their plans and projects approved by external entities,” says Dr Saleemul Huq of the International Institute for Environment and Development, which has provided technical support to the Least Developed Countries for several years.

Pa Ousman Jarju, chair of the Least Developed Countries negotiating block at the UN climate change talks says: “Enhanced direct access would allow more devolved decision-making to reflect local and national concerns and it would enable countries to integrate the funding into their national plans and strategies for dealing with climate change.”

He adds: “Without enhanced direct access, poor countries will struggle to adapt to climate change as they would face immense delays to access the funding and would not have the freedom to decide how and when to spend the money.”

After six months of tense negotiations, the Least Developed Countries seemed to have succeeded in their demand for provisions for direct access to be included in the final text.

But in the committee's final meeting on 18 October, the United States and Saudi Arabia withdrew their support for the overall design supported by all other countries because of concerns about other aspects of the text.

Trevor Manuel the former finance minister of South Africa, who co-chaired the meeting with Kjetil Lund of Norway, called the outcome "sub-optimal".

Germany expressed frustration and disappointment, and said that the committee's failure to agree a design “will likely result in not having the Green Climate Fund this year or the next”.

Compiled by Mike Shanahan
Press officer
International Institute for Environment and Development

Climate Change and Finance
Recent Development in Bangladesh

Md. Golam Rabbani, Bcas

The Government through Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has taken a number of policy and institutional decisions to address climate change and climate variability issues in Bangladesh. Following development of National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) in 2005, preparation of Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) in 2009 and establishment of Climate Change Unit (CCU) in 2010 indicate the progress in planning of adaptation for the vulnerable communities.

Realizing the vulnerability of the people of the country, the Government of Bangladesh had to make dramatic change in the budget allocation over the last three years. In fact, this was the first time of the fact that the specific budget was allocated to address climate change impacts in the country. In 2009-2010 FY, the total allocation was 100 million USD under the framework of Bangladesh Climate Trust Fund (BCTF) to take adaptation and mitigation actions on the ground. It is to be noted that another 100 million USD was added with initial allocation in 2010-2011 FY, and in the current budget more 100 Million USD has been allocated for 2011-2012 FY to implement BCCSAP. However, the total 300 Million USD (equivalent to over 22 Billion BDT) has been made available by the government for to implement BCCSAP. It may be noted that 66 percent of the total mentioned amount is available for implementing projects and programmes under the current policy framework of the government. However, the remaining 34 percent is reserved as fixed deposit to address emergency.

In addition, another funding window was established by the government as Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) to implement the projects and programmes under six major themes (i. Food security, social protection and health ii. Comprehensive Disaster Management iii. Infrastructure iv. Research and knowledge management v. mitigation and low carbon development and vi. Capacity building and institutional strengthening) of the BCCSAP. The BCCRF was created with an amount of 125.5 million USD (equivalent to over 9 Billion BDT) with contribution from UK ($ 94.6 million), Sweden ($ 13.6 million), Denmark ($ 1.8 million), European Union ($ 11.7 million), and Switzerland (3.8 million). It is decided that 90 percent of the BCRF fund will be used through public sector and the rest 10 percent goes through civil society (CSO) and private sector project implementation. The private sector and CSO funding will be administered by the Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation, PKSF. It was also decided that the World Bank will provide the technical assistance and serve as the Trustee of the BCRF for a five-year period between 2010 and 2014 (personal and unpublished source). The World Bank charge 4.5 per cent of the fund for its service. However, the government will take over the financial management after the interim period.

Third major source of climate fund in Bangladesh is the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) being supported and managed by World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC). The PPCR is a kind of special window from which five specific projects including Promotion of Climate Resilient Agriculture and Food Security, Coastal Embankments Improvement and Afforestation, Coastal Climate Resilient Water Supply, Sanitation, and Infrastructure Improvement, Climate Change Capacity Building and Knowledge Management, and Feasibility Study for a Pilot Program of Climate Resilient Housing in the Coastal are planned to be implemented. However, the total amount requested under the PPCR framework is 110 Million USD, equivalent to over 8 Billion BDT.

It appears that the total available (from government and donor countries) under three broad categories of the sources of climate fund mentioned above is only 535 Million USD. Besides, both the government and CSO/private sectors have access to other sources of fund through either bilateral or bidding mechanism at international, regional level and national level.

Further details: MD. GOLAM RABBANI (golam.rabbani@bcas.net)

© thedailystar.net, 2011. All Rights Reserved