Saturday 8 October 2011

Interview with SPREP's Climate Change Adviser, Espen Ronnerberg

Espen Ronnerberg, SPREP’s Climate Change Adviser has been exclusively following adaptation negotiations here in Panama. Here are his comments on the outcome of the adaptation negotiations.
Espen Ronnerberg
Ronnerberg:  After one week of talks here, we have resolved a lot of issues on adaptation. There are still a few issues that need to be fixed up and activities for the adaptation work to be decided on. But at least we have a draft text and we know what we will be dealing with. It’s a lot easier for us to prepare for Durban, at least on adaptation. We also resisted a suggestion to try and link everything together but we decided to move ahead with the positive spirit now adopted here in Panama. It’s a positive signal to other areas of negotiations here where I understand have been facing a lot of resistance from some Parties. We have to keep the big picture in mind. 

Q; So a draft text on adaptation is ready to be taken to Durban?
Ronnerberg: We will have a draft text decision presented at the plenary. Off course we never know for sure what can happen at the plenary, somebody may object but at least the working group has approved the draft decision text, for further negotiations off course. There are a number of key areas that have not been fully resolved but what we have done is clarify some of the underlying issues – the methods of work for the committee and the functions. Now that this is clear, we can all quickly look at the actual activities that the adaptation committee will be undertaking. What will be their short term tasks after Durban and what will be their long term tasks. And having that clarity in the discussion makes it a lot easier to push for things that are important for the region.

Q: What is going to be the work of this adaptation committee?
Ronnerberg: The adaptation committee is an advisory committee group aiming at improving the delivery of adaptation action at the national level. So it will be doing that particularly through guidelines to the finance committee, guidelines to the countries on how to form their plans and programmes and also to develop a yearly report on the state of adaptation work, which will then give us as Parties, information that we can utilise to direct financing to a particular region or to a particular sector because it will give us an overview of what is actually happening. If we can identify that some countries are not getting some assistance or some sectors aren’t getting any help, ten we take remedial action to address that. We need to have this logical framework that we can work with and hopefully the proposed adaptation committee will be able to do that. It’s a welcome that we are getting this committee now.

Q: Apart from some good progress in adaptation, other issues don’t seem to enjoy the same level of progress in the talks here.
Ronnerberg: It is positive that we are making some progress in some areas we do need to step back and look at what the overall package look like for us. For example we may have a good framework developed for adaptation but if the resources are not going to be forthcoming, then it is not much of a victory. Similarly we need a lot of capacity building in the region so the eventual decision relating to capacity building will also have to be taken into account. We need to step back a bit and reflect on what we have on the table and see where we need to do more work and where we need to put more pressure.

Interview with Solomon Islands Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Colin Beck

The resumed climate change talks in Panama has recorded some progress in the lead up to the 17th Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa in December. While little progress has been made, the Pacific is happy with movement of a number of issues important for the region. Ambassador Colin Beck, Solomon Islands Permanent Representative to the United Nations explains to PACNEWS Editor and Climate Pasifika Journalist, Makereta Komai.

Ambassador Colin Beck (right) with Solomon Islands delegate, Chanel Iroi
Ambassador Beck: I think there is some progress made here in Panama considering what happened in Bonn and Bangkok. There was some progress in Bangkok on the Convention. The Cancun decisions left out some of the Bali Acton Plan, so it required just a whole session to go through what has been agreed in Cancun and what has been left out. Here in Panama we built on that work left out in Bangkok. Some texts have been produced here but I describe the talks here as ‘baby steps’ in the Kyoto Protocol.
On finance, there is also some movement on the draft text. Depending on where one looks at it, there is progress but it’s not even across the board. Certainly one of the most important aspects is the refusal by some Parties not to take a second commitment period. Disappointing is an understatement to say the least. It’s a concern to the Pacific and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and something that what we have said in Cancun is ‘an attack on multilateralism.’ If we believe in multilateralism then we must work on it. I think we should not use multilateralism at our convenience and discard it when it does not suit our interest.

Q: If that is the case, where consensus is hard to achieve, should voting be considered to get results? I learnt that Mexico is considering this option and canvassing Parties views.
Ambassador Beck: I think the issue of voting has always been on the table. If we vote right now, we can win because G77 and China have the number. We might win the vote but lose the battle on climate change and that is why need all the 194 Parties to support a global climate regime that is legally binding. Consensus is important. While off course we have voting at the back of our mind, the question is when do we apply it and in what area do we wish to use it? But I think there is some consideration on the issue. In the past, the rules of procedures have not been formally applied but i think it stems from the Annex 1 countries on finance when it was earlier looked at but things have changed and evolved.

Q: Even with the difficulty of getting a consensus, is voting the best option given that Parties have not been able to agree to an agreement, from Copenhagen to Cancun and then onto Durban?
Ambassador Beck: Everything that the UNFCCC has done has always been by consensus. Like I said, we can easily vote on second commitment and win but what do we do with those who do not wish to take that second commitment. How do we deal with them? Unless the vote is mandatory, then you will need to comply. This is similar to the United Nations where decisions by the General Assembly are not legally-binding, only resolutions by the Security Council are mandatory and legally binding.
Secondly, we might be politicising the issues at hand. If voting is done, it will take a lot of issues away from the hands of negotiators. Diplomatic pressures will be placed on capitals to vote and the job of negotiators will be just be like ‘pressing the button.’

Q: Back to Japan – what are its reasons for not committing to a second commitment period. How is it justifying its decision?
Ambassador Beck: I think the unfortunate aspect is that Japan has not said anything and is burning its bridges with so many countries. Sometimes silence does not mean we accept everything that Japan is doing. In the Pacific this week, coast guards are trying to ship water to Tokelau and NZ trying to assist Tuvalu. What we did in Copenhagen, we battered multilateralism. Trust and confidence was restored in Cancun but it remains fragile if Durban will not be able to deliver on a number of issues, especially the second commitment period, and multilateralism will take another hit.

Q: Mitigation remains a sore point here, any movement or middle ground achieved?
Ambassador Beck: There are talks of trying to increase the ambition level of the current pledges on the table. I think negotiators have presented options to Ministers to consider in Durban. Personally, I think a lot of these issues require no political decisions because if we say that what we do is driven by science, then we must all act and keep our temperatures lower.  An important issue for Small Island Developing States is the Review of the below 2 degrees by 2015. This is something the IPCC will be releasing its report in 2014. We are hoping that report will be out in time to have a decision going forward by 2015.

Q: So that means for now until 2015, industrialised nations will not have to adhere to the below 2 degrees goal?
Ambassador Beck: At the moment, it’s not even 2 degrees. It keeps on increasing beyond 2 degrees. We are trying first of all to maintain it to below 2 degrees as agreed in Cancun, with a view to reviewing it to see how close are on science on whether 2 degrees is sufficient

 Q: Is 2015 okay for AOSIS?
Ambassador Beck: AOSIS wants to see a procedural discussion in Durban and then a technical study at the next COP and a decision taken by 2015. So we should not be seen to be trying to do everything in 2015.

Q: On financing
Ambassador Beck: One of the sticking points was long term financing. During the discussions there have been debates on how the Green Climate Fund will be financed. We want these funds to be operational.

Q:  AOSIS speaks with support of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the African Union (AU). Do you think collective diplomacy works in climate change negotiations?
Ambassador Beck: To get a common voice in multilateral negotiations, we need the numbers. This is where the growing collaboration between small island developing countries and LDCs have really put on the front burner a lot of our issues, otherwise we will be working in isolation. We need to come together to push our agenda. And we find in AOSIS that it has worked in our favour here at the climate change negotiations.

Deadlock on key political issues at Panama climate negotiations threatens success in Durban, says WWF

07 October 2011 Panama --- Governments have failed to make important progress at a crucial preparatory meeting ahead of a major climate change summit in Durban, South Africa next month, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

While the Panama talks, Oct. 1-7, saw some technical areas advance, the key political issues, namely ambitious global emission reduction commitments, the future of the Kyoto Protocol and long-term finance, were left unresolved.

Tasneem Essop, WWF Head of Climate Strategy and Advocacy said the climate change talks are in trouble.

“It appears the lines have hardened on key political issues without much willingness by countries to compromise. There is still so much work to do and now very little time left to do it. Ahead of COP17, heads of state and ministers must urgently resolve these issues in order to lay the foundations for collective action to tackle the climate change crisis.

“In Durban it is essential that countries recommit to the Kyoto Protocol and for all governments to begin formulating a roadmap towards a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty that prevents the worst consequences of climate change.

“Finance is a key issue for Durban, and for the long-term success of the climate negotiations. The United States is now the main obstacle to constructive discussions on how long-term financial pledges will be met to help the most vulnerable countries cope with increased floods, droughts and sea-level rise. WWF calls on the United States and other governments to make progress on this issue before Durban, or at least to allow others to do so.

“Failure is not an option, but it will become a real possibility if these deadlocked issues are not addressed before COP17.

“A positive outcome in Durban is still within sight, but it will take an all-out sprint to get there. With a surge of political will from country leaders, a path forward is still very possible. Their citizens expect nothing less, said Essop.

Small progress made in Panama climate talks, AOSIS

By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Panama

07 October 2011 Panama – There is a general agreement here in Panama that some progress has been made in advancing a climate change deal, in whatever form it will take, in Durban in December.

At the conclusion of the last round of climate talks before the 17th Conference of the Parties in South Africa, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is happy with the draft texts that have emerged from the weeklong negotiations.

“This is critical for securing the future of the international climate regime. We must preserve the multilateral rules-based climate regime to limit greenhouse gas emissions to ensure the survival of small island states and the planet, said AOSIS chair and Grenada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Dessima Williams. 
Ambassador Dessima Williams, chair of AOSIS
Multilateralism is likely to fail if key Parties in the 194 membership of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will not give political backing to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.

“Durban could witness the dissolution of the multilateral rules-based process that has been in place for nearly 20 years. We are disappointed that some Parties are reneging on their commitments.

“I can tell you what real progress looks like for AOSIS: Real progress means doing what is required to keep island nations from drowning, famines from spreading, rainforests from burning, and ice caps from melting.

“Real progress is setting emissions targets capable of keeping global warming well below 1.5 degrees Celsius; mobilizing a minimum of $100 billion a year by 2020 to build sustainable energy sources in the developing world and help the most vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change; agreeing to second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol before it expires in 2012; and finally climate finance must scale up after the end of fast start finance in 2012 to avoid a gap.

“Real progress is doing what is essential to save entire ecosystems, countries, and cultures from destruction and not “just enough” to get us to the next round of meetings, said Ambassador Williams.

Speaking to journalists immediately after the conclusion of Panama talks, United States deputy special envoy on climate change, Dr Jonathan Pershing said even though the U.S is not party to the Kyoto Protocol, ‘It’s uncertainty is a source of anxiety for the future of a global climate change deal.’
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, US lead negotiator on climate change in Panama
“The future of the Kyoto Protocol is relevant to the U.S. We will only undertake any commitment if major economies are part of the global deal that reflects today and tomorrow’s realities and not those of 1992.

“We are encouraged by some of the progress made here in Panama especially some of the negotiating test which we think reflects structured thinking on the Cancun Agreement.

The U.S, Dr Pershing said remains committed to its short and long term climate financing pledged under the Copenhagen and Cancun Agreements.

“Let me make it clear we are not blocking debate on how and where our funds will come from. We are committed to what developed countries promised to mobilise the US$100 billion by 2020.

In response to suggestion of a gap in financing after 2012 when the initial US$30 billion runs out, Dr Pershing said, “I do not see a gap after 2012. This is a collective effort by developed countries and we are committed to raising the long term US$100 billion financing for mitigation and transparency.”

“It will not end in 2013 and the ramp up long term finance to 2020 will be met through public and private financing.”

 The European Union (EU) on the other hand said it wants to see governance issues related to the setting up of the Green Climate Fund is in place before there is discussion on how the fund can be financed.

AOSIS is pushing the Transitional Committee to complete its work on the design of the Green Fund to allow it to be operational by 2012. The group of 43 small island developing states also want a work programme established to identify long term sources of climate change finance.

Here in Panama, ‘good progress’ has been achieved on preparing decisions on adaptation, access to technology, said UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres.
UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres
“The progress made in Panama means that governments can have more time and space in the coming seven weeks and during Durban to resolve those outstanding issues on the future of the global climate change regime which will require political guidance.

“Durban will have to resolve the open question over the future of the Kyoto Protocol and what that means for a future global climate agreement, said Figueres.

At the negotiations, governments retained their different positions but many technical issues have already been brought to conclusion and there is a strong desire from all sides to see a final political decision made, she said.

The UN climate chief said Panama has also made some progress on the longer term question of how governments will meet their agreed goal of limiting global average temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

“In Durban, governments will decide on the shape of a formal review between 2013 and 2015, which they agreed in Cancun as a reality check on progress towards their temperature goal.

“Clarity on an effective, credible review is important, especially in light of the fact the sum total of national pledges to reduce global emissions falls 40 percent short of keeping below 2 degrees and that gap will have to be filled in the future, Figueres said.

The 17th Conference of the Parties will convene in Durban from 28 November – 09 December.

U.S moots ‘modernisation’ of UN climate change convention

By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Panama

06 October 2011 Panama --- The United States has mooted the idea of the ‘modernisation’ of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, US Deputy Special Envoy for climate change
Now ten years old, the Convention enjoys universal membership of 194 State Parties. The Convention was adopted in 1992 as a basis for global response to climate change. It’s ultimate objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

At the climate talks in Panama City this week, the US argued that as of 2009, nine of the top 20 emitters of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are from developing or non-Annex 1 countries, according to the Third World Network (TWN), a daily publication on climate change negotiations.

While the U.S did not name these countries, it urged the 194 Parties to the Convention to consider ‘graduating’ non-Annex 1 countries.

“The other option would be to eliminate the Annex 1 –non Annex 1 distinction and take more continuum approach. The continuum would apply to common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, reports TWN.

Both India and Philippines criticised the U.S suggestion saying it was clear that emissions of the past, a large part was due to developed countries and that was why there was a differentiation between Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members fall under the category of non-annex 1 countries disagrees with the U.S position.

AOSIS chair, Ambassador Dessima Williams said under the Convention, Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries have different legal obligations.

Developed countries who are historically the cause of the problem have to take obligatory actions under the Conventions.

“Developing countries under the Bali Plan of Action have two points – one, we must focus our priority on poverty eradication, that’s our main obligation. Our second obligation is to move away from business as usual. If you notice, developing countries are doing both.

“We cannot do that – eradicate poverty and disrupt business as usual until and unless we get some support, argued Ambassador Williams.

Most of the debate around the negotiations for the past three years now has been the push by industrialised or Annex 1 countries for major developing nations like Brazil, South Africa, Indian and China, whose global emissions are high to make similar mitigation commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.