The past one year has been extremely fruitful for the fight against climate change. The Paris Agreement, finalised in the French capital in December last year, was far more robust than what many had feared it would be. Then, in less than a year, it was able to mobilise the minimum number of ratifications to have the fastest entry into force for any major international agreement. In between, countries were able to forge an agreement to slow down the growth of emissions from international aviation after 2020. And, the amendment to Montreal Protocol finalised in Rwanda last month to enable a quick phase-down of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) compounds has the potential to be a game-changer.
Understandably, there is euphoria all around. The smiley boards that were put up across the world on green-lit up iconic buildings last Friday to mark the entry into force of the Paris Agreement carried the message ‘We did it’. The celebrations and self-congratulation is likely to continue on the opening couple of days at the latest round of annual climate change conference in Marrakesh which begins on Monday.
Impressive as this year-long journey has been, there is still a huge amount of distance to cover. The Paris Agreement has created the larger framework for global action against climate change, but some hugely contentious issues still remain to be settled, the most prominent being that of finance.
Rich and industrialised countries are obligated to provide climate finance to the developing nations to help them deal with the impacts of climate change. The rich countries have promised to mobilise at least USD 100 billion per year from the year 2020. Developing countries have been demanding to know the progress on this promise, but what has come from the rich world has disappointed as well as angered them. In an estimate released a few weeks ago, the rich countries have claimed that they were on road to raise at least USD 64 billion just from public finance by the year 2020. However, these estimates were based on a discredited OECD report released last year which had claimed that more than USD 60 billion dollars in climate finance had already flowed from the developed to the developing world between the years 2010 and 2014. Not surprisingly, the developing countries are both disappointed and angry.
Discussions on finance are likely to dominate the meetings in Marrakesh. An associated issue is that of loss and damages. The most vulnerable countries, like the small islands, have been demanding that they should be compensated for the damages they are facing as a result of climate change. These countries have negligible contribution in global warming but are facing the worst impacts.
SEPARATE MEETING OF PARIS MEMBERS
The entry into force of the Paris Agreement will trigger the beginning of a new separate meeting at the climate change conferences. This meeting, to be called CMA, will be held at the climate conferences every year. CMA will be the meeting of members of the Paris Agreement, just like the members of the Kyoto Protocol meet separately at every climate conference.
So far 100 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement and thus become its member. These 100 countries can participate in CMA1 at Marrakesh and discuss issues related to Paris Agreement, including on the rules that need to be framed to guide its implementation. However, CMA1 will not take any decisions as of now as countries have agreed to wait for some time to let other countries also ratify the Paris Agreement, thus making the decision-making in CMA much more broad-based.
New institutions are also likely to come up for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Discussions on two of them, a Technology Framework for enabling transfer of technology to poor and developing countries, and a Paris Committee on Capacity Building, are expected to make some progress in Marrakesh.
India has stressed that the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR&RC) — a principle that demands greater action from the developed countries — must continue to guide all the implementing arrangements for the Paris Agreement.
SHADOW OF US ELECTIONS
However, it would be the upcoming Presidential elections in the United States that would be on the top of the minds of the negotiators. The results of the November 8 polls could have profound implications for the global architecture on climate change, given the publicly stated position of Republican candidate Donald Trump on this issue. Trump has even threatened to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, if elected. While that may be a far shot — in any case the withdrawal process would require at least four years, according to provisions — the election of Trump could substantially delay the momentum on climate change.