After ‘Like Minded Developing Countries’ meet, prospects for climate change negotiations ‘minimalist’

The Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) is a formal negotiating group that includes China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia

Written by Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: September 17, 2015 2:39 pm
France Climate Talks_Kuma_759 French President Francois Hollande, center, delivers a speech to top government ministers, CEOs and diplomats at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Thursday Sept. 10, 2015, as they kick off three months of climate-related events ahead of landmark U.N. talks in France on Nov. 30. (AP photo)

An 18-point statement by a group of influential ‘like-minded’ developing countries is yet another reminder of how far away the world still is from stitching together a satisfactory global agreement at the Paris climate change conference, now less than three months away.

After a two-day meeting in Delhi this week, the Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) — a formal negotiating group that includes China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia — highlighted several of their long-held concerns that have been largely ignored. More importantly, they brought up a few relatively new issues that could become points of conflict between the developed and developing countries in the climate negotiations.

Eligibility criteria for climate finance: Foremost is their concern over attempts to define an eligibility criteria for countries to claim international finance to deal with climate change, and the attempt to increase the donor base by trying to include even some developing countries in that bracket.

The LMDCs “expressed concern regarding shifting the financial burden to developing countries and the attempt to expand the list of countries with obligations under the Convention (UNFCCC) to provide climate finance and at the same time shrink the list of countries eligible for receiving climate finance”. They also called on the developed countries “to provide a clear roadmap for the fulfillment of the $100 billion per year by 2020”.

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The developed countries are struggling to put together $100 billion every year from 2020 — a promise they had made at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference. Last year, they barely managed to meet another of their commitments — providing $10 billion over a four-year period for the Green Climate Fund.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the umbrella agreement of 1992 for any climate negotiations, has clearly identified those rich and developed countries obligated to provide finance to developing countries to help them deal with climate change. This list was based on the countries’ ‘historical responsibility’ in emitting greenhouse gases and also their economic capability.

The attempt to expand this list, to include a few developing countries, is annoying to the developing countries. Likewise, the attempt to restrict the number of countries that can have access to international climate finance is unacceptable to these countries. By current rules, India is eligible to access climate finance.

Climate finance is an extremely sensitive subject for the developing countries, one over which the success of the Paris agreement will depend.

Assessment of individual climate plans: Another issue major issue for the LMDCs is the idea to assess individual country’s climate action plans. Each country is supposed to submit their INDC, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, ahead of the Paris conference. These INDCs are going to be the most important building blocks of the agreement expected from the conference.

The INDCs are nothing but the actions nations commit themselves to for the fight on climate change. The Like Minded countries have said that these actions plans are supposed to be ‘nationally determined’ and therefore they would not agree to an outside review.

The LMDCs “expressed strong reservation against any obligatory review mechanism for increasing individual efforts of developing countries”, their statement said. “Any aggregate stocktaking or review of implementation must be for both action and support, taking into account differentiated commitments of developed and developing countries,” it said.

Text-based negotiations: The LMDCs also expressed their disappointment at the “lack of text-based negotiations” in the last round of negotiations held in Bonn earlier this month. This is slightly unusual for the climate negotiations, which mostly stick to a draft negotiating text. But with the current draft negotiating text still more than 80 pages long, and just one more round of formal negotiations left before Paris, a sense of panic is creeping in.

There is a mountain of work still left to be done and the areas of convergence still very few. While all countries express optimism that Paris would be successful, it is becoming increasingly evident that this agreement is going to be ‘minimalist’.