Saturday, February 20, 2016

Salceda calls Paris Agreement 'bad' as it shifts burden of carbon emission to developing countries
By Irene A. Solmirano

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 18 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, immediate past co-chair for developing countries of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Green Climate Fund (GCF) board, on Wednesday branded the Paris Agreement arrived at during the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris, France in December 2015 (Paris COP21) as a bad one.

The GCF is an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC and is specifically designed to mobilize deeper levels of global private sector capital.

At its third meeting in 2014, the GCF Board decided to set up a Private Sector Facility specifically to facilitate a reduction in the emission intensity of industrial production and provide support for the development, transfer and scale of low-carbon power generation.

The Paris Agreement, Salceda said, is essentially a compilation of pledges from all parties to the convention to limit emissions, and a review of these pledges.

“The purpose of the Agreement is to hold the increase of global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial levels,” the green economist said.

He noted that developing countries had held on to the limit of 1.5°C since the negotiations prior to the Paris Agreement process, even as the prospect of holding on to this limit dims with each COP, and further dims as it is pushes over to 2020, when the agreement presumably will come into force.

It must likewise be recognized, he said, that a “global mean” would imply much higher increases in temperature in different regions, particularly in Africa and the developing world.

While some sectors hailed the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the former GCF top official observed that the few dissenting voices, mainly from developing countries, including those in the Philippines, were left unheard and unheeded.

“Responsible voices from both developed and developing nations did point out that the agreement, meant to replace the only legal regime governing climate change, the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, is still far from providing a viable solution to the increasingly urgent problem of climate change and its adverse affects,” Salceda said.

As in Cancun in 2010, the internationally-known financial analyst said, the final result was adopted by applause, drowning out the objections of Nicaragua, not even acknowledging its raised flag.

But even after going overtime, France did not want anything to block a “success” in Paris, he pointed out.

“It did, however, hold up the final meeting to adopt the agreement over the objections of the United States over the use of the word ‘shall’, which would imply its agreement to a legally binding requirement on economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets for developed countries,” Salceda said.

This, he said, would mean a “new commitment” that would require US congressional approval for the Agreement, something that would definitely spell the end of a “universal agreement” in Paris.

“The host country obliged, gaveling through the agreement, and a compliant secretariat lamely admitted a technical glitch, albeit a glaring one, on such an important document,” the climate change adaptation expert said.

In effect, therefore, there are no enhanced commitments from developed countries for further emissions limitations, but developing countries have been pressured into putting on the table their “intended nationally-determined contributions” (INDCs), many determined with the assistance and funding from developed countries with the use of their own consultants, Salceda said.

It was only after extremely difficult discussions that adaptation actions have been accepted as contributions of developing countries.

However, these adaptation efforts still need to be recognized “in accordance with modalities to be adopted” by the governing body of the agreement, the Albay governor said.

“Adaptation actions have become imperative for developing countries to enable them to undertake strong mitigation actions but remain woefully underfunded under the convention, and are likely to remain so under this new agreement. No links with financing for adaptation feature in the Paris Agreement,” he said.

In the meanwhile, Salceda said, studies have shown that the current pledges of developing countries go far beyond their “fair share” of responsibilities for addressing climate change.

The overall effect of the Paris Agreement, he claimed, is a weakening of commitments of developed countries under the convention, a shift of these commitments to include developing country parties, without any certainty of predictable and accessible financial resources to developing countries.

All of these “intended national contributions” are then subject to review, previously limited only to developed countries under the convention, the disaster risk reduction expert said.

“The agreement is particularly weakened in terms of the legal obligations of developed countries, especially those with the highest responsibilities to historical emissions, on the provision of financial resources, including the transfer of technology, to developing countries,” Salceda said.

The well-known investment adviser said the provision of financial resources have been extended, albeit as a voluntary action, to “other parties”, and such actions, also voluntarily to be reported accordingly.

He advised developed country parties to continue to take the lead in “mobilizing” finance, “as part of a global effort”, and “from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels.”

This is far removed from the legal commitments under the Convention, he claimed.

“A great majority of developing countries’ INDCs are made conditional on the provision of financial resources, including for technology and capacity-building. This is in full accordance with obligations under the convention. The agreement, however, provides no certainty that these financial resources shall be provided,” Salceda said.

He noted that objections were even raised by developed countries on a clear definition of what consists climate finance, leaving them free to call climate financing whatever suits their objectives.

“On loss and damage, even while the developing countries’ call for a separate article specifically on this issue was reflected, there remain no links on financing. It was even specified in the accompanying decisions that the Article in the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation,” Salceda said.

He said a tenuous link to financing is provided in the article dealing with technology development and transfer, in terms of a periodic assessment of the ”adequacy of support” tempered, however, by the need likewise to determine its “effectiveness”, a condition of results-based financing practiced by existing multilateral financing institutions.

There remain possibilities for developing countries to strengthen provisions on financing and technology under the decisions taken by the COP for the period leading up to the presumed date of entry into force of the agreement, the world-renowned economist said.

Among them, he said, is the recognition of needs-based financing, and the start of a process to identify the “qualitative and quantitative information” to be provided by developed country parties on financial resources to be provided to developing country parties.”

Salceda deemed it incumbent on developing countries to identify their financing and technology needs and to translate their INDCs into quantified financial resources and required access to technologies.

He also recommended the strengthening of mechanisms under the convention so that developing countries may be able to promote their interests effectively.

“These, however, would not suffice. We cannot afford to wait until the entry into force of this agreement to act, and that would be way too late,” he said.

Salceda urged each country to continue to undertake strong adaptation and mitigation actions urgently as all are affected by an increasing number of extreme weather events.

“Science tells us that even if all emissions cease immediately, the adverse effects of current changes will still have to be dealt with for decades to come. These should be accompanied by changes in consumption and production lifestyles increasingly dependent on continued use of energy,” he said.

The Albay chief executive called for revision on food consumption and production practices to focus on local products, and less waste.

“Poverty eradication and sustainable development should remain the first and overriding priorities for developing countries. The time to act is now,” Salceda stressed. (PNA) LAP/FGS/IAS/CBD/ebp