City view of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. British economist Nicholas Stern estimates about US$ 4 trillion will be invested in infrastructure in the developing world till 2030. UN Photo/Kibae Park
Talks move forward at the Lima summit, but a herculean negotiating effort on emissions cuts and financing will have to be carried out throughout this year
By José Alberto Gonçalves Pereira*
From the technical point of view, climate negotiations evolved significantly at the Lima Climate Conference, which took place last December in the Peruvian capital, laying the groundwork for a global climate deal at the COP21 in Paris next year.
The countries agreed on operationalising the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, establishing the Lima work programme on gender and adopting the Lima Declaration on Education and Awareness Raising. They also adopted a decision on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) with its scope not being mitigation-centric. It opens a window for further discussion on the inclusion in the future Paris agreement of the concept of parity between mitigation and adaptation actions and mitigation and finance and means of implementation.
But the debate on binding emissions reduction targets for the developing countries still persists, while the developed nations are expected to deepen their proposals in climate finance, parity between mitigation and adaptation, finance and means of implementation and emissions cuts following the notion of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR).
Developed countries continue playing down the CBDR concept, demanding substantial binding emissions cuts from developing nations, mostly the emerging economies, but failing to establish their own more vigorous emissions targets in order to meet the two degrees Celsius threshold.
Furthermore, the Lima Call for Climate Action (LCCA) – which sets the negotiations in 2015 on the path to a global climate deal in Paris – did not establish a pre-2020 road map on scaling up of climate finance by developed countries for up to US$ 100 billion annually by 2020.
The sum was agreed at the COP16 in Cancún, Mexico, where developed countries committed to providing extra funds from public and private sources to help developing countries in mitigation and adaptation activities. However this commitment has led to few new sources of funds, with most countries having favoured re-labelling portions of the current overseas aid budgets to support climate actions in developing nations.
A global agreement in Paris depends on firm assurance by the developed nations about how the US$ 100 billion will be raised. So far they have pledged only around US$ 10 billion for the next five years into the Green Climate Fund (GCF), making developing countries unsure of the level of commitment of developed nations on climate finance at the next summit.
For the nations that are most vulnerable to climate change, finance and technological aid is fundamental not only to green their economies, but also to implement adaptation projects to make their poor communities more resilient to storms, hurricanes, droughts, farm productivity decrease and natural disasters.
For the British economist Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics (LSE), the creation of the GCF has relevant symbolic value, but it is in danger of distracting from the most important issue, which is the greening of the massive investments in infrastructure underway in emerging and developing countries.
He estimates that as much as US$ 4 trillion will be invested in roads, buildings and energy stations over the next 15 years in the developing world. “It is this investment that must be transformed. If it is, economic growth can be strong, cleaner, less congested, more efficient, more biodiverse – sustainable and much more attractive”, he wrote in a recent article for The Guardian.
Lord Stern made a serious warning in his piece: the world will not be able to reach its climate target of avoiding warming of more than two degrees and the developing countries will also face greater air pollution that kills millions of people and damages the economies of many countries, if future investments in infrastructure lock countries in high-carbon economies with dirty growth.
The developed world has undoubtedly to fulfil funding pledges made in Cancún, but perhaps more important to the end goal of mitigation, they can also embrace the more effective route recommended by Lord Stern: developed countries should help emerging and developing economies to turn the US$ 4 trillion annual investment into clean and sustainable infrastructure.
At the same time herculean efforts put in place by countries like Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, South Africa and others to tackle poverty and protect their forests could be better compensated by the developed world, slashing tariffs on their exports and farm subsidies and attenuating intellectual property rights for medicines and environmental technologies.
*Communications & Outreach Coordinator at the World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre)
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations, including UNDP, or their Member States.