The Stage’s Set

Sep 15th, 2014 | By | Category: News, UNFCCC

28164Republica: World leaders will descend at the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 23 to attend the Climate Change Summit called by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. This will be a historic initiative after the world leaders failed to agree on a climate agreement at the UN Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009. This summit is aimed at climate actions at the highest political level by the head of states and governments. 

Moon believes that tackling climate change is not possible without genuine engagement and actions from world leaders, especially from developed countries and big emerging economics, responsible for climate problems and with the capacity to address it. He has urged the governments to announce ambitious new climate targets especially on carbon emission reduction measures and funding climate actions in developing countries. 

UN’s top scientific body, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), asserts that carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40 percent since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions. It has caused climate change that is increasing extreme weather events and affecting water sources, agriculture, human health and biodiversity globally.
 
IPCC has also warned, “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” However, little has been achieved at the UN climate talks held every year. In 2011, countries set a new 2015 deadline to agree on a legally binding international climate treaty applicable to all 195 member states that are signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

This summit is expected to be a major milestone in signalling the success of UN climate conference (known as COP20) to be held in Lima, Peru in December. Lima conference will produce a negotiated draft treaty to be agreed in 2015 when another major climate conference (COP21) is scheduled in Paris. Hence, the upcoming summit provides world leaders an opportunity to demonstrate their sincerity and commitment to address climate change. They must clear their positions and expectations regarding the outcomes to be achieved in Lima and Paris. Furthermore, this is also an opportunity for them to be a real climate leader and resolve to leave a safer planet for future generations. 

For Nepal, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala will attend and address the summit. He should utilize this forum in revealing to the world how vulnerable Nepal is to the detrimental effects of climate change. In the past few years, Nepal has adopted policies and programs to build adaptive and resilience capacity. However, recent floods and landslides have given clear indication that much more preparation and capacity is needed as such extreme cases are likely to increase in the years ahead.

Nepal will not only attend the summit as a sovereign state but also as a chair of the Least Developed Countries Group representing 48 countries under the UNFCCC. Hence, in addition to carrying its own message, Nepal will also have to shoulder the responsibility of the LDC Group and the messages from these extremely climate-vulnerable countries. 

First, Nepal should urge world leaders to build political momentum to address climate change based on science. It should work to highlight the significance of a fair and ambitious international climate deal. World leaders can’t afford to squander this opportunity and repeat the debacle of Copenhagen Summit. Countries responsible for climate chaos and having the capacity to address it should internalise difficulties faced by poor and vulnerable countries and take ambitious steps to tackle this global problem. Failing to achieve the 2015 deadline will jeopardize poverty reduction and sustainable development efforts of countries like Nepal. 

Second, developed countries and other capable big emerging economies should commit to strong carbon reduction to limit global average temperature rise to below 2°C (or even 1.5°C as called by the LDC Group) compared to pre-industrial levels. Without cutting carbon emission, tackling climate change is impossible. The developing countries, particularly LDCs like Nepal and low-lying Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will be left with massive challenges of adapting to impacts of climate change. Many communities may not even have the opportunity to adapt due to permanent losses to extreme conditions. This poses a huge risk for economic growth and sustainable development. 

Third, developed countries should fill the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and other UN Funds to assist developing countries address adverse impacts. In 2009, developed countries agreed to financial assistance of around US $ 100 billion a year by 2020 to developing countries. However, there has been no progress in delivering these committed funds. Climate-related UN funds remain an empty pot while there are pipeline projects anticipating funds.

Fourth, Nepal should spread the message that capacity building is of utmost importance for itself and other LDCs. Without qualified human resources, adequate information, modern governance structure and climate technology, fighting climate change is impossible. Capacity building should be genuine, carefully crafted to strengthen the human and institutional foundation based on the country’s need. International agencies should help capacitate countries and their institutions rather than take over their roles.

Finally, Nepal should attend the summit with a strong and well-prepared team. It chose to be the leader of the LDC Group to fight for its interest and the group it represents. Hence, when the entire world will be watching the climate summit, as a highly vulnerable country, it is the perfect forum for Nepal to exert pressure on world leaders. The same opportunity may not be on the horizon for a long time.

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