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09-09-2015 Cop20 news

What are the central topics for Latin America in the COP21 Agreement?


During the ADP 2-10 that took place last week in Bonn, Germany, the 195 Parties to the UNFCCC were able to get greater clarity on the negotiation concepts. Latin America is focusing its efforts mainly in reducing emissions, and also in short-term commitments, achieving transition towards sustainable development, facing climate change impacts and having developed countries acknowledge their historical responsibility on GHG increase.

Last week in Bonn, Germany, 195 countries parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met for the tenth part of the second session of the Durban Platform Task Force for Reinforced Action (ADP 2-10). The session was the third from last meeting of the parties before COP21 that will take place in less than 90 days in Paris and where an agreement is expected to be achieved that will permit to limit global warming in the planet to 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

Latin American countries, meeting around several groups, have different positions in these negotiations, but are also pushing some common subjects that will benefit the region as a whole, particularly transition towards sustainable development, long term ambitious objectives and short-term commitment cycles, as well as adaptation, damages and losses and differentiation, besides financing. The region has played an important role on these issues during these negotiations and has submitted constructive proposals.

The central axes: transition towards sustainable development

For Latin American countries, the main interest in achieving a global climate agreement is enabling and fostering the region’s sustainable development, as Antonio García - COP20 Presidency representative – reminded us during the inaugural speech at ADP2-10.

“Latin America is mostly made up by middle-income countries and this is why we are interested in the legal and political framework to stem from the global agreement to start transformation of institutions, economies and societies and make them friendlier to climate. What is most important is for them to be prepared and capable of promoting sustainable development,” pointed out Rómulo Acurio, deputy representative of Peru for climate change to ConexiónCOP.

He added that the climate negotiation offers for the first time the opportunity of linking the solution of an issue that jeopardizes global environmental integrity with Latin American countries’ priorities to develop and eradicate poverty. “That connection should be the objective and purpose of Latin American countries in the COP21 negotiation,” pointed out Acurio.

Reducing emissions: Long-term objectives of short-term measurements

The first objective to be attained in the COP21 legal agreement is to confirm the universal commitment signed at the UNFCCC, that is, collaborating and acting to prevent exceeding a 2ºC temperature increase. Particularly, Latin American countries strive for having the limit at 1.5ºC since the 2ºC limit implies numerous climate risks for the planet, as a recent study shows.

For Enrique Maurtua from FARN/Climate Action Network, having a temperature limitation objective is not enough. Establishing concreate terms for reducing CO2 emissions (mitigation) is a priority to reach the target. For example, the Latin America and Caribbean Independent Association (AILAC), which groups Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Panama, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru, bet on establishing universal carbon-neutral obligations for economies to 2050, besides a voluntary commitment of each country concerning an announced national de-carbonization path towards the same year.

These long-term elements might lead to the desired transformation effect towards sustainable development in Latin America. Enrique Maurtua states that: “these long-term commitments are key factors because they mark the direction and give a strong signal to investors, among others, particularly in mid-income countries that want to continue developing at the same pace as in recent years.”

Nevertheless, to attain these long-term objectives, Latin American countries state the need to establish short five-year commitments to be revised at the end of each period and to include ever greater obligations, allowing for a progressive increase of ambition level.

In Bonn, the short commitment cycles and constant increase of ambition were much debated topics. According to Mohamed Adow from Christian Aid, “Countries are showing more support to this idea.” A study published last Wednesday shows that the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by countries to date will take us to a much higher temperature increase than 2ºC, which means ambition should increase.

Facing the impact of climate change

Although mitigation actions implementation is fundamental, the effects of climate change are already showing and impacting Latin American countries, among others, through glacier melting, sea-water level increase and extreme flooding or drought depending on the zone. Likewise, countries need to act right now to adapt to these adverse climate effects.

As Sven Harmeling from CARE says: “several Latin American countries, particularly in the AILAC group, have been very productive in recent years to reflect on how to use this regime so that we can all improve our adaptation and learn from each other, and they have made interesting proposals for the negotiation text.”

Rómulo Acurio stated that “the fact that the agreement has a universal commitment on national adaptation actions is key for the potential of transforming our countries.”

Another topic that was much discussed in Bonn last week and that Latin American countries are pushing, particularly the Bolivian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a group made up by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica, is “damages and losses,” that is, damages produced by global warming to which a country cannot adapt, such as natural disasters.

In the week’s opening plenary session, Dominica, on behalf of ALBA, called the attention on the Erika tropical storm that hit the country recently, and stated that it is fundamental to face vulnerability and climate change impacts, particularly in connection to damages and losses. Several developing countries ask for a specific financial line for damages and losses.

“Today we have not have much backup for including the damages and losses issue in the agreement. However, what we have seen at ADP2-10 is that the countries are accepting this idea more and more,” stated Mohamed Adow from Christian Aid.

There are currently two proposals on the issue. One include the damages and losses issue within the Paris agreement. The other, supported by developed countries, proposes including it only in the decision that will go along with the agreement, thus giving it less importance.

A fair distribution of efforts

A key issue for Latin American countries and, generally, developing countries, is differentiation, that is, to acknowledge in the agreement that developed countries have a historical responsibility in generating climate change and that, hence, they should make greater efforts to solve this.
“The new agreement will apply for all, but it is very important for this decision to be fair and equitable and to respect the Convention concept on “common but differentiated responsibilities,” enabling Latin American countries to assume the responsibility quota that really corresponds to them,” points out Enrique Maurtua.

There is much debate around the funding that developed countries will have to provide developing countries to finance transition towards sustainable development (particularly energetic transition), among others through the Green Climate Fund whose objective is to achieve US$100 billion annual capitalization after 2020 and which has only achieved US$10.2 billion today. According to Enrique Maurtua, “No Latin American country will be able to make this transition if they do not have some international support to so facilitate.”

“A strong global technical and financial cooperation system is required, as well as a regional one, to back up mitigation and adaptation plans in Latin American countries,” added Rómulo Acurio.

Nevertheless, it is important to take into account that the global context is no longer that of 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted and that it is much more complex now. There are developing countries such as China, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Iran that together account for 38% of CO2 emissions in the world and thus significantly contribute to climate change: the division is no longer as clear as before. Even inside Latin America, there are different development levels and conditions.

What do we need to be ready for COP21?

In the period from now to the start of COP21 the objective is “to start shortening the text, not eliminating options, but combining them,” said Sven Harmeling. “Policy decision makers, that is, ministers, need to have a text they can work with at COP21 with clear options so they can debate and identify middle positions,” he added. In fact, organizers and negotiators are concerned about not repeating the mistakes of the Copenhagen COP, where the base text was too long, unmanageable and ended up in a failure.

The Parties will work hard during the last negotiation session in Bonn in October to focus in the success of COP21, based on a new draft proposal that ADP Co-Chairs will prepare, and also through several informal meetings at minister or president level, bilateral meetings such as the one between United States and China, and the last stage will be the November pre-COP.

Besides the fact of being able to adopt a global agreement at COP21, the other great concern of the countries is reaching consensus without losing the ambition level needed to really protect the planet from global warming.

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