Comments on the Negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by the Chairperson of the G77 and China, Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, Bonn, 21 October 2015
As Chairperson of the Group of 77 and China, I have the honour to share my impressions on the current negotiations towards the adoption of a new agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at COP21/CMP11 in Paris.
The Group stands united and is firmly commitment to address climate change as a matter of urgency, as demonstrated by its leadership role in the current negotiations. It is by far the largest negotiating group of Parties and its 134 members constitute over 80% of the world’s population.
Our members share the common feature of all being developing countries that face pressing socio-economic challenges and acute vulnerability to climate change. For us climate change is not a new issue, as our societies have long since been forced to adapt to the reality of a changing climate and increasingly frequent extreme weather events that are the result of emissions of greenhouse gases generated over centuries, predominantly by developed countries.
All too often we have had to respond to crises without the assistance of developed countries by using our own scarce domestic resources or with voluntary help from fellow developing countries through South-South solidarity.
For the low lying island countries in our Group their very existence is in jeopardy as sea levels rise, for others their fresh water supplies are threatened due to desertification. As we speak, at least two of our members, the Philippines and the Bahamas, are struggling yet again to cope with devastating storms that will set back their development.
As a starting point, therefore, we hope that the international media, which is so familiar with the narrative of developed countries around climate change, understands us when we approach this issue from a different perspective. For us this is not about economic competitiveness or making profits from renewable energies associated with the transition to a so-called “low carbon future”, it is a more fundamental issue of human development and environmental protection. The reality is that developing countries require climate financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building both now and far into the future, in some case just to survive - let alone make the transition to the “low carbon economy.”
Unfortunately, we find ourselves confronted with a simplistic narrative that suggests that “the world has changed since the UNFCCC was adopted in 1992” due to the dramatic economic development gains of some of our members and hence that it is time to expand the pool of so-called “donors” of climate “aid” and to narrow the list of those eligible to receive this “support” to only the “poorest of the poor”. This narrative serves narrow national interests of developed countries and says little about reality. If the world has really changed so much, we ask why it is that after all these decades all our members remain developing countries with little or no voice in global decision-making processes and institutions?
Under the Convention, developed countries are obliged to provide financial resources, including technology transfer and capacity building to all developing countries. This is a legal obligation under the Convention. It is neither “aid” nor “charity”, nor is it the same as development assistance.
It should be remembered that the UNFCCC is a climate change convention, with a specific mandate. The UNFCCC is not a broader sustainable development forum. In the fulfilment of the mandate from the Durban COP in 2011, which as its name suggests is a “Platform for Enhanced Action”, we are working to enhance implementation of the existing Convention, not to reinterpret or replace it. Differentiation of action and support and equity therefore remain necessarily at the heart of our work. The UNFCCC still remains a legally binding instrument.
We must always be guided by the primary objective of the Convention, and any related legal instruments that the COP may adopt, which is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in order to limit dangerous climate change within a timeframe to allow ecosystems to adapt. This objective is even more relevant today than it was back in 1992, given that the debates about the origin of climate change have been laid to rest and the evidence of a changing climate is already here for all to see and experience. As we move forward we cannot rewrite the Convention, we must strengthen its implementation in new ways.
For its part, the G77 and China remains fully committed to addressing climate change under the UNFCCC. The impressive number of ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that have been submitted by developing countries to date further testifies to the commitment of developing countries to contribute their fair share. Most of our members have submitted INDCs that include both mitigation and adaptation components and have announced very ambitious pledges, even though no guarantees of support have been forthcoming.
The G77 and China is therefore concerned that attempts are being made to take decision making on climate change, particularly with regard to climate finance, out of the UNFCCC, which is the only legitimate and universal forum for cooperation on climate change. We acknowledge the initiatives to bring together a so-called “climate finance package” for Paris, but are concerned that this package may not be unconditional or in full adherence to the Convention.
The provision of financial resources, technology transfer and development and capacity building, is central to the Paris Agreement. The reality is that without adequate, predictable and sustainable means of implementation, it will be impossible to reach our agreed target of limiting the increase in average global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius. This is because key mitigation potential is in developing countries and these countries are not able to realise this potential on their own. So when developing countries submit national plans in the INDCs to address mitigation and adaptation it is important that they be given the financial resources to implement those plans.
While we await the release of the UNFCCC Secretariat’s synthesis report on the aggregate impact of the INDCs, we have listened to the impressive scientific analysis already conducted by key civil society groups. These studies clearly show that we are not on track to meeting the two degree goal and that there is a disparity between the ambitious plans submitted by developing countries and the far less ambitious plans from developed countries. These studies also show that for the Paris Agreement to be effective and equitable, it must unlock substantial public finance for mitigation, both to fulfil developed countries’ fair share and to help unlock greater ambition in developing countries.
As States Parties we are negotiating a legal agreement amongst States and, as such, must address the obligations of States. It is not appropriate to turn this into an exercise to shift the burden to the private sector, no matter how crucial we all agree the role of the private sector is in generating financing and action on the ground.
The G77 and China appeals to the media to be fair and balanced in its reporting on the ADP negotiations in the lead up to and in Paris. Developing countries are engaging in the negotiations in a positive and constructive spirit and we seek an ambitious and fair agreement in Paris.
We welcome further engagements with the media and members of civil society and remain of the view that the negotiations ought to be open to observers.