Saturday, December 8, 2018

INECC Talks by Ajita Tiwari: No Rulebook without Equity

The 24th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP 24) is the most important CoP after CoP 22 at Paris. This is taking place from December 2-14, 2018, at Katowice, Poland. Katowice has a daunting mandate - to finalise the Rule Book for implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The irony of a coal city hosting the Climate Talks

The host city for CoP 24 is Katowice, a small city with a population of over 3,00,000. This city falls in the central region of Silesia which is the industrial belt due to rich natural and mineral deposits. Katowice too sits on a lucrative coal deposit and gets 80 percent of its energy from coal. The influence of the coal lobby seems quite significant from the fact that three polish coal companies have sponsored this CoP. So while on one hand, we continue to ask ourselves why ‘green talks’ in a ‘dirty’ city, the choice of the venue is even more intriguing as busloads of delegates like us travel over an hour and more each day, either way to reach the spaceship shaped conference venue!

In this context, it is important to highlight what the Polish president Andrzej Duda had to say at the press conference on the opening day of the conference. He said “we have coal deposits that will last 200 years,”. “It would be hard to expect us to give up on it totally.” This perspective begs the question as how this aligns with the by-line of this CoP which is“Changing Together- for a Just Energy Transition’. The President’s statement sends quite a confusing message to the outside world, who would get the idea that it is okay to burn coal and build more coal fired plants while also take climate actions. Statements like these, clearly refute the urgency and warning highlighted in the latest IPCC special report on 1.5 deg which calls for unprecedented transitions and demands carbon dioxide emissions to decrease by 45 % from 2010 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero by 2050.

Postcard from an Exhibit Booth no 112 at CoP 24 , week 1

Rulebook must include equity

While we try hard to make sense of Poland’s narrative, an interview with a Swedish radio this morning, forced me to look at India’s narrative at the CoP, especially from the lens of equity.

Considering that we were representing the civil society organisations (CSOs) the Swedish Radio interviewer, Ms. Magnolia Schiktter was interested in understanding the position of Indian CSOs and their expectation at the CoP on equity for a story that they were compiling. I took this opportunity to articulate what Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) desires from this CoP and what it wants the Indian Civil society and its government to do.

The rule book being developed at Katowice, to operationalize Paris Agreement (PA) has to reflect equity. The achievements if we may say so, of Paris process needs to be protected and for that to happen ‘equity” and Common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) must not be eroded. We completely reject the notion of CRRC (common responsibility according to respective capabilities) which has been advanced by the developed countries as an alternative to CBDR. The attempt by developed nations to not have differentiation and promote “responsibility sharing” without differentiating the responsibility between developed and developing nations has to be constantly opposed. The ‘common responsibility’ idea that has stemmed from the fact that some major developing countries (includes India and China in particular) are responsible for current emissions. India and other developing countries are rightly arguing for the ‘fair share approach’ which the developed countries have wanted to do away with. The attempt of the developed countries to have the PA as a completely new treaty, delinked from the 1992 convention was largely to do away with its accountability for historical emissions. While in the run up to PA, the notion of ‘equitable access to atmospheric space’ was gradually subsumed into ‘equitable access to sustainable development’ which in turn was gradually lost in the bottom up process of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We know that the process has been an inequitable one. We are aware of the gap that exists between the current NDCs targets and what is needed to limit temperature rise to 2 deg. By putting the equity rationale under the rug, and bringing in the ‘shared responsibility’ logic, would mean that the developing countries like India will need to push themselves that extra extra mile to fill in the gap created by developed countries. India and the bunch of ‘Like Minded Developing Countries’ (LMDCs) must ensure that this must not happen. This is contrary to the convention and the PA.

Associated with the position of equity, is the pre 2020 commitments which might get spilled over and shifted to developing countries in their post 2020 trajectories. It is important to mention that it has become quite common to quote the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ‘Emissions Gap Report’ especially by the developed countries in all such meetings. This report lays down what is being done on emission reduction and what more needs to be done to close the gap. This mostly highlights that all countries need to do more on emission reduction, without looking at who is not doing their fair share consistent with their historical responsibility. This is certainly not in line with the equity narrative and the burden of closing the gap should not be ours.

Civil society like us must come together and must expose the developed countries that they are doing far too little in terms of what is demanded by science and the latest 1.5 deg report. CSO must emphasize the fact that the actions of the developed countries are not consistent with equity and fair share. However, having said this, it is important to highlight that the observer status given to CSOs at the UNFCCC has become no less than a joke, with literally no mandate. The observers with yellow ID cards are kept out of bounds from all the key meetings and hardly have any say. But before we feel completely disillusioned by the observer status, we should find comfort in what was said by Dr. Saleem Ul Huq during our side event on the first day of the CoP. He said that it’s not our job to read the text, it’s that of the negotiators. We (civil society) should aim to meet as many people, groups and networks to learn and share from each other, explore collaborations and partnerships.

The final point on equity is Climate finance which has so far been the trickiest of all issues. Against the backdrop of a series of disasters that has battered India, with only over a degree of temperature rise; the latest being the one in the southern part of the country in Kerela, there is no doubt that India is vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change. Provision for climate finance is one key Means of Implementation (MoI) to operationalizing equity, which also finds a mention in Article 9 of the PA. Countries like India with a large poor population will be unable to do much with only domestic resources unless supported through financial mechanisms that respond to adaptation and mitigation together with loss and damage issues of its most vulnerable communities. In this context we hope that discussions on raising the floor for climate finance and predictable financial inflows will go a long way in operationalizing equity and making effective climate responses.

While the Katowice CoP is all about the rulebook, it is important that equity is integrated in the negotiations of the guidelines and procedures to be ready for the implementation of the PA.

What does India want?

However, I realized that discussion on equity becomes challenging in the backdrop of the glitzy Indian Pavilion that delegates are often heard raving about. India conveys a very glossy impression of itself at this global platform through its Pavilion (see Priyadarshini's blog). The pavilion is themed “One World One Sun One Grid”. India seems to have taken the theme a wee bit too seriously as sitting in the cramped space is literally like being under the sun while outside temperatures mostly are subzero!

Inside view of the Indian Pavilion: Session on Climate Resilient Agriculture, December 7, 2018
Ajita Tiwari Padhi
National Facilitator,
Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)
c/o INECC Secretariat
Laya Resource Center
Plot No. 110, Yendada,
Near Senora Beach Resorts,

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