By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 2015 (IPS) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who described climate change as one of the “defining priorities” of his nine-year tenure as UN chief, went into raptures over the Paris agreement concluded on Saturday.
“It’s a monumental triumph for people and planet”, he said – even as civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from developing countries expressed strong reservations over an agreement which left the key role of climate funding in political limbo.
“It is a health insurance policy for the planet”, Ban told reporters at a news briefing Monday.
As a first step in implementing the agreement, the UN will host a high-level signing ceremony by world leaders on April 22 next year, followed by a summit meeting of government, business and civil society leaders on May 5-6.
Ban summed up the agreement as having “solid results on all key points.” The agreement demonstrates solidarity, he said, and “it is ambitious, flexible, credible and durable.”
All countries have agreed to hold global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. And recognizing the risk of grave consequences, you have further agreed to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, he declared.
But what was left unsaid was one of the key challenges in fighting climate change: how soon will the international community, and specifically the world’s rich nations and the private sector, succeed in raising the estimated 100 billion dollars per year needed by 2020.?
Prerna Bomzan, policy advocate at LDC Watch, representing the interests of the 48 least developed countries (LDCs), told IPS the key obligation under the 1992 climate convention of “new and additional” climate finance no longer exists in the agreement.
“This is a major loss for developing countries, considering that climate finance should not be clubbed together with official development assistance (ODA).”
She said paragraph 54 of the agreement states that “developed countries intend to continue their existing collective mobilization goal through 2025″ and prior to 2025, shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of 100 billion dollars per year.
“This means no money on the table pre-2020, just intention of mobilization. The agreement doesn’t even mention the 100 billion dollars,” she pointed out.
The only mention of the much-touted 100 billion dollar figure is in the preamble to the agreement—reducing it to a passing political footnote.
A critical component of the Paris agreement was always that finance for developing countries would be ramped up, according to civil society groups.
In concluding the talks, French President Francois Hollande spoke proudly about the 100 billion “floor” in finance, but observers have pointed out that the reality doesn’t match the rhetoric.
Meena Raman, Legal Adviser at the Malaysia-based Third World Network said the 100 billion per year by 2020 is now extended to 2025 and a new goal is to be set after that.
“So developed countries have obtained another five years to deliver what they agreed to do. It is regrettable that this has happened as it delays action in developing countries who are in need,” she said.
Ban said the Paris agreement ensures sufficient, balanced adaptation and mitigation support for developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
Developed countries, he said, “have agreed to lead in mobilizing finance and scale up technology support and capacity building.”
And developing countries have assumed increasing responsibility to address climate change in line with their capabilities, the secretary-general added.
Doreen Stabinsky, Visiting Professor of Climate Change Leadership, Uppsala University, Sweden and Professor of Global Environmental Politics, at College of the Atlantic, Maine, USA, said the price tag for climate damages this century will be in the trillions, with much of that damage in poor and vulnerable countries.
“The US is responsible for much of that toll, but they don’t care and they won’t pay. With arm twisting of developing countries, they have language now protecting the richest and heaping devastating costs onto the poorest,” she said
In a statement released Monday, Oxfam International said the Paris climate deal has brought the world’s powers together but has short-changed the poorest and most vulnerable people as they struggle with the burgeoning reality of rising sea-levels, floods and drought.
The deal is a land-mark step but has not done enough to ensure that a 3°C world will be avoided or secure sufficient climate funding for vulnerable communities to adapt to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather.
More than 190 countries have for the first time committed to climate action and the summit has created momentum throughout the year, with countries and parts of the business community making announcements toward tackling climate change, Oxfam added.
But the ambitious speeches from world leaders opening the summit were not sustained to the end game, it said.
Oxfam Executive Director Helen Szoke said: “This deal offers a frayed life-line to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
Only the vague promise of a new future climate funding target has been made, while the deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe, she added, pointing out that “this will only ramp up adaptation costs further in the future.”
The final Paris agreement is a nail in the coffin for justice for LDCs”, said Azeb Girmai, climate lead for LDC Watch.
“We have gradually seen the text change from the long-standing ‘polluter pays principle’, where developed countries are obliged to finance adaptation and mitigation to help developing countries deal with climate chaos to one where the wealthiest countries simply refused to commit any climate finance.
In the final agreement, she said, “new and additional” climate finance committed in the 1992 Convention has now been dropped out”.
In a statement released Monday, the world’s 48 poorest nations classified as LDCs, said: “So we see a future in which, if there is no meaningful change by developed countries, the LDCs will be submerged, flooded, made into arid deserts, with no money to prevent or compensate this”.
LDCs being least responsible for the climate mess are thus unjustifiably bearing the brunt of being most impacted.
“However, while this is a very sad day for LDCs, we are determined to continue working for climate justice. While we may have lost this battle, we have not lost the war,” LDC Watch declared.
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