PARIS AGREEMENT COUNTRIES MAKE A FALSE START WHILE BANKS MAKE PROGRESS
The Conference attendees worked intensely on the guidelines for bilateral trade in GHG emission reduction units; on the rules, conditions and procedures for the implementation of joint projects; on the working program for the development of non-market cooperation. The trade conditions and the overall situation are completely different now from what they were at the time the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, now the countries have no quotas or emission commitments. However, it was the demand of Brazil, China and India to apply the GHG emission reduction projects of the Kyoto Protocol (the Clean Development Mechanism of KP) and their units within SDM that became the stumbling block in Madrid. Among those strongly opposed to this initiative were developed countries, a large number of small and vulnerable developing states, as well as the organizers, who include observers from among ecologists and businessmen alike. They emphasized that the implementation of the old units into the Paris Agreement would negatively affect the prestige of the new document, since many of the KP projects had low environmental and social quality and were strongly criticized by the environmental community.
"It is a political demand aimed at using them to simulate a stronger national goal to ridicule the country, while it will certainly be impossible to sell them. It is no coincidence that China has stated directly that they were not going to do it," commented the conference participant Alexey Kokorin, Director of the Climate and Energy program, WWF-Russia. "Decisions on SDM have already been made, but we still need to settle on a system of restrictions on old units and at the same time let the three largest countries maintain their political reputation that no one can tell them what to do. I believe a year to be enough for this, which is why it is best for our country to start creating a Russian system for approving SDM projects in advance, while, of course, taking into account our generally positive experience with the Kyoto Protocol."
The existing draft documents describe a working system of cooperation. For instance, forest projects with a reliable risk management plan, for example, in the event of plants dying, are not prohibited. A research work program (seminars, summary technical reports, etc.) and its main topics have been formed for non-market types of cooperation. It is encouraging that joint action to adapt to climate change and mitigate it, while maintaining sustainable forest management, is stated as the first topic. Additionally, social and environmental aspects and energy efficiency were highlighted among the topics as well.
There is a positive development of FCCC finally turning its attention to the oceans (previously, only terrestrial ecosystems were included in its scope of responsibility). This decision emphasizes the importance of marine and coastal ecosystems, both in terms of adapting to climate change and in terms of reducing human impact on the climate. An official event on this topic, as well as a similar event on terrestrial ecosystems, will be held in June 2020, and by the end of March, the countries will have to submit their proposals on these topics. In this context, WWF and Russia's events dedicated to oceans, cryosphere and the Arctic were very relevant at the Conference. The reports of Russian scientists and WWF experts clearly demonstrated the importance of this topic.
The recognition that emissions can be reduced not only with the help of the global energy sector and the economy, but also with the help of "natural climate solutions", is generally characteristic of the Conference. "Of course, in order to do this, we must help the ecosystems adapt to climate change and, as much as possible, recover their original form. Only then will they help us by slowing the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," adds Alexey Kokorin.
The head of the Russian delegation has emphasized in his speech that our country shares the goals and responsibilities in terms of climate conservation and concerns over the continuing global increase of emissions with the entire global community. He pointed out that urgent, and most importantly, significantly more effective, joint and coordinated actions of the entire global community in resolving the climate problem are absolutely essential. It was also stressed that Russia will continue to support the Green Climate Fund.
"Such positive words could be heard from many countries at the conference. However, global coordination is not going well, and it takes UNFCCC even longer to make decisions than it was 10 or 20 years ago, even though it is high time we start acting faster," commented Alexey Kokorin, who has been participating in the UNFCCC for 25 years.
Alas, everything indicates the lack of interest of the largest countries to move forward quickly. This applies both to the adjustment of national emission targets and to the negotiation process itself. The Conference in Madrid failed to agree on a common time frame for national emission targets. Some countries prefer 5-year periods, while others prefer 10-year periods; some set a goal for a specific year, and others for a period. No one is willing to change their "habits". But how can their actions be coordinated, in this case? The largest countries have rejected the solution, that required all parties to report on the updated national emission targets consistent with the global goal of the Paris Agreement in 2020. It should also be noted that the countries have failed to create a barrier to the destruction of the Amazon rainforests.
Developed countries are ready to reach the collective Paris goal of $100 billion/year total climate financing in 2020, but they are still not ready for obligatory allocation of certain amounts for adaptation and/or grants. At the moment, only about 25% of the funds go to adaptation, and only 25% are given as grants, while these are the funds that vulnerable countries need the most.
"Experts rate the official results of the Conference as extremely weak, but there is no rollback, it's just that movement forward is extremely slow," says Alexey Kokorin. "At the same time, you shouldn't underestimate the results beyond the official agenda, especially the actions of the financial sector, which is already putting the principles of the Paris Agreement into practice as we speak."
The role of non-state actors (companies, banks, cities, etc.) is constantly increasing. The conference was attended by the leaders of over 100 major companies actively working in Russia, including Unilever and IKEA. Madrid decisions emphasize the important leading role of the largest countries, and the program of their interaction with the UNFCCC has been extended. At the conference, international development banks and financial associations have organized a number of events, which demonstrated real steps to reorient financial flows towards low-carbon development, practically transforming the entire global financial architecture in accordance with the Paris Agreement. More than 500 institutional investors, handling almost $40 trillion, have called on governments to develop plans to shift away from coal, introduce emission fees, and boost their national GHG targets. One of the events was held by the Russian VEB and discussed green bonds and prospects for financing low-carbon development projects in Russian cities and regions.
WWF-Russia will prepare a brief overview of the Conference results, which will be posted in the Documents section at https://wwf.ru/what-we-do/climate-and-energy/
Photo in the preview and caption by: (c) Chris Martin Bahr / WWF-Canon.