Articles News & Interviews Books Editorials Home
      اللغة العربية    
Editor in Chief - Environment And Development
Secretary General - AFED
About Gallery Videos Contact
More Articles

Who pays the bill at Climate Summit?

Who pays the bill at Climate Summit?

by Najib Saab

The Daily Star, December 09, 2015, p.11

Second week of negotiations at the Climate Summit in Paris overshadowed by the question of who pays the bill. A draft agreement reached at the first week was put forward to the ministerial segment, with unresolved issues revolving around the distribution of responsibilities. Climate skepticisms gave way this time to a global agreement that the climate is changing at an alarming pace, and fast action should be taken to stop the rise in temperature on one hand, and take measures to adapt to the unavoidable impacts on the other hand. Until two weeks ago, some countries, including a few oil producers, were trying to push beyond the 2 degrees Celsius threshold, as the limit of maximum rise in temperature that can be allowed. In contrast, a group of most affected countries, led by small island states, and a coalition of businessmen led by Richard Branson, started pushing this week to reduce the threshold to 1.5 degrees. Financial implications are big in both cases.

That being the case and with the state of urgency highlighted by the world's political, religious and opinion leaders, why is a final strong agreement still eluding the summit? It became apparent as negotiators went back to closed rooms Monday morning that the golden principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility', devised when the first climate deal was struck 23 years ago, lost its glitter. Developing countries, including China, were exempted then from adhering to binding reductions in carbon emissions, as industrialized rich countries were considered to be historically responsible for the accumulation of pollution, and thus had to bear the bulk of responsibility to repair damages. The situation has changed completely in 2015, with China and a group of developing countries moving into a fast track of unprecedented growth, making them the major producers of greenhouse gases. There has been general agreement in Paris that all countries should now contribute to fighting climate change by reducing emissions. The dilemma is deciding on the weight of contribution of each country.


China and India, currently major producers of greenhouse gases, have embarked on aggressive programs to limit harmful emissions by moving to cleaner energy. Still, they are leading tough negotiations to get a longer grace period, which will allow them to maintain higher growth levels based on cheaper fossil fuels, mainly coal. Such emerging ‘superpowers' are hiding behind poor countries in the Group of 77. This alliance, however, started to crack, with most African countries and the group of countries most affected by climate change, mainly small island states, forging their own path, by demanding faster cuts in emissions and a high level of financial and technical assistance.


Poor countries are insisting that before committing to reduction of emission, rich countries should pay their fair share in financial development assistance to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, alongside offering technology transfer: "if you don't want us to use coal and other fossil fuels," they argue, "then support us financially and technologically to shift to renewable and clean energy." The fact is that their plight is entirely legitimate, and it dates back more than 20 years before climate change became an issue. The pledge of rich countries made at the United Nations in 1970 to grant 0.4% of GDP as development aid to poor countries had not materialized, as this never exceeded one quarter of the target. The 0.7% percentage of development aid later set by Millennium Development Goals didn't stand a better chance and remained a far-fetched goal, with only six countries adhering.

Some observers argue that while rich countries have a historic duty, poor developing countries equally need to do some internal housekeeping, especially regarding good governance and democracy and fighting corruption, prior to asking for more grants and development aid.


Where do Arab countries stand at the beginning of week 2 of COP21?

Morocco is leading the way with a host of activities in preparation to hosting COP22 in December 2016. What boosts Morocco position is that it has a good story to tell, as it transforms into a global solar superpower, executing some of the biggest solar plants in the world, not only to supply electricity for local use, but also for export to neighboring countries and Europe as soon as 2022. The Egyptian president, talking on behalf of African countries, supported a legally binding agreement, reflecting an overwhelming African position, in contrast to previous Egyptian stance, which opposed such a deal, in line with the stand of some regional and international allies. This coincided with a shift in the position of the USA, which agreed to a sort of binding agreement. United Arab Emirates announced that it was shifting to renewables for 24% of its electricity in 5 years. Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer, was among few countries still opposing a binding agreement, which was seen by some as a negotiating tactic to achieve a more favorable deal.

In his statement to the Summit, the Sudanese minister of environment went along with the African position in supporting a strong legally binding deal, but limited it to financial and technological support from rich countries, playing down commitments from developing countries to reduce emissions and enhance their governance. The Lebanese minister, on the other hand, limited his statement to endorsing "all ideas set forward by other countries."

Negotiations are going in a positive direction, with all parties realizing the urgency of the problem, but with each major player still trying to get a better deal. Major players seem to be forging a meaningful agreement to be announced at the end of the week, which will include 5-yearly revisions. But negotiations on implementation details might continue through COP22 in Morocco in 2016.


Najib Saab, Secretary General of Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) wrote this opinion from the Climate Summit in Paris.

Source: Dailystar




Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
Environmental Agenda
Environment in Arab Media
News & Interviews Photo Gallery Videos