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The Least Developed Countries Group and the UN Climate Change Negotiations

Date: 29 November 2018

Media Background Note

From 2-14 December 2018, the United Nations climate change negotiations will convene in Katowice, Poland for COP24.[i]At one of the most crucial meetings since the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, countries will gather to agree on the rules that will guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Expectations are high, and the governments of the world will need to work constructively to set a course towards a safe and habitable planet for all and bring the vision of the Paris Agreement to life.

The negotiations come at a time when the need for action on climate change has never been clearer. The IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C, released in October 2018, highlighted the vital importance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The world is already confronted with the destructive effects of 1.1°C warming: heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, wildfires and other events are devastating people and ecosystems, and are occurring with increased frequency and intensity. No country is immune to the impacts of climate change, but the exacerbated vulnerability of the poorest countries means that they consistently suffer the most.

The 47 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) rely heavily on the land for their livelihoods.  Their capacity to adapt to climate change impacts and respond to the damage it causes is severely limited. Yet they are among the countries that have contributed the least to its cause, given their negligible greenhouse gas emissions.

This note provides background information on some of the key matters arising in Katowice as countries work to agree the Paris Agreement’s Implementation Guidelines and conclude the Talanoa Dialogue, as well as the crucial and contentious issue of climate finance.

 The Least Developed Countries Group is committed to achieving fair and ambitious outcomes on all issues arising in the negotiations, including those not addressed here. For further information, interviews, briefings or quotes from the LDC group, please email ldcchair.media@gmail.com to be put in touch with Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the LDC Group.

  1. Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines

 At COP24, the guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement are due to be agreed upon after three years of negotiations. To be effective, the guidelines must properly reflect the breadth of action required to achieve the Agreement’s goals of limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C and addressing the adverse impacts of climate change. Countries must deliver a robust and fair set of rules that will not only guide them in their actions to rapidly cut emissions, adapt to climate change and address loss and damage, but that will also ensure support is provided to enable developing countries to do the same.

This was highlighted last month by LDC Ministers who emphasized “the need for these guidelines to particularly address adaptation and loss and damage… on the same level as mitigation”. The implementation guidelines will include how countries communicate their plans and needs for adapting to climate change, but there are limits to the extent to which human and natural systems can adapt. People are already suffering from the devastation that climate change brings. As such, having loss and damage included as an element of the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines will be a crucial issue for LDCs and other developing countries, and among the most contentious topics at the negotiations.

Processes to ensure accountability amongst countries will also be a key topic of discussion.  The Paris Agreement’s transparency framework must provide an accurate and reliable picture of each Party’s efforts to reduce mitigate climate change, adapt to its effects and deal with the loss and damage it inflicts. Through this transparency framework, countries must also report on the financial, technological and capacity-building support that is needed, provided, and received for climate actions.

Another important component of the implementation guidelines will be the “global stock take” – a process for assessing whether the global community is collectively on track to achieve the Paris Agreement’s purpose and goals. The global stock take must assess implementation of all elements of the Agreement, including mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and support. With this information, the global stock take process should not only identify gaps in implementation but also make recommendations for how those gaps can be closed in light of equity and the best available science.

  1. The Talanoa Dialogue and the IPCC Special Report on 1.5

The 2018 Talanoa Dialogue will conclude at COP24. The Dialogue is designed to highlight where the global community is in terms of achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global average warming to ‘well below 2°C’ and ‘pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’,[ii]and inform Parties in updating their plans for actions and support to bridge the divide.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C,[iii] released in October 2018, is a key input to the Talanoa Dialogue. It provided objective, scientific confirmation of the necessity of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C. The report, which cites more than 6,000 scientific references, shows that the impacts of climate change and the loss and damage it causes will escalate dramatically if warming exceeds 1.5°C, and moreover, that the LDCs will suffer disproportionately from these adverse consequences.[iv] The difference between limiting warming to 1.5°C as opposed to 2°C is the difference of several hundred million more people being exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by 2050.[v]

Yet, the world is currently on a path to over 3°C of warming even with full implementation of the plans countries have made.LDC Ministers recently voiced grave concern for ‘the slow progress in increasing global mitigation action’ and called upon countries to ‘ramp up ambition on action and support to put the world on a 1.5°C pathway and reflect this in the submission of new and enhanced NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions] by 2020 consistent with their responsibility for climate change and capacity to respond, in order to close the emissions gap and avoid further devastating climate change impacts.’[vi]

Crucially, the IPCC report confirmed that staying within the 1.5°C warming limit is still possible, but it will require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society. Countries must take concrete actions now, including investing in and scaling up renewable energy, maximizing energy efficiency, managing the rapid decline of fossil fuels, and protecting and increasing the sequestration potential of forests, soils and natural systems.

The Talanoa Dialogue is an important opportunity to build political will to act on the IPCC’s findings and implement real climate solutions that are available now. The LDC Group is pushing for a political declaration as well as a formal COP decision on the Talanoa Dialogue to send the strongest possible message that the global response to climate change must be urgently strengthened.

  1. Climate Finance

Providing finance for developing countries to address climate change is integral to the success of the Paris Agreement. Climate finance is required to assist poor and vulnerable countries in adapting to the impacts of climate change and addressing the loss and damage it causes, as well as to develop and lift their people out of poverty without relying on fossil fuels and high-emissions pathways, as countries traditionally have in the past. Developing countries have great potential to contribute significantly to curbing the global emissions pathway, but they need finance to fulfil that potential. The availability of adequate, accessible and predictable finance will be critical to staying within the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

The level of support currently received is very low. For example, just US $10.3 billion was pledged to the Green Climate Fund, a fund established for the purpose of assisting developing countries in addressing climate change. US $4.8 billion has been leveraged for the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), a dedicated fund to support LDCs in their efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change. However, these resources have critically reduced and further contributions are needed.

Available climate finance remains far off the US $100 billion that developed countries committed to providing annually by 2020, and even further from the actual needs of developing countries: the cumulative cost of implementing developing countries’ plans to tackle climate change, as set out in their NDCs (the same NDCs that, even if fully implemented, put the world on a path to more than 3°C of warming), exceeds US $4 trillion.

There is an urgent need to scale up climate finance to meet the actual needs of developing countries so that their ambitious plans to tackle climate change can be carried out. This is particularly necessary for LDCs due to their urgent needs, limited capacity and special circumstances. The implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement must facilitate the delivery of climate finance, including guidelines for enhancing predictability and transparency of financial resources. Developing countries have also been emphasizing the need to begin the process to set a new collective goal on finance beyond the current ‘floor’ of $100 billion by 2025 that is based on science, and the needs and priorities of developing countries. The Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance during COP24 will also be an important opportunity for countries to discuss a clear roadmap for the delivery of this. A common definition of climate finance is also needed to ensure that funds delivered are new and additional to Official Development Assistance. LDCs must be supported with grant financing for their climate actions with the link to sustainable development.

For more information on the LDC Group’s hopes for Katowice, see blog post ‘Momentum builds for ambitious agreements at COP24’written by the Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the LDC Group.

[i] The 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

[ii]Paris Agreement Article 2.

[iii] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2018: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty


[iv]http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf SPM B.5.1

[v]http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf SPM B.5.1

[vi]The Least Developed Countries Ministerial Communiqué on Climate Change, 16 October 2018, available at https://www.ldc-climate.org/press_release/least-developed-countries-ministerial-communique-on-climate-change/.

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