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From ‘after you’ to ‘follow us’ — opening speech by Chair of the LDC Group

Date: 22 March 2013

From ‘after you’ to ‘follow us’
Opening Speech by the Chair of the LDC Group
LDC Strategy Meeting, 22-23 March 2013, Kathmandu, Nepal

Honourable minister, LDC negotiators, colleagues, media persons, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and Namaste!

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the opening session of the strategy meeting of the LDC Group.

Let me first thank the LDC negotiators and experts for taking time to travel from different corners of the world to attend this important meeting – my first as the LDC Group chair. It is indeed an honour to have you all here.

I am grateful to honourable minister, Mr. Uma Kant Jha, for his presence here this morning.

I take this opportunity to recognise the continuing support, to the Group, by the UK Government through Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). I also acknowledge the financial support of the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change and Oxfam in Nepal.

I would also like to congratulate Mr. Pa Ousman Jarju, on his appointment as the Special Climate Envoy of the Gambia and recognise his invaluable work over the past few years.  It is from this work that we will take the next steps forward to meet the many challenges presented by the current state of the international climate talks.

The adoption of 2015 treaty will prove daunting. However, it is my belief that in meeting these challenges, we should adopt a new mantra in the international climate arena. In our quest to secure a future of climate safety, we must move from an ‘after you’ mentality to a perspective that says, ‘follow us.’

We currently face the challenge of adopting a new global, legally binding treaty. The Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action or ADP will write into international law a new agreement on climate change to be implemented by 2020. However, the foundation for this framework which is to be completed by 2015 will be laid in 2013 and 2014 – during the course of my chairmanship of the LDC Group.

If the 2015 agreement is to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention, i.e. stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we must work to build a strong foundation now. Every step we take must be towards ensuring the implementation of current decisions and a more inclusive, effective and equitable global agreement in 2015 that will better address the LDC needs under UNFCCC.

I know that the cards are stacked heavily against us. Weak political will and fragile economies in some key countries will not act in our favour. We face multiple tensions: the overall low level of ambition; the division of effort between Annex I and non-Annex I countries; the low level of support to developing countries; and how to make commitments binding in the new agreement, to name but a few. However, with bold leadership, these tensions can be overcome.

The LDCs occupy a unique position in the climate negotiations: we are amongst the most vulnerable; we are amongst the least responsible; and despite this we have already started to put in place some of the most ambitious climate change policies. We should, therefore, use our position to change the international focus and perception of climate change.

As the world’s most vulnerable, we have the power and the moral right to do so. Climate change clearly affects us, and there is a huge difference between a world that warms by two degrees Celsius and one that warms by four degrees. Bill Hare and his team at Climate Analytics have demonstrated that a four degree world will have catastrophic consequences for the LDCs. But as his research suggests, political will can close most of the gaps that would lead us to this unthinkable future.

Though the science-driven climate project achieved a great deal, we now know that science alone cannot take us further. The LDCs need more action on the ground, driven by scientifically informed political will. The LDCs can and must take a leadership approach in mobilising that political will. We can no longer wait expectantly with the attitude of ‘after you.’  Instead, we must stride boldly forward with the mind-set of ‘follow us.’

It is time the LDCs became the deal makers. It is time we shaped the agenda and the decisions, instead of having them shaped for us.

Currently, many of the developed country pledges are weak and vague, and remain largely non-binding.  Developed countries have promised to mobilise 100 billion US dollars annually by 2020 to address climate change. The question, we as a group must ask, is: How can we ensure that these commitments are met? The architecture, the LDCs must seek to build is one that operates in an open manner and is governed by rules of transparency. How else will we ensure that developed country pledges will address the needs of our people, from the remote villages of Malawi to the coasts of Tuvalu?

While we are confronted with weak pledges and even further reduced delivery with lame excuses and postponements, for us, climate change has become a problem of today, not just a problem of tomorrow. So, we must begin the heavy lifting now and move forward with a solution-oriented approach.

The LDCs have already started doing this. The LDC Group is the first group with plans for adaptation. Except 4 countries, all other LDCs now have plans for their urgent and immediate adaptation needs. Not only that, despite our poverty and vulnerability, we have started planning for low carbon development pathways. Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Gambia and Nepal, among others lead such efforts by example. Our countries have started putting concrete institutional arrangements in place to combat climate change at home. Senegal and Bangladesh, for instance, have set examples that the rest of the world would like to follow.

However, we need to mobilise the rest of the global community to move rapidly towards such positive leadership. This movement must have constructive engagement of all groups and nations. We cannot deliver alone.  Thus, our objectives remain largely the same as those we established in the past: While taking a clear leadership role in the negotiations, we will demand those who are responsible to act in accordance with their responsibility for creating the climate change problem and their respective capabilities for addressing it.

In the next session, I will propose my vision and the strategy for fulfilling these objectives for the next two years. We, as a Group, should consider this strategy and refine it over the next two days, so that it best reflects the LDC priorities and our agreed approach to achieve our common objectives.

I recognise a number of short- and medium- term strategies to achieve the Group’s objectives. These are:

  • building on the existing foundation,
  • further strengthening our understanding of substantive, scientific, political and legal issues in the UNFCCC process;
  • building and sustaining our capacity to participate in, and influence, the UNFCCC process;
  • strengthening the coordination of the group in order to allow effective and strategic engagement by all the group members; and
  • further strengthening networks and communication within and outside the negotiations.

I hope that my strategy will help us to get more direct and demonstrable impacts on the formal UN negotiations as well as outside process, and on the negotiating capacity of the LDC Group.

In closing, I offer a quote which I feel echoes the sentiment behind this approach. In the words of John Ashton, former UK Special Representative for Climate Change, “We can do what we think we can, knowing it will not suffice. Or we can stay focussed on what needs doing, knowing that to do it we must find the will to expand the limits of the possible.” To do what is necessary to confront climate change will require us doing more than what we thought possible. Maintaining the status quo will not ensure a present or future of climate safety.

I hope you, the LDC negotiators, will join me hand in hand in this battle. As Pa Ousman used to say, you are the soldiers in the battlefield. I am ready to lead but I need you there. The battle is becoming increasingly fraught with difficulties. But I am confident that, with your support, the LDCs will lead the international community towards a climate secure and resilient future.

Together, let us say to the world, ‘follow us.’  Thank you.

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