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Key priorities of the Least Developed Countries in 2018

Date: 12 March 2018

2018 is a crucial year in the climate negotiations. The twenty third Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn was able to draw the sketch of the Road to Katowice, and now it is important that negotiators get to work to ensure that the journey in the coming months is successfully completed.

In November 2017, the LDC Group with members comprising 47 countries spread across Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean attended the ‘First Island COP’, held under a Fiji Presidency at the seat of the UNFCCC Secretariat. With the mandate to develop and finalise the rules of the Paris Agreement by the end of 2018, the determination shown by governments in Bonn to make substantive progress on the work remaining was very positive. However, there are many areas of the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP), tasked with developing different parts of the rules, which are still seriously lagging behind schedule.

With much work therefore still to be done to finalise the rules by the end of this year, the LDC group will also be reminding other negotiating groups in the lead up to COP24 not to lose sight of the big picture – that all these efforts should ultimately lead to ramping up the next round of emission reduction pledges to put the world on a pathway to limit warming to 1.5°C.  This picture will be informed by the ‘Talanoa Dialogue’ that was launched in COP23, under Fiji’s leadership.

Other announcements and initiatives launched in Bonn and later in Paris during the ‘One Planet Summit’ demonstrated that the momentum for effective climate action – by governments and non-state actors alike – is growing stronger.  This momentum must keep building through 2018 and beyond.

With this context, here are the top priorities for the Least Developed Countries in 2018.

The Paris rulebook

Parties have agreed that the rules being developed under the PAWP will be in place by the end of this year. These rules will guide Parties in terms of implementation of the Paris Agreement, including the preparation of the next round of more ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to be communicated by 2020.

The different co-facilitated agenda items at COP23 produced a series of Informal Notes totaling 226 pages that summarise the views of Parties and discussions in Bonn. There is much work to be done to turn these Informal Notes, which currently have no formal status, into actual draft negotiating text for each of the elements of the PAWP – including NDC guidance; rules for reporting of adaptation efforts; modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPGs) for the transparency framework; guidelines for the global stocktake, and for how to monitor compliance with the Paris Agreement.

The next formal opportunity to advance work on the Informal Notes will be at the Bonn negotiating session from 30 April-10 May.  An extra negotiation session is also now being proposed for early September in Bangkok.

Across the elements of the PAWP, there are still a range of differences in understandings and views among Parties on some fundamental issues.  Some of these issues may need additional space for political-level discussions and resolution so that they do not hinder progress on the detailed technical work that is still required. For example, under APA agenda item 5 that is developing the MPGs for the transparency framework, some groups are maintaining that the rules should continue the bifurcated approach between developed and developing countries that exists in the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) rules under the Convention.  Other groups, including the LDC group, argue that the Paris Agreement is clear in its mandate that there should be a single set of common MPGs applicable to all Parties, with flexibility provided to developing country Parties that need it in light of their capacities.

Parties will need to work diligently in 2018 to meet the COP24 deadline and deliver a robust set of rules that will enable full and ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement. 

The Talanoa Dialogue

The launching of the ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, earlier known as Facilitative Dialogue, was an important milestone achieved in Bonn in November 2017. ‘Talanoa’ is the Fijian terminology for sharing experiences, respecting each other in the expression of different opinions, building relationships and settling difficulties and disputes.  The intent of the dialogue is to to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal and to inform the preparation of NDCs.  This will include providing  information and guidance on how to ramp up current, and the next round of, climate pledges (NDCs) in the context of putting the world on a 1.5°C pathway.

The latest science tells us that global emissions need to peak by 2020. Any delay in peaking of even 5 years will have serious consequences for climate impacts – like future sea level rise. As the world is currently heading towards more than a 3°C temperature rise with current policies, the effective organisation and outcomes of the Talanoa Dialogue will play a crucial role in driving more ambitious mitigation climate action globally. The outcomes of the dialogue must ultimately lead to a significant collective increase in emissions reductions before 2020 to put us on track to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5°C will be an important input to the Talanoa dialogue. However, since the report will only be published in early October, it will be important that formal space is made so that Parties can consider its findings and so that the report can feed into final stage of the dialogue during COP24.  Extra efforts will be needed to ensure that the governments of our countries can fully engage with its findings.

The Fijian Presidency has presented the “Outline of the Talanoa Dialogue” and “Approach to the organisation of the Dialogue in first half of 2018” in the web portal launched at the beginning of the year. Both of these documents provide a clear overview of actions to be taken in preparation to the final outputs of the dialogue.

The first deadline for inputs into the Talanoa Dialogue is 2 April 2018.  Parties, stakeholders and expert institutions are encouraged to prepare analytical and policy relevant inputs to inform the dialogue, which will inform discussions at the April/May session in Bonn. A workshop has been planned during the weekend at the April/May session to explore the three guiding questions of the Dialogue – Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

The LDC Group looks forward to engaging in the Talanoa Dialogue and has high expectations on the Dialogue’s contribution to building momentum for greater mitigation ambition in NDCs to be communicated by 2020.

Loss and Damage

In 2017, countries around the world, including a number of LDCs, experienced unprecedented intense precipitation events causing heavy flooding and mudslides, devastating the lives of millions of people, and devastating the economies of many countries. There is mounting evidence that climate change is making these impacts more likely, and leading to greater loss and damage. Scientists have confirmed that many of these impacts fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable, further highlighting a need for urgent action to address loss and damage.

In contrast, the body set up to deal with Loss and Damage under the UNFCCC – the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM) – has only had minimal achievements in promoting concrete actions and support for developing countries to address such impacts. During COP23, LDCs and other vulnerable countries requested to have a standing agenda item for the Subsidiary Bodies to consider the issue of Loss and Damage more holistically but this request was rejected.

The compromise agreement to continue such discussions through an expert dialogue (called the Suva Expert Dialogue) in April will be crucial in raising the profile of loss and damage and delivering concrete action and support for vulnerable developing countries. A technical paper to be prepared by the Secretariat, considering submissions and inputs through the expert dialogue, will help inform the review of the WIM in 2019. Much remains to be achieved in the upcoming session on loss and damage, including establishing an expert group on Action and Support.

Finance is key to unlocking ambition

We also saw commendable leadership from a number of developed countries, who announced financial pledges in support of climate action and building resilience of poor and vulnerable people in developing countries.

The Adaptation Fund, celebrating ten years of operations, received a record amount of new funding pledges by Germany, Sweden, Italy, Ireland and Wallonia region of Belgium, totalling US$ 93.3 million.

Likewise, the Least Developed Countries Fund received pledges totaling over US$ 110 million. The LDC Group thanks all the contributors for their generosity and leadership, and also calls on other donor countries to make financing more predictable. To date, the LDC Fund has supported over 250 projects in 51 countries and a number of projects are under approval process.

The COP23 decision for the Adaptation Fund to be part of the Paris Agreement was commendable. However, further work still remains to be done in 2018 to decide on “how” the Adaptation Fund shall serve the Paris Agreement, including governance, institutional arrangements, safeguards and operating modalities and sources of funding.

There exists a large and persistent gap between support needed and support provided in terms of finance, technology and capacity building. As it will be difficult for poor and vulnerable countries like LDCs to access private and other means of finance, public finance remains key. Understanding and predictability of public financial resources can be enhanced by adopting common definitions including clarity on climate finance (what is new and additional, methodologies on accounting). This will help to further clarify how much money is genuinely projected to be provided.

The lengthy negotiations during COP23 on climate finance and related ex-post and ex-ante information will continue to be an extremely important matter for the success of the APA work programme.

The specific barriers limiting LDCs access to funding need to be addressed and the LDC Fund that supports our countries for urgent and immediate needs must be adequately resourced.

The Doha amendment

The commitments under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries to reduce emissions and to provide climate finance to developing countries before 2020 will play an important role in achieving climate ambition to transition swiftly towards the implementation phase post-2020.

2018 should be the year for the Doha Amendments of the Kyoto Protocol to enter into force and sufficient mobilisation of climate finance. The agreed approach in Bonn to organise a stocktake of pre-2020 implementation and ambition at COP24 and COP25, including two assessments of climate finance to be published in 2018 and 2020 should provide confidence to all countries to have concrete action in place.

We also look forward to a sufficient number of additional countries ratifying the Doha Amendments of the Kyoto Protocol so that it can enter into force before COP24. Only 35 more countries are required to fulfil the entry-into-force trigger of 144 countries.

Moving ahead

2018 is a crucial year in climate negotiations following the mandate from Paris and the additional work delegated from previous COP decisions.

Yet, negotiations are a slow, ongoing process and even if we resolve a number of these issues by the end of the year, there still will be many other issues to resolve. At the same time, as our countries are hit by ever more severe climate change induced disasters – such as droughts, floods, water scarcity, storms, melting of snow and glaciers – our people cannot be kept waiting because the diplomats are negotiating. We are responsible to bring solutions to the communities affected.

We need the Talanoa Dialogue and COP24 in Katowice to deliver rules for implementing the Paris Agreement but also to result in much more ambitious climate action and to rapidly translate the work done in the negotiating rooms into tangible action on the ground in countries most affected by climate change but with the least capacity to deal with it.

The measure for the success of COP24 is very clear. COP24 should be a turning point, from where we change the focus of our work more towards implementing actions on the ground.

Gebru Jember Endalew and Manjeet Dhakal

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