Post-Paris: Call for Deeper Commitment to Slow Climate Change

With the world having just gone through the seventh straight month of record average global temperatures, climate change advocates are meeting in Bonn this week, seeking to push government bodies into following up on last December’s historic climate pact in Paris.

Climate intersessional negotiations began on May 16 as countries begin to prepare for the 22nd United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) in Marrakech in November. Country representatives are calling for urgent action and for governments to raise their sights on more stringent limits on hydrocarbon emissions.

“We now have the foundations of the house and now we must build the house itself — our common home,” said Segolene Royale, president of the 21st annual session in Paris last year. After the signing of the Paris agreement last year, considered by most as a victory for the planet, COP22, as it is known, is expected to be about the agreement’s implementation and ironing out unfinished business from last year.

Fueled by a massive El Nino, in which a surge of warmer water flows across the Pacific Ocean, leaving North and South America drenched in warm rain, Southeast Asia is in an increasingly desperate drought, with Cambodian wells going dry and rice crops suffering in Vietnam and Thailand. In each of the past three months, temperatures have broken records by the largest margin in recorded history, according to figures released by NASA.

Call for higher ambition

The Philippines, the current chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), called for higher determination to mitigate carbon emissions. The country, an amalgamation of thousands of islands, is inordinately vulnerable to climate change and is one of those leading the campaign to cut back on greenhouse emissions.

The forum, a group of 43 countries highly susceptible to climate change, was influential in lobbying for policies during the Paris climate negotiations in December. Some of these policies include a target of limiting the rise in temperature to 1.5C degrees, full decarbonization of the world economy, 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and zero emissions by mid-century. However, climate scientists say, even if the world were to reach the impossible goal of zero emissions today, temperatures would continue to rise because of the CO2 already in the atmosphere.

Emmanuel de Guzman, commissioner of the Climate Change Commission and the Philippines’ lead negotiator, highlighted the shortfalls in existing government contributions to reduce emissions. With the current commitments, the world is set to warm at 2.7-3.7C, far from the 1.5 target.

“The Paris Agreement's long-term goal of 'well below' 2 degrees Celsius cannot and should not mean 1.9 degrees or 1.8 or 1.7 degrees Celsius," De Guzman said. "Our goal is 1.5 degrees Celsius, and we are all bound to pursue actions to achieve this."

De Guzman called for urgent follow-up to "live up to the ambitions we have set for ourselves in international law" while highlighting the leadership of vulnerable countries with the Philippines' commitment of 70 percent reduction in expected emissions by 2030, although the country has committed to the construction of at least 20 coal-fired plants by 2020 to meet its perennial energy shortages.

Adaptation, Finance crucial to Paris agreement

At the Bonn conclave, Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, reminded the participants that “our new reality must put the human being at the center of development.”

G77 plus China reminded developed countries of their commitment to help developing countries “We are already taking measures to enhance capacities but we need technological and financial support,” said Thailand, speaking in behalf of the negotiating block.

"There are limits to what vulnerable countries can achieve", while calling on all parties to take action in the areas of finance, capacity building and technology "to stimulate global action and greater ambition,” de Guzman added.

Climate finance remains the elephant in the room. Both mitigation and adaptation efforts would need financial support in order to move forward at a time when governments across the globe see the expense of climate mitigation as a drag on economic growth.

In 2009, world leaders pledged to deliver US$100 billion in climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation by 2020. This is called the Green Climate Fund (GCF). However, the current pledges are falling short of the target. The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that the cost of adaptation alone for developing countries will be US$150 billion a year by 2025/30 while an analysis based on an earlier work by Carbon Brief shows that countries need US$4.1trillion to fund the emission cuts they have committed to.

Renee Juliene Karunungan is the Advocacy Director of the Philippines-based Dakila, which has been campaigning for climate justice since 2009.