Friday, December 19, 2014

Lima to Paris: Call for Climate Action Puts World on Track for 2015

A new 2015 agreement on climate change, that will harness action by all nations, took a further important step forward in Lima following two weeks of negotiations by over 190 countries.

Nations concluded by elaborating the elements of the new agreement, scheduled to be agreed in Paris in late 2015, while also agreeing the ground rules on how all countries can submit contributions to the new agreement during the first quarter of next year.

These Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) will form the foundation for climate action post 2020 when the new agreement is set to come into effect.

What is an INDC?

Under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries across the globe agreed (or does it mean committed) to create a new international climate agreement by the conclusion of the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015. During previous climate negotiations, countries agreed to publicly outline what actions they intend to take under a global agreement well before the Paris Summit (and for those countries in a position to do so, by March 2015). These country "commitments" are known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The form and rigor of these INDCs will largely determine whether the world achieves an ambitious 2015 agreement and is put on a path toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

There is always a puzzle in my mind as to how committed countries are to really cutting down the emmissions  to save this planet from further anthropogenic climate change. "Contributions" from countries seem a very open and non-binding option that countries are expected to voluntarily make. I hope that "contributions" may sound "committments" to the ears of countries and they will look at this process with more seriousness and aimed at really making a difference.

How does the process work?

The INDC process has been hailed as a bottom-up process in which countries put forward their contributions in the context of their national priorities, circumstances and capabilities. This is to feed into the global agenda aimed to reduce global emissions enough to limit average global temperature rise to 2 degrees C, thus averting the worst impacts of climate change. So countries will, in their INDCs, will propose the steps they will take to reduce emissions and also address other issues, such as how they will adapt to climate change impacts, and what support they need from—or will provide to—other countries to address climate change. After the initial submission of INDCs, there will be an assessment phase to review countries’ INDCs and possibly adjust them before the Paris Climate Summit (COP 21).

What makes a good INDC?

A well designed INDC will signal to the world that a country is doing to combat climate change and limit future climate risks. Countries are expected to follow an efficient and transparent process when preparing their INDC to build trust and accountability with domestic and international stakeholders.

A good INDC should be ambitious, leading to transformation in carbon-intensive sectors and industry; transparent, so that the level of ambition can be reviewed; and equitable, so that each country does its fair share to address climate change. It should also articulate how the country is integrating climate change into other national priorities, such as sustainable development and poverty reduction, and send signals to the private sector to contribute to these efforts.