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Rediff.com  » Business » From Cancun 'can' to 'done' in Durban

From Cancun 'can' to 'done' in Durban

December 27, 2010 13:52 IST

The climate agenda, resuscitated at Cancun, will require renewed political will and clarity on financial commitments to come to fruition.

When Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), exhorted the jaguar-eyed goddess of the moon, Ixchel, at the start of the summit in Cancun, most delegates would have silently agreed to any extra help after the disaster at the Copenhagen summit last year.

Ixchel, also the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving, was indeed able to inspire those in Cancun to weave together elements that were required for a solid response to climate change using reason and creativity.

Cancun clearly set the climate agenda back in the right direction, setting the path for the next year's summit in Durban.

At the end, Cancun was significantly able to address key issues in three critical areas, namely,

(1) to resolve the importance of a mechanism to hold developed nations accountable for the financial pledges that have been made;

(2) to hammer out the details on how these financial commitments made by developed nations can be delivered to developing nations in a framework palatable to all parties involved;

and (3) to ensure that a framework exists to measure, verify and report the results achieved by the parties involved.

Fast Start Climate Finance

The financial support that has been pledged in the form of short-term finance for the immediate future, termed the Fast Start Climate Finance, has the guarantee of being a new and additional fund compared to existing development aid being recycled as climate change pledges.

This was a major achievement at Cancun. The developing countries' misgivings about the Fast Start Climate Finance were clearly evident from the statement made by India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh midway through the summit.

He said the scheme wasn't fast, hadn't yet started and there was no finance in it yet.

India and the other BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa and China) have rightly decided to forego any funding that comes from the Fast Start Climate Finance pledges since smaller countries are in dire need of it.

India has always took the position that the Fast Start Climate Finance must not be viewed as a loan but a grant or an entitlement to compensate for the damage that has been done by developed countries so far.

In fact, India's per capita emissions are a measly 1.31 tonnes and this figure is approximately 20 times less than that of Australia and the United States and at least four times less than that of China.

However, as a responsible nation, India's role as a deal-maker rather than a deal-breaker has ensured that it took the onus of non-binding CO2 emissions on itself.

India's nuanced stance of asking developed nations to kickstart climate financing and, at the same time, agreeing to set up a measurable, reportable and verifiable framework is a mature stance that makes it a constructive partner in the dialogue.

Long-term funding

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had set up a High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing (AGF), which included Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, to help devise ways in which funds could be raised to meet the $100 billion target every year by 2020.

The report, which was tabled a few weeks before the Cancun summit began, outlined a number of public and private options to raise money.

The AGF report acknowledged that there were different perspectives within the Advisory Group on whether and how to measure revenues in terms of gross and net metrics, particularly regarding private and non-concessional flows, and there was no consensus in this matter.

The Green Climate Fund, which has now been formalised in Cancun, will hold a portion of this long-term funding.

The fact that this fund can be directly accessed by national institutions without being channelled through multilateral development banks (MDBs), such as the World Bank, is another clear win since national institutions are far more suited to handle funding because they understand the contours of the country better.

Moreover, like MDBs, they can raise additional money from capital markets with the funds that are disbursed to them.

India's commitment

The National Action Plan on Climate Change is a comprehensive blueprint split into eight ambitious missions to tackle the climate change issue in India.

Each of these missions ensures that our reliance on fossil fuels is reduced in the long run; afforestation programmes are implemented to create carbon sinks; sustainable urban solutions are provided in the realm of energy, waste management and modal transport; a holistic water-management solution is implemented; agriculture practices that are deployed are sustainable; a knowledge centre exists for tackling climate change; and special focus is given to preserve the Himalayan ecosystem.

Addressing the climate change issue requires a multi-disciplinary approach and involves myriad ministries like the ministries of environment and forests, water resources, urban development, agriculture, science and technology and renewable energy.

As Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, in a letter to the prime minister, pointed out that about 70 to 80 per cent of mitigation and adaptation work on climate change was being done at the state level, so a mechanism needs to be put in place to involve chief ministers.

With such a wide range of stakeholders involved, the government would do better to have a single climate change nodal agency that could lay down guidelines, roadmaps and approaches in a consultative manner, which are then submitted to the respective ministries for implementation.

Getting it done in Durban

For each of the national missions to deliver on its promise, it is imperative that they are provided with the necessary finance from the Long Term Fund and technological know-how to leverage the latest innovations.

It is, therefore, very important for developing countries to have access to intellectual property-protected technologies and associated know-how on non-exclusive royalty-free terms.

This would be one of the primary goals in Durban The other area of focus in Durban would be to follow up on the Advisory group's recommendation of the composition of the source of the long-term funds.

The recommendation that a part of the total target of $100 billion be sourced from private and non-concessional flows needs further discussion, since this departs from the premise that the funds are provided as grants and entitlements and not as loans.

Lastly, with the first phase of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol ending in 2012, a second phase of commitments that holds developed countries accountable for their CO2 reduction targets is required.

Durban would be the time to get all this done, irrespective of whether the Zulu goddess of nature, rain, fertility and agriculture, Nomkhumbulwane, is called upon by the Presidency.

Bridging the trust deficit, a renewed political will to realise the magnitude of the issue and the ability to compromise all bode well when the summit goes to the rainbow nation next year.

The author is the Non-Executive Chairman of Greenko Group, Hyderabad. He also served as the Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Andhra Pradesh, for 2009-2010.

 

Yarlagadda Harish Prasad
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