AILAC en route to INDCs

AILAC en route to INDCs

21:30 05 November in BlogIngles

Alexa Kleysteuber*, Mitigation Adviser.

Almost 5 years have passed since the Heads of State of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came together in Copenhagen in December of 2009 with hopes of reaching a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although Parties were ultimately unable to agree on new legal treaty binding both developed and developing countries, the Copenhagen Accord together with Cancun Agreements did successfully create a paradigm shift in global mitigation efforts.

By 2010, in addition to commitments already established under the Kyoto Protocol, the United States had pledged a quantified economy-wide emission reduction target while a number of developing countries including Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, as well as others, had put forward specific pledges to limit the growth in their greenhouse gas emissions in the pre 2020 period. These pledges were a significant achievement in going beyond the general mitigation commitments by all Parties laid out in the Convention and a critical first step in harnessing universal and comparable participation in mitigation, a necessary step if we are to effectively ward off the worst impacts of climate change.

From AILAC countries, high-level representatives participating in Copenhagen included the President of Colombia, the Vice President of Guatemala, the Ministers of Environment of Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, as well as the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama. It was here that Costa Rica and Chile laid out economy-wide mitigation targets, while Colombia and Peru pledged specific sectorial action to combat climate change, such as reducing deforestation, preserving forests, and establishing goals for renewable energy. These were groundbreaking political commitment for highly vulnerable, low-emitting, low to upper-middle income developing countries.

Nevertheless, these pledges were products of their time, meaning that most developing countries lacked the technical preparation necessary to come to Copenhagen with technically robust, fully implementable pledges, if one at all. For example, the groundbreaking, economy-wide pledges made by a number of AILAC countries were high-level political declarations, with limited technical backing or existing national legislation to substantiate them. Costa Rica’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021 was certainly ambitious, the first of its kind and a model for a number of other countries who have since followed suite with carbon neutrality pledges. And while the country demonstrated a political will not seen in many other Parties, it is notable that Costa Rica was just starting the process of identifying most relevant sectors and concrete measures that could actually ensure that the goal would be reached.[1] Chile’s 20% deviation from BAU was also a significant mitigation pledge, but was put forward with a safety net of unspecified international resources needed to reach the target, and there is not clarity yet on the expected BAU to 2020 or the corresponding amount of GHG emissions that would be avoided through this deviation.

In contrast, Colombia and Peru put forward more specific sectorial targets, including a renewable energy target and targets for reducing deforestation to zero (in the amazon rainforest and primary or natural forests, respectively), however the resulting reductions have still not been quantified to the UNFCCC. Despite their participation in the high-level segment in Copenhagen, Guatemala and Panama have not yet presented a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action under Cancun/Copenhagen.

At the same time that countries have begun implementing and reporting back on progress made toward achieving their pledges, the Conference of the Parties decided in 2011 begin negotiations on a legal agreement under the Convention that will be applicable to all Parties. In the midst of implementation and reporting efforts, Parties must turn their attention to initiating of intensifying domestic preparations for their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, as decided in Warsaw last December.

At COP 17 in Durban and since then, AILAC countries have played an integral part in pushing for a universal legally binding agreement on climate change. This position is driven by the recognition that middle income developing countries have more to gain from coordinated, comparable efforts on climate change, which will decrease dependence on imported fossil fuels, promote the renewable energy industry in countries relatively rich in renewable resources and ultimately stave off more costly adaptation interventions in the future. Therefore, INDCs are an opportunity for AILAC to lead by example and drive coordinated multilateral action that will ultimately benefit each nation individually.

Even countries with the best of intentions, however, are finding it challenging to meet the deadlines that Parties have self imposed on themselves for communicating their INDCs by the end of the first quarter of 2015 (for those able to do so). Furthermore, Parties have suggested that a key principle of the new agreement will be “no backtracking”, meaning that countries INDCs must be at least as ambitious as their current commitments or pledges under the Convention. This could be done by taking a more stringent type of target and/or by increasing the scale of the emissions reductions expected.

Given the circumstances, all countries, including those in AILAC, face technical and political challenges in preparing their INDCs in the next 5 months. Nevertheless, looking at the progress that AILAC countries in particular have made since Copenhagen, it is possible that AILAC countries could lead the way in putting forward INDCs for the new agreement.

Firstly, change has been happening from the bottom up. Countries are passing legislation (Chile’s carbon tax) and developing new NAMAs (Costa Rica’s coffee NAMA or Colombia’s transit-oriented development NAMA) that are attracting national and international support. Political forces are also converging, including Colombia’s recent roadmap for joining the OECD and accession negotiations likely to open with Costa Rica next year. In Chile, President Bachelet was recently re-elected and will have another chance in shaping a legally binding climate regime. Peru is hosting COP 20.

But maybe the most significant, and probably most overlooked progress that has been taking place in a number of AILAC countries over the last few years to influence the 2015 agreement is the development of nationally led stakeholder processes that have been progressively increasing public, private and civil engagement to develop a vision and realistic options for mid to long-term mitigation scenarios. It is these processes that will generate the robust, technical basis that will and political confidence they need to put forward INDCs by March of 2013.

Specifically, Chile, Colombia and Peru, with guidance from the MAPS program and using international and national support, have spent the last two years using a multi-stakeholder engagement and technically robust process to develop emissions projections and identify and prioritize mitigation options and scenarios. Chile is carrying out innovative analysis linking climate mitigation scenarios to macroeconomic models. Colombia is developing detailed Sectoral Action Plans to foster action from the public sector and maximize private sector involvement in climate action. Peru’s Plan CC is providing the solid technical basis needed to develop a national roadmap for low carbon development. Taken together, these national processes will likely prove the most effective tool for increasing political confidence and the giving governments the ability to put forward ambitious INDCs at the international level. This, in turn, will provide AILAC with much needed leverage to push for a legally binding agreement.

In and after Copenhagen, it was sheer political will that drive many developing countries to participate in the agreement. As we approach March 31st, 2015 and COP 21 in Paris, it is encouraging to think that having carried out much more robust technical preparation, analysis and consensus-building efforts, AILAC countries stand to be some of the best prepared for putting forward ambitious, realistic INDCs by March. The question that remains is how effectively political leaders take advantage of this situation to demand from the rest of the world an ambitious, fair and legally binding agreement — because chances are we won’t get a third try.

*The views expressed in this paper are the author’s and do not compromise the AILAC group or any of the countries that are part of the group.

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