Dr Paul Oquist, Head of COP Delegation Nicaragua and Minister Private Secretary for Nicaragua’s Presidency for National Policies, as well as author of Equilibra: The Philosophy and Political Economy of Existence and Extinction, discusses how best to save the climate negotiations in Glasgow
THE TWO KEYS to saving the climate change negotiations are increasing the level of AMBITION for global greenhouse gas reductions and CLIMATE FINANCE for developing countries.
Also necessary is a trade-off of the continuation of developed country Carbon Markets for the eventually inevitable recognition of Losses and Damages as a co-equal category with mitigation and adaptation demanded by developing countries.
The two prime issues follow below.
The world now simultaneously faces the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the long lockdowns, the Great Depression 2020, extreme inequality, and the initiation of the second Cold War. During the Great Depression of 1929, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously pronounced “All we have to fear is fear itself.” In 2020, fear has gone viral and confidence in the future has turned to despair.
Recovery will require reestablishing confidence and hope in the future. We should remember that the Great Depression ended with major redistribution (social security insurance) and World War II. The Long Depression ended in 1890 with major redistribution (Sherman Anti-Trust Act) and the break-up of Rockefeller’s oil, Carnegie’s steel and Harriman’s railway monopolies, the most powerful interests in the country.
If all we have to contemplate in the decade that follows 2020 is recurrent outbreaks of COVID-19 and re-lockdowns, falling GDPs, Jeff Bezos making US$43 billion in four months while in the same period 50 million US workers file for unemployment insurance for the first time, the depression will become both economic and of the collective psyche. In such a dual abyss, consumers will spend very little, investors will invest very little, and the economy will recover very slowly.
One way to restore confidence and hope for the future is for COP-26 in Glasgow to officially declare that it is adopting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s analysis and goals on how to limit climate change in this century to 1.5°c above the pre-industrial level. This involves two decisions:
1) TO ACHIEVE A SUSTAINABLE, CIRCULAR, NET ZERO EMISION SOCIETY BY 2050
2) TO REDUCE GREEN HOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY -45% BY 2030 IN ORDER TO POSITION OURSELVES FOR THE 2050 OBJECTIVE
The UK and Italy need to achieve the commitment of the 10 countries with the highest emissions, either at the national and/or sub-national levels. They account for 72% of all emissions, while the 100 countries with least emissions account for 3%.
Secretary General António Guterres declared COP-25 the ‘Ambition COP’ because since Paris 2015 the commitments did not add up to the goal of a 1.5°C limit or even 2.0°C. Nicaragua did not sign the Paris Accord in 2015 because the collective commitments led to a world average of 3.7°C, which would cause catastrophic temperatures of 4-6°C in the tropics, deserts and arctic region. By 2017, there was a widespread consensus on the lack of ambition that led Nicaragua to sign the Paris Accord and join the consensus that Guterres sought to unsuccessfully mobilise in Madrid. The conference failed because it was skewed toward recalcitrant developed countries, despite a developing country presidency.
The historical significance of Glasgow is assured even a year before the Conference. If it were to fail, it will be the end of the UN climate negotiations. The credibility of the process cannot survive two consecutive failures. Success, however, will save the climate negotiation process.
If the ‘Zero Emission Society’ is not the first priority for recovery, it will not sail, and will sink in a sea of competing priorities.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Accord, as well as the expiring Kyoto Protocol, all state that developed countries have an obligation to supply finance, technology and capacity building to developing countries. In Copenhagen in 2009, then USSecretary of State Hillary Clinton announced climate finance of US$100 billion per annum starting in 2020. Obviously, climate change did not begin in 2020. What the proposal for 2020 did do is contribute to the lost decade of reduced climate finance and action that began in 2010. After the failure of Copenhagen, it took five years to reach a climate accord in Paris in 2015, to enter into effect in, by coincidence, 2020.
Despite the annual US$100 billion commitment being reiterated in multiple annual COP documents, there is no working group, or road map being prepared. Concerned about the negative impact of non-compliance on the credibility of the entire climate negotiating process, UN Secretary General António Guterres invited French President Emmanuel Macron and Jamaica’s Prime Minister Holness to formulate a proposal on the US$100 billion.
The problem is that the appetite of developed country treasuries has already been tested, and it amounts to less than US$15 billion for 2018-23 based on Green Climate Fund and Global Environmental Facility replenishments.
Thus, the solution has to be found in private sources. The uses of the annual US$100 billion can be grants, loans, equity financing or guarantees. To accelerate implementation as well as assure allocation, disbursement and execution safeguards, the funds should be channeled through the financial mechanisms of the Climate Change Convention. That would meet developing country requisites of “new, additional, predictable financing that is equally accessible and allocated according to developing country priorities.”
An International Renewable Energy Investment Fund, International Energy Efficiency Fund and International Forestry Investment Fund with good internal rates of return could tap institutional equity investment. Nothing would restore the credibility of the climate negotiations, or set a positive tone for COP-26 in Glasgow, more than to announce:
3) THE ANNUAL US$100 BILLION FOR 2020 AND FOR 2021 HAVE BEEN ASSURED WITH PUBLIC FUNDING AND PRIVATE INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR SUPPORT FOR CLIMATE INVESTMENT FUNDS.
Fortunately, the UK team includes Mark Carney, ex-Governor of both the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada, who is eminently qualified to head resource mobilisation, supported by President Macron, Prime Minister Holness, UN Secretary General António Guterres, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The moral dimension of saving the environment could be stressed by inviting the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his Holiness the Pope.