Asia needs finance, technology from climate conference agreement

KARACHI: Asia and the Pacific wants – and needs – a strong climate agreement in December, laying out a clear path to the $100 billion climate finance target by 2020, accompanied by robust support for technology transfer and capacity building for developing countries.

Just over 190 government representatives will gather in the French capital of Paris from 30 November to 11 December along with companies, non-government organizations, academics and civil society to finalize an agreement on climate change. ADB’s delegation will be led by its President, Takehiko Nakao, and Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Bambang Susantono.

Under the auspices of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a new agreement will aim to keep the global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Past agreements, including 1997’s Kyoto Protocol, ushered in commitments to cut greenhouse gases. However, climate experts agree that now, a tougher, more comprehensive agreement is needed.

Expectations for the new agreement set to come into effect beyond 2020 are for commitments by all countries in accordance with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”, understanding that some countries should and can do more than others. As of now, 147 countries accounting for about 90% of global economic activity and global energy-related emissions have submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), or their climate pledges. Among them are 34 Asian countries, including developed nations like Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and Singapore.

The PRC – one of the world’s largest overall carbon emitters – has committed to ensuring that its CO2 emissions peak by 2030 and that, by then, it will cut its emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% from 2005 levels. Meanwhile India will cut the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of its economy by up to 35% by 2030. Smaller nations too have promised action with Samoa, for one, targeting all its energy to be from renewable sources 2025.

Scaling up financing

A report on the submissions by the UNFCCC found the submissions would collectively reduce global average per capita emissions by 8% by 2025 and 9% by 2030, although the global temperature could still rise by around 2.7 degrees by 2100.

Key to many of the submissions, however, is a need for the finance to both cut carbon emissions and to put in place the essential measures to adapt to climate change. A draft of the Paris agreement already circulated by the UNFCCC urges a sustained flow of financial and technical support to developing nations in particular and a scaling up from 2020 onwards.

At the 2010 UNFCCC meeting in Cancun, Mexico, developed countries set a goal of providing $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. A recent report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated that public and private finance to address climate change totalled $62 billion in 2014, meaning there is still some way to go.

For its part, ADB has already announced that it will double its climate finance for developing Asia to $6 billion from 2020, with $4 billion dedicated to mitigation through scaled up support for renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport, and smart cities and the rest for adaptation through more resilient infrastructure, climate-smart agriculture and better preparation for climate-related disasters.

ADB is also helping to channel finance from the Green Climate Fund – one of UNFCCC’s two main financing mechanisms – to the region. At its meeting in early November, the fund approved its first batch of financing. This included a $31 million grant for a $222 million ADB-led project to ensure water supplies and wastewater services for almost 300,000 people in the Fiji capital of Suva are not compromised by floods, droughts, and salinity intrusion due to a rising sea level. ADB is the first multilateral development bank to receive accreditation from the Green Climate Fund.

Fiji, along with countries like the Philippines, Pakistan, and Samoa, is among the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. However, the entire region, where 700 million still live in extreme poverty, is at high risk, meaning a binding and monitored agreement from Paris is critical.