2018 Will be a Crucial Year for International Climate Policy Making

A robust framework to implement the Paris Agreement will address the needs of the poor and vulnerable.
A robust framework to implement the Paris Agreement will address the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

By Preety Bhandari

There are only eleven months left for countries to finalize the implementation framework for the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

The euphoric response to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change still reverberates two years after the historic deal. The deal was ratified in record time, and entered into force within six months of the deadline for its signing – a historical feat when compared to the Kyoto Protocol, which took over seven years.

But the comparison becomes even more onerous when one sees the timeline for the implementation framework, which has to be signed and delivered by December 2018.

For some, the most important elements of the agreement are the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to curb greenhouse gas emissions; the transparency framework that will be established to monitor, report, and verify their implementation; and the process for ratcheting up the ambition every five years to further reduce emissions.

[tweet="Current climate pledges cover only 1/3 of #ParisAgreement target by 2030 – ADB expert @ADBClimate" text="Current climate pledges cover only 1/3 of Paris Agreement target by 2030"]

Others see equal importance in the financing to meet the mitigation and adaptation goals, and addressing climate-related economic losses and damage. And let’s not forget the technology transfer to developing countries, building capacity, gender, and indigenous people’s rights.

Taking stock of the negotiations and decisions taken at the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) on Climate Change last November in Bonn, there has been relatively more discussion on the first set of issues. This may not come as a surprise, given the power dynamics in the climate negotiations.

After all, UNEP’s 2017 Emissions Gap Report warns that the current state of climate pledges will cover only a third of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to stay below a 2°C temperature increase, the primary objective of the Paris Agreement. In other words, we are 11-13 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent short.

Time running out

With such warning bells being sounded, the negotiators have largely focused on the mitigation outcome and the transparency framework. A 266-page draft capturing different views on the framework for implementation was produced by the end of two weeks of discussions in Bonn, with 180 pages dedicated to mitigation.

I hope that the launch of the Talanoa Dialogue in 2018 will facilitate adopting a more balanced approach so all articles of the Paris Agreement are addressed in equal depth and seriousness. The intent of this dialogue is to assess the progress of collective national efforts toward meeting the long-term goal to keep temperature rise below 2°C, and to inform the updating—and hopefully upgrading—of the NDCs.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is currently drafting a report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. The report will be critical for climate policy makers, though the timing of the release may leave very little time for any course corrections.

[tweet="ADB’s Preety Bhandari: Linking different climate processes by end of 2018 will be Herculean effort @ADBClimate" text="Linking different climate processes by end of 2018 will be Herculean effort"]

The voice of the vulnerable will need to be counted, and the final implementation framework will need to give due cognizance to adaptation mechanisms and their financing. The elephant in the room is the overall financing of $100 billion to be provided by developed countries to developing countries by 2020, and the mechanics of the next big ex-ante pledge of financing before 2025. Discussions on the latter almost derailed the conclusion of COP23 in Bonn.

The multiple streams under which the implementation framework is being designed will also pose a challenge to ensure a cohesive and comprehensive outcome.

Four different bodies (the Conference of the Parties, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, and the Ad-hoc Group on the Paris Agreement) are leading this work under the supervision of different presiding officials. The task of building links between different processes over the next eleven months will be a Herculean effort.

Fiji's key role

Looking back, the Kyoto Protocol—which was limited in scope to mitigation commitments from developed countries—seems like child’s play, although it took four years for its rulebook to be negotiated and agreed as the Marrakech Accords in 2001. The scope and expanse of the Paris Agreement is much more intense.

In any negotiation, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And 2018 will be a crucial year for international climate policy making.

As president of the climate negotiations in 2018, Fiji will play a critical role in accelerating the pace of work in the negotiations, but more importantly to ensure balanced progress on all elements of the Paris Agreement, particularly the need for a robust framework to address adaptation and resilience, and for the vulnerable and poor.

[tweet="#Fiji presidency to ensure balanced progress on all elements of #ParisAgreement @ADBClimate" text="Fiji presidency to ensure balanced progress on all elements of Paris Agreement"]

Multilateral financial institutions such as ADB will tailor their investments and climate actions in response to the modalities and procedures outlined in the Paris rulebook. Of particular interest to ADB will be the mechanism for tracking progress on NDC implementation, the increasing ambition of our developing member countries on NDCs, the adaptation and financing needs, enabling access to concessional financing, and any role we can play to develop a second generation of carbon markets.

In addition, non-state actors, including the private sector, are increasingly energized and involved in the Paris agenda. The partnerships that ADB can help forge in this context would also support the implementation momentum.

ADB’s recently approved Climate Change Operational Framework 2017-2030 provides a menu for such long-term engagement with our DMCs to enable the implementation of their international commitments to address climate change, while pursuing the sustainable development agenda. In the meantime, let’s pay attention to the summit called by French President Emmanuel Macron to keep the momentum on climate action spawned by the Paris Agreement.