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OPINION: 2015, the choreography – Part Two

CDKN’s Executive Chairman Simon Maxwell offers his suggestions for how leaders can choreograph their approaches to the post-2015 sustainable Development GoalsSince Rio+20, there is commitment for the of post-2015 development goals to take over after the Millennium Development Goals and the establishment of the new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs., the global climate change agreement, and financing for development. This is Part Two of Simon’s blog; read Part One here.

In practical terms, I’d like to offer some specific ideas for how leaders can coordinate their approaches to the three big global agreements of 2015: the Sustainable DevelopmentThe concept of sustainable development was introduced in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and had its roots in the concept of a sustainable society and in the management of renewable resources. Adopted by the WCED in 1987 and by the Rio Conference in 1992 as a process of change in … Goals (SDGSince Rio+20, there is commitment for the of post-2015 development goals to take over after the Millennium Development Goals and the establishment of the new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.) negotiations, the Financing for Development meeting in Addis Ababa, and the UNFCCC conference in Paris. The initial points are about leadership and management, but the substance follows.

1. A cross-Government task force is essential, to lead, strategise and coordinate. In France, this function is carried out by a ‘Comité de Pilotage’ chaired by the Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius. In the EU, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, is playing a similar role, convening all Commissioners concerned with external policy, as well as ministers from Member States. Of course, it does not need to be the case that Foreign Ministers lead. The key requirement is that all ministries involved should be present, including finance.

2. Each Government task force needs a negotiating strategy covering all of the 2015 negotiations. The standard approach, usefully summarised by E3G in a briefing on climate diplomacy commissioned by CDKN, is to ‘know yourself’, ‘know the other’ and ‘understand leverage’. The European Union has the beginning of a strategy, an action plan for climate diplomacy. Obviously, it needs to be broadened to take account of other negotiations. And, personally, I wouldn’t publish too much, certainly not the red lines.

3. Task forces and strategies need to be resourced. This is a challenge for many countries, even within distinct pillars like climate, as CDKN has found in its capacity-building work. Climate envoys play a role in many countries. Should there be ‘2015 envoys’? And should Ban Ki Moon integrate his various envoys and advisers into a single team?

4. Countries need to understand what negotiators call the ‘BATNA’ or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – in other words the outcome if no agreement is reached – and decide how much they care. I suppose for 2015, the BATNA is no SDG framework, no climate deal and no money, or perhaps very weak outcome documents in Addis, New York and Paris, somewhere between options 2 and 3 in my Introduction. I can’t imagine that any country would be satisfied if that eventuality were to materialise, but for my money, the biggest risk is a weak deal on mitigation. The deal would be weak even if this were recognised as a first step and if regular review periods were included. Read my earlier post on the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report for the numbers. As an example, and looking forward to 2030, the best estimate is that total greenhouse gas emissions based on current pledges will be up to 59 Gt. The maximum emission level for that year is 42GT. So, the gap is up to 17 Gt. That means further reductions of over a quarter are needed. Will they be offered in Paris?

5. If I am right that a commitment to emission reductions is the main strategic and existentially important objective in 2015, then that suggests all other chess pieces on the board need to be subordinated and instrumentalised to that end. The other pieces include elements of the climate deal, but also other elements of the SDGs. Controversial, I know. And, of course, as subsequent points discuss, the objective should be to secure good outcomes across the board.

6. I have said that money is likely to be one key link between Addis, New York and Paris, but also that money is short. Some people think that additional money will be available, or at least hope so. It may be possible to sweat the assets of the multilateral development banks, including the new BRICS bank and the proposed Asia Infrastructure  Investment Bank. There may be unexpected pledges, or new forms of innovative finance which generate new funding, especially for climate-related purposes. A Financial Transactions Tax anyone? Or a levy on revitalised carbon markets? I think it more likely that there will be pledges to 0.7 at some point in the distant future, an intensified conversation about the possibility of leveraging additional private sector finance, and about the need for developing countries to raise more money domestically. But a focus on money as the only instrument should not be allowed to derail the talks.

7. In that case, countries should be thinking hard about what other elements they can throw into the negotiating pot, or ask their negotiating partners to throw in. Technology looks like a good bet. Professor Sir David King, now the UK’s climate envoy, has long argued for a major investment in R and D to capture the global imagination and deliver sustainable solutions, a kind of global Apollo Project costing 0.2% of GDP. Could this be a shared initiative, perhaps under UN auspices, with a high level of participation by developing countries?

8. Other negotiating elements? Trade access, remembering that there will be a WTO ministerial in Nairobi in December 2015? Migration rules? Debt relief? These would need to be linked to the overall negotiation.

9. Other points about money. First, reallocations within existing budgets might be put on the table. For example, I know that developed countries find Loss and Damage a difficult issue, because they worry about the legal repercussions. They may change their positions, and engage fully with the Warsaw Mechanism. As a fall-back, however, they could make commitments to building resilience and ensuring that humanitarian appeals are fully funded. This would provide a useful link to another important process in 2015, the Sendai conference on disaster risk reduction (WCDRR), as well as to the Humanitarian Summit planned for Istanbul in 2016. Can we have some kind of social protection guarantee on the table in 2015?

10. Another point on money. My advice to negotiators from donor countries would be to coordinate well and aggregate offers into one large proposition over a number of years. One trillion dollars over five years sounds much better than twenty pledges of $10bn a year, renewable. I remember Gordon Brown at the G20 in London, at the height of the financial crisis, being able to announce a $US 1.1 trillion fiscal package for the world economy. In this case, the financial offer might provide an incentive to strike a deal.

11. A third point on money is that timing is critical. The dilemma facing donors is that they will be expected to make significant commitments in Addis Ababa, but if they do so, then the locker will be empty when it comes to New York and Paris. One way to solve that problem is to make conditional offers. The EUEuropean Union did this in the climate negotiations back in 2007, when it offered to increase its reduction target from 20% (over 1990 levels) to 30% ‘if other major economies in the developed and developing worlds committed to undertake their fair share of a global emissions reduction effort’. Would it not be reasonable for donors (not just the EU) to make a financial offer in Addis Ababa in July, conditional on satisfactory emissions commitments in December?

12. It goes without saying that for the climate negotiations, an ambitious INDC is essential. Every country needs to contribute, probably with additional pledges held in reserve for Paris. As I have argued before, there needs to be no ambiguity about what is being offered: that means a pathway for total GHG emissions, broken down by gas.

13. In thinking about the progress of negotiations, it will be important to differentiate between countries, taking account of which are more progressive or ambitious, and what kinds of deals can be stuck. My own view is that India could be a swing state, not least because the new Government has a strong commitment to action on climate change. I can strongly recommend reading Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s book on the subject – I reviewed it here. The new accord between Mr Modi and Barack Obama may be especially important, focusing as it does on renewable energy. See the comment above about collaboration on technology acting as a driver of consensus.

14. Building on this idea, the negotiations will be easier if climate action can be presented convincingly as a win-win option. This, for example, is the argument laid out in the report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, whose report, published in September, makes the case that green growth pathways have become more affordable and also offer significant co-benefits like reduced pollution and improved health. I reviewed it here. My view at the time was that the argument was more convincing in relation to some places than to others, and that more work was needed to disaggregate the argument to particular places. The work continues, so perhaps that is happening.

15. Even where the argument can be made, however, it is important to identify what policies and instruments will need to be deployed to achieve transition. Technological progress and on-the-ground innovation may well be becoming easier, as the New Climate Economy (NCE) report argues, for example with respect to the rapidly falling cost of solar power. Still, Government incentives remain essential to underpin innovation, as Mariane Mazzucatto reminds us, in her book on The Entrepreneurial State.

16. Referring back to my eight-point plan, I see that I have not said anything about trust-building measures. That is obviously important. Think-tanks have a role to play. In the SDG process, for example, negotiators are being supported by the Independent Research Forum, a group of think-tanks including ODI, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and World Resources Institute (WRI). This provides an opportunity for informal discussion. There are many similar opportunities. For example, CDKN last year convened a series of informal regional workshops on post-2015, summarised at an event in London in September. The Green Alliance, an independent UK think-tank, persuaded all the UK’s main party leaders to sign a letter pledging action on climate change. Does that inspire anyone else?

17. Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of public campaigning, to raise public awareness, stiffen the spines of leaders and their negotiators – and actually, also, give them more room for manoeuvre in making difficult trade-offs. Action/2015 is the umbrella for such action this year. The letter to world leaders is here. I see that Harvard has been taken to court by its students for not disinvesting from fossil fuels, and that students have staged a sit-in in the President’s office. Naomi Klein will be pleased – read my review of her climate book here.

To conclude, the main point is that the 2015 negotiations are all linked and need to be treated as one. A successful outcome is possible, but only with careful, integrated planning. The alternative is grim, especially with regard to climate change.


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