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FEATURE: Chair of Least Developed Countries calls for “durable and dynamic” climate accord

Giza Gaspar Martins of Angola, Chair of the Least Developed Country (LDC) Group of Negotiators, has called for a “durable and dynamic” global climate deal at the much-anticipated UN talks in Paris, France this December. Speaking in London last month, he signalled that LDCs would be pressing for global ambition of the highest level – aimed at limiting global temperature rise to a 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial times, to avoid “unbearable consequences” on the poorest. Mairi Dupar of CDKN reports from the event chaired by Sam Bickersteth, CDKN Chief Executive.


Best form of adaptation is mitigation

Setting out the stall of the 48-strong group of LDCs, who are among the most vulnerable to climate change but least equipped to deal with the impacts, Mr Martins said: “We are known as the ‘ambitious group’ in the climate talks. On the need for countries to cut the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, he stressed: “The best form of adaptation is mitigation’….if there is no mitigation there will be nothing to adapt for.”

He also struck a note of political realism, noting that the Paris climate summit is unlikely to deliver commitments on tackling greenhouse gas emissions of a magnitude to avert serious losses in vulnerable countries, but governments will need to ratchet up their collective ambition over time.

Ambition that builds over time

Mr Martins presented the Paris summit as the chance to lay the foundations for increasingly ambitious climate pledges in the years ahead – asserting that countries should table their pledges now and agree to five year reviews on their commitments. Critically, he said countries must agree to “no backsliding,” that is, no possibility to downgrade their ambitions between one review and the next.

In the run-up to the Paris Summit, the UNFCCC has encouraged countries to submit their commitments to tackling greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change (known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, INDCs). Governments already formally agreed in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 to limit manmade climate change to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, on the grounds that any higher average warming would pose unacceptable social, economic and environmental harm ; the Climate Action Tracker tracks the aggregate emissions savings of countries’ INDCs in real time, to assess whether they are adequate to meet the target – and finds them far short.

The UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2015 has already concluded that there is a 8-10 Gigatonne gap between the emissions countries say they’ll cut or avoid – measured in ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ terms – and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that could be permitted to limit global warming below 2 degrees.

The system of INDC pledges and revisions will evolve, said Mr Martins: “The first round of INDCs will be a confidence-building exercise, keeping everyone on board and with time, I imagine in subsequent periods parties will exert peer pressure on each other [to revise their contributions upwards],” he said. “While this [the sum of the first round of INDCs] is not sufficient, it definitely sets us in the right direction.”

“The regime we are building is in many ways an incentive, it’s a bottom-up process. It’s a representation of countries’ own contributions, fully taking into account their political realities. That’s already an incentive for parties to implement [them].”

Achala Abeysinghe of IIED, who provides legal and technical support to the LDC Group and is funded by CDKN, added that it was important for a Paris accord to be both legally binding and enforceable. “You can have the highest possible rigour in terms of legal form but if they are not enforced, then the agreement is not going to be effective,” she said.

“There’s quite a bit of push-back on compliance [and enforcement]” in the talks thus far, added Martins – hinting at what could become a further battleground for Parties in the negotiations. “There is more interest in an aggregate level on how we are doing but not so much interest in compliance at the national level.” It seems that agreement on these elements of monitoring, reporting and verification will cause many late nights in Paris.

What’s at stake for Least Developed Countries

There is a mounting evidence base that weather-related disasters and the slow-onset losses associated with a changing climate will undermine efforts to reduce poverty. An ODI report recently found that : “Extreme weather linked to climate change is increasing and will likely cause more disasters. Such disasters, especially those linked to drought, can be the most important cause of impoverishment, cancelling progress on poverty reduction. Up to 325 million extremely poor people will be living in the most hazard-prone countries in 2030, the majority in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.” Analysis commissioned by CDKN found that a low-ambition climate deal in Paris would condemn countries to failure on several of the Sustainable Development Goals (

Least Developed Countries that already suffer the effects of rising sea levels, storm surges and other extreme weather events are finding that they cannot ‘bounce back’ from repeated events. One of the hot-button issues at the Paris Summit will be climate-related ‘loss and damage’. LDCs will explore how to deal with climate-related losses to which they cannot adapt. With a nod to political tensions around this issue, Mr Martins suggested: “We have agreed to talk about in which ways loss and damage is not just a blank cheque – although it could be construed that way. We have gone beyond speaking about compensation [from developed or large-emitting countries toward the most vulnerable, which suffer the effects.] We wish to duplicate what good practices exist – risk transfer schemes in Africa – and so on. These lessons need to be learned, and transferred.”

Where targets come in – the 1.5 versus 2 degree difference

The UNFCCC has just concluded a scientific review- known as the 2013-2015 Review – to assess the appropriate global warming target for its Parties to adopt. The Review, published in May 2015 and discussed intensively among governments at the Bonn UNFCCC talks in June 2015, concluded that a 1.5 degree warming target above pre-industrial times is achievable and should be adopted, rather than the earlier 2 degree target agreed in 2010. “Analysis shows that for some countries including LDCs, [2 degrees] is a goal that comes with unbearable consequences. Some LDCs are Small Island Developing States that are exposed to a great deal of stress so we have been advocating for a revision of that goal,” said Mr Martins. He acknowledged that reaching limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, in light of emissions to date, would take a tremendous effort “by everyone” but emphasised that “I don’t think we’re at the limits of creativity in terms of innovation and technology” that could help global society meet that goal.

Funds, technology and know-how

The French president, Francois Hollande, has asserted that “without finance, there will be no climate agreement.” Finance flows from developed to developing countries and even from middle income to low income countries will be important for helping the poorest to carry out their climate commitments and reaching their development aspirations.

The amount of climate finance pledged will be an important part of the ’Paris package’, said Mr Martins: “For the period up to 2020 we are interested in … some indication from developed countries of the way in which they intend to meet the $100 billion pledge”[the amount per year promised by developed to developing countries in the 2009 Copenhagen accords].

Using the particular language of the climate talks, he added, “it is important to us that the [Paris] agreement recognises the linkages between adaptation and mitigation and the means of implementation that flow from it – finance, capacity building and transfer of technology.”

These ‘ingredients’ won’t solve climate change and its consequences alone, though, he stressed – “there’s no one issue but a complex web.”

Can progressive voices join forces for an ambitious deal?

Ben Lyon of the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and its Chief Negotiator, indicated that there are very significant areas of commonality between the European Union’s approach to the Paris talks, and the LDC stance.

“We [the UK government] would like to see legally binding agreement that keeps everyone below 2 degrees. We fully support the no-backsliding rule,” and are in support of reviews of progress toward the global target every five years, he said.

“We support having a long term signal coming out of the deal, we think it [the deal] can set a signal and drive future climate action. It will make future climate action more cost effective. It will help drive innovation and reduce the price of technology.”

At the conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa, four years ago, the European Union and LDCs came together in a so-called ‘progressive alliance’. As analysed by Louise van Schaik in her CDKN paper, this led to The Durban Platform being negotiated during all-night discussions at the end of the meeting, and provided a ‘rescue’ that prevented the climate negotiations from falling apart altogether. The roadmap to a new global deal was largely agreed because the EU was able to form an alliance with the Association of Small Island States, the Least Developed Countries (LDC) groups, as well as other members of the Cartagena Group – a  gathering of 45 nations committed to progressive outcomes in the negotiations. The strength of this alliance made it more difficult for other countries to dissent.

No pundit would wager on the exact political alliances and outcomes that will result during long nights of negotiation in Paris, but with the issues out on the table, it’s clear there are many areas where countries and negotiating blocs can sow agreement rather than division.


 Image: credit USDA



























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