The up-coming United Nations Climate talks in Durban, South Africa are expected to deliver a future mechanism to work around the Kyoto Protocol to set up acceptable legally bind agreements from as many countries in the world. IGES recently spoke with Dr. Saleemul Huq, senior fellow at the Climate Change Group, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) on a variety of issues on climate change. Dr. Huq has played the role of building negotiating capacity and supporting the engagement of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the past UNFCCC meetings. He is also going to be one of key players for the Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum, which will take place in Bangkok, Thailand from 27-28 October 2011.
- Common but Differentiated Responsibilities -
Dr. Saleemul Huq
(Senior Fellow, Climate Change Group
Internaitonal Institute for Environment and Development)
Scenario after the Kyoto Protocol
--- Climate change experts are talking about the future scenarios after the Kyoto Protocol. What do you want to see as the top priority as a result of the next COP17?
The major desirable outcome from Durban is a commitment by Annex B (developed) countries to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. However, given the domestic political situation in the US (where everyone knows that even if the Obama administration wanted to do so, they could not get it through Congress) does not give any hope. So an alternative scenario would be an agreement by existing Annex B countries to agree to a second commitment period with a "mandate" or "road map" for China, India, Brazil and South Africa in order to join a legally binding agreement at a later date at the end of the LCA Track negotiations which might be around 2015.
Climate Change and Adaptation
--- "Adaptation" has been getting attention as one of the measures to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). How can we make the most of "adaptation"?
The Cancun Adaptation Framework was a major breakthrough in COP16 and now it remains to work out the operational details in Durban, which include the constitution and mandate for the "Adaptation Committee", the details of how countries should carry out the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) that were agreed in Cancun and how these would be funded.
--- What are you actually doing in daily life in order to achieve the goal to reduce GHG 80% by 2050？
I personally, and my organisation (IIED) have made commitments to reduce our "Carbon Footprint" and we are doing it by cutting down our personal air travel (which is our biggest footprint) as well as at our offices and homes.
Message towards COP17
--- What is your message to the Asia and Pacific region for tackling climate change issues?
Although Asia-Pacific countries make up the biggest geographic region they do not negotiate in the UNFCCC as a block. Nevertheless the region includes both developed countries (Japan) and major developing countries (China and India) as well as poorer more vulnerable developing countries (e.g. small island developing states, least developed countries). Many of these countries are taking significant actions domestically (both on mitigation as well as adaptation). They can (if they wish) highlight the actions they are already taking and push other countries towards more ambitious actions.
Concluding comment: I feel that considerable progress (if only partial) was made at COP16 in Cancun last year on Adaptation, REDD, Technology Transfer and Finance (e.g. the Fast Start Finance of USD 30 Billion over three years and the Green Fund to mobilise USD100 billion a year from 2020). These decisions need to be consolidated and operationalised in Durban so that actions on the ground can be accelerated.
On the other hand the mitigation targets by developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol Track and the fast-growing developing countries (and US) under the LCA Track could not be concluded. However, the agreement by the US and others to put forward domestic action through Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) is a step in the right direction. The challenge in Durban will be finding a formula to bring all these actions into a Legally Binding Agreement (whether under KP or a new Protocol or even two Protocols, it does not really matter). Such an agreement will keep the architecture of the UNFCCC intact and allow movement forward. The problem with this (partial) result will be the level of global ambition that will result in a temperature rise nearer 4 degrees Celsius (rather that the agreed goal of 2 degrees). However, it would allow movement towards greater ambition in subsequent years.
Finally I feel that the time has come for all countries to focus more on the "common" rather than the "differentiated" part of the UNFCCC Principle of "Common but Differentiated Responsibilities". If we cannot achieve this then it is very likely that the entire world will have to face the severe human-induced impacts of climate change in the decades ahead.
--- Thank you very much.
About "Monthly Asian Focus: Observations on Sustainability"
Until 2010, IGES has released “Top News on the Environment in Asia” on a yearly basis. For over 12 years since its establishment of IGES in 1998, “Top News” has collected and organised information about environmental issues and policy trends in the region.
In January 2011, IGES launched the new web-based series "Monthly Asian Focus: Observations on Sustainability" in which leading environmental experts deliver their take on latest trends of sustainable Asia.