Money is­sues be­devil cli­mate talks

But SA’S del­e­ga­tion leader Derek Hanekom believes ev­ery­one wants to see a deal reached

Mail & Guardian - - Business - Yolandi Groe­newald

Money is a ma­jor stick­ing point in in­ter­na­tional talks about ad­dress­ing cli­mate change. But South Africa’s head of del­e­ga­tion, Min­is­ter of Tourism Derek Hanekom, said the fi­nance com­mit­tee at the talks in Ka­tow­ice, Poland, was get­ting close to de­liv­er­ing a deal, and rich coun­tries have com­mit­ted bil­lions of dol­lars to as­sist poor, vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries.

“But the devil lies in the do­ing,” Hanekom said at the United Na­tions cli­mate change con­fer­ence. “Com­mit­ments will be made; I’m quite con­fi­dent of that. But what hap­pens be­yond is that the com­mit­ments need to be hon­oured.”

Poor coun­tries need fi­nanc­ing so that they can be­come green economies and to ad­here to their prom­ises to lower their car­bon emis­sions. Vul­ner­a­ble na­tions will also need the money to adapt to a chang­ing cli­mate, in­clud­ing sea level rise and more ex­treme storms.

The bick­er­ing over money was threat­en­ing to de­rail the 2015 Paris Agree­ment, sched­uled to come into ef­fect in 2020. De­vel­oped coun­tries promised to de­liver $100-bil­lion for cli­mate mit­i­ga­tion by 2020, but there were se­ri­ous con­cerns that the prom­ises made in 2015 have not been hon­oured.

De­vel­op­ing coun­tries say they can­not start plan­ning their trans­for­ma­tion into green economies un­til they know how much money they will re­ceive from rich coun­tries.

In­dus­tri­alised coun­tries ar­gue that they can’t promise a fig­ure at this stage.

Hanekom said fi­nance was par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in achiev­ing a positive out­come at this year’s talks.

“The ques­tion is what de­ter­mines the amount of fi­nance that is needed. It is not an ar­bi­trary fig­ure. There should be a clear in­di­ca­tion of what needs to be done, what will be done.”

He said no­body had said that they would re­nege on the $100-bil­lion promised, but estab­lish­ing that it would be paid was crit­i­cal.

“On the con­trary, I think there is a gen­eral ac­cep­tance that amount of money, given the enor­mity of the chal­lenge, will not be ad­e­quate.”

The con­fer­ence this week had to es­tab­lish rules on how to im­ple­ment the his­toric Paris Agree­ment, but a fight over fi­nance held up the talks for most of the two weeks.

Hanekom is head­ing the South African del­e­ga­tion af­ter the death of the en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Edna Molewa, in Septem­ber. Although Nomvula Mokonyane was ap­pointed as her suc­ces­sor last month, it was deemed Hanekom could best han­dle the technical ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Speak­ing at the con­fer­ence, he said, for South Africa, fi­nance and adap­ta­tion for cli­mate change were the over­ar­ch­ing pri­or­i­ties and draw­ing up a rule­book was im­por­tant.

The Paris Agree­ment can­not come into ef­fect in 2020 with­out a rule­book, which in­cludes a clear man­date on fi­nance. Cur­rently the ne­go­tia­tors, from 195 gov­ern­ments, are not find­ing com­mon ground.

Hanekom said China, In­dia, Brazil and South Africa were in agree­ment that, for fi­nance, there was “a bit of a con­cern” and “fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments, as agreed to in Paris, have not been met”.

The South African del­e­ga­tion has been push­ing for a deal on fi­nance. South Africa has been firm that it can’t meet its prom­ises made in Paris in 2015 to de­car­bonise its econ­omy if it doesn’t re­ceive fi­nan­cial aid.

South Africa’s lead cli­mate ne­go­tia­tor, Mae­sela Kekana, said at the end of last week’s ne­go­ti­a­tions that the African group was not happy.

“As an African group, we sim­ply could not ac­cept the po­si­tions that were be­ing put for­ward [by de­vel­oped coun­tries],” he said.

Har­jeet Singh, global lead on cli­mate change for in­ter­na­tional non­profit Ac­tionaid, also em­pha­sised that clear rules on fi­nanc­ing were crit­i­cal for the agree­ment to suc­ceed.

Trans­parency was the other issue giv­ing ne­go­tia­tors sleep­less nights, and de­vel­oped coun­tries urged de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to re­port all their green ac­tions.

Hanekom, who co-chaired the trans­parency dia­logue at the con­fer­ence, ar­gued that poor coun­tries should not be held to the same stan­dards of re­port­ing as rich coun­tries, be­cause they had limited re­sources and ca­pac­ity.

“South African has the ca­pac­ity and we are al­ready ad­her­ing to trans­par­ent re­port­ing, but many poorer coun­tries lack that,” he said.

Hanekom said a for­mula that bal­anced the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of all coun­tries, both in fi­nanc­ing and trans­parency, was cru­cial.

“This will al­low us to have a regime that is fair and ef­fec­tive for all. To achieve this, and to build the trust that ev­ery­one is do­ing their fair share, we need to have a strong trans­parency frame­work to mon­i­tor and as­sess progress on all fronts.”

Many del­e­gates said the United States, with the back­ing of cli­mat­e­change de­nier Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, was sow­ing di­vi­sion among the par­ties, es­pe­cially in con­tentious ar­eas. The US was fin­gered as one of the coun­tries hold­ing up progress on fi­nance.

“The worst out­come of the talks here would be no out­come,” Hanekom said. “I don’t be­lieve that any coun­try came here look­ing for no out­come.”

UN sec­re­tary gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res called Ka­tow­ice the most im­por­tant Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties since the adop­tion of the Paris Agree­ment.

“There can be no doubt that it is a mo­ment of truth. The Ka­tow­ice pack­age needs to de­liver on the progress on fi­nance needed to adapt and mit­i­gate cli­mate change as well as the way the Paris Agree­ment, which will kick in in 2020, will be im­ple­mented.

“De­vel­oped coun­tries had to scale up their con­tri­bu­tions to jointly raise $100-bil­lion an­nu­ally by 2020,” he said.

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