Author: Rachel Skubel is a Masters student at McMaster University, Canada, studying ecosystem-climate change interactions. She works to close the gap between science, policy, and education through community outreach, research networks and online platforms. Follow Rachel on twitter @rachelskubel.
As the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia drew to a close mid-november, observers around the world were treated to climate change actions in the form of Green Climate Fund Contributions and a stated willingness to work towards greenhouse gas reductions. Of course, these outcomes were not without opponents, and climate change was not a welcome topic for all heads of state involved. The host country leader was optimistic about the future of coal as a burgeoning energy source, and committed to expanding its use despite considerable environmental costs.
The G20 leaders on the final day of the meeting in Brisbane, Australia
Along with the G20 meeting, another high-profile event was occurring in Australia last week – the World Parks Congress, a once-a-decade conference to discuss issues surrounding the world’s protected areas. Scientists, stakeholders, students, and managers from across the world had congregated, and Climate Change unsurprisingly emerged as a focal challenge to be met. Along with expanding the amount of effectively protected marine and terrestrial areas, delegates also sought climate change action to reduce the stress upon the world’s ecosystems.
The final leader’s summit communiqué from the G20 at Brisbane pushed for continuing to finance adaptation and mitigation (i.e. the Green Climate Fund) as well as encouraging countries to have climate action commitments in place before the Paris COP21 in Nov/Dec 2015 (source https://www.g20.org/sites/default/files/g20_resources/library/brisbane_g20_leaders_summit_communique.pdf). An Action Plan for Voluntary Action on Energy Efficiency was tabled, urging countries to phase out inefficient and wasteful fossil fuel subsidies. Efficiency was stressed as going hand-in-hand with sustainable growth and development – which is important given that the G20 agreed upon a collective 2.1% GDP financial growth target by 2018.
An important message from G20 came from the member country leaders pushing for Climate Change to be included on the agenda, despite the host nation’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, preferring to exclude it. However, a distinction remains at these high-level meetings between discussions of economic growth and climate change action. Thus, while most leaders recognize the necessity of climate change action, the issue is still not receiving holistic consideration in tandem with the more traditional driving forces of global development.
Countries rising to the challenge of raising 10 billion
Following on the heels of the G20 summit, a high-level GCF pledging conference in Berlin, Germany was met with commitments by 21 countries that raised the total to 9.3 billion USD, (source http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49395#.VHCbgYtp6Mk) nearly reaching the fund’s target. The greatest contributions were from the United States (3 billion USD), Japan (1.5 billion USD), Norway (1.3 billion USD), France and Germany (1 billion USD each), however the significance of smaller countries’ additions – including four developing nations – cannot be ignored.
A day after the conference, Canada added a contribution of 265 million USD, bringing the GCF to 9.43 billion USD. This last addition was a pleasant surprise from a country that had remained largely quiet in pro-active climate change mitigation. The Canadian Minister for the Environment further stated that Canada’s federal government desired all major emitters to agree upon binding commitments at the Paris 2015 meeting. This sentiment may show that the impacts of the US/China and European Union’s rhetoric of ‘legally binding agreements’ are already pushing other countries to firm up the prose of their climate change discussions.
How does this tie in to international climate negotiations?
This surge of momentum in climate negotiations and finance mobilization following the G20 leads neatly into the 20th Conference of Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru this December 1st-12th. Now, capital generation must both continue and be complemented by effective implementation in order to realize its goals. This becomes more apparent when one considers that the GCF is only in it’s first round of fund-raising. In order to become a long-term, sustainable and effective finance mechanism, it is not only material contributions that are needed, but also intellectual property and effective guidance to develop the receiving nations’ sustainable infrastructure and adaptive capacity.
The UNFCCC’s plan for effective implementation – collaboration is key
In the draft text for Advancing the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, a guiding document for the upcoming COP 20 and beyond, the co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for enhanced action of the state the intention to continue pursing long term financing for developing countries in reference to Decision 1 from the 19th COP in Warsaw, Poland (source http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2013/cop19/eng/10a01.pdf#page=3). Developed nations are encouraged to ensure the effectiveness of the GCF’s initial implementation, in particular through supporting the development of adaptation capacity, and also to submit approaches to scale up financial contributions from 2014 to 2020 – such as through regularly recurring donations to the fund (source https://unfccc.int/documentation/documents/advanced_search/items/6911.php?priref=600008140; http://climatenetwork.org/sites/default/files/lima_english_web.pdf).
Furthermore, the group requests technical meetings in 2015 for the collaboration of the “Technology Executive Committee, Climate Technology Centre and Network, Executive Board of the clean development mechanism and the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism”, so that along with the Green Climate Fund operators they can effectively coordinate to provide support.
As the all-important 2015 COP 21 in Paris, France approaches, so does its accompanying deadline for setting firm climate change action goals. Accordingly, indications of the Green Climate Fund’s capacity to meet its goals will be found from COP20 all the way to Paris in these cooperative sessions, as well as in the extent of long-term financial, and logistical support committed by developed countries.
The past few weeks have seen declarations of support for the GCF at not only the G20 summit in Australia and GCF pledging conference in Berlin but also by countries riding on the momentum of these events. Challenges and uncertainties ahead are whether countries will commit enough long term, recurring contributions to the GCF for it to reach its goals, and if the effectiveness of the fund’s implementation can be maximized through international collaboration.