Kigali paves way for Climate Change action
by Sandhya Jain on 01 Nov 2016 2 Comments
An ambitious agreement to phase out planet-warning hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), adopted during the ministerial level negotiations on the Montreal Protocol at Kigali, Rwanda (October 8-14, 2016), has given a major boost to international efforts to reduce mankind’s carbon footprint. HFC gasses are extensively used in the air-conditioning and refrigerant industries, and are 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat within the atmosphere and accelerating temperature rise. Their average lifespan in the atmosphere is about 5-10 years; phasing them out will produce immediate results.


The Kigali Amendments are the first real climate change test the world has passed since the signing of the Paris agreement earlier this year. Environmentalists have warned that if HFCs are not curtailed, it would be difficult to meet the Paris goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (around 1.5 degrees C) above pre-industrial levels.


The Kigali Amendments have two separate phase-down schedules for developing countries (Article 5) and for developed countries (Article 2). The A2 countries have agreed to a baseline of 2011-2013 with cuts in HFCs beginning in 2019. The A5 countries have agreed to two sub-groups with two different baselines. China, the largest consumer of HFCs, agreed to an early phase out with a baseline of 2020-2022 and freeze date of 2024; India moved from its earlier position of 2031 to 2024-2026 and freeze date of 2028.


This forced other developing countries to align with China’s 2020-2022 date or India’s 2024-2026. Experts estimate that eliminating HFCs by 2050 would prevent at least 0.5 degree of warming by 2100. The Kigali Amendments would require $6 billion to implement; nearly $80 million has been raised from developed countries and multilateral funds.


By bringing the Kigali Amendments under the Montreal Protocol, industry has been warned to start replacing these deadly chemicals with new generation climate-friendly and energy-efficient alternatives. India has made a major contribution to mitigation efforts by ordering the manufacturers of HFC 23, a by-product of another chemical used in the production of refrigerant gas, which adds massively to global warming, to capture and dispose of it at their own cost.


Coming to the Paris Agreement, 77 out of 191 countries that signed the Agreement have ratified it. New Delhi ratified it on 2 October 2016. The European Union followed on 5 October, and this achieved the threshold for entry into force (55 countries covering 55% of emissions). The Paris Agreement now enters into force on 4 November 2016.


Hopefully, further gains will be made at the twenty-second session of the Conference of Parties (CoP 22) and twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), at Marrakesh, Morocco, (November 7-18). The first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) is also being held in conjunction with CoP 22 and CMP 12.


But it is not a straight road ahead. At the Intersessional Conference in Bonn, in May 2016, many developed and developing countries returned to their traditional fault-lines; Marrakesh CoP will have to iron out their differences. Persuading countries to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) will be critical.


The Paris Agreement requires all parties to report regularly on their emission and implementation of NDCs, for international review. It permits flexibility to parties who need them due to capacity constraints and circumstances. But there are sharp differences regarding operationalization of differentiation in the transparency framework. Washington avers that Paris did not differentiate between developed and developing countries in the transparency framework. The European Union insists that flexibility could not be applied at a general level, and that differentiation should not cement differences.


Developing country groups like G77&China, Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), Arab Group, Africa Group, Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) insist that since the agreement is under common convention, it is subject to its central principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), and that common framework does not mean single framework; hence differentiation is obvious in the Paris Agreement. India believes that application of a common framework is against equity and will put additional burden on developing countries.


A critical issue before CoP 22 is whether NDCs refer only to mitigation or include adaptation efforts. Developing countries insist that NDCs should include adaptation measures for developing, LDCs and SIDS, and that developed countries must report financial assistance and technology provided to developing countries.


Developing countries assert that an effective transparency framework must nudge business and financial institutions to provide finance for climate change and technology, as they play a major role in negotiations. The framework should have clear guidelines on how they move investment in low carbon technology and resilience building in countries where they operate, and their response in the countries that lag in implementing their NDCs.


Expectedly, finance will be a major hurdle. From the goal of US $ 100 billion per year through 2025 when the target will be reviewed, 43 countries including 9 developing countries had pledged only US $ 10.3 billion by September 2016.


A critical agenda of developing countries at Marrakech is to ensure pre 2020 commitments of the developed country parties and ratification of the Doha Amendments. The Doha CoP extended the Kyoto Protocol after its first commitment period ended (2008-2012). The second commitment period runs from 2013 through 2020; they enter into force 90 days after three-fourth of the parties (144 countries) submit their ratification instruments.


Doha Amendments ask countries who took emission reduction commitments in the first period to reduce emission by 18% by 2020 on 1990 average. Besides the European Union, only 7 of the 38 countries in the first commitment period ratified Doha Amendments. Since many developed countries, including the European Union (28 nations, pre-Brexit), have already achieved their 2020 targets, they should declare enhanced ambition for pre 2020.


Unfortunately, the possibility of early entry into force of the Paris Agreement has led developed country parties to ratify the Paris Agreement without ratifying Doha Amendment. Ignoring the pre 2020 emission reduction will force developed countries to make rapid emission cuts post 2020, which will be more difficult and expensive. Moreover, the Annex 1 countries under Doha Amendments had agreed to provide US $ 30 billion till 2020, but have so far provided only one-third of this sum. Despite the obvious peril to mankind, fighting climate change remains a contentious and uphill task. The Marrakech CoP has an enviable task ahead.  

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