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TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Nov07/03)

9 November 2007


Climate workshop discusses Southeast Asia's concerns

Published in SUNS #6358 dated 5 November 2007

A Southeast Asian regional workshop on climate change was held in Kuala Lumpur on 29-30 October to prepare countries for the meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali in December.

Serious concerns raised included the lack of implementation of technology transfer to developing countries, and grossly inadequate financial resources. Also stressed by some government representatives were the need for facilities and human skills to collect and interpret climate data in poor countries, and the need to implement adaptation projects which require massive funding.

There were around 400 participants at the workshop on "Reducing the Threats and Harnessing the Opportunities of Climate Change", which was organised by the Malaysian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.

Below is a report of the conference, which was published in the South North Development Monitor (SUNS) on 5 November 2007.

With best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN


Climate workshop discusses Southeast Asia's concerns
Published in SUNS #6358 dated 5 November 2007
By Meenakshi Raman
Kuala Lumpur, 2 Nov 2007

A Southeast Asian regional workshop on climate change was held in Kuala Lumpur on 29-30 October to prepare countries for the meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali in December.

Lack of implementation of technology transfer to developing countries, and grossly inadequate financial resources were identified as serious concerns. Also stressed by some government representatives were the need for facilities and human skills to collect and interpret climate data in poor countries, and the need to implement adaptation projects which require massive funding.

Government officials from Southeast Asian countries were among around 400 participants at the workshop on "Reducing the Threats and Harnessing the Opportunities of Climate Change", which was organised by the Malaysian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.

The conference discussed a wide range of topics including the economics of climate change, transition to a low, sustainable carbon economy, understanding the impact of sea-level rise, sustainable transport policy and current concerns on international climate change negotiations.

In a keynote speech, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, described climate change, its effects and how best to manage these phenomena as "perhaps the most momentous challenge of our time."

Not since the Cold War has there been a threat as profound, such that it renders the price of inaction too great to contemplate, said Najib. Given the mounting scientific evidence and potential economic impacts, the stark reality is that climate change, if left unchecked, "presents a clear and present danger to mankind's common future", he said.

Stressing that climate change will spare no country, he described how Malaysia had already experienced devastating floods in recent years. "Climate change will not only influence the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, but also has adverse impacts on agricultural yields, biodiversity, forests, availability of clean water and increases in diseases such as malaria and dengue fever," he said. It also leads to forced migration as sea level rises and coastal and low-lying areas become flooded.

Stressing the need for international cooperation, Najib called for a "fair, effective and implementable" post-Kyoto framework, guided by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the "polluter pays" principle and the precautionary principle.

"It is also important to realize that countries will commit themselves to the climate efforts at the international level only if such efforts are congruent with those of national interests," he added.

"Thus, the countries' level of development, development priorities, natural resources and political structure will influence whether they are able to implement climate change efforts. In practical terms, this means that different types of targets, fixed, conditional and sectoral will have to be put in place so that all countries can participate effectively.

"However, such national efforts need to be complemented at the international level by efforts from developed countries to provide capacity building, technology and finance to developing countries."

The deputy premier pointed to lifestyle change and personal carbon rationing as important parts of the solution. He said that climate change provides an opportunity to "reexamine our lifestyle" and that "without a long hard look at how we consume the world's resources at micro level, we will not be able to start a sustainable effort to reverse climate change."

He referred to suggestions to have personal carbon rationing, which is supported by the equity principle of equal shares for everyone, saying: "As part of a global agreement, per capita rationing would ensure that people would only be liable to pollute up to their equal rations and beyond that, they would have to buy credits from those who have not utilized their rations fully. The whole idea of personal carbon rationing is to ensure that people adjust their lifestyles to less carbon intensive ways."

The Malaysian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr. Azmi Khalid, pointed out that developing countries have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions, but are likely to be affected most. Moreover, developing countries lack the institutional, economic and financial capacity to cope with climate change.

This situation of the developing countries was described as a "double inequity", in terms of responsibility and in terms of impacts, by Su-Lin Garbett, Economic Advisor, International Stern Review Strategy Team at the Office of Climate Change, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), United Kingdom.

Summarising the results of the Stern Review, (which was commissioned by the UK Treasury to look at the economics of climate change), she stressed that the costs of action (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change) would be less than the costs of inaction.

Speaking on "current concerns on the climate negotiations", Mr. Chow Kok Kee, the current chair of the Expert Group on Technology Transfer set up under the UNFCCC (and chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice from 1997 to 1999), stressed that a key way forward is to promote cooperation among parties through reducing suspicion and building confidence through "concrete work."

One example is to provide technology transfer to developing countries, which he said was lacking as the developed countries prefer to maintain the current status quo. He gave examples of how technology transfer was being hindered.

Chow also painted a disappointing picture on the situation regarding provision of financial resources under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, with little resources made available and financial structures bogged down by negotiations and lack of action.

Similarly, there has been little progress on capacity building in developing countries as the UNFCCC is not an implementing agency.

Many national initiatives by developing countries at their own costs must be recognized and further encouraged through financial and technological support, he suggested.

[A more detailed account of Chow's presentation will be reported in a separate article in the next issue of the SUNS.]

A final panel discussion on "Climate Change Negotiations: The Way Forward" which was chaired by Dr. Raman Letchumanan (head of the environment division at the ASEAN Secretariat) heard the views of government officials from 5 ASEAN countries.

Singapore's representative said there is an expectation that in dealing with the climate issue, there should not be a "one size fits all" approach as countries are at different levels, for example some are manufacturing-intensive, while others are based on agriculture or services.

The core principle of common but differentiated responsibilities must be respected and must take into account national circumstances, added Singapore. It is heartening that developed countries are taking lead. We must ensure that climate change concerns do not affect the economic growth of developing countries. There should be no gap between the first and second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol.

Thailand's representative said that in relation to the negotiations, there should be efforts to build sub-regional evidence-based studies on the impacts of climate change, which is key for policy makers to formulate their positions.

The way forward is to support the establishment of a mechanism for regional coordination and for a regional expert group to support the parties to reduce impact of greenhouse gas emissions and to exchange information.

Thailand suggested that the ASEAN Secretariat be the focal point to support members and for technology transfer. Countries can work together in respect of the clean development mechanism to promote emission-reduction technologies and promote countries' capacity in sustainable practices.

The Philippines' representative said that the country had concerns over attempts to place mandatory emission-reduction targets for developing countries.

The representative from Vietnam stressed the issue of adaptation. He said adaptation funding should be a key priority of the negotiations, as it is key to poverty reduction and sustainable development. There is need to urgently explore adaptation funding needs. This will amount to tens of billions of dollars but so far only a few hundred million dollars are available from voluntary sources, and thus a huge gap exists.

The representative from Laos said that as an LDC his country faced many challenges such as in the observation and collection of climate data. The country lacked climate observation stations with adequate facilities.

Laos said it needed human resource capacity building, as it lacked human resources in the area of climate. The country needs to develop its capacity by establishing climate observation facilities, processing tools and the use of climate models. It called for support to enable it to establish the tools and facilities for climate observation stations. Training of staff to have skills for observation of events is also needed.

During question time, a representative of an Asian-based NGO pointed out, in response to concerns that there should not be mandatory emission cuts for developing countries, that implied targets are already being proposed.

She said that the current EU proposal is for a global target of 50% reduction by 2050 compared to 1990 levels and for a target of reductions by developed countries of 60-80% by 2050.

Since developed and developing countries have around the same shares of global emissions, then a 70% emission-reduction target for developed countries would mean that developing countries would have to cut their emissions by 30%, and if their population doubles, then the developing countries would need to cut their emissions by 65% per capita, she said.

In response to this, Dr. Raman from the ASEAN Secretariat agreed that if a global target was set for greenhouse-gas emissions reduction, and a target for developed countries is also set, the residual cuts will have to be undertaken by the developing countries.

At the closing, Mr. Sazmi Miah, Parliamentary Secretary to the Malaysian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said that the conference leaves little doubt that climate change is the most serious environmental problem facing mankind today.

Collaboration at national, regional and global levels is absolutely vital in arresting this phenomenon, he said. In spite of its weaknesses, the Kyoto Protocol remains an important first step upon which we should build the post -2012 regime. At the very least, the post- 2012 regime should build on and expand on the four important building blocks of mitigation, adaptation, access to technology for developing countries and investment and finance for mitigation and adaptation.

He added that mitigation is important because it is always better to solve something at its source than to adapt to changes that are already underway.

The Inter-governmental panel on climate change had indicated that global emission would need to peak within 10 to 15 years and be reduced to below half of what there were in 2000 no later than 2050 to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations. All future capital investment must follow sustainable development pathways to ensure that we bring climate change under control.

On adaptation, he said it is time to give greater attention to this issue as in the past, mitigation had occupied much of the time and efforts of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

Adaptation should include rehabilitation since many countries are increasingly being affected by natural disasters that have severe financial consequences due to their greater frequency in recent times. Future work on adaptation should focus mainly on how to support adaptation by integrating it into national development plans and improving access to financial resources, technology and capacity building.

On technology development and transfer, which is a vital building block in a post-2012 framework, there must be demonstrable progress in utilization of latest technologies in dealing with climate change, said Sazmi.

"It is disheartening to note that technology transfer to developing countries has not occurred even after Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs) have been conducted. This is particularly serious in the case of the most vulnerable countries such as Bangladesh and Tuvalu," he said.

"Mechanisms that can promote the development and transfer of technologies must be implemented without further delay in order to ensure that forced migration does not occur as this will bring along with it, security problems on a regional and even global scale. The excuse that technology belongs to private firms should not be used to block technology transfer. Governments in developed countries can work out special arrangements with their private firms on how to ensure technology transfer to developing countries."

Sazmi added that "investment and finance" is the most important building block since both mitigation and adaptation depends on it. It has been estimated that US$200-210 billion is needed to return emissions to current levels by 2030. The money needed for adaptation also runs into billions of dollars.

Much finance will go towards funding of new physical assets that are environment friendly. In this respect, the role of the three Kyoto Mechanisms - Joint Implementation, Emissions Trading and Clean Development Mechanism - are especially important.

However, it is important to think of other financial arrangements that can be used to finance climate friendly physical projects, and the use of private sector financing should be explored further, he said.

Implementing climate change projects are now important, since we are past the stage of discussing the science of climate change, he concluded.

(* With inputs from Lim Li Ching.)  

 


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