The Global South’s predicament in the climate negotiations

 As a wake-up call, does anyone else reckon we should send Annex1 negotiating parties for the next COP to heavily devastated countries due to the climate change?

Human-induced climate change continues to increase and demands immediate action in order to lessen further damages and costs. Historically, it were the industrialised countries which produced most of the greenhouse gases (GHG) causing irreversible negative environmental, health and social impacts particularly in the developing countries of the world with minimal or almost no emissions at all. Some of these GHG are still present in the atmosphere and continues to wreak havoc worldwide. Since it is a global concern which must be dealt with by all countries, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an international environmental treaty was produced. Later on, the Kyoto protocol (KP) was adapted specifying the maximum amount of emissions allowed for the member states particularly for the industrialised countries and the target to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels1. However, the second commitment period under the KP stating targets between 25-40% below 1990 levels is still yet to be signed and we have to aim for 1.5°C maximum global mean average increase compared to pre-industrial levels. Not to mention that we have to ratify a fair, ambitious and binding agreement before May 2015.

In order to meet the targets, three market-based mechanisms can be chosen from: Clean Development Mechanism, emissions trading, and Joint Implementation. The latter two mechanisms, however, apply more to developed countries. Monitoring tools such as registry systems, reporting, and a compliance system are likewise necessary to check if the emission targets are being met. Of utmost importance though is to ensure the environmental integrity of these mechanisms, especially, the CDM by ensuring that the projects are additional as well as by avoiding double counting otherwise market-based mechanisms will prove to be false solutions! Last COP17 in Durban, the negotiating parties agreed to form a Durban Platform to complement the existing mechanisms. However, progress is moving at a very slow pace since parties are still re-negotiating already concluded sessions and issues in COP17 i.e. Ad-hoc Working Group on Durban Platform (ADP) and Long-Term Cooperative Action (LCA). Furthermore, some parties fail to present their carbon budgets i.e. QEL-ROs e.g. Ukraine, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Russia and the US. Now, how are we going to resolve the equity/CBRD discussions?

Some countries in the Global South, like the Philippines, are still facing many issues and constraints within both adaptation and mitigation measures, but particularly, within programs on greenhouse gas emission reduction due to the inaccessible and unaffordable technologies preferred e.g. utilisation of renewables in power production2. The Philippines, as many other countries, is also too dependent on imported fuel and needs to explore indigenous, renewable and cleaner sources of energy3. One way of supporting the Global South in mitigating and adapting is through the transfer of technology; however, the current discussions during intersessional UNFCCC meetings have shown that the reports and funding are incomplete. We likewise have to be wary of this being another capitalistic endeavour for profit-vested manufacturers. Of equal importance, in terms of support, is the Green Climate Fund (GCF) where new and additional finance is needed. The annual 100US$ billion promise made in Copenhagen and Cancún as well as the Start-up Finance of at least $10-15 billion in new public finance for the GCF over 2013-2015 might remain as empty promises.

Secondly, a number of developing and developed countries alike need to promote policies redirecting energy sector investments towards energy efficiency, accelerated promotion of renewable energy systems and supporting local/community-based sustainable energy initiatives. Policies proposing strategies to mitigate greenhouses gases emissions, strategies to confront the country’s vulnerability and adaptation measures for affected sectors like coastal dwellers, agriculture, coastal and freshwater areas are lacking. For instance, the Philippine Agenda 21 did not highlight the country’s vulnerability despite its minor contribution to the global warming hence there were no accurate strategies proposed for mitigation and adaptation.

Going back to CDM, its structure does not accurately match the national accounting systems of all parties since it relies on a system of international controls to ensure that the actual overall emission reduction targets are achieved. CDM in reality depends on ensuring the projects in developing countries reduce emissions below a hypothetical baseline. It also permits Annex B Parties to increase their overall allowed emissions because of the ‘credits’ earned from the reductions in the developing countries. The greatest weakness of this architecture is the mixing of fossil carbon emissions and organic carbon stocks, generating credits from so called ‘carbon sinks’, which result in more fossil carbon being introduced into the biosphere in the name of emissions reductions. Instead, EU and other A1 parties must push forward financing a performance-based action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) to contribute to closing the mitigation gap for 2020. Likewise, it does not make sense to include this sector as offsets in industrial emission trading markets.

Furthermore, previous assessments on some developing country’s mitigation potential have been shown and yet remain untapped. Additional initiatives on assessment and subsequent identification of greenhouse gas abatement projects should be carried out. If only the ETS auctioning revenues as well as those from new sources of public finance, e.g. financial transaction tax or shipping/aviation levies, would be earmarked for financing climate action in developing countries from 2013 then there would be higher chances to have everyone on the same boat! The full potential of the energy sector, for instance, has to be yet determined. It could be that there are obstructive tactics to significantly reduce emissions. For instance, creating ‘sinks’ in forests, plants and soils, will only shift the burden of reducing emissions to future generations. The Kyoto Protocol was supposed to reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and not divert some political or financial resources away through mechanisms to avoid reductions. In terms of pledges, the EU should strive for a 40% domestic CO2 emissions reductions target for 2020 in order to lessen further climate-induced impacts on the Global South.

Integration efforts and institutional capacity are also lacking. While there have been previous undertakings on GHG mitigation and abatement, it has been proposed to integrate efforts stipulated in the sectorial plans and the Medium Term Development Plan of the Philippines as well as those proposed by some projects to be able to come up with one mitigation strategy. This should be done in the context of development in the climate change negotiations as well as build and strengthen the capacity of implementing institutions whereby a policy and institutional framework should be drawn up. Training in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy, and as well as in use of planning models is needed. Networks of information centres should be established to facilitate easy access and flow of information.

Finally, the varying perspectives of parties towards a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement seemingly limit its full efficient implementation. Developing countries feel that the cutback on GHG asked of industrialised countries is too low. There is a need to cap the emissions in order to prevent the expected untoward events once the temperature will increase to more than 2 degrees. According to the most recent IPCC report, we only have less than 5 years left to take action in order to avoid irreversible negative impacts of climate change. If we are to close the gigatonne gap between scientific findings and the current pledges of the parties, we must call for higher level of climate ambition commitments. The Philippines, like many developing countries, feels the inadequacy and even the unfairness of the Protocol. It is seen as co-opting the whole world into accepting responsibility for the atmospheric crisis while it asks too little of the countries which have mainly brought about the situation in the first place.

The signatories of the UNFCCC, particularly the developing countries, should also have a policy mix catering to their needs and situation while stressing the importance of an inclusive participatory process in the formulation of the strategies for addressing the greenhouse gases problems. Many of the critical elements for addressing climate change are already integrated in the action plans and strategic measures that have been identified and submitted to the COPs. Now, could we just stop the delaying tactics of discussions over the procedure and start aiming for the carbon reduction pledges?! It is however necessary to invest in developing infrastructures vital to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions. Its importance in sectors where GHG are significant, such as the energy and transport sectors, cannot be understated and should be used alongside initiatives that provide access to improving technologies and enhance capacity-building.

Moreover, capacity-building continues to be vital in the implementation process of these action plans. Key areas for capacity development are in the areas of capacity initiatives for participatory approaches, institutional strengthening, resource mobilization, in particular for GEF funding, and most importantly on the scientific field. The role of science, research and development and monitoring and evaluation are critical capacities which countries need to address.

By and large, despite the constraints, several developing countries have wilfully exerted its efforts in the pursuit of complying to the Kyoto Protocol as Non-Annex 1 parties. This only shows the Global South’s commitment towards equity and a safer planet not only for us but for the next generations to come. Through cooperation and continuous interaction with various related international conventions and conferences, such commitments could be strengthened and intensified.


1 The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [Internet]. November 2012.

2 Merilo G. A. Greenhouse gas mitigation strategies: the Philippine experience. Workshop on Good Practices in Policies and Measures, October 8-10, 2001. Copenhagen.

3 Danish 92 Rio+10 Project Philippines, 2002

IACC (1999). The Philippines Initial National Communication on Climate Change. InterAgency Committee on Climate Change, Manila, Philippines.

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report 2007.

Energy [r]evolution. A Sustainable World Energy Outlook. 2007.