Climate Story Jeffrey Gogo
As Zimbabwe’s climate diplomat Washington Zhakata last week headed to Bangkok for the latest round of climate negotiations, he had only one thought on his mind: for the world to reach consensus on how to implement the landmark Paris accord on climate change.
“It is very important for Zimbabwe to follow up on the negotiations as guidelines and modalities for implementation of nationally determined contributions will be finalised,” Zhakata told The Herald Business, ahead of his departure.
The week-long talks were expected to take place in the Thai capital between September 4 to 9, as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s multi-lateral negotiations to halt climate damage.
Bangkok is the final leg of subsidiary negotiations that have been going on for about two years to design and agree a template for a book of rules to guide implementation of the Paris Agreement.
The rulebook, which aims to provide guidelines on how to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2°C in this century, has to be made ready for adoption by world leaders when they convene for the annual UN climate talks in Poland later this year. And that has to take place in Thailand.
Mr Zhakata’s frustrations are understandable. The last round of major negotiations on the rulebook in Bonn, Germany, in May got stuck. Negotiators couldn’t agree on the text necessary to set the Paris treaty off, when it eventually comes online two years from now.
Disagreements over finance and cutting carbon between wealthy countries in the West and those developing in Africa and elsewhere, re-emerged.
There was a general lack of urgency at the Bonn meeting that Zhakata, climate change director in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, wouldn’t want to see repeated in Bangkok. He said at the time: “It was the hope of the Zimbabwe delegation that finance negotiations would progress substantively in Bonn…but by the last day of this session, progress on finance has been dramatically slow.
“Negotiators spent ten days talking about how to accurately report past and future climate finance commitments, however, no conclusion was in sight on adopting robust standards,” Zhakata lamented.
Today, the veteran climate negotiator is hoping for speedier resolutions that help Zimbabwe achieve its goal of cutting emissions by about a third by 2030, mostly through increased and new spending in renewable energy, including solar and hydropower. To do that, it needs issues around finance to be finalised.
“The (Bangkok) negotiations are very critical,” Zhakata told this publication last week.
“Parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change will be discussing the finer details of the rulebook for implementation of the Agreement, ahead of the climate change summit scheduled for late November into early December where the heads of state are expected to endorse the rulebook, he said.
In order to speed up the signing of the Paris accord, delegates meeting for the 21st UN climate talks in France three years ago agreed to defer discussion on the complex technical details of the pact to a later date.
The first major meeting for this process was the one held in Bonn earlier this year. It was held under the Talanoa Dialogue, a multi-stakeholder platform launched at the last UN climate negotiations in the same Germany city last November.
The Dialogue aims to review progress, and to lift ambition for curbing emissions, in line with, or beyond, the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. One of its major expected outcomes is the rulebook.
The idea is to come up with a book of rules that effectively limits carbon emissions from human activity, to the extent that can be tolerated by trees, oceans and soil, the natural sinks of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and to be transparent about it.
But Bonn failed to deliver on the promise of clear outlines for the envisaged draft texts of the book.
Hoping for a show of greater ambition from industrialised countries to curb emissions more deeply before 2020, Africa received no commitments from the rich to do so.
Negotiations around the $100 billion per year pledge stalled.
Richer nations backtracked on a number of issues at Bonn, including matters around annual reviews of existing pledges.
This is now all left for Bangkok. Indeed no mean task.
To iron out issues to do with operationalising the Paris pact as quickly as possible, issues around climate finance, transparency and accountability, issues on five-year interval stock-taking of country pledges, all of that and more inside just six days.
And with the pro-change climate change Malcom Turnbull recently ousted from his post as Australian prime minister, and replaced by an anti-climate change figure, it looks likely more emissions commitments will follow the ruinous path of the US under Trump, to exit the Paris accord.
It’s not yet started to feel like Africa, after being coerced into taking on pledges to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement, a treaty often lauded by the West as inclusive, has been sold another dummy. It may start to feel this way very soon.
In Bangkok, Zimbabwe’s team of negotiators include experts from the Office of President and Cabinet, Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, officers from Parliament, banks and the civil society.
God is faithful.