Speak up for the needs of the country at COP26

Recalling the Paris Agreement: A demonstrator in Frankfurt, Germany, carries a globe with a model of the Paris Eiffel Tower referencing the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming. — AFP

DURING a public webinar on climate change on Sept 16 hosted by the Environment and Water Ministry, a lot of good information on what Malaysians needed to know about the topic was provided.

While most of the information presented was valuable, there were some glaring errors about the fundamentals of the Paris Agreement (PA).

It was conveyed that under the PA, a carbon budget is allocated to every country, each country has to make a declaration, and that since Malaysia is a non-Annex 1 country (of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), we are not given the budget as we are considered small and therefore not much carbon is allocated.

This is inaccurate because the PA does not allocate a carbon budget to every country. Instead, all countries are required to undertake and communicate a nationally-determined contribution (NDC). This essentially means that countries are at liberty to declare what they deem feasible. This is called the bottom-up approach.

In the run-up to negotiations that led to the PA, some key developing countries proposed the adoption of “equitable access to atmospheric space approach”, taking into account the historical and current emissions of every country.

The proposal did not see the light of day due to opposition from the developed world, particularly the United States, which was very opposed to taking stock of their historical emissions, as this would mean they would have the major portion of responsibility to reduce emissions for occupying the atmospheric space beyond their reasonable and fair share.

So, before the Malaysian delegation goes into negotiations at COP 26, they should know and understand the negotiating history and the North-South battles over the delicate balance achieved in Paris, including the various obligations that developed and developing countries have, and their nuances.

There are so many critical issues being advanced by developed countries that are bound to further exacerbate the inequities between developed and developing countries. These include net zero emissions for all countries by 2050 and carbon market mechanisms with offsets linked to nature-based solutions in developing countries.

By right, developed countries should leave the remaining atmospheric space to the developing world and aim for full decarbonisation in a far shorter time frame. If they continue to emit and occupy more atmospheric space for the next 30 years, the PA’s global temperature rise limit objective cannot be met.

The Malaysian delegation to COP 26 must be well prepared to counter such moves. This requires understanding the fundamentals of the PA and the need to build alliances with other developing countries to prevent the further shifting of obligations to the developing world.

The developed world should also be held accountable for their failure in mobilising the US$100bil per year finance target, which was agreed in 2010 at Cancun, to enable more climate action in the developing world and a clean and sustainable development trajectory with technology transfer by 2020. A new collective goal on finance based on the actual needs of developing countries has to be agreed by 2025 with the US$100bil as the floor amount.

MEENAKSHI RAMAN , President , Sahabat Alam Malaysia

(This letter is endorsed by 18 other like-minded organisations including Greenpeace Malaysia.)

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