Reflections on COP 23 – Small steps in the right direction

Image of the hill with brown ground where most of the trees were cut or burned with a couple of trees and shades of green left. In the background there is still greenery and green hills

The latest annual meeting of COP 23, the UN Climate Change conference - was chaired by the tropical Republic of Fiji, but ironically, took place in a chilly Bonn.

After two weeks of negotiations, the general conclusion was that COP 23 did manage to meet its objectives. These are small steps in the right direction however, some of the more difficult issues are now left to be resolved at next year’s COP 24.

The meeting was a technical affair, with Parties putting together the details of how the Paris Agreement would work beyond 2020. Negotiations on the ‘Paris Rulebook’ countries have resulted in a number of informal papers which look at the key challenges on the path to mitigating and adapting to the changing climate, including finance, reporting and transparency. Next year will focus on editing the text, with a view to finalising the rulebook at COP 24. A number of contentious issues which have frequently divided developed and developing countries will need to be resolved before this goal can be achieved.

Show us the money

The Paris Agreement requires developed countries to report on how they intend to provide public funds to developing countries after 2020. Developing countries want their wealthier counterparts — who tend to be the countries who have contributed the most to climate change — to be much more specific about the climate finance they plan to provide. Not only are current levels of financing far below the $100 billion target but civil society groups have charged that so far, developed countries are prone to over counting the money they are putting forward. The decision on the nature of these reports and how finely their parametres can be defined to hold the developed countries accountable, will be taken at COP 24.

During the COP Standard and Poor's released a report questioning where the money would come from, citing a need for many countries to increase budgets and debt burdens to finance their pledges. "In our view, it is very unlikely that governments would be willing, or able, to risk deteriorating their creditworthiness by stretching their budgets and debt burdens to fund the implementation costs." It is clear to see that the spotlight will be firmly on the issue of finance in the lead up and during COP 24.

The role of climate change adaptation

Although climate change adaptation was frequently discussed during COP 23, no significant money appears to be forthcoming. With the Paris Agreement requiring a more equal balance between adaptation and mitigation funding there is clearly a massive funding gap. Many expressed disappointment, both with donors and with the financing mechanisms that support these types of efforts. In particular, there continues to be a lack of clarity on the long term future of the Adaptation Fund.

What is clear is that developed countries need a major overhaul in their thinking in order to plug this gap. This requires that they not only inject considerably more finance into adaptation but that they try to engage the private sector to stimulate further investment in climate change adaptation. A report from CPI shows that almost no private sector money goes into adaptation[1]. But private sector representatives are increasingly looking at ways they can work with governments and communities to promote adaptation efforts.

Looking ahead to COP 24, a number of issues which are pivotal to building trust and ensuring the success of future international climate negotiations will need to be discussed. However, at SNV we are hopefully that a lot can be achieved when there is a will to change and when you have the right actors engaged in this important debate. SNV will continue to be involved in these imperative discussions and will be actively playing its role by contributing in any way it can to help achieve global climate ambitions.

SNV side event panel discussion at COP23. A person is talking in the foreground. In the background there are people listening and a presentation slide about Strategies for Sustainable Impact

SNV side event panel discussion at COP23

During the COP SNV presented on our pioneering efforts around integrated energy planning and decentralised energy solutions during a side event. Such energy solutions support a more diversified energy mix in the face of growing climate and environmental threats. By setting a focus on market creation, we support a commercially viable, and thereby sustainable, way to achieve fairer, more resilient energy systems across the countries we work in.

To learn more about SNV’s presence at COP23 Please visit our COP23 webpage.

[1][1] Barbara Buchner, Padraig Oliver, Xueying Wang, Cameron Carswell, Chavi Meattle and Federico Mazza, Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2017 Published: October, 2017