Challenges and Achievement: Developing Countries’ Take on the Implementation of the Paris Agreement

By Jeffrey Qi

The Paris Agreement adopted at COP 21 in 2015 is a milestone for the continuation of countries’ efforts in combating climate change and the challenges it poses in regards to mitigation, adaptation, and global financing. This session on the implementation of the Paris Agreement from developing countries’ perspectives was hosted on 8 May by an intergovernmental research and analysis institution – South Centre – exploring developing countries’ takes on the goals set by the Agreement and the challenges in the implementation process of the accord.

The panelists included the Chief Negotiator of the Republic of India Ravi Prasad, Director of International Negotiations for the People’s Republic of China Zhihua Chen, and Environmental Policy Advisor of the Philippines and Chief Negotiator of the umbrella group ‘G77 plus China’ Bernaditas Muller. The penal was moderated by the representative from South Centre Mariama Williams.

Both Prasad and Chen noted that their respective countries are actively engaging in the further negotiation of the Paris Agreement in hopes to bring enhanced actions, better adaptation and mitigation, suitable capacity building, and fairer financing. There are, undoubtedly, immense challenges facing developing countries when comes to the full implementation of the Agreement. Most notably is the “common but differentiated responsibilities” set out by the Paris Agreement. Prasad noted that developed countries should provide support – both financial and technological – to developing countries to ensure a better trajectory of growth that yields almost the same economic productivity while maintaining a relatively low carbon footprint when compared to developed countries’ industrial development route. The primary focus for the Indian delegation for APA1-3 this year and the COP 23 coming up in October would be to advocate for better developing mechanisms for finance and capacity building transformation, and addressing a few concerns:

  • The 2020 commitments are not met by parties;
  • There are still parties have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol;
  • Modalities in regards to financing are not fulfilled by parties; and thus
  • The level of financing for climate action projects are very limited.

Chen agreed with Prasad and added that often developing countries lack the experience and a model to follow in regards to lowering carbon emissions. He emphasised that while developed countries had been able to enjoy the product of industrial revolution for almost a century, developing countries are still struggling to maintain high economic growth through industrialisation. He echoed the point made by Prasad that better technological transfer from developed to developing countries are urgently needed for the successful ratification and implementation of the Agreement through the adaptation of a “local solution” for combating climate change.

However, despite the challenges faced by India and China, both representatives shared an optimistic view on the Agreement and the international community’s’ efforts in combating climate change. Prasad mentioned the progress made by the Indian Government and the ambitious targets set to be achieved in the coming years. Notably, India pledges to create 2.5 to 3 billion metric tonnes of carbon sink (GtCO2e) by 2030 through enhanced forest cover, protection and rehabilitation. He noted that there is a large population of people in India that relies on forestry for a living and India will continue to promote a marginal increase in forest cover in accordance with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations.

Chen emphasised that “no matter what happens, the Chinese Government is determined to, and will fully implement the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol.” China, alike India, has been taking ambitious actions. In the Five Year Plan (FYP) 2010-2015, China achieved 21.8% carbon intensity reduction and has set the goal of an additional 15% reduction in its FYP 2015-2020, planning for a total of approximately 40% reduction by 2020, in accordance with the goals set out by UNFCCC regarding carbon intensity reduction (40-45% by 2020). And China is aiming for a total reduction of 62-65% by the year of 2030.

In summary, developing country parties are crucial in the implementation process of the Paris Agreement and the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. They are the driving force of bringing in real change in climate actions and contributing to the collective goal. Though facing much challenges and difficulties, developing country parties remain hopeful and optimistic; and with ambitious goals and cheering accomplishments already made, we are hopeful for the successful implementation and full adaptation of the Agreement with a future where no one is left behind.

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