South Asia must draw global heed at Lima to its climate vulnerability, say experts

South Asia must draw global heed at Lima to its climate vulnerability, say experts

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Saleem Shaikh

LIMA, Peru: South Asian countries together at the two-week UN-led global climate talks must demand for money, transfer of technology and technical know-how for adaptation to cope with common impacts of climate change, particularly floods, say experts from the South Asia region.

They say that the countries – only when together – can be able to push rich nations with force to include adaptation and finance commitments in their national offers of actions they are set to put forward next year as an integral part of a new global climate treaty to be signed at Paris in 2015.

This time there are explicit signs that the South Asian already stand together to achieve global attention to the region’s vulnerability to the climate change impacts, said Dhaka-based Saleemul Huq, said Saleemul Huq, an advisor at the Lima talks for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group, representing nearly 50 of the world’s poorest countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

He said, “South Asian countries at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu in the last week of Nov 2014 have already showed that they are united by vowing to give a united call at Lima climate conference for increased response to their adaptation money and clean technology needs and a legally binding climate pact by 2015.”

The eight SAARC countries’ leaders during the two-day meeting had called on global leaders to commit to a legally binding agreement by 2015, saying that the region has been gravely impact by the climate change. The thirty five-point declaration issued at the summit underscored climate change as a severe threat for the region’s socio-economic stability.

“There is the urgency for the global community to arrive at a Protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all by the end of 2015,” the SAARC declaration stated.

Irfan Tariq, a member of Pakistan’s official delegation at Lima, says that we all South Asian countries here are trying to show our mega presence here in support with all regional government delegations and civil society members achieve global attention to the region’s vulnerability to climate change-induced disasters.

“Temperature projections for the region for the twenty-first century indicate a substantial rise in warming over that observed in the twentieth century. Recent modelling experiments show the warming would be significant in Himalayan Highlands including the Tibetan Plateau and arid regions of Asia,” he said.

The South Asian countries should also emphasis that temperature increase must remain below 2 degree Celsius, the experts stressed.

Any climate change deal that is taking us straight to beyond 2 degree Celsius of warming will cause untold problems of hunger, starvation, disasters and conflicts in the region. It is no way in interest of interest of the region and must not be accepted,” Haq said.
The LDCs believe the process toward a new climate treaty must provide incentives for ambitious contributions, clarify the concept of intended nationally determined contributions.

“With 9.7 billion USD already pledged in Green Climate Fund, ministers in Lima should agree to collectively draw up a global climate finance roadmap towards 2020 elaborating on the scaling up of public finance through to 2020, instruments of finance to be deployed, and channels/sources and sectorial distribution between adaptation and mitigation. However, it is important that 50 percent of this finance is allocated for adaptation,” said Sanjay Vashist, Climate Action Network South Asia.

But Haq said that besides the money it is equally important for the developing countries including the South Asian ones to acquire the technology, technical-know to effectively adapt to climate change and deal with its impacts.

“For, most of the [countries] can’t do that on their own and need assistance,” he said on the sidelines of the launch of the UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report 2014 last week in Lima.

New Delhi-based Harjeet Singh, international coordinator for climate adaptation at the charity ActionAid, said that the regional countries, when together, can be able to press on the rich nations at Lima to commit to a legally binding agreement by 2015 pay more for their (developing countries’) adaptation needs.

“The region can also want to see with surety that governments’ actions and investments in adapting to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather and rising seas, are incorporated in their national contributions to a 2015 deal.

And, this would indeed help elevate adaptation profile in the climate change negotiations,” Singh argued.

Treating adaptation as a key part of national contributions, Singh stressed, should not be allowed to be substitute for emission-cutting commitments by the developed countries, particularly US and EU.

Kathmandu-based Manjeet Dhakal, Programme Director at Clean Energy Nepal, told during the side event that the South Asian countries must push for getting the adaptation declared as a pillar of new agreement to be ratified in Paris next year and enforced in 2020.

“The regional countries and other developing countries do need a support and capacity for hammering out adaptation plans and finances to put these plans into action,” he underlined.

International Renewable Energy Agency’s Director-General, ‎Adnan Z. Amin, says that the energy-deficient South Asia will account for a substantial share of global energy demand growth in the next two decades. However, this presents both tremendous opportunity and major risk depending on the choices made by the regional countries.

“The opportunity is that significant regional renewable energy resources‎ could meet the region’s energy needs while driving economic growth, employment generation and sustainable development. The risk is that the slide back to polluting fossil fuels, especially coal, will lead to a spike in local pollution and harmful emissions that could negatively impact international efforts on climate change,” he told this reporter.

In South Asia – where half of its 1.5 billion population is without electricity and which adversely affects the efforts to reduce poverty and create better opportunities for all – access to clean and renewable energy is a key to sustaining economic growth and improving social services.

“Clean and renewable energy technology in the region can bridge the energy gap, boost sustainable economic growth, alleviate poverty, create millions of new jobs and lead to environmentally sustainable way of powering South Asia’s growing urbanisation,” said Arshad H. Abbasi, energy and water expert at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, a non-government research think-tank in Islamabad.

However, he said, at Lima the South Asian ministers must press on rich countries to play their part for transfer of technology and technical know-how to their region as a part of adaptation to help the region accelerate shift from fossil fuels to the renewables for energy generation.

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About author

Saleem Shaikh

saleemzeal@gmail.com

The writer is a guest speaker on climate change and disaster reporting at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) – Islamabad. He is also a media trainer, freelance climate change and development science writer.