Egypt’s Position For COP18 Explained

climate change, COP 18, Egypt, Palestinian Territory, UN

The last global climate meetings weren’t considered very successful in finding an acceptable successor to the Kyoto-protocol, one with emission targets that would include all the countries and not only developed ones. China recently became the world’s biggest emitter, and it will be hard to limit the temperature variation if the developing world, and more specifically the emerging economies, are left out.

At the end of this month, the global climate change conference will be held in Doha, and as an impetus, Cairo Climate Talks organised a discussion between Dr. Karsten Sach, a German negotiator, and his Egyptian counterpart Ambassador Ahmed Ihab Gamaleldin, deputy assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs. In their discussion and a follow up interview, Ambassador Ihab Gamaleldin revealed much about Egypt’s position for Doha’s COP18 conference.

But it isn’t simple; Dr. Ihab Gamaleldin argues that “there is a difference between the historic emissions and the current emissions. The African countries haven’t contributed to climate change and reductions imposed today could deny them from their right to develop.”

A long-term solution

Gamaleldin, along with the G77, the group of developing countries, stresses the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” one of the guiding principles of the first Rio summit in 1992.

Throughout the last global climate summits, this principle was used to build a consensus that by 2020, both the developing and the developed countries would be legally obliged to diminish their emissions with a different target for both groups.

To safeguard the developing countries’ right to develop, a mechanism would be built in to finance the extra costs of the low-carbon growth path of the developing countries. This long-term plan, dubbed the Long-term Cooperative Action plan, should be agreed on by 2015.

In this plan, the rich countries who can afford costly but less polluting technology would sponsor the extra costs these technologies bring upon the developing countries.  This money is needed because, as Dr. Ihab Gamaleldin puts it, “to lower our carbon emissions we’ll have to replace technology that now costs us 100 euros with technology that might cost us 100,000 euros”.

Most of the developing countries’ pollution comes from outdated factories or improvised household solutions, such as cooking stoves that use fossil fuels.  These solutions are used because they are cheap while the climate friendly clean tech that should replace them is capital intensive.

climate change, COP 18, Sudan,

According to Susann Scherbath, a climate campaigner for the international environmental organization ‘Friends of the Earth,’ “The EU should reduce its emissions by at least 40% domestically by 2020.  This is feasible, she says, but a higher effort would be complicated to achieve without including ‘false solutions’ like nuclear energy, unsustainable biomass and underground carbon storage.”

This is not enough to stop climate change or to fulfil the EU’s historical responsibility in causing climate change, says Scherbath.  “In addition, they should facilitate appropriate technology transfer and support financially the developing countries.”

Green Climate Fund

Scherbath explains that this money should be allocated to developing countries by the Green Climate Fund (GCF). “Developed nations should fuel this fund to finance adaptation, mitigation, and facilitate technology transfer with 100 billion dollar annually,” she says, although it is still unclear where the money should come from.

She adds that the GCF created a couple of years ago is an empty pot at this point.

‘The EU has put forward some Fast Start Funding but not a sufficient sum,” she emphasizes. The aim of the Fast Start Funding, the GCF’s predecessor, was to kick-start the developing countries’ efforts and US$30 billion  was pledged to fund environmental projects between 2010 and 2012.

Lama El Hatow, a climate activist for IndyAct, a group of independent climate activists, adds that “there are big concerns about the money in this Green Climate Fund, the big countries want to tag it as ‘development aid,’ but this money should be new and additional as opposed to being recycled money.”

She explains that, at this point, no one has seen one cent of the money that was pledged to the Fast Start Funding.  “Also who would operate the fund?” she wonders. “Developed countries proposed the World Bank and the Global Environmental Fund, while the developing countries hope this can be done by the United Nations’ Environmental Program or the UNFCCC United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Much to the dismay of the developing countries, Europe released a proposal to finance this Green Climate Fund with carbon taxes, loans from the development banks like the World Bank or European Investment Bank and money from the private sector.

“We don’t want to lend money for this,” says Gamaleldin. First we had an agreement about technology transfer, and now they told us to rely on the private sector, although we all know that the private sector will never be willing to finance adaptation measures.”

So, while the framework might already be shaped, resolving the modalities behind the Green Climate Fund might be crucial to move to a credible long-term climate agreement.

Unilateral measures anger developing countries

During the discussion, Gamaleldin was particularly harsh about Europe’s unilaterally imposed Carbon Tax on airlines.

According to Lama El Hatow, “aviation is directly linked to tourism, and tourism is Egypt’s most important economic sector, so Egypt may lobby to get compensation for this.”

The carbon tax, which is opposed by China and India, “belittled the power of the UNFCCC by overriding its consensus model, but on the other hand also created a shock, and gave the dormant negotiations a new impulse.”

desert, Mauritania, COP 18, climate change, Kyoto

In a run-up to the climate change negotiations, on Monday European Commissor Connie Hedegaard showed the EU’s willingness to negotiate a global Carbon Tax on airlines by announcing that the taxation would be postphoned to 2013.

This issue has two sides, says El Hatow. “No taxes should be imposed on developing countries, as they have a right to development. But at the same time big businesses avoid reducing their carbon footprint by opening up in developing countries that have less stringent rules.”Gamaleldin points to “attempts to use climate change as an excuse to protect trade or agriculture.”  The US and EU have tried to impose trade tariffs on products coming from countries who impose less strict regulation.

Moreover, making the right technologies available to developing countries requires a big effort in terms of technology transfer, as these climate-friendly technologies are heavily patented. But there is “a complete refusal to talk about intellectual property rights” according to Dr. Ihab Gamaleldin.

The political situation in the Arab region has changed a lot in recent months, also in terms of climate change.  The Saudi negotiators have always been notorious for their harsh stances, and while they were in the past recruited directly from the Ministry of Petroleum, after Durban these were suddenly replaced by more respected negotiators.

This climate summit is a test for the Arab world’s credibility.  Because of these past experiences, some observers have dubbed the Doha COP18, the ‘Saudi COP’. And now, according to El Hatow, “Qatar seems to be especially keen to show the rest of the world that it’s position will be quite progressive and independent”.

And it’s not only the governments that care. Last weekend the Arab Youth Climate Coalition organised a day of climate action, with conferences and marches throughout the region, from Bahrain to Mauritania.

The possible outcome of the conference is impossible to predict, but while Dr. Ihab Gamaleldin and Dr. Karsten Sach were focussing on the big long-term framework that should be agreed by 2015, Lama thinks “Qatar’s presidency will focus on extending the Kyoto-protocol.”  So don’t be surprised. And while this agreement represents an increasingly smaller part of global emissions, Canada, Japan and Russia withdrew in 2011, “this agreement also shapes the long-term framework, as a lot of the mechanisms in both agreements will be identical”, Lama El Hatow concludes.

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