Opinionista Edna Molewa 14 December 2014

Wanted: Equity in climate financing

Owing to a variety of factors, not least the economic crisis in developed countries, the issue of climate financing has become a contested terrain. To manage the risk posed by climate change for millions of vulnerable people across Africa, significant investment in resilience and adaptation will be necessary. How are we going to manage it?

The negotiations this week at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP20) in Lima, Peru, have set the stage for achieving a global agreement ahead of Paris in 2015.

While there are many pillars in the negotiations; finance is considered the main element under the means of implementation.

It is directly linked to the level of action envisaged to be taken by developing countries to deal with climate change challenges – both on adaptation and mitigation.

The reality is that without the necessary financial and technology support, meeting their international obligations will remain a challenge for many developing countries, in particular those in Africa, who remain among those most impacted.

The Lima political agreement must confirm how developing countries’ contributions to the global effort to combat climate change will be financed, and whether the obligation to provide this support will be legally binding on developed countries.

Owing to a variety of factors, not least of all the economic crisis in developed countries (particularly in Europe), the issue of climate financing has become a contested terrain.

Developed countries have begun revisiting and redefining the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities when it comes to climate change. This has led to a paradigm shift wherein developing countries have more responsibilities and commitments; including on finance.

Because of the commitments attached to it, this approach poses a huge challenge to the majority of developing countries.

To manage the risk posed by climate change for millions of vulnerable people across Africa, significant investment in resilience and adaptation will be necessary. This would include investment in sectors like large scale infrastructure, climate smart agriculture, housing and transport.

Such investments that support long-term resilience against climate volatility, reduce the need for external assistance to cope with mild shocks to livelihoods and assets. Risk management strategies will be critical complements to such adaptation investments.

Although it is evident that both climate resilient development and low carbon development can only take place within a stable economic environment, global economic instability should not be used as an excuse to delay support to developing countries.

In fact, the trend of slow disbursement and untimely payment of pledges to multilateral climate funds predates the current economic crisis.

In Durban three years ago, the Parties agreed to establish the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to support low emission and climate resilient development pathways in developing countries.

Recently pledges and contributions to the amount of more than US$ 9.5 billion have been made from the public sector. The substantial replenishments should be welcomed, and we continue to call for further scaling up of the fund.

The capitalisation of the GCF is a game changer and the Board will need to begin the process of programming resources with the aim of ensuring an early and timely disbursement of resources by no later than the third quarter of 2015.

The Fund will have to identify strategic programs, at scale, that have country ownership. Importantly, they will need to engage the private sector and have the ability not only to provide climate change and sustainable development benefits, but also to remove in-country institutional barriers.

Finance and investments need to be linked to and urgently directed towards contributions and action that will ensure that the global temperature increase remains below two degrees Celsius.

In order to finance the existing gap, we are talking about a financial mechanism and systems that can mobilise, catalyze and leverage resources in the range of US$ 700 billion to US$ 1 trillion per annum.

South Africa has agreed that our emissions should peak by 2025, plateau for a decade and then decline from 2035.

As responsible global citizens, we are managing the transition to a climate-resilient, equitable and internationally competitive lower-carbon economy and society.

But this is taking place in a manner that simultaneously addresses South Africa’s national priorities for sustainable development.

In asking developed countries to live up to their obligations and commitments in terms of the convention, we are not merely passive recipients of foreign aid, and bystanders in our own destinies.

Over the years, developing countries have made contributions not only in actions, but also financially.

For example, under the current Global Environmental Facility (GEF) system since its inception, South Africa has received US$ 56,7 million in climate finance; but has also contributed US$ 504 million in cash and in-kind. This contribution is a result of the co-financing approach taken by the GEF.

Clearly then, we are not shying away from our own global responsibilities. It is the principle of equity, and of common but differentiated responsibility. It is time for those who bear the greatest responsibility for the effects of climate change to show leadership. DM

Edna Molewa is the Minister of Environmental Affairs.



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