While no major international climate change agreement is expected to result from the United Nations 19th annual Conference of the Parties (COP 19) in Warsaw, Poland, there is hope that COP 19 will set the stage for the big show: the 2015 International Climate Action Agreement. If successful, the 2015 Agreement will create a single comprehensive regime out of the current medley of UNFCCC binding and non-binding agreements. COP 19 is an opportunity for negotiators, in preparation for the 2015 Agreement, to move forward on key issues such as mitigation commitments and timelines, accounting and transparency, climate risk, shifting investment patterns and climate finance.
Progress on climate finance is of particular importance. Developed nations have committed to contribute $100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020. However, how this will happen is unclear. The COP 19 negotiations must agree on individual country contributions, the role of private sector funding, and how funding will be transparently monitored and reported.
Another key priority is shaping the details of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Created at COP 15 in 2009, the GCF (not yet operational) is intended to be the primary mechanism for distributing climate finance from developed countries to developing countries. Negotiators are to meet the aggressive deadline of September 2014 to have the GCF’s essential framework and pledge process in place.
Perhaps the most contentious climate finance issue at COP 19 is adaptation funding. Presently, climate funding favors mitigation more than adaptation. Many developing countries are calling for a significant increase in adaptation funding to address the (at times crippling) cost of climate change related disasters. Yeb Sano, the Filipino climate change commissioner and lead negotiator, gave a particularly moving speech at the opening of COP 19 in response to the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan: “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness.” The cost of Typhoon Haiyan is a monumental burden for a country like the Philippines and international adaptation funding will be essential to rebuilding efforts.
Up to this point, adaptation funding has been limited. Developed countries have committed $7.5 billion in adaptation support for developing nations, however this far from meets the expected costs from climate change impacts. This brings us to another task facing negotiators: the agenda includes discussion on mechanisms to evaluate the “loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.” By quantifying the cost of climate related damages, developing countries such as the Philippines would be better positioned to request funding.
With one week left in this year’s climate talks, a great deal of progress must be made on climate finance in order for developing countries to cope with the increasing climate related disasters.