Bold climate pledges from the Least Developed Countries

Guest blog by
28 September 2014

The Gambia's Special Climate Envoy reflects on the Least Developed Countries (LDC) leadership at the UN Climate Summit.

The island state of Tuvalu is profoundly threatened by climate change. Tuvalu’s Prime Minister announced plans to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020. He was one of several LDC leaders to announce climate action.  (Photo: Tomoaki Inaba)

As the first Special Climate Envoy from a LDC, I left the United Nations on Tuesday encouraged. The climate summit that concluded that evening was the largest gathering of world leaders to discuss climate change in recent history.  

While many only paid attention to the words of the powerful at the summit, I heard bold pledges from my own group of nations. The LDCs have set an inspiring example for others to follow.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened the UN Climate Summit in order to galvanise and catalyse ambitious action to: 

  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 
  2. Strengthen resilience in the face of climate impacts, and
  3. Mobilise political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015 that limits the world to a less than two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.

In less than three months, climate negotiators will reconvene in Lima, Peru, to continue work on the next international climate treaty. Called the 2015 agreement, the treaty is to be finalised in Paris, France, in December 2015. The UN Climate Summit was a timely opportunity for world leaders to lay out their plans for action and pledge to do more in the coming months.

Pledges from the LDCs

Despite their limited economic capacities and minuscule contribution to the world's cumulative emissions, several LDC heads of state spoke of bold climate action on Tuesday.

I was encouraged by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia's vision to become a middle income country by 2025. When the nation's policymakers compared possible paths of developments – the traditional and the climate resilient – they found that following the conventional path will not only take longer, but will not equip them with the capabilities necessary for a vibrant economic future.  

As a result, the Prime Minister pledged to achieve a green, climate-resilient economy with zero net emissions by 2025. It is deeply moving to see LDC nations choose to foster economic growth without increasing emissions, but by reducing them.  

Similarly, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu announced his commitment to employ 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020. Though Tuvalu's commitment will not be easy, the Prime Minister stressed that now is the time to be serious and recognise that there is a limit to what the world can sustain.

Again, such sacrifice from a nation like my own – one that has done so little to create the problem, but nonetheless is willing to risk further economic hardship to combat it is truly inspiring. I echo the Prime Minister's concluding call for the world to make the Paris protocol an agreement that will change the world and save Tuvalu. For if we save Tuvalu, we will save the world!

I was also encouraged to hear the Prime Minister of Bangladesh's announcement that her nation is working to put together its contribution to the 2015 agreement. The Gambia is also preparing its contribution to the agreement and plans to submit it by March 2015.  

Our pledges add to the existing work already under way in the LDCs. For example, Bhutan recently reiterated its pledge to maintain zero net emissions. These examples show what is possible. We must multiply these actions in the coming years to meet a global goal of 100 per cent renewable energy for all.  

The pledges made at the climate summit both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to deliver climate finance through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) were encouraging. They have set in motion the ambition needed in the lead-up to Lima and Paris.

Looking to Lima

To facilitate the road to Paris, the LDCs call for nations to adopt a mandate to negotiate a protocol the strongest legal option for the 2015 agreement in Lima. This mandate will give governments the drive and authority to ensure the world has a strong treaty to agree to in 2015.  

A protocol will provide countries with the highest possible degree of certainty and long-term direction so that they can make bold pledges such as the commitments made by the LDCs mentioned above. It will also send assurances regarding the potential for international cooperation, including the ability of individual national actions to bring in funds. As the Prime Minister of Tuvalu stressed at the summit, adopting a protocol in Paris is crucial.

The LDCs also see Lima as the place to deliver on finance. We hope to witness bold financial pledges to both the fund dedicated to the LDCs, the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), and the GCF. Germany pledged US$1 billion to the GCF in July 2014. At the UN Climate Summit, other nations stepped forward with contributions. France matched Germany's pledge of US$1 billion and Mexico pledged US$10 million to the GCF. China pledged to double its annual support for a South-South cooperation fund to help other developing countries.  

Pledges like these will help vulnerable nations adapt to climate change and will build trust in the negotiations of the 2015 agreement. After my time at the climate summit, I look forward to leaving Lima even more encouraged and with a treaty that sets out a concrete path for a non-carbon world with 100 per cent renewable energy.  

Pa Ousman Jarju is The Gambia's Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water Resources, and Parks and Wildlife. He is also the first Special Climate Envoy to be appointed from a Least Developed Country.

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