Q&A: The Gambia expects solid financial commitment at Paris climate talks

24 November 2015

In the second of our interviews with representatives from the Least Developed Country Group ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Paris (COP21), Pa Ousman Jarju, Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water, Parks and Wildlife in The Gambia, shares his perspective.

The Gambia's Pa Ousman Jarju, Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water, Parks and WildlifeThe Gambia is one of Africa's most vulnerable countries to climate change and a member of the Least Developed Country (LDC) Group. It faces a growing risk of more intense and more frequent droughts, floods and storms.

The Gambia launched the second phase of a climate change project to strengthen climate resilience and adaptation, including an early warning system, in April 2015, designed to establish a network of meteorological and hydrological monitoring stations to help better understand weather and climate changes overtime. As a coastal country, there is a fear that sea level rise resulting from climate change could submerge low-lying areas.

In a bid to attract investment in the country's energy sector, the government introduced the Renewable Energy Act in December 2013.  Gambian journalist Baboucarr Ceesay (BC) interviewed Pa Ousman Jarju (PJ), Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Water, Parks and Wildlife ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Paris (COP21).

BC: Has Gambia submitted its climate change plan with its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)?

PJ: "The Gambia submitted its INDC to the UNFCCC in late September 2015 and our plans are to use the ongoing projects and opportunities that may emerge."

BC: What are the constraints the country faces in implementing this plan?

PJ: The constraints the country faces in implementing this plan are both technical and financial. The cost for implementing the INDC was not estimated. We will use ongoing processes to estimate the costs and update the INDC with an adaptation component (ie through the next five-year development programme , the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR), Third National Communication, Technology Needs Assessment (TNA), the National Adaptation Plan, National Climate Policy development and Low Carbon Climate Resilience Development Strategy).

BC: What do you expect from the Paris agreement on adaptation for LDCs? 

PJ: Working together requires trust and the Paris Agreement must provide assurances that financial commitments will be delivered. According to the Global Environment Fund (GEF) Progress Report on the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and Special Climate Change Fund, as of 22 September, 49 LDCs had accessed US$905.63 million for 163 projects to support implementation of their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA). In total, $919.31 million had been approved for NAPA implementation, the NAP process and other elements of the LDC work programme.

We would express our appreciation and commend the donors for this support. However as we speak demand for LDCF resources exceeds the funds available for approved projects.

According to the GEF, funds available for new projects amounted to $17.78 million whereas there are 34 full-sized projects and one medium-sized project cleared for funding, creating a total demand of $254.48 million as of 22 September. Thirteen further project proposals, requesting a total of $70.61 million have been formally submitted for review by the GEF secretariat.

We are once again calling on donors to reaffirm their commitments and continue their support to the LDCs by pledging funds to the LDCF in Paris to enable LDCs to continue implementing their urgent and immediate adaptation needs, as identified in their NAPAs.  

BC: What are the key priorities as we head to COP21? 

PJ: Adaptation has always been a priority for LDCs and for The Gambia in particular. However, we expect a comprehensive and balanced agreement that includes mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, transparency of action and support and loss and damage.

The Gambia believes that the agreement should secure real, on-the ground action on adaptation that goes beyond mere planning. We are also of the view that it is worth having a global goal on adaptation that guides the long-term direction of international action.

This goal should be qualifiable but must acknowledge the link between temperature rise and adaptation. Such a goal should commit the world to support developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable such as the LDCs, SIDs and countries in Africa, to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change under a long-term temperature limit of 1.5 degrees.

BC: What are the hopes and expectations of finance for LDCs through the UNFCCC finance mechanism? 

PJ: Finance is key to implementing the agreement. The Paris Agreement must contain a commitment from developed countries to provide new; additional, scaled-up and predictable funding that is separate from official development assistance (ODA). A commitment to scale up mobilised finance above US$100 billion per annum beyond 2020 to support acceleration towards decarbonisation and to support building resilience in developing countries is critical in Paris.

However, the scale of climate finance required to respond to climate change and enable the transformation to low-carbon climate resilient futures for all also requires broadening the donor pool. In this respect, developing countries that are in a position/able/willing to do so, should contribute towards climate finance.

The LDCs are encouraged by the pledges made to the Green Climate Fund by a number of developing countries and consider South-South cooperation as a true expression of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South. We're also encouraged by China's recent announcement of $3.1 billion to support developing countries climate action and India's support to the African continent.

It is worth noting that South-South cooperation is complimentary in nature, guided by the principle of respect for national sovereignty and ownership, and not a substitute for developed countries' commitments.

A finance cycle is important to foster the highest possible ambition and ensure investments match to the needs of developing countries to implement the agreement and transit to low-carbon climate resilient development pathways. The finance cycle should account for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), including national finance strategies; the replenishment of the LDCF and GCF; sharing good practices and knowledge, and regular reports. Funding for adaptation should come from public sources, and should be grant-based, particularly for LDCs, SIDs and Africa. 

BC: What has been The Gambia’s experience with the GEF-managed Least Developed Countries Fund? 

PJ: We had very good experience with the GEF-managed LDCF and have accessed about US$ 27.08 million to implement four NAPA projects in the country.

Gambia is hoping to develop its tourism industry, but coastal areas are environmentally fragile and threatened by erosion. (Photo: Nick Brooks, Creative Commons via Flickr)

BC: Where do you see the potential for private finance? 

PJ: Climate finance should come primarily from public sources, but the private sector can also have a role to play as an alternative source of finance to maximise financial flows for climate action in developing countries.

However, the role for private sources of finance should be complimentary to public sources of finance and not act as substitute. 

BC: What can LDCs do to raise the ambition of emitting countries ahead of Paris? 

PJ: Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees remains critically important for LDCs and small island developing states (SIDs). The Paris Agreement should therefore include the goal of limiting temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

It is not enough for parties to commit to this collective long-term goal alone; they must also agree on a clear long-term pathway to achieve it such as the implied carbon neutrality target by 2050. Adopting a target of carbon neutrality by 2050 aligns with the IPCC's recommendation to reduce emissions by 40-70 per cent by 2050, the recognition by G7 leaders of the need to decarbonise the global economy, and the needs of the most vulnerable to protect the lives and livelihood of their citizens.

As LDCs we believe in a five-year commitment for both mitigation and support. This needs to be regularly reviewed within each five-year period, starting with a review in 2018/19 to allow for and prompt ratcheting up of ambition. Within these cycles, parties should agree to periodically take stock of collective progress towards achieving the long-term goal. We believe in a five-year cycle as opposed to a 10-year one to ensure that we have a dynamic and durable agreement, which does not lock in low ambition over long periods of time.

We must also commit to an ex-ante assessment of proposed contributions and commitments as well as an ex-post review of the implementation of these commitments/obligations that is informed by the best available science and other relevant technical, social and economic information.