Q&A: We must ensure Paris delivers on finance

Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan-based journalist and a member of IIED's Independent Expert Group spoke to Malawian negotiator Evans Njewa ahead of the Paris climate talks.

Article, 24 November 2015
Unheard voices: what do the Least Developed Countries want from COP21?
A series of interviews with leaders, experts and civil society representatives from the least developed countries ahead of COP21

Malawi climate negotiator Evans NjewaWith less than a week to the UN climate change conference in Paris (COP21), African countries, especially those in the Least Developed Country (LDC) Group, are looking to get a better finance deal out of the talks. African countries have seen some of the worst effects of climate change and currently many are experiencing the effects of El Niño.

IIED's Independent Expert Group has commissioned a series of interviews with leaders, experts, and civil society representatives from nine of the LDCs. We wanted to hear about the reality that they face, the actions being taken, the role for climate finance – and their hopes for a Paris treaty.

Furthermore, on the sideline of the recent fifth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA) held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Uganda journalist Rosebell Kagumire (RK) spoke with Evans Njewa (EN), a climate negotiator from Malawi and the lead negotiator for LDCs and for African countries on finance. He has been involved in the UNFCCC negotiations since the Montreal COP in 2005.

RK: You have spent the last 10 years as part of Africna negotiating teams on finance. What have you learnt and will Paris be different?

EN: It has been a bumpy road. The adverse effects of climate change have increased in magnitude, frequency and intensity in the last two decades resulting in floods, hurricanes and cyclones, prolonged dry spells and drought in some areas in the African region. 

Malawi is not isolated. We also had heavy rains and floods with disastrous impacts this year. About 200 people died in January and thousands werew displaced. So when we look at the estimated cost of recovery from disasters associated to climate change globally it is about US$600 billion annually.

Most of our countries in Africa and the LDCs bear most of these costs. The global figure was announced in the fourth IPCC report in 2007 but it is only recently that we have been able to agree a goal of mobilizing $100 billion by 2020. This is still far below the required amount.

RK: So what changes will COP21 bring?

EN: Developed countries have been invited to contribute as much as they can to funds formed under the convention including the Adaptation Fund. Some countries have contributed in exchange for carbon credits and some developing countries have made commitments.

With the Green Climate Fund we have put our needs on the table for mitigation, adaptation and capacity building, as well as technology transfer in order to meet the 1.5 degrees temperature rise limit. 

We have no choice but to ensure that Paris delivers on finance. If Paris doesn't give us a good package on climate finance then we will take it as a failure. 

RK: Many of the Least Developed Countries are from Africa yet the LDC Fund has been almost empty. What commitments are you looking for replenishing the fund?

EN: The LDC Fund (LDCF) has not been fully funded – some have argued that we have too many funds looking at the same developed countries parties to make contributions. 

Following the recent GEF meeting (the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is entrusted under the UNFCCC convention to operate the LDCF), we had two announcements made by USA to put in $6 Million. It's not to the level that we need but we appreciate it. 
The LDCF has so far financed the preparation of National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). We have about $20-50 million worth of projects just sitting in the LDC fund, waiting for funding. We already have projects worth $50 million so we are looking for our partners to put in money. This is one of our needs as we go to Paris.

More than 90 per cent of Malawians rely on rain-fed subsistence farming to survive. Increasingly variable weather patterns are reducing crop yields and eroding food security (Photo: ILRI/Mann, Creative Commons via Flickr)

In the draft agreement for Paris we have made sure we maintain and secure the LDC fund and we will negotiate to make sure it is given serious backing in the eventual agreement.

RK: Many have asked about local investment, what are African governments putting into climate finance, and what are your thoughts on this push?

EN: The push is valid but we have be mindful that in Paris we are looking at negotiations under the Climate Change Convention which puts an obligation on developed countries to provide financial resources to developing countries. It is a commitment, made in Rio in 1992, and they must provide that. 

Developing countries can contribute voluntarily. Many African countries have contributions in their budgets towards climate adaption and mitigation. Kenya, Namibia, Mali, South Africa and Rwanda now also have their own national climate funds. In Malawi we are in the middle of creating a climate change fund. 

Remember it is not our obligation to do the funding. 

RK: What does Africa need do in Paris to ensure there's no backtracking on finance commitments?

EN: We have to be seen to demonstrate that we have the right institutions in place to handle that money. We also need solid national strategies and projects. If we don't have them then we cannot bargain well. And if you are saying you want trillions of dollars, but you fail to use the $6 billion available, then that is not going to benefit any vulnerable person in your country.

RK: When it comes to loss and damage, where do LDCs stand? 

EN: Loss and damage has sort of become political. It has been difficult to finalise it. The Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage has operated for the last two years but there hasn't been sufficient finance for the mechanism to operate fully. 

Until this month there was only one paragraph on loss and damage in the draft agreement and it only acknowledged its existence. So developing countries expressed their feelings to the co-chairs to see that loss and damage were included. As we left the talks there were four to five paragraphs that elaborated on loss and damage. We have said that the developed country parties and international organisations shall support developing countries on loss and damage. 

RK: How optimistic are you that LDCs will get the deal they seek in Paris?

EN: I have learned to be optimistic most of the time. I do not despair easily but I know it won't be easy. Having been in the process for the last 10 years, I expect drama during the first week of the negotiations. In the end real compromises and commitments will be seen in the last three days.