Any gains from Bonn

THE issue of loss and damage is dear to most vulnerable countries and has its genesis in our AOSIS bloc. Many had great expectations on this issue from the presidency, particularly when Fiji has come out scarred from the wrath of Severe TC Winston, and we continue to pick up the pieces. It is no secret that loss and damage has been a longstanding matter of contention for developed countries.

In the end, the only additional outcome to the existing Warsaw International Mechanism on loss and damage was an expert dialogue to be held in April/May 2018. The desire for this item to be placed on the agenda of SBI and eventually the COP was lamentably not realised. Nor was the demand for greater resources to support this work. A side-step instead, launching the InsuResilience Global Partnership will, in some shape or form, pose additional financial burdens on our people and lay our spurious intentions bare for our fellow SIDS to see.

On this issue of finance which seemed to have been a priority for Fiji, the presidency appeared to be overwhelmed by the complexity and strong views from different negotiating blocs. This relates to Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement which requests developed countries to report to developing countries their flows of climate finance.

I understand the African group held up proceedings at one of the plenaries, with the expectation that Fiji could use its powers of mediation. The lack of sheer understanding and indecisiveness prompted a comment from G77 and China bloc, that the developed countries seemed “more comfortable” with the views of the presidency sending strong speculative signals about the aggressive roles being played by our contracted foreign consultants!

The poor record of Fiji’s mediation attempts was by the frustration shown by many members of the G77 and China bloc, to both the draft decisions as well as the style adopted by the (then) chief negotiator, who seemed to be presiding over court. Her inexperience was clearly manifest as she showed her ineptitude at fostering compromise, preferring instead to adjourn the proceedings, and asking groups to go and consult, when the heat became unbearable.

It prompted Tuvalu to provide an alternative text decision, for example, and as referenced earlier, the Africa group could not support the APA decision. Some negotiators were overheard to remark if this was heading towards another “Copenhagen”. It was not surprising therefore that the meeting spilled over to the next day and the COP finished in the early hours of the next day.

The issue of the Adaptation Fund serving the Paris Agreement, which the A-G and Fiji head of delegation seems keen to claim credit for, has, as a matter of fact continued for the past three years. Its reference was explicit in the Paris Agreement. Further, Germany had announced its contribution of additional $50 million to the fund, bringing the total to $90m, even before the COP. Not as a gesture to Fiji, but to lead by example for the rest of the world. A similar amount was pledged to the Least Developing Country Fund (LDCF).

The A-G gleefully talks about a decision on agriculture, whereas the ministerial portfolio holder for agriculture who as climate champion was also present in Bonn was advocating for cycling as a means of curbing emissions, while Fijians have never heard such an utterance from him at home! It may be further enlightening to know that the issue of agriculture was initiated by the African group about four years ago and the conclusion was a result of hard negotiations over this time. This is a significant but relatively low profile outcome on climate change and agriculture. Any hint that Fiji made it happen is a shameless attempt at point-scoring.

The same goes for decisions on “local communities and indigenous peoples platform” and “gender and climate change”. These issues have been talked about for years, and is, as usual in the case in inter-governmental processes, the result of several years of hard work to reach the stage where decisions can finally be taken.

In fact, on these important matters, the real champions were our NGOs, indigenous and women’s groups who provided amazing platforms for advocacy and awareness. I understand that the campaigns and the valuable fora organised by numerous civil society groups such as 350.org, CAN, Greenpeace, PCC and all their affiliates in Fiji and the Pacific, who were present in the Bonn zone were the real highlights of COP23, generating the huge momentum that helped catalyse positive outcomes on these issues.

The decision to put the NDC hub in Fiji is positive but Fiji was always the frontrunner for this given our strategic location in the Pacific. This had nothing to do with the presidency.

Given the scope and the “un-Talanoa spirit” like process used to compile Fiji’s tardy NDC, we are hardly a shining light for others to emulate. A quick perusal of Fiji’s NDC “Implementation Roadmap” completed by expensive GGI consultants imported from Europe still shows the expected emphasis on the power sector, with theoretical frameworks for MRV, financing etc — once again short-circuiting Parliamentary oversight.

Money, money,

money = loans = debt

The minister claims that “millions” of additional climate funding will be forthcoming through various channels, but we are left empty-handed on the specifics of these pledges. The only tangible outcome is the $US405.1m (approx. $F850m) for The “Fiji Urban Water Supply and Waste Water Management” project, which we have been hearing about since 2015.

This is a loan, with an injection of a $31m grant from the GCF. The European Investment Bank agreed to loan us a further $70.8m, in addition to ADB’s $153.2m, incumbent upon Fiji’s own co-financing contribution of $150.1m!! Hasn’t our future generation (some of whom were there and disallowed from witnessing what we are fighting for during the negotiations), inherited enough of a debt burden already? Once again, Parliament was not consulted on this initiative and the new Minister responsible for Waterways should be able to shed more light on it at the next sitting.

If we compare this loan with what the Pacific has accessed over the past two years, from a total volume of about $250m of GCF funding in the Pacific, countries like Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu received $57m, $85m and $36m respectively for genuine climate change projects. We know that the GCF contribution to the Fiji project was merely masking an existing ADB project, and we have yet to take full advantage of the huge amounts of funds available for adaptation under the GCF, despite the active insertion of Ministry of Economy personnel into this space

* The views expressed are the author’s and not of this newspaper.

* This is the second instalment in a three-part series. The first was published on Friday March 9. The third will be published next Monday.

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