Bonn Intersessional Negotiations – An interview with Nasha Lee

By Jasmin Irisha Jim Ilham, MYD 2016


Nasha Lee of UNDP Malaysia

Nasha Lee

Please introduce yourself and your background.

I have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Malaya in Environmental Engineering and started my career as an environmental consultant in a global sustainability consultancy. In 2014, I was offered a Commonwealth Shared Scholarship to read a Master’s degree in Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford. Upon my return, I joined an intergovernmental organization, and am now working on climate change and energy issues in Malaysia.

You were recently at the Bonn Intersessional in May 2017 as part of the Malaysian Delegation. Which tracks were you following?

I was in Bonn for the Bonn Climate Change Conference (Bonn Intersessional) which went on from the 8th to the 18th of May 2017. The meeting comprised of the 46th sessions of the Subsidiary Body of Implementation (SBI 46), the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 46) and the third part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA 1-3). The Malaysian delegation to the Bonn Intersessional consisted of fourteen people. 

While in Bonn, I was tracking the agenda items on capacity building, technology, the Nairobi Work Programme, and public registries on the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Adaptation Communications.  I also participated in the in-session workshop to develop possible elements of the gender action plan under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This year, Malaysia was one of the countries invited to present the results from our Biennial Update Report in a process called the facilitative sharing of views. The Biennial Update Report is a report submitted by developing countries to the UNFCCC which contains the country’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans and progress. In the facilitative sharing of views process, countries have to explain and defend their climate plans which are open to public questions from all countries. I was also following closely on this.

Any progress on the tracks that you followed?

For capacity building issues, we discussed about the fourth review of the implementation of capacity-building framework for economies in transition, and on the implementation of the framework for capacity building in developing countries. There were quite a few informal consultations whereby the co-facilitators had already prepared the draft conclusions and decision text. However, at the end, parties were unable to agree on the text proposed. Thus, the discussions will be restarted at COP 23. The outcome of this agenda item reflects the nature of the negotiations process at the UNFCCC, whereby decision-making is by consensus, and getting more than a hundred countries to be on the same page is often a complex and lengthy process.

I also followed the agenda items on the modalities and procedures for the operation and use of public registries for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and adaptation communications. These two agenda items had significant progress with countries agreeing to common elements of the registries, emphasizing on the user-friendliness, public accessibility, security and searchability of the web-based registries.

There were two agenda items under technology: the Technology Framework and the scope and modalities for the periodic assessment of the Technology Mechanism. During the consultations on the technology framework, parties discussed about the possible principles and structure of the technology framework, and the functions of the technology mechanism, among others. Possible headings of the Technology Framework were agreed upon, and the item will be further discussed in COP23. For the agenda item on the periodic assessment of the Technology Mechanism, parties gave their views on how the process should be: cost-effective, results oriented, aligned with the technology framework, and inclusive of stakeholders.

As for the Gender Action Plan, the in-session workshop was held to develop possible elements of a gender action plan to support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates under the UNFCCC. Parties and NGOs provided views on key result areas and possible activities of the gender action plan.

In Paris almost two years ago, a landmark agreement was agreed upon by almost 200 nations to cut global emissions in the effort to limit climate impacts. However, many of the details on rules, accountability, transparency and governance were left for future negotiations. Put simply, there were questions left unanswered on who should do what, by when, and with what kind of financial support. Drafting these details, collectively known as the “Paris Rulebook” was the top agenda item in Bonn, and people attended the negotiations with the expectation that the Paris Rulebook will be discussed and there will be a draft negotiating text. Discussions focused on the global stocktake, on how reporting can be made more transparent, on how climate finance will be mobilized.

The overall progress for the Bonn talks were incremental. Discussions on the “Paris Rulebook” captured the different views of parties in informal notes, but there was no consensus making yet. If the expectation before the Bonn talks was that a draft text will be prepared, this would mean that we did not achieve what was expected. But progress, no matter how incremental, is still important.

You mentioned on the Global Stocktake. Any updates on that?

In Paris, parties agreed that they will come together for a global stocktake in 2023 and every five years following that to measure collective progress. A similar process, called the “facilitative dialogue” was also agreed to be undertaken in 2018 to measure progress and inform the next round of national determined contributions (NDCs) which are due in 2020. . During this intersessional, the Facilitative Dialogue was discussed, but concrete guidelines and rules as to how the facilitative dialogue will be carried out has not yet been agreed upon.

Is there anything for Malaysia to prepare for COP23? What is there to expect?

Under each topic for the “Paris Rulebook”, parties are invited to submit their views during ahead of COP23, with the aim of setting out options for the draft text of the rulebook. That will be the immediate actions for Malaysia.

What are the differences between the Intersessional and COP?

The intersessional talks take place in Bonn every year, midway between the annual COPs. While the COP is at the ministerial level, the intersessionals are the working level, the backbone supporting the UNFCCC. The intersessional talks move negotiations forward, ahead of the larger COP meetings which take place at the end of the year. In my opinion, the intersessionals are not being given as much attention compared to the COP, but they have very significant contributions in terms of getting down to business.

From left to right Top row: Nasha Lee, UNDP Malaysia; Nor Syahira Anuar, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Iris Anak Awen Jon, Attorney General's Chambers; Yusmazy Md Yusup, MNRE; Muhammad Ridzwan Ali, MNRE; Hazrey Tomyang, KETTHA; Dr Kalanithi Nesadurai, Malaysian Palm Oil Board; Dr Gary Theseira, MNRE. Bottom row: Sabariah Ghazali, Ministry of International Trade & Industry; Dato Seri Dr Azimuddin Bahari, MNRE; Dr Elizabeth Philip, Forest Research Insitute of Malaysia; Dato Dr Yap Kok Seng, Project Manager, UNDP Malaysia

The Malaysian Delegation to the Bonn Intersessional 2017

Was there anything interesting that happened during the Intersessional?

As the US took a step back in the negotiations this year while the Trump administration contemplated a decision on whether the US should withdraw from the Paris Agreement, there seemed to be an interesting geopolitical shift where other developing countries were starting to become climate leaders. In Bonn, we saw other countries like China and India stepping up and reinforcing their commitment to the climate change agenda. In their Facilitative Sharing of Views, India shared how their renewable energy is growing so quickly that it is on track to be about 8 years early in reaching its 2030 goals to have 40% of the nations installed electricity supplied by clear energy. China also gave statements that reaffirmed its commitments towards the Paris agreement. The news that Trump administration might pull the US out from the Paris Agreement (which was confirmed to be true after Bonn) did not affect the negotiations at all, but negotiators we all the more determined to move ahead.

To me, the key message that came out from Bonn is that the world is committed to climate action, whether or not the US remains in the Paris Agreement.

What are your views on Malaysia’s progress?

Malaysia has shown lots of progress in last few years on climate change. We have embarked on efforts to move towards a low-carbon pathway, increased the deployment of renewable energy through incentives, and have implemented various programmes in reducing energy demand and increasing energy efficiency. Our technical skills, including that of calculating and reporting greenhouse gas emissions have increased dramatically. Our capacity in implementing climate change activities have also improved.

However, we still need to put concerted effort in making sure that our economy is being decarbonized, that renewables play a larger role, and that we design things to be more energy efficient. Energy is the biggest sectoral contributor to GHG in Malaysia, accounting for about 76% of our GHG emissions. The best way for us to be on track to achieve our Paris Agreement target is to look at the energy sector. There is much to be done in reducing emissions from electricity, transport and buildings in Malaysia, which should be our priority areas.

Additionally, Malaysia’s focus thus far has been on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions- we have had little work done on adapting to the effects of climate change, which is still necessary.

Some would argue there is not really a need for Malaysia to carry out adaptation plans just yet.

It is true that Malaysia has not been suffering from the worst impacts of natural disasters yet, but we are still vulnerable to extreme weather events like flooding and droughts. Having a plan in place to adapt to climate change would mean that we would be better prepared to face any current and future impacts of climate change towards health, ecosystems and water resources.

Do you have any advice for MYD and Youth interested in climate change and negotiations?

I believe that it is important to keep the dialogue on climate change going between youth, decision makers from the government and NGOs. Youths are often able to bring new and innovative solutions to difficult issues, and being able to see things from a new perspective and learn from other stakeholders who are passionate in the same issue is always good. Most importantly, always remind yourself of the reason you became interested in climate change in the first place, and use it to keep yourself motivated and accountable!

What’s next for you?

I still see myself going on the climate change and environmental path in the future, as this is something that I can relate to very much. I hope that I can to be of much greater service to Malaysia one day and to contribute much more in the future.

Feel free to add any final comments.

It’s great to see MYD playing such an important role in bringing young people together to learn, discuss and act on climate change issues. Keep up the good work!