MYD Position Statement on the Climate Ambition Summit 2020

Written By: Sonia Kiew, Syaqil Suhaimi & Reza Abedi

On December 12th, the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France co-convened the 2020 Climate Ambition Summit in partnership with Chile and Italy, which gathered 75 government, business and civil society leaders. The event also commemorates the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement. At the Summit, new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), commitments and adaptation measures were outlined, which aimed at building a net-zero emissions and more resilient post-COVID future. Organizers stressed that the countries gathered at the summit represent “only national leaders with the boldest plans made during the course of the year.” [1] Unfortunately, Malaysia was not invited to attend.

The Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) expresses its immense support to the nations, industry leaders, and cities that declared new commitments to cut their carbon footprints and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through their NDCs. MYD also acknowledges and stresses the saliency for vulnerable countries most impacted by the effects of climate change, to participate in the decision-making. Therefore, it is encouraging that nine African heads of state and 15 leaders of small island states were present at the Summit. Ethiopia announced “taking a whole-of-economy approach that protects people and nature” [2] while Suriname enhanced its National Adaptation Plan [3].

MYD commends the commitments made to deliver on net zero or carbon neutrality goals, which reflect the principles of equity enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

5 Years into the Paris Agreement – where are we? 

2020 marks the fifth year since the creation of the Paris Agreement, yet the IPCC’s Special Report of Warming of 1.5 Degrees (SR 1.5) states that existing NDC commitments until 2030 would “result in a global warming about 3°C  by 2100, with warming continuing afterwards (medium confidence).” [4] Therefore, time for action is running out and MYD as a youth organization expresses concerns over some ambiguities presented during the summit, with the hope that next year’s COP26’s discussions will be focused on ratcheting climate action, aligning with the ambitions announced at this Summit. 

The Promise and Seductions of Nature-based Solutions

With countries like Suriname, the UK, Portugal and Spain announcing adaptation plans, and several leaders dedicated to increasing nature-based solutions (NbS), discussions on adaptation and resilience have moved centre-stage during the Summit – an optimistic and hopeful start to the conversation leading up to COP 26 on November 2021, of which NbS will be the central theme. 

MYD lauds countries for recognizing NbS as “scalable and cost-effective responses to the climate threat.” [5] It is also essential to ensure that NbS are implemented with adaptation co-benefits for local communities, indigenous people and farmers, so as to avoid repeating past hard-learned lessons of carbon offset markets which led to land grabbing and assaults on human rights [6]. It should be noted that the untapped potential of NbS as carbon sinks are not a cure-all to climate change; to rapidly decarbonize the economy there are other policy levers like carbon pricing and carbon taxing.

Demystifying Climate Finance

With COVID-19 impacting climate finance flows, meeting the $100bn goal is crucial to ensuring no one gets left behind. As the largest providers of climate finance, France, along with the EU, made an enormous contribution in 2019 of €23.2 billion in climate finance, a 6.9% increase compared to 2018. [7]

Furthermore, MYD strongly encourages climate finance commitments to come in the form of pure assistance (i.e. grants), to relieve vulnerable countries that are marginally responsible for GHG emissions.

It is worth noting that the oft-cited pledge by developed countries to provide US$100 billion in climate finance annually is actually not a legally binding target, as it is not mentioned in the Paris Agreement.  Article 9, Paragraph 3 [8] merely states that “developed country Parties should continue to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources… Such mobilization of climate finance should represent a progression beyond previous efforts.” This suggests that even this lofty goal may be inadequate to significantly affect climate outcomes, since contributions depend on how committed developed countries are in mobilizing these funds.

Conclusion

With new and strengthened NDCs presented at the Summit, as well as global initiatives like the Race to Resilience campaign that aims to protect over 4 billion vulnerable people from climate change impacts by 2030, the lived experiences of these individuals also bring valuable insights for developing durable, and lasting solutions. It is thus imperative for vulnerable countries to not only be safeguarded, but to be at the centre of the climate discussion.

In order to uphold the principles of equity, there must be clear and concrete action plans set forth by nations that have communicated their ambitions. NbS must work for the most vulnerable members of society and not against them, and gaps and ambiguities on climate finance must be addressed.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2020/12/10/parisversaire-climate-ambition-summit-whos-whos/ 
  2. https://unfccc.int/news/climate-ambition-summit-builds-momentum-for-cop26 
  3. https://publications.iadb.org/publications/english/document/NDC-Invest-Supporting-NDC-Development-in-Latin-America-and-the-Caribbean-Suriname.pdf 
  4. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/
  5. https://nature4climate.org/news/momentum-for-nature-based-solutions-continues-to-grow-despite-disappointing-un-climate-talks/
  6. https://www.twn.my/title2/briefing_papers/twn/NBS%20TWNBP%20Sep%202020%20Stabinsky.pdf
  7. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/10/29/climate-finance-eu-and-member-states-contributions-continued-to-increase-in-2019/#
  8. https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf