Interview | “Progress made in Glasgow far from enough to match scale of climate crisis”: Manjeet Dhakal, climate change expert

Glasgow missed the opportunity to address the real need to establish dedicated finance and support for those places already suffering from the impacts of climate change.

NL Today

  • Read Time 6 min.

Manjeet Dhakal is Head of LDC Support Team at Climate Analytics. He serves as an Advisor to the Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group at the multilateral process of the UNFCCC. As an advisor he has worked with Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and currently Bhutan, and provided high-level climate leadership support for the LDCs in climate change UN-related processes over many years and played a key part in the LDC efforts that led to the Paris Agreement in 2015. Nepal Live Today caught up with Dhakal to discuss outcomes of COP26, issues raised by LDCs and Nepal’s graduation from the LDC category. Excerpts.

What were the hits and misses at the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland?

COP26 in Glasgow was an important milestone in the race to urgently address the climate emergency. I was particularly impressed with the engagement of young people, pressing world leaders for urgent action.

The centerpiece outcome of the COP26, the Glasgow Climate Pact, clearly recognizes the emissions gap in 2030 between where our current climate policies will take us, and where we need to be. In response, a decision was taken that requests countries to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their emission reduction plans to align with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement, by the end of 2022.

Critically, the Pact also called on developed countries to urgently mobilize finance to support vulnerable countries and to at least double the collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to the developing country.

Glasgow was also successful in finalizing the rulebook of the Paris Agreement. With this completed, we can shift to focus on its implementation. It’s now time for countries to get to work to halve our emissions by 2030.

On Loss and Damage, Glasgow missed the opportunity to address the real need to establish dedicated finance and support for those places already suffering from the impacts of climate change. This remains crucial for the most vulnerable countries and we expect pressure to address this will only increase in prominence as time goes on and these climate impacts worsen. Egypt, which is hosting next years’ COP27, has already indicated this will be a key issue of the next COP.

 To what extent the issues raised by the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) were addressed during the COP26?

COP26 delivered a mixed result: some of our key demands have been addressed, whereas a few others remain pending in the negotiations.

There was a positive outcome in addressing the call for urgency in the reduction of emissions in line with 1.5°C this decade. This is particularly important for LDCs because if emissions are not rapidly reduced in this decade, this will expose the most vulnerable to unacceptable levels of risk and impacts.

We also saw some positive outcomes on climate finance, such as doubling adaptation finance for developing countries, and a process launched to define a new collective finance goal for post-2025.

Outside the negotiations, US$413 million of new funding was pledged for the LDC Fund – a fund exclusively focused on building climate resilience.

Glasgow also set rules for international carbon markets, and reporting requirements and a common timeframe for countries’ national climate target submissions to the UN.

However, the outcome of Loss and Damage was a real disappointment. The outcome was not what we expected, as there was no agreement to establish a finance facility for loss and damage – a key ask from the LDC Group.

Glasgow also set rules for international carbon markets, and reporting requirements and a common timeframe for countries’ national climate target submissions to the UN.

Finally, following the LDC’s call, COP26 launched a two-year Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh work program on the global goal of adaptation with a view to enhancing adaptation action and support.

 The LDCs have been on the receiving end of the climate impacts though they pollute far less than the richer countries. What happened to the ‘Loss and Damage’ agenda?

LDCs have been calling for urgent action to establish a finance facility to address those climate impacts that are now unavoidable and are already causing loss and damage in our countries. However, wealthy nations remain reluctant to make progress on this urgent matter. 

In Glasgow, no agreement could be reached on establishing such a finance facility.  There was some incremental progress with initial further steps to operationalize the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, established in 2019 to catalyze technical assistance in countries particularly vulnerable to climate change. However, more work remains to fully operationalize the Santiago Network, and it is not designed to address the more fundamental need for financial resources to address loss and damage. The upcoming year will be critical to advance this important topic. 

While we were unhappy with the outcome on loss and damage, the agreement to hold a dialogue on finance for loss and damage from next year through to 2024 means that this issue will not disappear from the climate negotiations. And importantly, as climate change progresses, we will not be able to ignore the very real and increasing impacts of loss and damage. This will be an extremely big area of work going forward and a key priority for LDCs.

Has there been any tangible progress towards achieving the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius?

Limiting temperature to 1.5°C is a lifeline for the LDCs. LDCs disproportionately suffer from the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, despite contributing the least to global warming.

Despite global efforts, carbon emissions are still increasing, and if emissions are not rapidly reduced in this decade, this would expose the most vulnerable – particularly LDCs – to unacceptable levels of risk and impacts.

At COP26 there was a wider recognition of this emission gap, and acknowledgment that we are far from what science tells us we need to do – reduce emissions by 45% below 2010 levels by 2030.

This is why countries have agreed to revisit and submit strengthened targets by the end of next year. The success of COP26 in keeping 1.5°C alive will depend largely on how major emitters respond to this decision and come forward with more ambitious targets that are in line with 1.5°C.    

From Nepal’s point of view, how did the COP26 go?

Nepal’s delegation to COP26 was led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. This high-level participation showed the country’s commitment to this important topic. The Prime Minister’s statement during the World Leaders Summit at the start of the COP was different from others, as it emphasized Nepal’s contribution, instead of sharing its expectation of others. The message was clear: if a country like Nepal – with one of the smallest contributions to global emissions and with very limited capabilities to respond – can take ambitious action, why not others?

COP26 delivered a mixed result: some of our key demands have been addressed, whereas a few others remain pending in the negotiations.

Nepal also had an active engagement on major negotiation sessions working closely with the LDC Group, which provided Nepal an opportunity to amplify its voice through the negotiating block. As the group positions are formed with inputs from member countries, Nepal’s priorities were no different from the priorities and positions of the LDCs.

In addition to the above, Nepal actively raised priorities related to mountains in the climate negotiations, as a result, a number of COP26 outcomes emphasize research and further work to be prioritized for the cryosphere.

COP26 was also a good opportunity to share the country’s good practices and outreach with funders. As a result, many financial pledges were made specifically for Nepal during COP26. 

However, the progress made in Glasgow is still far from enough to match the scale of the climate crisis and to meet the needs of countries like Nepal, which are dealing with crises on a day-to-day basis.

The UN General Assembly recently has adopted a resolution endorsing the graduation of Nepal, Bangladesh and Laos from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category with the preparatory period of five years. What is its significance? What challenges are these countries likely to face during the transition period?

The graduation of countries from the LDC category is an established process under the United Nations. Seven countries that are set for graduation in the coming few years will have to go through difficult transitions, as these countries are already hard hit by the compounding effect of Covid-19 and climate crises, and may require adequate time to recover and stabilize their economies. 

For millions of people in poor countries, Covid-19 has added new challenges in their livelihoods. What do you think needs to be done to deal with climate change in the so-called post-Covid world?

As the coronavirus pandemic has hit major sources of revenue, many LDCs – already economically weak – are struggling to balance their books and to allocate resources to fight the health crisis on top of other challenges. The Covid crisis affects work, business travel and lifestyles around the world and has exacted an unprecedented human toll as underprepared health systems struggle to cope and workers in lockdown lose their livelihoods. However, the insufficient infrastructure and fragile health systems make the situation in LDCs even more difficult.

For many LDCs, climate change makes this situation even more difficult. Even during the pandemic, climate change continues to threaten the health and safety of people in the LDCs. The coronavirus pandemic has forced vulnerable communities to deal with compounding crises concurrently.