At the 2015 Paris Climate Conference in December, 195 nations agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit the rise in the global average temperature to below 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. ADB Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Director Preety Bhandari represented ADB at the summit. Here she outlines what the climate deal means for countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

The emission reduction targets agreed in Paris are unspecific and hardly ambitious. How can they make a genuine difference in Asia and the Pacific given the commitment of large economies in the region to continue with a fossil fuel-based growth strategy?

The nationally determined contributions (NDCs) made in Paris signal the willingness of countries to take action to reduce their emissions, in the context of their national circumstances.  While they do fall short of meeting the target of keeping global warming below 2°C, one must see this as a baby step, in the context of bigger ambitions. The Paris agreement aspires to efforts that could lead to keeping the global temperature rise to a more ambitious 1.5°C, early peaking of emissions, and a zero net emission world in the second half of this century. With these broad contours and a robust arrangement in place for monitoring, reporting and verification of mitigation actions; and a global review every 5 years with a view to ratcheting up ambition in NDCs, one must remain optimistic on the delivery of commitments.

This holds for the countries in Asia and the Pacific too. While many of them still rely on fossil fuels, the clear articulation in their NDCs to either undertake absolute emission reductions from business-as-usual levels (e.g. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Tajikistan, Thailand, and Viet Nam), reduce emission intensity of growth (e.g. People’s Republic of China [PRC], India, and Malaysia), increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix (e.g. PRC, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Papua New Guinea), or improve forest cover (e.g. Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Sri Lanka) are indicative of their resolve to bend their national emissions curves in the right direction.

How will the agreement on greater accountability and transparency in the implementation of emissions targets help the fight to reduce the impact of climate change in the region?

Transparency and accountability are key to the success of the Paris agreement. The agreement entails a pledge and review system rather than top-down targets with stringent compliance. The international regulatory system that will be established for this purpose will ensure that the pledges embedded in NDCs are honored, and that there is a consistency and complementarity of efforts by all countries to meet the overall target of keeping the temperature increase below 2°C. For this purpose a committee for implementation and compliance has been established, which shall function in a transparent, non-adversarial, and non-punitive manner. The regular stocktaking of the achievement of pledges in 5-year cycles beginning in 2023 is a facilitative mechanism to ensure the global trajectory of emissions is monitored, taking into account mitigation, adaptation, means of implementation and support, equity, and the best available science.

The Paris agreement doesn't offer anything new or specific on climate change financing over and above recommitting to the collective goal of $100 billion per year until 2025. What should countries in Asia and the Pacific now do to ensure that they get the resources needed to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change?

The agreement has reiterated the goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year starting 2020. The cover decision to the agreement clearly states that the $100 billion target is a floor value and that a new target will be set before 2025, bearing in mind the needs and priorities of developing countries. This is a clear recognition that financing needs will be higher in the future. The role of the operating entities of the financial mechanism of the Climate Convention, i.e. the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Green Climate Fund, and the two special funds - Least Developed Countries Fund and Special Climate Change Fund hosted by GEF, in addition to the Adaptation Fund in its future incarnation, have also been reiterated. There is also a clear directive in the Paris agreement that access to such financing should be made simple and through continued readiness support for developing countries.

To access this funding, a first step that countries in Asia and the Pacific could take would be to clearly articulate in their NDCs the “conditional” actions and contributions, along with the financing required for such actions. In addition, developing countries in the region need to build adequate capacity and institutions to access the funds. For instance, to access the Green Climate Fund, they should establish National Designated Authorities with clear mandates, and perhaps, if they desire so, National Implementing Entities for direct access.

In addition, a clear articulation of capacity building needs and associated support required could be channeled through the Paris Committee on Capacity Building established under the Paris agreement.

Access to technologies through the new technology framework that will be established as a result of the agreement will also be essential for countries to avail of institutional mechanisms that will be established in the coming years.

The least developed countries and small island developing states in Asia and the Pacific have additional channels through special facilitation that have been accorded to these two groups under the agreement.

At ADB we will be launching a climate change strategic framework that will guide our assistance to developing member countries based on their NDCs. Our goal of doubling climate financing to $6 billion by 2020 will also be accomplished in this broader context.