The year, swathed mostly with harrowing episodes of flood, torrential rainfall, droughts, blazing wildfires, and hurricanes, is about to end on a high note, after the Bonn Climate Conference became the “Launch-Pad for Higher Ambition” on climate action before 2020.
Throughout 2017, catastrophic disasters such as the hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) have caused wreckage across the Caribbean islands, the Florida peninsula, and the Texas coastline; monsoon floods distressed the lives of millions in South Asia; blazing wildfire burned vegetation in Greenland, Alaska, and Siberia; and mudslides and flooding from torrential rain near Sierra Leone's capital killed hundreds. All these show our incapability to climate violence.
Are we prepared?
So, how do we prepare ourselves? From the US to Bangladesh, the recent havoc only spell out the undeniable existence of climate change. In fact, the miseries due to encroaching climate tribulations are not limited to a scattered series of extreme weather events; slow onset events, such as sea-level rise, anomalous movement of rain, prolonged heat waves unfold an agonising tale of varying ability of the affected nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The disparity faced by these nations is a forewarning to pursue capacity efforts as a thrust area to build an equitable environment for climate action.
In Paris, at COP21 in 2015, capacity-building was identified as the “holy grail” for tackling climate change. Although capacity building has been embedded in global climate negotiation from the beginning of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, it was not until the Paris Agreement that it came off as a key player to build the post-2020 low-carbon and sustainable future.
“One of the important articles in the Paris Agreement was Article 11 which requires all countries -- both rich and poor -- to build the capacity of their citizens to tackle climate change, both through mitigation as well as adaptation”, says Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).
The post-2020 climate action “to keep global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C” as laid out by the historic Paris Agreement will depend on the successful enactment of the national climate pledges (known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs).
Capacity-building is central to enable activities for the implementation of the NDCs to reinforce discussion on building sustainable and transformative knowledge about long-term climate actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The paradigm shift from short term to long term capacity building required a governing body to oversee, monitor, and support the implementation of the milestone agreement. Therefore, to address gaps and needs, both current and emerging, in implementing capacity-building in developing countries, the Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB) was established.
More discussion, less action
In 2016, at COP22 in Morocco, the PCCB was constituted, together with agreement on the working modalities, elaborated roles of PCCB as the managerial body of the 2016-2020 Workplan, agreed in Paris. Furthermore, the Parties to the Convention assigned PCCB to annually focus on an area to enhance the global state of knowledge by learning from the best practices and challenges in building capacity effectively in a particular area.
Still a long way to go
The negotiation streams on capacity-building is currently at its 23rd Session in the Fijian COP, we witnessed a number of long-term actions on capacity-building from both the developed and developing world. On the negotiation side, members of the PCCB remained instrumental throughout 2017.
In the lead up to COP, PCCB convened its first meeting in Bonn in May, where the 12-membered PCCB team agreed upon completing a five year rolling workplan for 2017-2019 to foster regular review and update of activities in the light of the annual focus area. With the purpose of fast-tracking post-2020 climate action, capacity building for the implementation of the NDCs has been selected as the focus area for 2017/18.
New capacity-building initiatives
The whole day of November 16 at COP23 observed a number of ground-breaking initiatives on capacity-building with global south emerging as the frontrunner with two side-events on capacity-building.
The day started with the inauguration of the first-ever Capacity-Building Day as a pathway to bridge the gap between the need for capacity development and those offering capacity-building activities by seamless dissemination of innovative ideas, initiatives in the planning stages, current initiatives that are pertinent to long-term in-country capacity-building.
The major highlight from this event included the unveiling of the least developed countries (LDCs) only capacity-building program, LDCs Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC) by the LDC Chair, Mr Gebru Jember. Over the years, Capacity Building Day will serve as a platform for diverse communities of practice across regions to come together, share knowledge, learn, and network.
The second side-event led by the global south, titled “LUCCC -- an LDCs initiative to build long-term climate capacity and implement Article 11 of the Paris,” took place to share case studies on how universities and other entities can collaborate to enhance climate capacity.
This event has become an annual platform to share the progress report on two university-focused capacity-building programs that were initiated at COP 22: LUCCC for south-south cooperation, and the Universities Network for Climate Capacity (UNCC) for South-North-South cooperation.
Meanwhile, the global North in coalition with the UN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to launch a fellowship program, Capacity Award Program to Advance Capabilities and Institutional Training in one Year (CAPACITY), to strengthen institutional capacity of the small island developing states (SIDS) and LDCs to build climate resilience.
Although negotiations on the issue of capacity-building is steadily gaining momentum since Paris, successful implementation of the post-2020 ambitions call for continuous effort to foster a humane and sustainable approach in the context of the Paris Agreement.
“Capacity building is about giving voice and enabling people to act! Human rights have to inform every climate action so that the climate regime puts people in the front and centre,” expressed Mary Robinson, president, Mary Robinson Foundation -- Climate Justice at the Capacity Building Day during COP23.
“This time at COP23, the negotiators across the board have recognised the pitfalls and inadequacies of past ad-hoc, project-based, short-term capacity building efforts and this understanding was reflected in the decision for having a sustainable long-term approach to capacity building,” stated Dr Mizan R Khan, Professor of Environmental Science and Management, North-South University.