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Commitment-phobia

I set the goal of graduating on time with honors but I ended up extending my stay in college; I barely avoided expulsion. I set for myself the goal of writing blogs regularly but I kept on facing a blank screen for hours, for weeks with little to show. More recently I took on the goal of not watching too much TV. Unfortunately the new season of Suits came out, together with Scandal, Pawn Stars, and Surviving Alaska, and it doesn’t seem as if I’ll be meeting this target, too.

What’s behind these failures? I think I understand. A goal means nothing unless one commits to it. Believe me, it’s almost a universal truth. I sat as an observer in the first meeting of experts of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Long Term Finance Work Programme (LTF) last July 16-17, 2013 at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.

Very recently developed countries agreed to mobilize $100 billion annually starting in 2020 to finance climate change programs in developing countries. They said the mobilization of $100 billion each year — this was their “goal”. And since it wasn’t a commitment, the “goal” became a mere number subject to the best efforts of developed countries to contribute to meeting the target.

During the LTF meeting in Dusit, Nicaragua’s Minister for Policy, Paul Oquist, eloquently explained the importance of understanding the difference between the use of the word “goal” compared to the more binding term “commitment”. Oquist cited in particular the LTF work programme as reported in the Conference of Parties (COP) 17 in Durban, South Africa in November 28- December 11, 2011 and as carried over to the LTF extended work programme in COP 18 in Doha, Qatar last December 2012. Oquist was spot on and spoke with a conviction that conveyed intense frustration over the clever attempts, year after year after year, by developed countries to evade their responsibility over climate change.

The doctrine of “best efforts”, which has often meant “I’ll do what I can” without doing much, has no place in climate change responses. This is because there are no free passes and get-out-of-jail cards in this game, where the suffering will suffer more, a game which can actually have an abrupt, violent, or gradual but no less deadly ending, for the vulnerable, who require the provision of support, far earlier than 2020, which does not really appear so long-term.

The co-chairs of the LTF are both known champions of effective climate finance. Mark Storey, the lanky adviser attached to the Swedish Finance Ministry, he represents one of the more proactive developed countries that are attempting to address the growing climate mitigation and adaptation financing needs of developing countries. Naderev Saño, from the Philippine Climate Change Commission, is best known worldwide for his impassioned call for climate justice during the Doha round of climate talks last year, as the carnage wrought by typhoon Bopha on the Philppines became evident.

Storey and Saño convened the LTF meeting with a two-point agenda – the identification of

effective finance pathways and the determination of enabling policies that can bring in climate finance to developing country coffers. At many junctures during the meeting, however, long-term finance discussions ended up orbiting again and again the conflict between raising $100 billion as a goal and how this can be transformed into actual commitments by developed countries. The co-chairs seemed quite serious in their moderation of the discussions, but frustration was evident on both Saño and Storey, as most developed countries simply brought out prepare speeches that contributed little to making the transition from goal to commitment happen.

Good thing the Philippine government is not simply asking Filipinos to cross their fingers. Politics took a back seat

when the country’s first climate finance mechanism, the People’s Survival Fund (PSF), was enacted in 2012. It was a good sign that said the government will not wait for others take responsibility for their global pollution.

What did the Aquino government do? It made a commitment. It committed to allocate at least 1 billion pesos or U$24 million annually to fund local adaptation initiatives.

I share Mr. Oquist’s frustration­. Developed countries, with their high carbon emissions and historical responsibility, should be ashamed. Climate change is becoming more severe. There is just no time waste.

As Comm. Saño put it, “no more delays, no more excuses”, and perhaps we can also say “no more talk of goals; only commitments.

It’s high time for developed countries to commit rather than set flimsily defined goals with respect to climate finance, which they owe, because unlike my extended stay in college, writers’ block, and borderline addiction to a few TV series, there is more at stake in this matter and the odds are not playing in our favor

by: Kairos dela Cruz

Editor’s Note: The image used in this article came from the documentation materials posted by IISD. Any alterations made in the image are only meant for this article and not for any copyright intent.

Image Caption: Lidy Nacpil of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) speaks with LTF co-chairs Mark Storey and Naderev Saño in behalf of the protesters calling for developed countries to pay their climate debt in a protest rally during the LTF experts’ meeting in Dusit Thani Hotel Makati last July 16, 2013. (c) IISD

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