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The World’s Poorest Nations Say Yes to Emissions Cuts

By Alex Kirby, Climate News Network

LONDON — In what could be a far-reaching move, the world's poorest countries say they are now prepared to commit themselves to binding cuts in their emissions of greenhouse gases.

The move has the potential to quicken the pace of the glacially-slow U.N. negotiations, which have for years been trying to agree an effective way to cut emissions in order to avoid runaway climate change.

A Ugandan family. Uganda is one of the 49 countries comprising The Group of Least Developed Countries, a key partner in the long-running United Nations climate talks. Credit: uusc4all/flickr.

The Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is a major negotiating bloc at the U.N. talks, with its member states including 12 percent of the world's people..

Whether its willingness to accept cuts will in fact hasten the birth of a new and comprehensive climate agreement will now depend largely on the good faith and commitment of the richer countries.

Quamrul Chowdury is a lead climate negotiator of the LDC Group. He told the Climate News Network: "Prakash Mathema, the current Chair of the LDCs in the climate negotiations, has a new mantra: 'Follow us'.

"That means the 49 LDCs under his leadership are set to act in the process as a very pro-active group. They will lead by example — by doing. The LDCs are no longer waiting for others to act.

"I think the LDCs are now for low carbon pathways for all. They are even ready to go first in helping to cut back global greenhouse gas emissions, though they are the ones least responsible for increasing those emissions."

Asked whether this meant that the LDCs now accepted the need for binding emissions cuts by all signatories to the international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, and not just by industrialized countries, Chowdury said it did.

"All countries should commit [to accepting cuts], but developing countries' National Appropriate Mitigation Actions [NAMAs] should be supported", he said.

NAMAs are policies and actions which countries undertake as part of their commitment to reduce emissions. The term, developed by the U.N. negotiators,  recognizes that different countries may act in different ways based on equity and on their shared but differing responsibilities and abilities — in other words, the contribution they have made to climate change.

NAMAs do not involve governments making the sort of binding commitments which the LDCs say they will now accept. They do stress the importance of financial help from developed to developing countries to help them to reduce emissions.

"Major emitters need to scale up their efforts. They also need to do more to stabilize the global temperature well below 2°C (3.6°F)..."

Mr Chowdury's statement that the LDCs now accept that all countries should make binding emissions cuts is a significant diplomatic step forward.

It has been the developing world's refusal to accept that it is responsible for helping to solve a problem it did not cause that has allowed some industrialized countries, notably the U.S. and Australia, to refuse to commit themselves to internationally-agreed cuts.

Chowdury added: "The LDCs are for raising ambitions over climate change mitigation, because mitigation is the ultimate adaptation. And adaptation has its limits.

"The cost of adaptation is also rising every day as the most industrialized countries are not slashing their emissions, except for some of the European good boys. But that is not enough.

"Major emitters need to scale up their efforts. They also need to do more to stabilize the global temperature well below 2°C (3.6°F) [a widely accepted global threshold].

"LDCs are also doing some adaptation, and they are showing global leadership here. Bangladesh, Nepal and Mozambique are shining cases of successful on-the-ground adaptation.

"Those cases should be scaled up and replicated. Others can learn from the LDCs how to face climate adversities day in and day out."

Mr Chowdury's statement goes to the heart of one of the most divisive issues in the negotiations: who should move first by cutting emissions?

A number of developed countries argue that they will make cuts only when the LDCs do so, despite the fact that it is industrialization and development that have largely caused the human contribution to climate change.

Until now the LDCs have insisted that they should not be asked to accept binding cuts because they have contributed so few emissions to the total now in the atmosphere.

Prakash Mathema's mantra, urging the LDCs to set an example others can follow, could alter the terms of the entire debate.

Alex Kirby, a former BBC environment correspondent, is a founding journalist of Climate News Network. Climate News Network is a news service led by four veteran British environmental reporters and broadcasters. It delivers news and commentary about climate change for free to media outlets worldwide.


By Mary the Metoeorologist (Portland)
on April 1st, 2013

If the 49 LDCs eliminated ALL of their emissions, it might reduce global temperatures by 0.05 deg in the next 50 years.  That’s just a guess, but in the ballpark based on published research of a similar vein.

Basically, the LDCs will cry and moan about the effects of climate change and go along in what economists call “rent seeking”.  They will try to play the poor victim and demand payments from the “rich” countries (who all seem broke these days).

Most of the LDCs are in tropical regions where the effect of climate change has and will likely be, been negligible.  I wonder how much fossil fuel has been wasted by even having this conversation since it’s scientifically irrelevant.

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By Albert Barlow (Santee, CA 92071)
on April 1st, 2013

Ugandans promise to not gather twigs to boil water.
They vow to check the particulate traps on the foul diesel buses they must use for transit.

April Fools? Or is this fodder for fools?

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By Rachel
on April 1st, 2013

I think it’s awesome that people are starting to take the steps about cutting emissions, but how affected is it going to be in LDCs?  Poorer countries are emitting the least amount of greenhouse gases, not causing a lot of pollution at all.  Although, they have higher birth rates and we would assume more people=more emissions, it’s the developed countries that have zero or below replacement birth levels that need to be the first to take action.  Why would developed countries get motivated or inspired by emission cuts in LDC who are causing the least problems and emissions?

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By Yvonne (Brighton)
on April 2nd, 2013

Developed countries cause more emissions than poor nations and focus to cut emissions should be concentrated in developed countries with measures to support these poor nations to develop in a low-carbon pathway by building capacities to develop technologies like renewable energy, climate smart agriculture!

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By Dewan Afzal (Mississauga,Ont.L5R3X5)
on April 2nd, 2013

It great news that LDC wants all countries to cut emission. I always think the country like Bangladesh can set an example by investing more on clean energy. But government record is not good and again they have signed nuclear agreement with Russian for nuclear energy. The amount of money they agreed to spend by borrowing from Russia is huge and interest rate extremely high. This kind of policy by LDC country does not bode well for climate.

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By MikeH (East Asia)
on April 3rd, 2013

@Albert Barlow

You need to be careful about accusing people of being fools. You may draw attention to yourself.

These countries are called “Least Developed” not “Never To Be Developed”. I suggest you acquaint yourself with China’s rapid industrialisation. If the LDC countries come on board they need to be assisted with technology transfer so they can build non-carbon economies as they develop - this is not “rent seeking” but the path that the East Asian economies followed since the 1980s.

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