25 September 2017

UNDP Expert Commentary on the Latin American NDC Dialogue in Quito

Workshop Participants. Photo by UNDP Ecuador.

By Katharina Davis, Climate Policy Advocacy and Communication Specialist, UNDP

Regional exchanges on climate action, such as the Regional Dialogues on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which we co-organize with our partners, provide an important forum to discuss the complex, yet exciting quest to implement the Paris Agreement for a global transition to a resilient, low carbon economy.

I could therefore not wait to quiz my colleagues about key issues that stood out for them at our most recent NDC dialogue for Latin America earlier this month. It is clear that we are seeing more concrete discussions on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of national climate action implementation emerge, with Latin America being particular focused on opportunities in the energy sector. The following are brief observations from my colleagues on regional opportunities in energy, first looks at climate finance, and pathways for integrating gender considerations into climate action.

“What stood out to me [here in Latin America] were the opportunities for an energy transition and how this can contribute to not only countries’ NDCs but also their development goals,” noted Michael Comstock, UNDP Climate Technical Specialist.  “A presentation by CCAP (Center for Clean Air Policy) focused on technological advances and the fact that capital is available for countries that develop good proposals and financial structures. The falling costs of renewable energy and energy storage, as well as opportunities for electrification of the transport sector, can also help countries in this transition.”

A presentation by the California Energy Commission was also inspirational for countries of all development levels as it showed how California was able to grow its economy and population while reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“It is indeed a powerful story of how policy choices can influence climate-savvy investment decisions, as well as companies’ and consumers’ behaviors,” stated Massimiliano Riva, UNDP Specialist for Sustainable and Innovative Finance. “California’s case shows us two things: First, it showed the importance of understanding investment and resource allocation flows. Second, it showed us that financing NDCs is not only about generating new resources or attracting more private capital but it’s also about spending in a more sensible way today and adopting policies and investments that reduce the bill tomorrow.”

This work starts with understanding the direction of financial flows and integrating the Ministry of Finance and Planning as part of the NDC implementation. The review of four countries in Latin America that have concluded their assessments of public expenditure on climate change reveal that 76.9 percent of the spending in the region is related to adaptation; 19.5 percent to mitigation; and 3.5 percent to the category of losses and damages. These results clearly underscore adaptation as a regional priority.

“Even though NDCs will be implemented between 2020-2030, their foundations are already defined in the current development planning exercises,” said Gianluca Merlo, UNDP Regional Technical Analyst for Climate Change. “Clearly, identifying current investments and expenditures may reveal any discrepancy with the proposed NDC. The analysis of actual budgeting for development through the climate lens is crucial so as not to jeopardize mitigation and adaptation targets. Identifying, for example, investment opportunities that can avoid the creation of perverse incentives, can prevent the economy from being trapped in GHG-emitting technologies for decades.”

Once the trends are revealed, four strategies can be pursued, explain Riva and Merlo: (1) Mobilizing new resources, (2) Re-aligning existing resources with NDC priorities, (3) Implementing cost effectiveness measures to deliver better and (4) Investing today in precautionary measures to reduce future costs.

For Verania Chao, UNDP’s Policy Specialist on Gender & Climate, NDC planning and implementation processes can offer an opportunity for national gender and women institutions to be integrated into the multi-stakeholder working groups currently being established. “This action will allow existing platforms and coordination mechanisms on gender and on climate change to converge and to share information and processes,” she noted.

Yet, according to Chao, most Latin American countries that participated in the NDC Regional Dialogue are concerned about the lack of capacities within their institutions to mainstream gender. “They think there is a need to train decision makers on gender within the ministries of environment. But they also think that gender institutions should be trained on climate change.”

Furthermore, developing a gender analysis of the respective national context and at the sector level can ensure a better understanding of gender trends, differing situations of women and men, and concrete strategies and mechanisms for gender-responsive climate change policy and actions.

The Latin America NDC Dialogue, the first in the fourth series of Regional Dialogues on NDCs, was co-organized by UNDP, the UNFCCC Secretariat, Germany’s Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), CCAP, and the Partnership on Transparency in the Paris Agreement, in coordination with the NDC Partnership.

“The Paris Agreement establishes a common goal to limit temperature rise well below 2C while, given the grave risks, striving for 1.5C.  As a common endeavor, it is essential that countries strengthen cooperation and engage in a constructive dialogue to exchange experiences, challenges and opportunities. UNDP and UNFCCC, through the regional dialogues, have provided a critical platform to this end,” explains Claudio Forner, UNFCCC Team Lead at the Mitigation, Data, and Analysis program.“ The latest decision to engage sector ministries has made it possible for technical experts to benefit from exchanging information on very concrete aspects for the implementation of mitigation actions. As we move into the future, such exchanges will become an important cornerstone to support NDC implementation and mobilize support for greater ambition.”

Sean Gilbert, partnership and outreach lead for the NDC Partnership Support Unit, agrees: “Regional Dialogues give countries an opportunity to identify common challenges and share promising practices to ensure NDC implementation is as robust and effective as possible.”  According to Gilbert, drawing on the experiences and resources of international partners, like those in the NDC Partnership, helps countries bridge gaps to turn ambitions into action.

The Latin America Dialogue was hosted by the Government of Ecuador, and was made possible through generous support from the European Commission and the Governments of Norway, Japan, and Germany. (Presentations can be downloaded here.)

Stay tuned for further expert input following our next Regional NDC Dialogue in Africa taking place 26-28 September in Rabat, Morocco. Follow along with hashtag: #NDCDialogues