No “one size fits all” solution for long-term climate goals, Need for Immediate strategies and NDCs

The second plenary session of the ALP Forum 2021 focused on “Long-term strategies for raising NDC ambition”. The session was moderated by Mr. Jens Radschinski, Regional Lead of Regional Collaboration Centre Bangkok (RCC) who began by adding, “that the recent NDC synthesis report released by the UNFCCC estimates that the global GHG emissions in 2030 would be 1.5 % lower than 2010 levels, however, climate science states that reductions up to 45% as compared to 2010 and net-zero by 2050 is required to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting ourselves to the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise.”

Mr. Radschinski said long-term climate goals need immediate strategies and NDCs and that there is no “one size fits all” solution.

Dr. Walter Reinhardt, Senior Economist, Pacific, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), indicated the growing diversity of countries that are submitting low-emission development strategies (LEDS) to the UNFCCC. Of the 31 countries that have submitted LEDS as of August 2021, 8 are from developing countries and four are Pacific Island nations. The maximum number of LEDS were submitted in 2020, i.e. 14.

Dr. Reinhardt spoke of the growing quality in LEDS development processes such as alignment with government policies and processes, the ‘pushing on an open door’ phenomenon where governments are prioritizing low-emission growth, better modeling, calculation of socio-economic benefits, recognition of gender disparities, linking of mitigation and adaptation, better implementation governance and mobilizing of finance as well as more robust monitoring frameworks and their outcomes, among others.

The informative panel discussion that followed, had representatives from four Asia-Pacific countries that have already submitted their LEDS. They spoke of the need for political will, lifestyle changes and for ensuring that all stakeholders are on board for the implementation of the LEDS to read the net-zero goal.

Mr. Joojin Kim, Managing Director, Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC), Republic of Korea, said according to Climate Analytics, South Korea would reduce its emissions by 43% to 59% by 2030, over 2017 levels, and would be net zero by 2050. He pointed out the growing climate ambition in the Korean government, as reflected in the statements being made by different government functionaries and documents over the past few months itself. Mr. Kim spoke of the contentious issue of coal power plants, which contribute about 4% of the emissions. Six coal power plants are under construction, and assuming an operational period of 30 years for each, they would continue to operate beyond 2050, the target year for net-zero.

“We are trying to help the government to find an easy way to deal with this issue,” he said. The compensation for closing a coal power plant would not be difficult, he said, as the fair market value of a plant was a lot lower than its construction cost. But the question was to find the money to expedite the retirement of the coal power plants, he pointed out.

Prof. Yun Sun –Jin, Co-Chairperson, 2050 Carbon Neutrality Commission, Republic of Korea, spoke about the country’s draft Carbon Neutrality Scenarios, which guide mid-term goals for achieving carbon neutrality and mid-and long-term energy plans. She said there had been polarising reactions to the three scenarios that had been prepared, adding that it was important for more citizens to discuss these issues.  The first two scenarios do not meet the net-zero goal, but the goal of all three is carbon neutrality. She said that if the use of fossil fuels and emissions continued, then the goal of net-zero would not be achieved.

She highlighted that momentum on the net-zero target would be next to impossible unless there was significant citizen consent on the subject. Hence, in the development of the 2050 Carbon Neutrality Scenarios, consultations with the Citizens’ Council for Carbon Neutrality were conducted which included representatives from different stakeholder groups, of which the youth representatives were the most prominent.

She also raised a pertinent point and said, “We should change our approach, the question should not be – if we can achieve Net-Zero Emissions by 2050, but it should be how we will achieve it.”

Mr. Ryuzo Sugimoto, Director, International Cooperation and Sustainable Infrastructure Office, Global Environmental Bureau, Ministry of the Environment, Japan, said that under Japan’s plan for global warming countermeasures, solar and wind energy would be promoted under the renewable energy plan. A change in the people’s mindset was crucial for achieving carbon neutrality in Japan, as 60% of the GHG emissions were due to household consumption. Japan’s Regional Decarbonization Roadmap aims to create at least 100 decarbonized regions by 2030, which could be replicated nationwide in a domino effect. Additional policy measures include local government action plans to set targets for implementation of measures and the introduction of a certification system of regional decarbonization to be implemented by municipalities.

Ms. Cynthia Maharani, Climate Research Analyst, WRI Indonesia, spoke about the inadequate climate ambitions of Indonesia, adding that the country had confirmed that it would not raise ambitions till 2025. The country is expected to see a peaking of GHG emissions in 2030  with a net sink of forestry and land uses.

“We encourage the government to raise ambition by adopting low carbon development (high) to achieve net-zero development,” she said. The problem was, she added, that there was a 60% finance gap for climate mitigation in Indonesia, following the pandemic. She said a strong collaboration between horizontal and vertical levels in government was needed, in addition to clarity of subnational government roles and bottom-up implementation pathways.

Ms. Deepitika Chand, Senior Mitigation Officer, The Climate Change and International Cooperation Division (CCICD), Ministry of Economy, Fiji, gave an overview of LEDS in Fiji, with four scenarios of increasing ambitions. The development of the LEDS strategy has brought some benefits, she said, such as outlining the importance of gender mainstreaming, creation of green jobs, and ensuring low-carbon transition that does not impact Fiji’s unique ecosystems.

“Fiji has submitted to the UNFCCC its long-term strategy (LTS) titled Fiji Low Emission Development Strategy 2018-2050, across all economic sectors,” she said. She emphasized that it is a ‘living document’ and it will be periodically updated, as and when needed, to ensure validity, transparency, and accuracy over time.

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