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Asian, Middle Eastern, North African countries express readiness to step up climate action

Most countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa aim to increase ambition to tackle climate change through new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are eager to share knowledge about how to best achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

James Grabert
James Grabert, UN Climate Change Director

This was the key finding of a virtual meeting, co-organised by UN Climate Change and NDC Partnership, to share good practices about how countries can update their climate action plans under the Paris Agreement (NDCs).

Earlier this year, UN Climate Change published the initial NDC Synthesis Report covering NDCs from 75 Parties to the UNFCCC who communicated a new or updated NDC before the end of last year.

The report shows that governments are far from reaching their climate goals and urgently need to accelerate their actions to achieve these goals.

However, a survey carried out by Regional Collaboration Centre Bangkok and Regional Collaboration Dubai last year, as well as the initial NDC Synthesis Report, shows there is significant potential and willingness of countries to make use of lessons learned from regional neighbors.

Bangkok meeting highlights need for urgent action

The recent virtual meeting in Bangkok to address the situation was attended by over 125 participants from 32 countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), in addition to12 development partners and development finance institutions.

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UN Climate Change Director, James Grabert, warned: “While it is encouraging to hear growing commitments to net-zero emissions by 2050 around the world, such long-term goals must be translated into immediate actions and NDCs.”

UK Ambassador, Ken O’Flaherty, highlighted the achievements of the Maldives in setting targets for net-zero emissions. In addition, he highlighted exemplary government consultations to enhance climate ambitions in the NDC in Pakistan, announcements on moratoriums to prevent the building of new coal power stations in the Philippines, and the planned increase of renewable energy share to 80% by 2030 in Sri Lanka, despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, he urged governments to submit more ambitious NDCs.

Romeo Bertolini, Head of the Bonn Office, Support Unit, NDC Partnership, stated: “The Partnership is currently working with a number of countries in preparing their NDC action plans. These plans will shape the scale and reach of climate action in the global south in the years to come.”

Participants in the meeting heard that new and updated NDCs indicate that more governments have integrated strategies to build resilience to the unavoidable impacts of climate change into their climate action plans. This is significant, as adaptation to climate change is a central goal of the Paris Agreement.

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Overcoming obstacles to climate action

Delegates described common and unique technical, financial, legal, political and cultural barriers that the countries face in their NDC implementation process. These can be overcome by learning from one another’s experience, where there are similar socio-economic national circumstances.

For example, introducing carbon pricing in developing countries and in countries whose economy is dependent on fossil fuels, requires reflection on the pros and consequences of such a tool and provide means of implementation to countries that will be impacted by it. Similarly, peer-to-peer learning can be part of the exercise on mapping availability of climate finance and building capacity to access climate finance.

The need to act swiftly to deliver climate commitments requires inclusive stakeholder engagement. This means incentivizing the private sector, mainstreaming gender inclusiveness in NDC planning and implementation, and empowering marginalised groups in societies.

Finance is key to climate action

Collaborating with development partners and development finance institutions can support the implementation of enhanced climate action plans.Twelve development partners and development financial institutions from Asia and MENA elaborated their support programs for NDC implementation, as well as stakeholder engagement and coordination.

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For example, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is supporting NDC implementation through the development of NDC Roadmaps and financial planning – both carbon and climate finance. Green Finance is still at the margins, but needs to be mainstreamed into development programmes. Further examples of how development partners have supported capacity building of different countries include the Climate Investment Platform, Green Investment Facility for Lebanon, and Global Environment Facility (GEF) – and Green Climate Fund (GCF) – approved projects for different sectors for countries in the region.

Country representatives agreed that climate finance is still a key factor in all regions to implement climate plans and policies. Innovative financing such as credit enhancement measures can be catalytic in removing barriers and stimulating investments. These funds must be channeled to build carbon-neutral and resilient societies, especially in developing countries, and planning processes such as the Regional Climate Weeks can provide the necessary momentum.

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