‘Don’t knock the COP’; climate process key to accountability and fairness

The often maligned COP climate negotiations are essential for ensuring rich countries pay for their contribution to the climate crisis, says Belize diplomat Janine Felson.

The COP isn’t just an endpoint, but part of a process starting in Paris that emphasises the need for global climate action, says Felson, who is also an enterprise fellow at Melbourne Climate Futures.

“Don’t knock the COP”, she says.

The annual United Nations Conference of the Parties on climate – or COP – is especially important for small island developing states and vulnerable countries which don’t have easy access to capital to address climate impacts and fund solutions, she adds.

“From a developing country perspective, I think we have a framework that’s near universal, that countries have all signed on to,” Felson says.

Janine felson
Janine Felson, Enterprise Fellow Melbourne Climate Futures / Credit: Petra Stock

She says the Paris Agreement is “a social compact – a political compact as well – that basically said developed countries would provide some level of support from the public sector purse. And it’s grounded in simple principles – historic responsibility, polluter pays. And there is an element of justice within that.”

It’s important to recognise countries have different starting points and capacities to respond.  

Felson says small island states and developing countries face disproportionate costs from climate change, with the costs comprising a much bigger share of their GDP.

In Belize for example, the cost of climate change is already significant, making up around 4% of the small, Central American nation’s GDP.

That’s why the commitment made by high-income countries at the Copenhagen COP in 2009 to provide US$100 billion a year in climate finance for low and middle income countries is so important. 

But the kitty is currently falling well short, she says.

The next COP will be held in late November and December in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

And even as the private sector moves towards action rather than delay on climate change, Felson says the multilateral framework provided by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will provide a crucial role in ensuring accountability and fairness.

There’s a push within the COP process to build an accountability framework in relation to net zero commitments made by non-state actors such as private companies.

Felson was speaking on ‘Paying for the climate crisis’ at the Climate Futures Summit at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday 10 October.

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