UNFCCC Intersessional Bangkok 2018 – an interview with Harjeet Singh, ActionAid International

By Syahirah Aron

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Harjeet Singh. I work with the ActionAid International as the global leading in climate change, based in New Delhi. I am the head of the delegation. I have been following the negotiations since 2008, focusing specifically on adaptation and loss and damage, along with climate finance. I also look at the big picture of the overall development in negotiations. My role is not just following the negotiations in the United Nations (UN) level – I also help countries to develop their policies, engagement plans, and with their national adaptation plan – particularly; of how they look at the loss and damage mechanism and finding connections with the international level in helping loss and damage program. It involves 45 countries, we have around 15 countries who are interested to work on climate change and we are working very closely to them.

What are your concerns regarding the loss and damage agenda item?

I think in the loss and damage, as we have seen of how it has become the third pillar of climate action. We are already facing impacts in certain countries. Therefore, We need to have a stronger mechanism. We agreed to have a mechanism in 2013, with the national mechanism in place but it has not been able to scale up the work that it is required on the ground. We have already seen the impacts but the mechanism is not demonstrated into what is required on the ground level. For instance, there is no progress on finance and what so ever. We have seen the executive committee (ExCom) along with the international mechanism existing for 5 years but the ExCom has not been able to make any progress on the issue of finance. That is why in the previous conference of parties (COP), there was a discussion on the permanent agenda item. There is also a discussion about having a very clear direction from COP to ExCom in making progress on finance – and that is how Suva expert dialogue was organised but still, we don’t really have a concrete step of how we are going to achieve the loss and damage finance. Therefore, we are going to have one technical paper, which is going to get discussed in the week of 17, September 2018 – but you know there is a lot of resistance from the developed countries and that has not allowed progress to happen and that is something very concerning for us.

What are your expectations in this UNFCCC Intersessional Bangkok 2018 and has the outcome meet your expectations?

We did not come here for this session to resolve issues – but to make sure that all the options are in the text, which we can see but we are deeply worried when we look at the extreme position being taken by countries. We find the option where there is no section at all on loss and damage. On the other hand, we have a huge text saying this is how we need to be looking at the loss and damage under the global stocktake, transparency, finance. We have loss and damage in every different stream but these are extreme options and to bridge these options going forward is not going to be easy. We do not have a fight on this issue as we had on National Determined Contributions (NDC) guidance or finance but this is potentially to become a very divisive issue and complex issue going forward.

What is your advise for the local government?

So Thailand is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. A lot of its sector whether its agriculture, tourism, or trade in general, are going to be impacted by climate change. So the government needs to start investing in the area of adaptation as well as understanding how to address loss and damage. They need to make sure all the infrastructure that they are building are climate proof. They need to look at the scenarios for the next 30, 40, or 50 years so they can prepare their development activity accordingly. They need to understand how coastal communities are going to be affected by sea level rise and again – the coastal economy is also linked to tourism and so how tourism is going to get affected. A lot more research is required, more consultations are required to access the potential loss and damage and what adaptation actions they need to take to reduce it. That is why their involvements in the international negotiations would be helpful for them not only to learn the new concept but also to get some resources on how to address adaptation and loss and damage.

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