How Least Developed Countries can become leaders in tackling climate change

The new narrative that should be taken up by the LDC group is to declare that climate change is now a climate emergency. Photo: AFP

The group of Least Developed Countries (LDC) has been negotiating under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for many years and has continuously taken leadership roles at key points. For example, the push for and successful inclusion (against great odds) of the long-term global temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Centigrade in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

As we move towards the UN Secretary General’s upcoming Climate Summit in New York in September and the 25th Conference of Parties (COP25) of the UNFCCC to be held in Santiago, Chile in December, the time has again come for the LDC group to take the lead in pushing for greater ambition going forward.

Bhutan is hosting a strategy meeting of senior negotiators from the LDC group in Thimpu this week and I am giving some ideas below for their consideration.

Firstly, the LDC group, both under Bhutan’s leadership but also with the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Malawi, who are attending the Global Summit as part of the adaptation and resilience track of the summit, should submit their “offer” and “demands” to the global community. There are three existing initiatives of the LDC group which were initiated under the previous chair of the group, Ethiopia, which can together become their “offer”.

The first, and oldest, initiative is to develop Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Initiative (REEEI) in LDCs and is already up and running (but still needs more support). The second is called LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR) and is identifying actions that individual LDCs are already undertaking and use them as examples for others to follow. This initiative will also need more support but is primarily a South-South initiative.

The third LDC initiative focuses on capacity building through universities and is called the LDC Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC) and aims to build capacity to support the two other initiatives.

These three LDC-led initiatives can be packaged together to make the 47 LDCs into climate resilient countries by 2030, and transform them out of LDC status by 2050.

As every LDC wants to graduate out of LDC status, this can become the strategy at the level of each individual country. As Bangladesh has already started its journey towards graduation from LDC status—within the next few years—we can offer a helping hand to other LDCs to support them in their efforts to graduate as well.

At the same time, there is another issue that the LDC group has led along with the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) and the Latin American countries which have joined together to support it, namely loss and damage, where there is an interesting agenda item at COP25 to decide. The LDC group can again work with the other groups to push for funding for loss and damage beyond insurance. This a politically sensitive issue where the developed countries will resist us (they want to confine the discussion to insurance only).

Finally, the new narrative that should be taken up by the LDC group is to declare that climate change is now a climate emergency (as has been well articulated by a 16-year-old school-girl from Sweden). Even though the LDCs have been saying this for a long time without getting much traction, perhaps the decision makers who need to change their decisions will listen to their children. So the LDC group should come out strongly to support school children around the world to treat the problem as a true emergency.

Originally this article was published on May 15, 2019 at  Daily Star. The author Dr. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).