Dr Alexander Spachis was appointed as the first fully accredited European Union Ambassador to Nepal in November 2009. He joined the European Commission in 1981 and has over the years worked with various EU institutions, including the European Parliament and the Council. He has also served in the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the Director of the office of the Alternate Minister responsible for EU. He holds a Doctoral Degree in Management from the Imperial College Business School, University of London.
Dr Spachis talked to The Rising Nepal on the outcome of the ‘United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change’ held in the South African City of Durban from November 28th to December 7th. He also mentioned the recent joint European Union and DFID EUR 16.5 million (NPR 1.8 billion) support to Nepal for the Climate Change Support Programme and reflected on how it would help the country meet the challenges that are likely to arise from climate change in the future. Excerpts:
The European Union has been playing a pro-active role in lobbying for an acceptable and binding international treaty on climate change at the international level. How do you evaluate the achievements made so far in particular reference to the Durban climate conference that concluded only a month ago?
The European Union welcomes the agreement reached at the UN climate conference in Durban as a historic breakthrough in the fight against climate change. With the agreement on a roadmap towards the setting up of a new legal framework that will involve all countries in the fight against climate change by 2015, the EU has achieved its key goal for the Durban climate conference.
Does the agreement pave the way for the EU to hold negotiations with individual countries, in order to meet the envisaged targets of minimising the negative impact of climate change?
Yes it has paved the way for further constructive cooperation between India and the European Union, both at the international level, through the implementation of the Durban agreement, as well as bilaterally. A first major occasion for the Leaders of both sides to discuss this will be at the EU-India Summit which is scheduled for the 10th of February 2012.
What is the Durban package made of?
The 195 parties to the UN climate change convention agreed on a roadmap, proposed by the EU, for the drawing up of a legal framework by 2015 within which all countries develop their climate action. There was also an agreement on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, and the new Green Climate Fund for developing countries made operational. In addition, a series of measures which build on the progress made at last year’s Cancun conference were approved, including the Climate Technology Centre Network which was proposed by India. The agreement reflects the reality of today’s mutually interdependent world: Because of this interdependence, what we promise to do must have the same legal weight.
Could you shed some light on the much talked about ‘Durban Platform for Enhanced Action’?
The conference outcome was the launching of a process – the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action - to develop a new Protocol, another binding legal instrument or agreed outcome that will be applicable to all parties to the UN climate convention. In essence, it was a decision to make the struggle against greenhouse gas emissions more ambitious; it be adopted by 2015 and be implemented from 2020.
Are there any other important facets of the ‘Durban Package’?
As requested by developing countries and supported by the European Union, in the Package it was formally decided that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will run starting January 1st 2013, thus avoiding a gap at the end of the first commitment period that finishes next year. Moreover, new rules on forestry management approved as part of the package will improve the Protocol’s environmental integrity. The parties’ precise targets for the reduction of emissions, as well as rules governing the carry over of surplus emission rights from the first commitment period, will be decided at the end of next year.
How will the Durban outcome help make the funding mechanism operational?
The Durban outcome makes the funding mechanism operational (agreed at the Copenhagen COP) via a new Green Climate Fund (GCF) by finalising its design and governance arrangements. The GCF is expected to be one of the major distribution channels for the US$ 100 billion in assistance which developed countries have pledged to mobilise for developing nations annually by 2020 in the context of meaningful mitigation efforts. Germany has already pledged €40 million and Denmark €15 million to make the GCF operational. The arrangements needed to make the new Clean Technology Mechanism and Adaptation Committee operational have also been agreed on.
The Durban Package brings into operation new arrangements to increase the transparency of the actions taken by both developed and developing countries to address their emissions. This is a key measure for building trust between Parties.
Now coming back to the support that the EU has provided to Nepal to tackle climate change; have there been any recent developments?
The European Union together with DFID have recently extended a grant of EURO 16.5 million (NPR approx 1.8 billion) for the ‘Climate Change Support Programme: Building Climate Resilience in Nepal’. Out of the EURO 16.5 million in total, the Government of the United Kingdom will provide EURO 7.9 million and the European Union (EU) will provide EURO 8.6 million. The project that we are supporting falls under one of these so-called "Climate finance" initiatives: the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA), which is aimed at strengthening policy dialogue and cooperation on climate change with the most vulnerable developing countries, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
How will the project help Nepal address the emerging challenges related to climate change?
This joint EU-DFID programme should help the Government of Nepal to integrate climate change considerations into its development planning, as well as in its implementation of concrete measures at the local level to help rural communities adapt to the consequences of climate change.
The implementation of this project through the partnership with DFID is in line with the EU’s commitment to ensure more consistency and coordination with the EU Member States, with the aim of improving efficiency. The EU’s support to a joint programme managed by DFID reduces transaction costs, not least for the government, reduces the fragmentation of aid, and helps build on DFID’s comparative advantage in the sector.
Could you shed light on other highlights of the project? Who will the beneficiaries be and how will they see positive changes in their day to day lives?
In terms of the concrete achievements of this programme, it will for instance enhance the capacity of government institutions both at the central and local levels to develop and implement more climate-resilient practices in agriculture, e.g. by setting up seed banks for crops that are more resistant or more adequate to new climate trends, by helping farmers to address increasingly frequent or damaging pests, by helping communities to improve water resource management (e.g. water harvesting tanks, new irrigation systems), or finally by helping prevent climate or water-related disasters like floods, support sustainable soil and nutrient management, home gardening, etc. etc.
The programme will also support vulnerable communities and help them benefit from access to cleaner energy technologies such as solar/wind energy, biogas, improved cooking stoves, small micro-hydro projects.
The programme also includes an important component (about 20%) of capacity development for government ministry staff on climate change, in particular to carry out detailed economic and social appraisals, as well as governance and fiduciary risk assessments, with the aim of identifying public finance management-related weaknesses and paving the way for possible future interventions of donors through future sector-wide support. Capacity support will also be provided at the VDC and community levels in the Mid and Far West Regions.
Finally, in addition to mainstreaming climate change in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, water and energy, the programme shall also address important cross-cutting issues, namely the empowerment and involvement of women, the inclusion of poor and disadvantaged groups, and the promotion of good governance.