For decades, North-South cooperation was seen as essential in helping developing countries. Today, it is South-South cooperation that is on the rise, with interregional trade expected to overtake that in the North:
Minister Xie, Under Secretary General Ambassador Wu, Executive Secretary Figueres, ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen – welcome!
Thanks to all of you for attending this historic event in Paris, where every single one of us cares about the unprecedented threat of climate change and the urgent need for more inclusive, sustainable development. We are in an unprecedented position to do something about those threats and to deliver a better future for our children and theirs.
For decades, North-South cooperation was seen as essential in helping developing countries. Today, it is South-South cooperation that is on the rise, with interregional trade expected to overtake that in the North.
Each Southern nation brings unique assets, strengths and experiences, which they are exploiting tangibly, through capital and technology, and intangibly, through knowledge and solutions. So it is no surprise that South-South cooperation is emerging as a key element of the global response to climate change. For example, while global investment in clean energy was up by 17 per cent, in developing countries it was up by more than double that, at 36 per cent.
Many emerging economies are moving to the frontline of international climate policy, taking a lead in defining and implementing low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable development pathways. For example, China’s quest to create an “ecological civilization” has halved the average cost of renewable energy in just a decade, while the country is delivering hard and fast on its commitment to South-South cooperation on climate change. In September, President Xi Jinping announced a fund of $3.1 billion. And just last week, he announced the launch of ten low-carbon industrial parks, 100 mitigation projects and 1, 000 training opportunities.
Likewise, Brazil now tops the world in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, achieving 90 per cent reductions in the last decade. Meanwhile, India has committed to sourcing 40 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2030. With countries from Mongolia to Kenya developing ambitious climate change strategies, there is no doubt that the South-South cooperation model has shown serious potential for tackling climate change and the other 16 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Far from substituting North-South cooperation, South-South cooperation complements it. That raises the question: What gaps should it fill in the climate agenda for developing countries?
Clearly there is financial gap. Even if Northern countries mobilize the $100 billion a year in climate funding they committed to giving the South until 2020, financial support remains rare for most developing countries. Yet, South-South financing and knowledge could close that deficit. For example, improving institutional capacity would help to make an effective case for climate finance, and strengthen their ability to negotiate and implement increasingly complex climate agreements.
But there is also a knowledge gap, which South-South cooperation could help to fill. It can increase Southern engagement in international efforts and scientific processes, such as the IPCC, and improve collaboration between the developers and users of knowledge. It can also increase the sharing of traditional knowledge among Southern countries. Much of this is inherently sustainable and appropriate for developing countries. For example, REDD+ shares best practice among nearly 60 countries to cut emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, while conserving biodiversity.
And South-South cooperation can increase the uptake of ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation and mitigation. The benefits are already clear in the UNEP-China joint project on ecosystem-based adaptation, which supports Mauritania, Nepal and Seychelles, and which promotes cooperation between Asia and Africa.
Well, there is plenty to do, so how do we make it all happen. First, we can ensure that the South-South approach to climate change is fully integrated into the other targets for 2030. Last month, the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Team concluded: “Climate change has become one of the major pillars for South-South cooperation on our way toward sustainable development…”
One way to deliver on this is to develop a matrix that aligns sectors of importance to the South, where Sustainable Development Goals overlap with climate change priorities, with needed interventions, such as finance and knowledge sharing.
Second, we can build on existing processes and mechanisms under the UNFCCC that support actions by developing countries. Here, South-South Cooperation can support some of the climate institutional architecture by using existing financial and technology mechanisms, such as the Global Environment Facility and Adaptation Fund, and the Technology Expert Committee. It can also create potential alternatives, such as multi-donor trust funds under the UN umbrella.
And finally, we can accelerate the “Platform for Promoting South-South Cooperation on Climate Change, ” which the National Development and Reform Commission called for in Lima. Through knowledge sharing, capacity building, policy support, finance and technology exchange, it would scale-up in line with national capabilities and priorities.
There is no question that cooperation among developing countries will contribute significantly to implementing the 2030 Agenda. But, while today we are talking about how to capitalize on South-South cooperation, I hope that in the very near future, we will be talking about South-North-South cooperation, as many developed nations realize how much this model has to offer.
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