The ninth SAARC Environment Ministers’ meet held this week in the capital reviewed the implementation of the Thimphu Statement on Climate Change, the Convention on Cooperation on Environment and other documents, plans and agreements signed in the past. The environment ministers also renewed their commitment towards a common regional stand on environmental issues.
The agriculture and forest minister, Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho (Phd), said SAARC countries will take a common stand at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) which includes accessing the global fund for climate change. “SAARC countries need to take a common stand in terms of accessing the global fund for climate change,” he said.
He said that the need for transparency in terms of allocating the global financial resources for the member countries will be one of the common stands. “Right now some countries feel that before they realize, the fund is already spent. So transparency is needed,” said Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho.
He also stressed that there was a need to build trust among the member states. He mentioned that during COP15 at Copenhagen, the developed countries committed to provide a fund (fast start finance) of US$30bn for enhanced action on mitigation, adaption, technology development and transfer and capacity building.
However, the money never made it to the developing countries. “When some countries approached for this finance they were told the money was already spent,” said Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho.
“We need to ask for transparency and this is one position we will think about,” added Lyonpo.
The mechanism to get better access to funds from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other international sources will also be looked into.
There will also be several other common stands which the SAARC Secretariat will collect from various member countries, put together and present it at the 17th SAARC summit in Maldives later this year. Once it is endorsed it will be taken to COP 17 in Durban, South Africa.
The meet also endorsed the terms of reference (ToR) for four initiatives under the Thimphu Declaration. The four initiatives which include the monsoon initiative, marine initiative, mountain initiative and climate related disasters initiatives will be implemented with the support of the regional centers.
The SAARC metrological center will support the monsoon initiative, marine initiative by the Coastal zone management center and SAARC forestry center will support the mountain initiative while the SAARC disaster management center will support climate related disasters.
Another important decision taken by the meeting is to extend the timeline for the SAARC action plan for climate change which was initially proposed for a period of three years (2009-2011). This period will now be extended by three more years to 2014.
The Director of the SAARC department with the foreign ministry, Sonam Tshong, said this was because some components of the action plan were still under implementation. “Three years is too short, extending the action plan gives opportunities to modify or continue the implementation,” said Sonam Tshong.
For the convention on cooperation on environment to move forward all the member states have to endorse it. While four member states have already ratified the Convention, the meeting urged the remaining member states to expedite the ratification process to enable its entry into force.
In a statement by the Secretary General of SAARC, Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed, she said the Convention and the Thimphu Statement are important milestones to strengthen regional cooperation in the area of environment and climate change. “I urge the member states that have not yet done so, to ratify the Convention at an early date to enable its entry into force,” read the statement.
This meet marks the last high level meeting to be hosted by Bhutan before the chairmanship of SAARC is handed over to Maldives in November.