Treaty on Climate Change at Paris Summit – Sri Lanka’s contribution – I

Original Article: Link

November 23, 2015, 7:14 pm

By Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri


The 21st Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held from November 30 to December 11 in Paris will be a historic occasion as the adoption of a new treaty to arrest climate change, with commitments on all parties, is in its agenda. The heads of state of over 100 countries including those from the major powers – USA, UK, Germany, Russia, Japan, China and India are expected to attend its high-level segment.

Obligations under the Kyoto Protocol

The original UNFCCC requires developed countries and those with economies in transition (EIT) listed in Annex I to the document (hence referred to as Annex I Parties) to take measures to limit their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There is no such requirement on Non-Annex I Parties and their only obligation is to take climate change considerations into account when formulating the countries’ socio-economic and environmental policies and to submit a national communication including a GHG Inventory and a description of climate change related activities undertaken. The UNFCCC has no legal binding.

In order to make the mitigation mandatory for Annex I Parties, a legally binding protocol was adopted at a Parties’ Conference held in Kyoto in 1997, under which Annex I Parties were required to reduce GHG emissions by 5% on an average during the first commitment period of 2008-2012, relative to their 1990 emissions, with most individual Parties required to reduce more (8%) and a few Parties permitted to emit more. All of Non-Annex I Parties on the other hand were exempted from such a requirement. By the end of 2012, Annex I Parties collectively were able to meet their obligations, mainly due to energy efficiency improvements in EIT countries. There were, however, individual cases of non-compliance.

NAMA and Copenhagen Accord

With the increasing pressure from Annex I Partieson Non-Annex I Parties to undertake emission reductions, at the COP13 held in Bali in 2007, Non-Annex I Parties agreed to undertake “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” (NAMAs) in the context of sustainable development, provided that financing of technology transfer and capacity-building are met by Annex I Parties. Altogether, 57 Non-Annex I Parties and the African Group had communicated their NAMA targets to the UNFCCC (though SL is not among them).

Again in 2009 at the COP15 held in Copenhagen, after a stormy session President Obama gate crashed into a closed door meeting of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and changed the direction of the negotiations for Annex I Parties to change their mandatory commitment for emission reduction to voluntary commitment. At this meeting, Non-Annex I Parties too agreed to undertake voluntary emissions. This decision referred to as the Copenhagen Accord was, however, not adopted at the plenary but only taken note of as there was no time left for discussing it.

At the subsequent COP16 held in Cancun in Mexico, the Parties affirmed the Copenhagen Accord and all Parties were required to communicate their voluntary mitigation targets with time frames. Seventeen Annex I Parties and 45 Non-Annex I Parties had responded. The Cancun Agreement also had decided that the global warming should be limited to below 2.0 °C relative to the pre-industrial level, in order to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, as specified in the UNFCCC document.

Durban Platform and Doha Gateway

At the COP17 held in Durban, South Africa, discussions on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) for a second commitment period, under which Annex I Parties were required to further reduce their emissions were initiated. An important decision made at this meeting was “to launch a new platform of negotiations under the Convention to deliver a new and universal greenhouse gas reduction protocol, legal instrument or other outcome with legal force by 2015 for the period beyond 2020”.

At the COP18 held in Doha, Parties strengthened their commitment for a timetable to adopt a universal climate change agreement by 2015, to come into effect in 2020. In Doha, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that he would convene world leaders in 2014 to mobilize political will to help ensure the 2015 deadline is met. This, he did and there was a good response from world’s top leaders.

An important outcome of the COP18 was the finalization of discussions initiated at COP17 to extend the KP and the adoption of an amendment to it. The Doha Amendment require Annex I Parties to mitigate their GHG emissions by 20% below their 1990 levels during the second commitment period of 2013-2020 for most Parties. A few Parties have been permitted lesser reductions. However, only a few Annex I Parties have ratified this amendment so far.

Intended nationally determined


In order to assist in the drafting of a new climate change agreement as decided at the COP18, at the COP19 held in Warsaw in 2013, Parties decided to plan out their nationally determined contributions towards the agreement, listing measures that would be taken to mitigate emissions during 2020 – 2030 and to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change in key areas. It was also decided that “intended nationally determined contributions”(INDC) would be put forward in a clear and transparent manner. Also, the developed country governments were urged to provide support to developing countries for this important domestic process.

It was further decided that in order to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding the information to be provided by Parties communicating their INDC should include quantifiable information pertaining to a base year, time frames and/or periods for implementation, scope and coverage, planning processes, assumptions and methodological approaches including those for estimating and accounting for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

At the COP20 held in Lima, Peru, parties were requested to submit their INDC before October 2015, enabling the Secretariat to prepare a synthesis report on INDC for tabling at the COP21 in Paris. Parties were also asked to indicate their targets separately for those to be achieved with domestic resources or unconditional targets, and those to be achieved with international funding or conditional targets. Many Parties have complied and their submissions are posted in the UNFCCC website ( Most Parties have given their activities in detail covering all sectors while the minority have made only brief submissions. Regrettably, Sri Lanka belongs to the latter.

Sri Lanka’s INDC commitments

Sri Lanka’s submission made in October only says that the country “intends to reduce the GHG emissions against Business-As-Usual scenario unconditionally by 7% (Energy sector 4%, and 3% from other sectors) and conditionally 23% (Energy sector 16% and 7% from other sectors) by 2030”. The submission does not specify how these specified targets under the two scenarios – unconditional and conditional – are to be achieved, and as such, there is no transparency, as required. In respect of energy sector, the report says “Sri Lanka meets 50% of its primary energy demand through biomass, 40% through imported petroleum sources while the balance is met through indigenous renewable sources. BAU annual energy demand growth rate is 2.3% which will double the overall demand by year 2046. A detailed energy sector plan has already been developed by Sri Lanka to meet the energy demand while moving away from BAU emission scenarios”. Regrettably, the primary energy composition given above has no reference year.

Towards a new

The above content lacks transparency and detailed information are also lacking with regard to methodologies, assumptions for estimating emissions both in base year and for the future, as specified in the COP decisions given previously. Also, the report gives misleading data on renewable energy (RE) contribution as 10% by lumping together the contributions from conventional renewable sources such as major hydro and non-conventional RE sources such as mini-hydro, wind, dendro and solar. Sri Lanka has lost an opportunity to let the world know the good work done by the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA) in promoting NCRE projects which enabled the NCRE contribution of electrical energy supplied to the grid to reach 9.85% in 2014 (CEB Stat. Digest), close to the government’s targets of 10% by 2015 (Ministry’s Energy Policy, 2006).

If a detailed energy sector plan has already been developed as stated in the submission, some of its key elements should have been given. The submission says that this plan is expected to meet the (future) energy demand while moving away from BAU emission scenarios. It is presumed that the BAU energy composition refers to before-coal era, probably 2010, when only biomass, oil and hydro were the main primary energy sources. According to the CEB’s Long Term Generation Expansion (LTGE) Plan prepared in 2012, CEB plans to install 3,450 MW of new coal power plants (CPP) during 2018 – 2030 period, in addition to the existing 900 MW CPP at Puttalam.

The emissions from these CPPs will certainly move away from BAU emissions, as claimed in the INDC submissions, but not in the right direction! Future emissions will increase and not decrease as required for compliance with UNFCCC objectives. Isn’t this misguiding the international community? Wouldn’t it bring disrepute to the country and to the President as the Minister in charge of the ministry that made the submission? Probably, he could be a delegate to this meeting.

Strategy for compliance with Convention objectives

In terms of per capita total primary energy (TPE) consumption as well as per capita electricity consumption, Sri Lanka’s position is only a few countries above the lowest in Asia. Among 19 countries in South, SE and East Asia, Sri Lanka occupies the 7th position in TPE consumption in 2012 with a value of 534 kg oil equivalent (koe) per capita within a range extending from 214 koe (Bangladesh) to 9,370 koe (Brunei) (ESCAP Year Book 2014). In the case electricity consumption, Sri Lanka occupies the 6th position among 20 countries in Asia, with a value of 515 kWh/capita in a range extending from 106 kWh/capita (Nepal) to 10,162 kWh/capita (S. Korea).

Sri Lanka has therefore the right to increase its primary energy consumption as well as its electricity consumption in the future, while pursuing a path towards sustainable development. The Convention only requires that developing countries select a low emitting path as far as possible to meet their development goals. In order to meet the future electricity demand which is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 5.2%, CEB has worked out a schedule of increasing the installed capacity of thermal power plants by 3,450 MW during 2018 – 2030 as given in its LTGE Plan 2014. In meeting this goal, CEB has selecteda series of conventional coal power plants on grounds these are the “least cost option”.

The emissions from the proposed thermal power plants as well as those from the existing thermal power plants over the period 2010-2030 could be considered as the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario. Under ‘unconditional’ scenarios, new coal plants with low emission technologies could replace the proposed conventional plants using local funding. Under ‘conditional’ scenario, instead of coal, plants operating with natural gas, a fuel with lower emissions and least pollution could be installed with external funding to meet any incremental costs.


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