National ownership is key to achieving the vision of Paris Agreement

January 7, 2021

Photo credit: UNDP Eswatini

UNDP is helping Eswatini run an inclusive process for setting climate targets

By Onesimus Muhwezi, Team Leader Environment, Energy and Climate Change,

During the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, there was a lack of national ownership in Eswatini. Its implementation was challenged by private sector bottlenecks and disagreement around some aspects of the protocol. It didn’t feel inclusive enough. As a result, domestic politics hindered it from being adopted into national laws.

A few months ago, Eswatini’s plan to enhance its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement was facing a similar challenge, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in regards to securing national ownership.

Why does national ownership matter?

Securing national ownership of climate plans is a core priority for Eswatini and a core priority for Paris Agreement.

NDCs are technical in nature, and they are inherently political. They commit the countries to climate action, steer economic and social change, and serve as an official communication to the UN Climate Change Secretariat. Hence why their national ownership is essential to their success.

The advent of the Paris Agreement, which has more of a focus on environmental integrity of climate interventions, transparency, accountability, and the cyclical revision of NDCs – supported by UNDP’s Climate Promise – provides a massive opportunity to strengthen the national ownership of climate plans, especially in low-income and Less Developed Countries (LDCs).

An inclusive revision process ensures coherence with national planning processes, gains support from affected constituencies and those who will implement the NDC, defines institutional arrangements to ensure leadership and coordination, engages stakeholders, and provides clarity on roles and responsibilities. This harmonisation is conducive for achieving joint goals such as national development objectives, SDGs and leveraging of climate finance.  This would in effect address implementation gaps in the Kyoto protocol where developing countries took a backseat and waited for developed countries to determine and drive the climate change agenda with limited impact.

Through the Climate Promise, we at UNDP aim to support this process by strengthening political and society ownership at national and sub-national levels; integrating NDC targets into national strategic plans; raising ambition through nature-based solutions and additional mitigation sectors; and establishing monitoring, reporting and verification systems.

How are we working in Eswatini to achieve this vision?

To realise this vision in Eswatini, we developed an engagement plan through stakeholder mapping, identification of roles and created a roadmap. The engagement plan was designed to suit each stakeholder’s need, considering the time available for them to engage. For example, high level policymakers have limited time; hence, breakfast meetings were held and short policy briefs shared with this group while technical level engagements took a webinar approach. Accordingly, engagement with traditional and cultural institutions is expected to be held through dialogue and workshop modalities

In August – once the immediate responses to COVID-19 had been undertaken – the NDC revision process in Eswatini began to gain momentum again, with UNDP helping to facilitate consultations between representatives from government, technical partners and other stakeholders to charter a way forward This momentum led to the establishment of a technical advisory group and meetings with the all the Principal Secretaries of government and eventually to the high level political launch of the revision process on 14 October The event was attended by the Ministers of Tourism and Environmental Affairs and Economic Planning and Development, the United Kingdom High Commissioner and UNDP Deputy Resident Representative.

In line with the engagement plan, and following the political launch of the review process, the government is set to roll out national engagement with various stakeholders including Chiefdoms, faith based organisations, private sector, local governments, Members of Parliament and special interest groups especially women and youth.

What have we learned?

1. Securing national ownership in times of crisis (such as the pandemic) is a balancing act between quantity and quality of stakeholder representation. Online stakeholder engagement may be slow in  uptake by many, but it can become effective in bringing together key players for planning and action. Online engagement can be effective with private sector, civil society, development partners and government technical staff, but more challenging with high level political and community engagements.

2. One of the key barriers to effective online stakeholder engagement has been internet service accessibility costs and quality. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic is a reality and here with us longer, investment in digital solutions for climate action should be a key element of the revised NDC and green COVID-19 recovery In line with the WHO guidelines for reducing COVID-19 spread,  Climate Promise Initiative  is now investing in providing internet data bundles for Zoom meetings as an effective alternative to physical stakeholder meetings.

3. Ownership of governments is crucial. UNDP’s role in this process is to convene key stakeholders and leverage its development and environmental expertise for support and guidance. A key partnership at the center of the revision process is the co-leadership of the Ministries of Environment and Economic Planning and Development; a joint coordination platform for all partners under the NDC partnership umbrella. The NDC revision process has presented a good practice for coordination among development partners in tackling a specific issue in Eswatini. Other partners to the NDC revision process in Eswatini include the NDC Partnership: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Resources Institute, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Common Wealth Secretariat.

Consistent with the SDG call for leaving no one behind, the revision of NDCs must ensure an inclusive national ownership process.  We must embrace digital transformation in pursuit of climate action in adapting and mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on national ownership processes that guarantee sustainability of efforts.