The Resilience to Push Through

Today was the last day for SBI/SBSTA and APA to draft a final text. The pressure, stress, and tension in each room could have been cut with a knife. The first adaptation meeting, SBI/SBSTA informal consultations on report of the Adaptation Committee, started by closing the room to observers. The second meeting, on National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), concluded in five minutes. There were no comments or arguments on the draft text and this will be offered to the Chair later today. The last meeting, APA Agenda Item 4 on Article 7, paragraphs 10 and 11, was highly debated.

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As I sat in the meeting room getting ready, there was a low mumble among Parties. Parties slowly trickled in after yet another long night of informal informals. Tensions were high and a couple of Parties approached the Co-Facilitators bench. After a brief conversation, they decided to close the room to proceed with informal informals. I am not sure what happened in this meeting, but I can only conclude that there was heated debate and a lot of compromise. I will discuss why this is my conclusion in the section about the APA meeting. The idea of resilience started from the beginning of the morning sessions, and it was a tough road to stay on.

The next meeting, about Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and NAPs, was extremely short. The negotiators in this meeting are slightly different between Parties. There are new faces from larger, more developed countries because they are afforded the luxury of having multiple negotiators with expertise in one area. But these new faces brought a lighter atmosphere to this meeting. The session concluded within five minutes and the rest of the session was spent by Parties congratulating each other for the time, effort, and resiliency. As with any diplomatic process, Parties spoke up and thanked everyone for the patience and many compromises. This meeting was a nice break and each Party showed resilience.

The last meeting is where I read the tea leaves to figure out how the informal informal this morning went. The meeting started out very different than others this past week. Parties were gathering in groups outside of the meeting room to finish discussions about the draft text. When the Parties entered, there was a sense of discomfort and dissatisfaction. When the meeting began, Parties who have not spoken at all this week raised their flags.This is because the second draft did not include crucial language from the first draft. It was like looking at a completely new text. Almost every Party that spoke expressed concern and used language that showed how upset they were about the draft text. One Party found it “unacceptable” that language was deleted between the two drafts. This Party continued to state that if paragraph 9 was the only paragraph with some specific language, the Party will absolutely not agree on the draft if paragraph 9 is deleted or rephrased.

One Party, who has been very vocal this week, did not speak at all. When this Party did not speak at the beginning, those in the room could tell that something went wrong in the SBI/SBSTA session. The meeting this morning is when resiliency should have been kept by this Party. Instead it looked like that Party had almost entirely given up. Given the comparison between the first and second iteration, that is understandable. There were plenty of other Parties who expressed concerns with the draft. I hope this Party pushed through and was resilient during the informal informal that occurred right after the session officially closed. As everyone becomes more tired and irritated, resilience is more important than ever.

There was no consensus or ability to agree in some of the meetings today. The Parties need to continue to push through to attempt to produce a draft conclusion tomorrow. As the G77 negotiator stated in the NAPs meeting, “thank you for the resilience.” Everyone lost something, but everyone gained something. By the looks of today, some countries gave up more than they were hoping. Today was a pleasure to watch and we will see how the texts affect Parties in the future.

“This is not a choice between one word or another.”

Today was the last day of the first week of COP24. The SBSTA plenary meeting began late, as expected. Many Parties are still attempting to find common ground on texts, which has delayed start times for plenaries.

During the SBSTA plenary, many Parties spoke about the need to accept the IPCC 1.5°C Report and make sure that the world does not see warming to 3°C. The report is part of SBSTA’s agenda item #6 on research and systematic observation. To the dismay of many countries in the room, paragraph 11 only “noted” the IPCC report. Thus the Maldives, on behalf of AOSIS, proposed to “welcome” it instead.  Parties discussed this language for more than an hour, because “note” connotes a weaker way of accepting this report.

This back and forth debate is what climate negotiators do: sit in meetings and small rooms all over the world to discuss the specific language that makes the international law of climate change.

Tonight, one negotiator spoke out about considering the lives of everyone. Rueanna La Toya Tonia Haynes, of Saint Kitts and Nevis, made a brilliant intervention about the IPCC and the acceptance of the report. Part of her speech is below:rueanna haynes

“This is not a choice between one word or another. This is us, as the UNFCCC, being in a position to welcome a report that we requested, that we invited the IPCC to prepare…If there is anything ludicrous about the discussion that is taking place, it is that we, in this body, are not in a position to welcome this report.”

After her intervention, she received a well-deserved round of applause. We, as lawyers, are often so caught up in language that we forget what brought us together in the first place. Sometimes we need an upfront and real speech to remind us of the important things. The UNFCCC is the body to help everyone confront and slow down the pace of climate change. To argue about this language in a report that essentially says we are running out of time is ludicrous. The UNFCCC should move forward and accept the report. After all, the UNFCCC did request it.

Ms. Haynes was steadfast and showed fearlessness while addressing her colleagues. Her tenacity and courage is what I hope others would show. I, too, am giving her a big round of applause. Well said, Ms. Haynes.

You can view the entire plenary here.

What does “progress” mean during informal consultations?

Progress appears to have a different meaning between developed and developing countries. At the end of today’s APA Agenda Item 4 meeting on Article 7, paragraphs 10 and 11, of the Paris Agreement, one developed country Party suggested that more time should be allotted for issues not fully discussed in the meeting. This Party stated that extra allotted time is needed because no progress has been made on text agreement. A developing country Party chimed in disagreeing about progress made today and yesterday. So what does progress mean?

While the developing countries struggle with the late informal informal meeting times, their preparation shows at every meeting. Unfortunately, as an Observer, I cannot attend the informal informal consultations. It appears there was some negotiation and consensus in the informal informal last night because I did not catch an agreement on textual language during the Tuesday informal consultation. Between today and yesterday, the APA meetings have discussed around ten paragraphs. Three paragraphs have already been agreed upon and will be published in the final draft due by the end of the week. This is where the progress argument diverges.

On its face, agreement on three out of ten paragraphs does not seem like a lot of progress. This is the stance of the developed country. With three days left to produce a final text, this is definitely not the progress the developed country wanted because there are still many paragraphs to discuss. The developed country is concerned because there are some paragraphs from the last two sessions that have not been discussed in length. Parties have not presented text proposals in front of the facilitators and all Parties. This Party stressed the need to streamline paragraphs in order to reach the deadline at the end of the week. This was not surprising because the Party has been proposing streamlining for the last sessions.

On the other hand, three out of ten paragraphs over the course of two sessions, is an incredible amount of progress from the developing country’s perspective. Especially because these negotiations have been taking place over the course of almost three years. From this lens, producing a text in three days is possible. This can be achieved with the amount of time that the cofacilitators have been able to reserve for informal informals. Even though the developing countries lack resources with experts in this area, most understand how important adaptation has become. Thus, many of these countries are providing input about this text.

Where does this leave the definition of progress? In limbo. There is no concrete answer to this question. What each country needs addressed in each paragraph determines how they view progress. This conclusion is not surprising given the nature of UNFCCC negotiation sessions.

Can the SBI/SBSTA/AC Board receive their requested final drafts by the end of the week?

After a slow start to COP yesterday, today’s meetings were in full swing. This morning the SBI/SBSTA/AC held informal consultations on the report of the Adaptation Committee (AC). The informal meeting covered matters referred to in paragraphs 41, 42, and 45 of decision 1/CP.21, the Paris Agreement. This was the first informal consultation for SBI/SBSTA today. To begin the consultation, the co-facilitator announced that the Board of SBI/SBSTA/AC have strongly urged co-facilitators to reach final drafts for all proposed texts.

A contentious tone from one of the groups started the meeting. Being a group developing countries, the proposed language received at the informal informal did not work for them. This group even called the proposed language from a developed country a backslide from a previous textual proposal in October. The originally proposed language can be found in the APA-SBSTA-SBI.2018.Informal.Add.3 informal document Addendum 3 (Addendum 3) available on the UNFCCC website. At the beginning of the meeting, the two paragraphs at issue were 9 and 13 of Addendum 3.

Paragraph 9 was proposed as a way to strike balance between adaptation and mitigation. Paragraph 13 “encourages Parties to make available sufficient resources.” In order to understand the contention between these paragraphs, look to Articles 9.1 and 9.2 in the Paris Agreement. Article 9.1 states that “developed countries shall provide financial resources….” Article 9.2 encourages other Parties to provide voluntarily. With these two subsections in mind, here is where the separation of views in language come forth.

There was a clear divide in stances between developed countries and undeveloped countries. Developed countries stated over and over that the 9.2 language should be included in paragraph 13 of Addendum 3. Meaning that developed countries should be encouraged to “make available sufficient resources for the successful and timely implementation” of adaptation related work. On the other hand, developing countries proposed that they do not want to change Paris Agreement language and that Article 9.2 is directly related to Article 9.1. Therefore, other Parties are encouraged. This discussion was then sidetracked to discuss another paragraph. The Co-Facilitator proposed that Parties meet in an informal informal later in the evening.

The next paragraph discussed was paragraph 35. This paragraph language was significantly less contentious. One large group of developed countries was willing to work with the large group of developing countries on option 1 in paragraph 35. However, the developed countries group wanted to combine options 1 and 2. The developing countries group expressed concerns about option 1’s effectiveness if option 1 and 2 were somehow combined. Option 2 is fairly duplicative based on Adaptation Committee’s language. There was no formal agreement because of the back and forth in proposals.

The meeting ended 15 minutes early, which is unusual for informal consultations. In the leftover 15 meetings, the Parties gathered in a corner of the room to begin discussions on drafting text. This was exciting to see because it gave a glimpse on what probably happens in informal informal consultations. There was an informal informal scheduled for tonight for Parties to negotiate on the text. There will be multiple informal informals in the late hours of COP because a final decision needs to be made. The Board is pushing hard for final decisions by the end of the week. After today’s meetings, it seems optimistic that a final decision will be produced and consensus reached by the end of Saturday. But there is still four more days and plenty of time for informal informals.

Adaptation and GCF at the Koronivia Workshop

Today was our delegation’s first day at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. The experience was a whirlwind. We all were figuring out where to go for meetings, identifying who was speaking for each Party, and how to best soak in all the activities of COP. We attended sessions in our area of expertise, and sometimes those sessions overlapped areas of expertise. The Koronivia Workshop was such a program with an overlap between adaptation and agriculture.

The Koronivia workshop was split into sessions: morning and afternoon. Both sessions included adaption and financing discussions. Presenters offered a PowerPoint about projects in their respective countries. The agenda can be found here.

At the end of the afternoon session, countries and NGOs were able to contribute to an open discussion. The Co-Facilitators opened the floor to discuss three questions about the constituted bodies (CBs), useful modalities to implement outcomes from the workshops, and future topics that may arise from the outcomes. Suggestions from the countries were helpful and constructive, but there was no decision made on how to proceed. Check the blog tomorrow for more specific answers given to the above questions from our ag expert, Liz.

One concerning question was raised about the role of the GCF. A GCF representative was present; however, GCF did not give a formal presentation because the workshop was focused on Parties and CBs. The GCF is not a CB, so its role in Koronivia is not mandatory. But the GCF representative stated that many projects currently funded by the GCF are agriculture focused and expressed that the GCF will continue to fund similar programs. GCF addressed concerns about their funding process. GCF guided all Parties to provide more information about their projects to develop tailor-made funding efforts. GCF can, and will, support climate resilient agriculture. Each country needs to request to funding in order for funds to be dispersed to their project.

The workshop concluded with the announcement that there will be an informal consultation on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at noon to discuss some issues that were not addressed during this workshop. For information on the first session, and an overview of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, please see this blog post.

Green Climate Fund Approves $1B in New Projects

GCF logoOn October 21, 2018, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board concluded its 21st meeting by approving 19 new projects, totaling $1.038 billion. This board meeting comes right after the IPCC released the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5) (which we posted on here and here) and a little over a month before COP24. As UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa told GCF Board Members at the start of their meeting, “Never has there been more need for multilateral cooperation. And never has finance played a more central role to the overall climate regime itself.”

GCF was set up by UNFCCC in 2010, as part of the Convention’s financial mechanism. When the GCF began to gather resources in 2014, developed countries, and some developing, pledged $10.3 billion. Initial mobilization lasts until 2018, while the Fund remains open for further contributions during this time from both public and private sources.

The GCF is designed to focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation, in part as a reaction to the broader mandate of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the original operating entity of the UNFCCC’s financial mechanism. “The Fund pays particular attention to the needs of societies that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and African States.” Another key point GCF makes is that “[o]ur innovation is to use public investment to stimulate private finance, unlocking the power of climate-friendly investment for low emission, climate resilient development. To achieve maximum impact, GCF seeks to catalyse funds, multiplying the effect of its initial financing by opening markets to new investments. The Fund’s investments can be in the form of grants, loans, equity or guarantees.”

Green Climate FundWhen addressing the importance of this most recent GCF Board meeting, Executive Secretary Espinosa underscored that its outcome will impact the outcome of COP24: “Success here means sending a clear and unmistakable message of trust to developing countries that they can have confidence in the process going forward.” Espinosa’s remarks were well taken as the GCF approved the 19 proposed projects. See the full list of approved projects and monetary breakdown here.

Her comments came after the preceding GCF Board meeting failed to deliver its mandate. This contentious July 2018 meeting resulted in the resignation of GCF Executive Director, Howard Bamseyand, and no new project approvals. Tensions ran high at this meeting for several reasons. The first two had a direct impact on the Fund’s bottom line: the United States decided in 2017 to halt $2 billion of its Obama administration $3 billion pledge and inflation rates reduced the present value of commitments made in 2014.  In addition, policy gaps for prioritizing the numerous applications whose requests exceed the GCF’s capitalization hampered Board Members’ ability to make the tough selection decisions. The GCF currently has $10 billion pledged out of the $100 billion promised for 2020.

The GCF has been plagued with issues and controversy for the past year. In February 2018, GCF had a green-climate-fund_WEBboard meeting that approved $1 billion in projects. Although the willingness of GCF to approve more projects is hopeful, civil society organizations and parties saw it as problematic, given that the GCF has difficulty dispersing money for projects already approved. As of December 2017, the fund has only released roughly $150 million, or less than 6% of the nearly $3 billion it had committed up to that point. The GCF reported in the February 2018 meeting that this funding is going toward the 18 projects that are under implementation. The Board had approved of 53 projects by the February meeting. So what is taking so long for the Board to disperse funding? Who is receiving this funding? And how is the GCF now reporting that there “39 projects under implementation, worth $1.6 billion in GCF resources that are being deployed as climate finance in support of developing countries’ climate ambitions under the Paris Agreement?” The jump from 18 to 39 projects under implementation in eight months seems either overambitious or over-reported. The biggest question here is how these 39 projects are receiving their funding after the turmoil of the GCF in the past eight months. To take from Espinosa’s remarks again, “The outcome of [the October Board meeting] of the GCF will impact those negotiations in Katowice.”

Looking toward COP24: The GCF submitted a report to the UNFCCC on Sept. 17, 2018, for consideration at the upcoming COP24. Table 14 included in its Annex VII lists all projects approved by the Board to receive funding from the GCF as of July 31, 2018. In this table, the GCF does not report what has been dispersed, only the GCF funding and total project value.

China’s Effort to Limit GHGs

china-five-year-plan-infographicChina produces more carbon dioxide than any other country in the world: 10.357 million metric tons per year. To limit their impact on climate change, China includes environmental protection in their Five Year Plan (FYP). The FYP is the country’s blueprint that outlines the policy framework, priorities, economic, and social development goals for the 2016-2020 period.

In 2016, China released the 13th FYP which includes lofty goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase green manufacturing. Innovation is the crux of this FYP. Innovation builds on improving manufacturing and emphasizing a cleaner, green economy. A State Council executive meeting in 2015 discussed implementing an Internet Plus Circulation program. The program expands broadband connection to more rural areas so there is more efficiency in transporting items, like new agricultural products and equipment. The program will also allow rural populations to access health care. Air pollution is a key target for the FYP. Chapter 38, Section 4, ensures that the concentration of fine particulate matter is reduced by at least 25%. The current status of smog and air pollution affects public health. China is increasing regulations for coal-fired plants while requiring low-emission technologies and eliminating outdated industrial equipment and processes.

The carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets in the FYP contribute to China’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) 2030 target. The 13th FYP even put a first nation-wide total energy cap on all energy sources: it is set at less than the equivalent of five billion tons of coal over the next five years. These goals are reflected in the INDC filed on June 30, 2015. Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, provides that “[e]ach Party shall prepare…nationally determined contributions…with the aim of achieving the objectives…” of reaching a global peak of GHG emissions as soon as possible. During COP24 in December, China may include details about innovation and policy from the 13th FYP into the NDC because it is on track to meet the 2020.

China is fully embracing their 2020 goals by implementing green community projects. On September 28, 2018, Green Climate Fund announced that the board will consider projects, including China’s Green Cities program,targeting Central Asia and Eastern Europe. This project is among 20 other proposals totaling $1.1 billion to be heard during the next board meeting this month. It will be interesting to see how these project proposals will factor into each countries’ NDC during COP24.