No Red Lines, But a Green Light for Adaptation and Loss and Damage

At this morning’s Comité de Paris meeting, COP President Laurent Fabius channeled Nelson Mandela, saying: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” At tonight’s COP meeting, Parties adopted the Paris Agreement in a historical and long-awaited moment. While past Agreement drafts have been full of brackets, options, and red line changes, these notations are notably absent from the final Paris Agreement.

Source: Takepart

Source: Takepart

With a green light (and ceremonial strike of a green gavel) for the Paris Agreement, it is worth taking a moment to pause and look at the final Agreement language in light of what came before it. Article 7 on Adaptation starts with a paragraph on the global goal on Adaptation. In the beginning of this week, it was unclear whether this goal for Adaptation would ensure Adaptation in the context of the global temperature goal. The final Agreement established the Adaptation response in the context of the temperature limit increase. This ensures that the global goal on Adaptation is grounded in a quantitative, and not only a qualitative, target. In the final Paris Agreement, this language was strengthened by adding that an Adaptation response must be “adequate.”

Paragraph 4 focuses on Adaptation needs and Adaptation in conjunction with Mitigation. The paragraph describes how greater levels of Mitigation can reduce the need for Adaptation effort. In the December 9th and 10th versions of the Agreement, this paragraph closed by referencing “that greater rates and magnitude of climate change increase the likelihood of exceeding adaptation limits.” This phrase referenced L&D from the permanent and irreversible impacts of climate change. It also acknowledged that Adaptation, Mitigation, and L&D are closely interlinked, and that attending to all of them is important. However, this phrase on L&D did not make it into the final Agreement text. This change is part of the larger uncertainty that has surrounded the issue of L&D.

In the beginning of this week, the fate of L&D in the Agreement was very uncertain. One text option briefly recognized the issue of L&D, with a footnote that the text could end up elsewhere in the Agreement — likely in the article on Adaptation and not as its own article. Adaptation and L&D are separate issues that require different approaches, and therefore the final Agreement’s inclusion of a distinct Article on L&D is an accomplishment for the Paris Agreement. The December 10th draft Agreement separated the intention on L&D from the implementation mechanism, the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D (WIM). Importantly, the final Paris Agreement bridged this disconnect and integrated these issues, saying that “Parties should enhance understanding, action and support, including through the [WIM].” The duration of this mechanism will play an important role in ensuring the resilience of countries who face climate change impacts in the future.

After the adoption of the Paris Agreement, South Africa channeled Nelson Mandela again, in a statement that reflects today’s achievements and the many challenges that lie ahead in addressing climate change:

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.


Losing Loss and Damage? Or Will the Paris Agreement Adapt?

Last night marked the 4th meeting of the Comité de Paris, a group of ministerial leaders that carries out informal consultations “to make progress and facilitate compromise on the draft Paris Outcome and package of decisions transmitted to the COP by ADP.” At a meeting earlier in the day, COP President Laurent Fabius reported on the status of Adaptation and Loss and Damage (L&D) in the new Paris agreement.

Source: L'Express

Source: L’Express

Fabius explained that through informal consultations, Parties have almost concluded on the major issue of Adaptation to climate change impacts, which will enable focus on L&D. However, at the start of last night’s meeting, Fabius commented that he still had no updates from Parties on L&D in the agreement. The responses that followed suggest that negotiations are far from complete on Article 4 on Adaptation and Article 5 on L&D.

After the COP President’s opening remarks at last night’s meeting, 60 countries and groups shared their positions on the newest draft agreement text. Comments included a landslide outcry across developing countries and negotiating groups for increasing the ambition for Adaptation, and giving clear attention to L&D. Many developing countries and negotiating groups also said it was essential to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.

Source: GCCA

Source: GCCA

South Africa, on behalf of the G-77 and China, pointed out that their group’s key proposals on Adaptation don’t appear in new text. They said that they trust that Parties will be able to engage further on Adaptation for developing countries. On L&D, the group acknowledged that there will be further consultation to advance on the issue. The current draft text has two options for Article 5 on L&D. First, to include it in its own Article, Article 5. The second option would be to incorporate it in Article 4 with the Adaptation provisions. South Africa, on behalf of the G-77 and China, stated that there should be a separate article on L&D, which must be clearly bounded by the principles of the Convention, particularly the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDRRC) that addresses permanent impacts of climate change. Many countries echoed South Africa on behalf of the G-77 and China’s position in subsequent remarks, including as described in yesterday’s ENB report, the G-77 and China, with Vietnam, Haiti, and Timor Leste, among others, emphasized the need for a distinct article on L&D.

Guatemala, on behalf of AILAC, agreed that Parties must continue to make progress in a bridging proposal for L&D, and said that in moving toward the final phase of negotiations, there is a need to catalyze actions in the area of Adaptation and the need to include a registry for adaptation actions. The most recent version of the draft text dropped the bracketed reference to a registry for adaptation communications that was included in the previous version. Chile echoed these sentiments, supporting AILAC’s proposal for Adaptation, including a registry for nationally determined priorities that would act as catalyst for short-term climate adaptation actions.

The coming hours and days will shed more light on the status of Adaptation and L&D in the Paris agreement.


Fracking: COP21 as “the scoreboard, not the game”

Panel for Side Event on Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground: the International Movement to Ban Fracking

Panel for Today’s Side Event on Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground: the International Movement to Ban Fracking

“If you’re looking for good way to heat up the earth fast, poke holes in the earth and let methane pour out.” This is how Bill McKibben of 350.org described hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at today’s side event on the international movement to ban fracking. Sandra Steingraber of EcoWatch pointed out how both methane and CO2 have to be considered in the fight against climate change. The side event’s moderator asked McKibben how to use what is going on at COP21 to put pressure on the United States and other countries to get a better outcome on fracking. McKibben said that COP21 is “the scoreboard, not the game. The main thing to do is come out of here ready to take on the next set of fights and next set of activism.”

In September, the Center for Biological Diversity released a report on fracking in the United States entitled “Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground.” The report addresses the president’s authority to stop new leasing of federally managed and publicly owned fossil fuels from extraction, start withdrawing lands and oceans from availability, and keep carbon reserves in the ground. Panelists focused on fracking in California, mentioning the Los Angeles Times article on California farmers using water recycled from oil fields to irrigate crops. The article highlights concerns about toxins in the recycled water contaminating crops. At the conclusion of the side event, panelists urged participants to reach out to elected officials regarding the impact of fracking on climate, water, air, food, and public health.


A Call for Deforestation-Free Agriculture

What do cattle, soy, and palm oil have in common? These are all products associated with commodity-linked deforestation. Between 2000 and 2012, expansion of commercial agriculture and timber plantations caused the destruction of more than 50 million hectares of tropical forests. The UNFCCC website states: “Roughly a third of recent tropical deforestation and associated carbon emissions (3.9 Mha and 1.7 GtCO2) can be attributed to the production of beef, soy, palm oil and timber alone.”

Forests play an important role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, agricultural expansion is a major driver of deforestation and forest degradation. In today’s side event on deforestation-free agriculture, panelists discussed the importance of halting deforestation and reducing emissions in commodity supply chains. A panelist from the Rainforest Alliance pointed out the lack of attention to sustainable, deforestation-free sourcing: “Currently, there is no existing large-scale framework to verify that products, processes, or producers do not contribute to the loss of natural forest.” Today’s panel highlighted several important considerations in developing and implementing such a system.

One of the main themes from today’s event focused on traceability. A 2015 report co-authored by a panelist from SNV points to the importance of traceability in halting supply chains that cause deforestation. Voluntary certifications are one way to communicate to consumers how sustainable products are. Currently, many existing certification schemes currently lack traceability systems to identify deforestation-free supply chains. A transparent traceability system is essential to make it clear where end-products originate from.

Source: NWF

Source: NWF

A second theme focused on engaging producers. The Rainforest Alliance’s 2015 position paper on this issue discusses the important of engaging producers as allies. Speakers highlighted the importance of working with front-runner companies to eliminate deforestation from commodity trade. Nathalie Walker from the National Wildlife Federation described a successful example of engaging producers and converting sustainable pledges into action. A National Wildlife Federation study published in Science explained how Brazil’s soy moratorium, a voluntary pledge from large soy companies not to clear Amazon forest for soy, halted deforestation more effectively than government policy alone. The lead author explained: “Prior to the Soy Moratorium, about 30% of soy planted in the Amazon was directly replacing forests, but under the current protections, it has fallen to less than 1%.”

A third theme centered on increasing public and private sector collaboration. Speakers highlighted the critical importance of governments having a vision for green growth and supporting sustainable production through policies and plans, and through establishing or expanding incentives. Similarly, companies should encourage deforestation-free initiatives, voluntary standards, and certification. The issues of traceability, engaging producers, and increasing public-private sector collaboration are all important components of supporting the transition to deforestation-free agriculture. Companies and national governments are increasingly taking a step in the right direction and making public commitments to deforestation-free products.


Incorporating Oceans into the Paris Agreement

“We are at a tipping point,” warned Angus Friday, Grenada’s Ambassador to the United States, in today’s side event on “The Importance of Addressing Oceans and Coasts in an Ambitious Agreement at the UNFCCC COP 21.” Speakers at the event reported on mobilization efforts around ocean and climate issues taking place at COP21, with emphasis on the most vulnerable people and ecosystems.

Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, President of the Global Ocean Forum, said that a new article in the Paris agreement on oceans is unlikely. However, she encouraged the more likely option—accepting the suggested revision referring to oceans in the December 5th draft agreement addendum. This textual suggestion to the preamble is in bold below:

Also recognizing the importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including biomass, forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems, including through internationally agreed approaches [such as REDD-plus and the joint mitigation and adaptation approach for the integral and sustainable management of forests], and of their non-carbon co-benefits,

Whether this reference to oceans will be accepted in the final Paris agreement remains to be determined. Dr. Carol Turley, an ocean scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory stressed the pressing importance of this issue: “The ocean needs a voice, and the time is now to get the ocean into the text.”


Feet on the Ground: Low-Carbon Travel to Paris

“A challenge that remains is to motivate the many participants of conferences and meetings to reduce their own carbon footprint, especially from travel.”

So reads the UNFCCC secretariat’s sustainability efforts web page. Some individuals took this challenge into their own hands (or rather, feet) and are pursuing unconventional travel routes to Paris.

First, there are the walkers. Yeb Saño, former Philippine Climate Change Commissioner, falls into this category. Saño is weeks into his 60-day, 930-mile expedition on foot, from Rome to Paris. Saño leads a group known as The People’s Pilgrimage, a group of multi-faith individuals walking to COP21, “carrying with them the hopes and prayers of millions for a better future, safe from climate change.”

Next, we have the runners and cyclists. A recent Huffington Post article highlighted Pole to Paris, a group running and cycling from the Arctic to COP21. Young scientists travel this route as a public awareness campaign for COP21, seeking to “bridge the gap between science and society.”

Finally, more cyclists! Climate Journey is “a storytelling expedition from New England to Paris for COP21.” The two cyclists, who will be youth delegates at COP21, are gathering local stories about climate change en route. Bike for a Future is another public awareness campaign bicycle ride from Vietnam to France.

Meanwhile, 95 percent of the UNFCCC secretariat’s total carbon footprint comes from air travel. At COP20, the secretariat purchased Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) to offset greenhouse gas emissions from UNFCCC staff and funded participants travel to Lima. COP21’s web page says the Conference’s €187 million budget will include funding for a “limited and offset carbon footprint.” Walkers, runners, and cyclists alike have already embarked on low-carbon voyages to Paris, catalyzing momentum for the upcoming climate change negotiations.

 


It’s plane to sea: COP21 should address international aviation and shipping

International aviation and shipping account for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The aviation sector already emits as much as Germany, and emissions are set to triple by 2050. Similarly, shipping currently contributes almost 3% of global emissions—a number projected to grow between 50 and 250% by 2050. To date these sectors have largely passed under the radar in terms of compliance with global emissions targets and reductions. But many see COP21 as a prime opportunity to set ambitious emissions targets for these sectors in line with the limiting the global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius.

The Kyoto Protocol exempted aviation and maritime “bunker fuels” from emission reduction commitments. Article 2.2 directed Annex I parties to “pursue limitation or reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol from aviation and marine bunker fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO] and the International Maritime Organization [IMO], respectively.” This left responsibility for international aviation and maritime bunker fuels with UN Specialized Agencies—the ICAO and IMO—rather than with individual countries. Many think these agencies have dropped the ball: while other sectors are decoupling from carbon emissions, aviation and shipping are consuming an increasing share of the global carbon budget.

Source: Creative Commons, Flickr

A recent Business Green article highlights how the ICAO and IMO’s “progress has been slow.” Since the 1997 Kyoto summit these organizations have only implemented “a handful of measures” focused on emissions. In 2011, the IMO adopted energy efficiency design standards for new ships, but new ships are already exceeding these standards. While the IMO is working on developing a global data collection system for monitoring ship emissions, the organization resists calls for an overall emissions target. Meanwhile, the ICAO has set a target for “carbon neutral growth” by 2020, but has thus far not released details about how the organization plans to achieve this target. This slow progress is causing pressure to mount as the Paris climate negotiations approach.

A new paper from the New Climate Economy points to the huge potential for fuel efficiency gains in the aviation and shipping sectors. Improved efficiency would provide two-fold benefits: cut costs and reduced emissions, by as much as 0.9 Gt CO2e annually by 2030. With economic and environmental benefits alike, it makes sense that aviation and shipping should be at the table in upcoming global climate negotiations.

The most recent draft of the UN’s negotiation text highlights “the need for global sectoral emissions reduction targets for international aviation and maritime transport” and the need for parties to work through the ICAO and IMO “on developing global policy frameworks for meeting these targets.” Whether this language will last through the final agreement has yet to be determined. For now aviation and shipping remain the two “elephants in the room” at COP21.