Will it be the Warsaw Miracle? ADP and long-term finance adopted at COP 19, just loss and damage to go.

Early this afternoon, the ADP adopted draft text after a lengthy “huddle” to decide on 2(b) and 2 (c). Cuba and Bolivia made reservations as they thought the new text did not go far enough under Article 4 of the UNFCCC. In the COP19/CMP9 session, the COP President Marcin Korolec adopted the new ADP text. He almost even smiled! Then, the President moved onto a few other agenda items (check UNFCCC website for new documents). One of them was the third contentious issue over the past few days: long-term finance (#WTF). Amazingly, the President called for the adoption of the long-term finance text. It actually happened.

COP19/CMP9 Plenary begins to discuss Loss & Damage

COP19/CMP9 Plenary begins to discuss Loss & Damage

Then, the President moved onto Agenda item 3(b), Loss and Damage (L&D, not LDM). I make this distinction, because the wording of the L15 draft text houses the “Warsaw international mechanism” on L&D “under” the adaptation pillar of the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAF) (see para 1). Thus, the current text does not establish L&D as its own separate mechanism (LDM), like the Clean Development Mechanism.

Mr. Yeb Saño makes remarks on loss and damage.

Mr. Yeb Saño makes remarks on loss and damage.

Fiji, on behalf of G77+China, strongly objected to the use of the word “under,” which was supported by the United States. It was a matter of semantics that created the furor in the Plenary room. Then, the Philippines’s Mr. Yep Saño made opening remarks, supporting Fiji’s position. He pleaded that negotiators needed to “think outside of the box” to find solutions and that “loss and damage is beyond adaptation.” He urged that developing countries need help to deal with a problem caused by developing countries’ historical carbon emissions. Adaptation is not enough, Mr. Saño pleaded, and that loss and damage needed to be its own mechanism.

The negotiation blocks of AOSIS, G77+China and others asked the COP President for a huddle. The President permitted a 15 minute huddle. A huge group of High-Level negotiators, including USA’s Mr. Todd Stern, immediately began discussing the word “under.” The huddle centered around Mr. Stern as he talked about the USA’s position on L&D.



Over 30 minutes later, the huddle finally concluded. The COP President announced that the Parties had reached a consensus, but did not elaborate for another 10 minutes. The Plenary patiently waited to hear what the “consensus” embodied. When the COP/CMP session resumed, Mr. Korolec announced that the consensus centered on the word “under,” meaning the L&D would remain under the Cancun Adaptation Framework. However, he explained that this current L&D arrangement would be reviewed at COP22 in 2016, per paragraph 15. Additionally, the Parties presented three amendments to the text in the preambular text, paragraph 1 and paragraph 15. Before the adoption of the text, Mr. Yeb Saño made a reservation on the record that the 2016 review should reconsider the institutional location of the Warsaw international mechanism on loss and damage (aka as a separate international mechanism under the UNFCCC).

Will update more later – my computer’s battery is out of power!

Updated Loss and Damage text – “Warsaw international mechanism” under Cancun Adaptation Framework, still L&D not LDM

As of Saturday morning, the COP 19 delegates negotiated a new draft text (FCCC/CP/2013/L.15) for the international arrangement for loss and damage (L&D), hereinafter referred to as the “Warsaw international mechanism” (para. 1). The draft text outlines the general structure of the international mechanism, recalling decisions 1/CP.16, 7/CP.17, and 3/CP.18 but most of the discussion will center around paragraph 1, which places loss and damage “under” the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAF).


Under the UNFCCC, COP 19 had the legal mandate from Decision 3/CP.19 in the Doha Climate Gateway to “establish institutional arrangements, such as an international mechanism, including functions and modalities, to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change” (Decision 3/CP.18, para. 9), including extreme events and slow onset events. The COP 19 “establishes” the Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage under the CAF, which would enhance action on adaptation under the five clusters of implementation, support, institutions, principles, and stakeholder engagement (para.1). This language means that L&D will not be a stand alone mechanism but will operate “under” the CAF, which was not advocated by G77 + China, AOSIS and other developing countries.

The draft text outlines how the Warsaw international mechanism will have an executive committee, consisting of two representatives from the following bodies under the Convention, to ensure “balanced representation” (para. 4): Adaptation Committee, the Least Developed Countries Expert Group, the Standing Committee on Finance, Technology Executive Committee and the Consultative Group of Experts on National Communications from Parties not included in Alex I of the UNFCCC.

Also, the Warsaw international mechanism outlines a timeframe for future discussions. The workplan for L&D would operate over the entire 2014 calendar year to establish a two-year work plan for implementation of the Warsaw international mechanism. The executive committee will meet by March 2014 to develop an initial two-year workplan by COP 21 in December 2014 (para. 8-9). Then, the executive committee would conduct a review of the 2 year program by COP22, where this review would be part of an “appropriate decision” to be adopted at COP22 (para. 15).

The Warsaw international mechanism would fulfill the role of promoting the implementation of measures to address loss and damage (para. 5), First it would fill in knowledge gaps to improve risk management, increase data sharing and management, including gender indicators, share best practices, provide leadership and coordination, and foster dialogue at all levels. Second, the Warsaw international mechanism would enhance action and support for adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building (as stated under the Durban Platform); provide information, guidance, and recommendations to reduce risks and provide technical support to the various bodies under the UNFCCC, including the operating entities of the financial mechanism (i.e Adaptation Fund); and facilitate the mobilization and securing of experts  to address L&D. Third, the Warsaw international mechanism will facilitate and coordinate actions to address loss and damage, including working with various bodies outside the UNFCCC and those within the UNFCCC. The language is very broad and vague at this stage. Substantive and specific modalities will be discussed at later meetings.

Furthermore, the new Warsaw international mechanism will aim to establish new institutions at the regional and national levels and should be country-driven. Vulnerable developing countries, in particular, will need these new institutions to enhance adaptation and deal with climate change impacts “beyond adaptation.” Cooperation, coordination and partnership between developed and developing countries as well as relevant stakeholders (including communities directly involved in loss and damage programs) will be vital.

COP 19 still going… we’re still in extra time: penalty-shoot out or a nil-nil draw?

The UNFCCC COP 19 is still going and going, much like the Energizer bunny or a cricket match. At this point in the game, the negotiations have produced two draft text on ADP (Agenda item 3) and long-term finance (LTF), but an updated draft on loss and damage remains in the locker room with some ailment (UPDATE: the coach, COP 19 president Mr. Marcin Korolec just said a new draft text on loss and damage will be available for selection!). However, the clock approaches 120 minutes. Will the negotiations end in a nil-nil draw, go to penalty kicks or will the COP19 Presidency manage to score a goal, in the name of a package deal. Will Christiana Figures draw a red card or blow the final whistle on the UNFCCC negotiations?


Poland’s National Stadium has hosted a number of international football (soccer) matches.

So, why am I using sports terms and analogies? The COP 19 is being held in Poland’s National Stadium (Stadio Narodowy), which is the home of the Polish national soccer team. Throughout the two weeks, the delegations have used sports analogies to describe or encourage a resolution to the COP negotiations.

The Guardian Eco blog captured some of the best sports analogies spoken by delegates at the COP/CMP:

Donald Tusk, prime minister of Poland: 

“The match is won by the team. In order to win, players have to collaborate.” 

Christiana Figueres, UN’s top climate official:

“There are no two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”  

Ed Davey, chairing a meeting and calling a new speaker to the podium:

“Peter is now warming up on the touchline.”

And an extended riff from Rachel Kyte of the World Bank:

“The UK’s football teams are sometimes accused of punting the ball down the field in the hope someone tall will pick it up. [In the climate talks] we should play tiki-taka [the preferred elegant, passing style of World Cup champions Spain]. This should be the World Cup of climate change.”

To which Davey responded:

“The World Bank is trying to take over FIFA.”

And finally, a startling admission from the US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern. Seated in the EU’s main meeting room, which sports the football jerseys of all the member states across one wall (the UK is represented by a Team GB shirt from the Olympics, rather than the national sides), he could not resist commenting that his three soccer-mad sons would love it. But as for Stern himself: “I’m a fan of the Spanish team.”

The Spanish National Team's Pique gets a red card. Not very tiki-taka.

The Spanish National Team’s Pique gets a red card. Not very tiki-taka.

Who doesn’t love the Spanish National Team and their tiki-taka style of fútbol, where they pass-pass-pass-pass the ball, holding possession for the majority of the game, perhaps score a goal or two and win a World Cup? In this spirit, winning teams have to deliver results and play as a team. Selfish actions only hurt the collective, especially if one person (or negotiator) has the opportunity to score points (such as political points), yet drags the shot wide of the net. As the Spanish National team will find out (or has already found out), the successful tiki-taka style will lose its cutting edge, its invincibility, as other teams figure out their weaknesses. Teams have to evolve and change strategies in order to be successful. The same tactics will not always win.

As State Parties to the COP19 enter into extra time, the 120 minute marks looms. They are furiously negotiation resolutions on the final three issues on ADP, LTF and loss and damage to produce some kind of Warsaw package. Hopefully, the late nights and long days will not be in vain. The President’s Stocktaking has finished and the ADP talks has resumed. The UNFCCC process has to evolve and not rely on zero-sum-game tactics to get results. Yes, tiki-taka is a pretty way to play football/fútbol/soccer, but these players still get red cards and they lose matches. In other words, no player is immune from the rules of the game. Sometimes long-ball tactics win the game. The trophy here, at the UNFCCC, is not a shiny gold object but is a healthy planet.

I cannot speak to the physical state of the negotiators, but I hoped they stretched before embarking on this marathon. I think I tweaked my hamstring (metaphorically speaking) as I hobbled back to the venue this morning. In other words, I admire the stamina of these negotiators who are working around the clock to produce some kind of results. The planet and future generations depend on COP 19 finding the back of the net.

COP 19 is the never-ending story… ADP, Loss and Damage and Finance still unresolved

The clock has passed 1:30 am and the COP is still going… Negotiators and the High Level Ministers are still hard at work tweaking draft texts for the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), Finance, and Loss and Damage, respectively.The UNFCCC COP19/CMP was supposed to end on November 22nd, ideally with much pomp and circumstance, glasses of champagne, and a new climate agreement probably with some catchy name (the Warsaw Miracle?).

Where's the Finance? #WTF

Where’s the Finance? #WTFThe COP19, however, still has several issues to resolve before closing. Negotiators, civil society observers and COP 19 personnel are patiently waiting in the various meeting rooms, hallways, and the plenaries for the latest resolutions on ADP, Finance, and Loss and Damage.

The COP19, however, still has several issues to resolve before closing. Negotiators, civil society observers and COP 19 personnel are patiently waiting in the various meeting rooms, hallways, and the plenaries for the latest resolutions on ADP, Finance, and Loss and Damage.

This afternoon, COP 19 President Mr. Marcin Korolec held a closing Plenary session to officially end several agenda items under the COP, CMP, SBI and SBSTA tracks. At about 9 pm, the president suspended the closing plenary to give the negotiators more time to resolve the bracketed and crossed out lines of text for the remaining three issue areas. The co-chairs from South Africa and Sweden lead the informals on Loss and Damage produced a draft text around 13:50, but the negotiations transitioned to bilateral meetings and then onwards to the High-Level Ministerial consultations. The majority of these meetings take place behind closed doors, with the exception of ADP that has let limited NGO observers into the meeting.

IMG_0808Throughout the day and into the evening, the Loss and Damage negotiators discussed the options of creating an international arrangement, a work programme or an international mechanism to address the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries. Based on the latest draft text, loss and damage might become an international mechanism under the UNFCCC, supported by SBSTA and SBI, which would be a huge plus for developing countries. This means that the developing countries might have traded on another issue, such as ambition or the timeline to report emissions in the ADP.

“The developing nations are looking for a new institution with legal and executive powers that would compensate people for loss and damage caused by extreme weather events, exacerbated by global warming. Richer countries want it to be dealt with within the existing institutions…We’re trying now to bridge those two and really see if there can be a two-step approach starting with co-ordinating the already existing framework and seeing how we can enhance that in a second phase but that needs to be captured in a decision,” said Mr Nafo [Seyni Nafo from Mali, the spokesman for the Africa Group of countries].”

Into the night, the loss and damage consultations focused on footnote 2 of the draft text, which references “Section II: enhanced action on adaptation.” More specifically, the “Warsaw Mechanism” to address loss and damage, in paragraph 1, states that the COP19 “establishes the Warsaw mechanism to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change (hereinafter referred to as the Warsaw mechanism), consistent with paragraph 14 of decision 1/CP.16…” In turn, paragraph 14 of the Cancun Agreements refers to common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and then several sub-paragraphs referencing enhanced adaptation.

The United State's seat in the Plenary remains empty due to late-night/early morning consultations.

The United State’s seat in the Plenary remains empty due to late-night/early morning consultations.

The CBDR principle causes some political divisions between developed and developing countries. In particular, developed countries, such as the United States, do not want Loss and Damage to become a “blame and liability mechanism” and make developed countries financially and legally liable for the damage caused by historical carbon emissions. Loss and damage is supposed to help the victims of the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries, not just financially but also address non-economic losses.

For COP 19 to be a success, all parties will have to make convergences on loss and damage, ADP, and climate finance. Without some sense of obligation to work together for the common good, these climate talks will fail. Loss and damage will be the norm, not the exception, because the other avenues will fail to provide the pathways for a sustainable and equitable future. Let’s hope that COP 19 (Warsaw Communique?) does not become the next Copenhagen Agreement…

“Last” Day at COP 19…

The UNFCCC COP 19 has wrapped up a number of issues under the SBI, SBSTA, REDD + and other areas. Three main negotiating tracks remain unresolved: the ADP, Climate Finance, and Loss and Damage. Any agreement in Warsaw will revolve around finding compromise on these three issues.

So far, the COP/CMP closing plenary has not yet begun… It will be a late night/early morning!

New Acronym of the Day – INTEQ

I learned a new acronym today from a representative of a YOUNGO, and it’s an important one: “INTEQ,” which stands for intergenerational equity.


Intergenerational equity is a legal and values-based principle that wants current generations to consider future generations rights to assets and resources. Future generations should not have to suffer because the current generation was unable to properly manage these assets, such as natural resources or finances. Natural resources should be left as the current generation found them, so future generations can inherit a clean and healthy environment.

N.B. from ProfTBach.  Intergenerational equity or justice differs from intragenerational justice, which is typically explained as the difference in resources and opportunities between people in developed (industrialized) countries and developing countries.  Some people call this the North/South divide.  In the climate change context, we see how the CBDR principle derives from intragenerational concerns, while the intergenerational principle appears front and center through the “future generations” language in the UNFCCC.  From 2007-09, the Vermont Law School ran a soft-money funded project called the Climate Legacy Initiative, which explored ways in which current generations’ duties to future generations could be enforced via rights-based law.  The CLI produced this white paper, Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature:  Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice.  (Full disclosure:  I am a co-author of this paper.)


LOST: Will “lost and damage” find its way? G77 countries walk out of negotiations

With the climate talks surrounding the tragedy in the Philippines, the concept of “loss and damage” has taken center stage at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland. At some point, adaptation and mitigation fail to deal with negative climate change impacts. imagesThus, the “loss and damage” concept would assist developing countries improve risk reduction and risk assessment, build capacity building to deal with slow-onset events (i.e. sea level rise) or extreme effects (i.e. Typhoon Haiyan) of climate change in both adaptation and disaster risk and reduction (DRR) frameworks. However, talks over loss and damage at COP19 reached an impasse in the wee hours of Wednesday morning at 4 am as the G77 + China countries walked out of negotiations.

Today at almost 4am, the delegation of Bolivia and all the delegates of the G77, walked out of the…negotiation because we do not see a clear commitment of developed (country) parties to reach an agreement. They are proposing solutions or texts that in some cases are not even related to the issue,” said Rene Gonzalo Orellana Halkyer.

Under the UNFCCC, Article 2 stipulates that mitigation“…such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”
After parties realized that they were not able to mitigate climate change fast enough to stop the negative impacts, they turned their focus to adaptation. In 2007, the Bali Action Plan established the ad-hoc working group on long-term cooperative action (AW-LCA), which contained a provision on “[r]isk management and risk reduction strategies…and for consideration of…strategies and means to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts.” The loss and damage concept remained in brackets in the Copenhagen Accord.

The concept of loss and damage gained traction in the Cancun Agreements, Decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 26-29, where parties to the UNFCCC “recognize[d] the need to strengthen international cooperation and expertise in order to understand and reduce loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset events…”  Then, the Doha Climate Gateway contained a legal mandate for UNFCCC Parties to establish international arrangements, such as an international mechanism, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate on developing countries. The mandate contained two provisions: (1) to establish an institutional arrangement for loss and damage and (2) to deliver content for the work program for substantive components. However, due to Russia’s blocking of the June 2013 Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) 38th meeting, much of the groundwork for addressing loss and damage has been delayed to the SBI meeting at COP 19. As a result, much of the preliminary discussions on loss and damage fell to COP 19.images-1

Over the past two weeks, the technical Party negotiators have been working around the clock to negotiate a draft text and submit a clean text without brackets. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the G77 negotiator from Bolivia, Mr. Orellana, was tired of antics by Australia to scuttlebutt constructive discussions and walked out of the meeting at 4 am. The other G77 countries followed suit. This week, before the close of COP19, the High-Level Party Delegates will attempt to hammer out a text for loss and damage, such as an international mechanism, institutional arrangement, work program or task force. However, the viewpoints of developed and developing countries still differ.

The G77 & China want a new international mechanism that recognizes “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) and for developed countries to provide finance, technology and capacity-building, in accordance with Decision 1/CP.16 and other relevant decisions to developing countries. Additionally, G77 + China want to address the “knowledge gaps” under the UNFCCC, in particular for slow-onset events, even though this expertise might be outside the UNFCCC. They want the loss and damage mechanism to be its own pillar under the UNFCCC rather than be absorbed into the adaptation pillar.

On the other hand, the European Union (EU) wants “loss and damage” to be a work program versus an international mechanism, and to have this program fall under another body in the UNFCCC, such as the Adaptation Committee. In particular, the EU wants loss and damage to be framed in the “context of national circumstances and priorities,” to strengthen understanding and expertise, improve early warning systems, and strengthen international cooperation to help countries deal with adverse impacts of climate change.

In a similar vein, the USA wants loss and damage institutional arrangement to be housed under the adaptation pillar and utilize other international agencies, such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to coordinate efforts after extreme weather events or slow onset events. Additionally, the USA refuses to admit any liability for historical carbon emissions, especially without developing country commitments to mitigate climate change on a national level. Overall, the role of UNFCCC in the loss and damage institutional arrangement would provide expertise for dealing with risk assessment and adaptation, but not operate as a liability mechanism.

In addition, Norway proposes an international arrangement, called the “Warsaw Platform” that would straddle the USA/EU proposal and the G77 position. It could create a four-year coordination group to exchange; strengthen international cooperation and coordination through the Adaptation Forum to increase awareness and exchange knowledge and utilize other multilateral institutions, including multilateral financial institutions. Also, Norway’s proposal states that DRR and climate adaptation planning should be integrated into developing countries’ long-term planning. Risk assessment and transfer should be incorporated Finally, Norway proposes supporting and financing existing UN bodies that deal with disasters and humanitarian aid, such as OCHA.

The AOSIS proposal outlines the loss and damage as a mechanism that improves risk reduction, risk transfer (insurance), enhance knowledge networks and capacity building, provide technical and financial support, and recognizes that climate change impacts are beyond adaptation. AOSIS wants the loss and damage institutional arrangement to be a third pillar under the UNFCCC, which also includes adaptation and mitigation.

Image courtesty of Loss And Damage.net

Image courtesty of Loss And Damage.net

As an international arrangement, loss and damage would have to deal with both economic and non-economic losses, including the loss of livelihood, damage to property, food insecurity, climate migration, loss of identity, and potential human rights abuses. The potential loss and damage mechanism embodies several controversial issues. First, state Parties debate whether a state should pay for “redressability” versus “liability” for adverse affects to climate change. Second, parties have to determine whether the measuring standard is historical carbon emissions stemming from the industrial era or for the time period when scientists discovered carbon emissions and global warming. How long should this liability period be? The USA is adamant against admitting any liability.  Third, the negotiations will have to focus on whether loss and damage mechanism should cover individual persons and their rights and expectations or just an insurance payment. The potential work program or international arrangement on loss and damage presents an opportunity to incorporate more rights-based language into the UNFCCC.

Philippines post- Typhoon Haiyan. Photo by BBC News.

Philippines post- Typhoon Haiyan. Photo by BBC News.

The question becomes, then, how to help persons harmed by adverse effects of climate change, particularly for non-economic losses, which are often hard to quantify? How could loss and damage compensate a person for their loss of culture or would provide a legal status for a stateless person due to loss of homeland? Currently, negotiators discussing the loss and damage international arrangement, whether as an international mechanism with its own pillar or as a work program under adaptation, will have to design an institutional framework that will have the ability to incorporate rights-based language into the substantive components as well as a grievance mechanism in order to have effective governance. After COP 19, the UNFCCC negotiations aim to finalize discussions on loss and damage to be inserted into an international climate agreement by COP 21 in Paris, France 2015.



Made in the USA: Mr.Todd Stern talks up USA climate commitments & looks towards Paris 2015

During today’s High-Level Segment, Mr. Todd Stern, USA’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, presented USA’s position on the UNFCCC negotiations (see TBach’s previous post on Stern’s remarks in the HL ADP). Mr. Stern spoke about how the USA is leading the way on humanitarian relief efforts in the range of $30 million in humanitarian assistance for the Philippines [check this]. On the connection between climate change and Typhoon Haiyan, Mr. Stern spoke about how climate change impacts will have the potential to be fundamentally disruptive to the world we will leave to our children and grandchildren.


Additionally, Mr. Stern remarked on how this past summer, President Obama released his Climate Action Plan to tackle climate change. Mitigation strategies include new draft regulations for carbon pollution for new power plants and working hard towards new regulations for old power plants. President Obama’s agenda includes stronger emission standards for vehicles and increasing fuel efficiency. Mr. Stern reminded the international community about the USA’s “large scale efforts” to reduce US carbon emissions by doubling renewable energy. The USA has pledged to reduce emissions by 17% 2005 levels by 2020. On the topic of Climate Finance, Mr. Stern said that in 2013, the US has contributed $2.7 billion for climate finance. The US has coordinated with other donor countries to coordinate strategies to meet the $100 billion goal for the Green Climate Fund.

Mr. Stern then discussed the international climate agreement for post 2020 agreement. The agreement should be designed to attract the participation of all countries and be differentiated across the broad range of evolving circumstances. Mr. Stern wants a “fully self-differentiated agreement” for COP21 in Paris 2015. Basically, Mr. Stern strongly noted that any new international agreement based on the UNFCCC’s 1990 categories “will not work.” The categories defining UNFCCC Parties’ commitments and obligations must evolve with changing circumstances. Mr. Stern offered three avenues for going forward with the new international agreement for 2015 – the categories can remain unchanged if not operational, create new categories that can evolve with changing circumstances, but “they cannot be both unchanged and operational.” In sum, Mr. Stern commented that in all areas there is a need for transparency and the domestic processes need to be ready now in order to make submissions to have a new agreement by Paris 2015.

More Drama in Poland – UNFCCC COP 19 President Marcin Korolec fired as Poland’s Minister of the Environment

To add some more drama to the COP 19, news broke today that the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, fired UNFCCC COP 19 President Marcin Korolec from his day job as Poland’s Minister of the Environment. Prime Minister Tusk, in his second term, is reshuffling his cabinet, also firing the Finance Minister from his Cabinet and those heading sports, education, science and administration. The new Minister for the Environment, Maciej Grabowski, was formerly at the Finance Ministry. President Bronislaw Komorowski is expected to approve the cabinet shake-up.

urlPrime Minister Tusk dismissed Korolec for his role in the environment ministry’s foot-dragging on keenly anticipated regulations for exploration of shale-gas and other fossil fuels. The Polish government lost investments in the shale gas sector due to the delayed legal reforms. The Polish government wants to improve energy security through exploiting Poland’s shale gas and coal resources. However, the legislature has not approved the necessary legislation. Currently, Poland’s electricity system is 90% coal generated and the coal-miners union remains strong.

Despite the government shake-up, Korolec will continue his role as UNFCCC COP 19 president. As a reassurance, Prime Minister Tusk issued a statement supporting Korolec’s role as COP president. The change of the guard in the environment ministry is bad timing by the Polish government, as it comes during the UNFCCC negotiations. Additionally, Poland has already held a pro-coal summit this past week and permitted a pro-coal demonstration by a coal miner’s union outside the UNFCCC venue. They fear that they will lose their jobs. However, jobs in the coal-mining industry have fallen by 75% over the past 20 years. Thus, COP 19 highlights Poland at the crossroads- one side wants to be a part of the EU and the international community to find ambition to combat climate change (and reduce carbon emissions) while the other wants to continue business as usual to support a dying industry and support a carbon-intensive industry. The timing of the World Coal Association meeting and the firing of Korolec, the environment minister, undermines the purpose of Poland hosting the UNFCCC COP 19, as they are supposed to lead the way to an agreement on climate change, not undermine one through hypocrisy.


Polish Coal Miners Union Protest UNFCCC COP 19

  Continue reading

Gender Day – UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres gives no love to (coal) scrubs, calls on women to demand climate action

Today is Gender Day at the UNFCCC COP19. The purpose of Gender Day is to raise awareness on gender in the climate change context. It is not just a thematic day, it is a legal mandate from the Doha Climate Gateway, Decision 23/CP.18, to examine gender balance in the UNFCCC negotiations.


UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres addresses COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland.

“2. [The Conference of the Parties] Decides to enhance decision 36/CP.7 by adopting a goal of gender balance in bodies established pursuant to the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, in order to improve women’s participation and inform more effective climate change policy that addresses the needs of women and men equally…9. [The parties to the UNFCCC] Decides to add the issue of gender and climate change as a standing item on the agenda of sessions of the Conference of the Parties to allow the Conference of the Parties to consider the information referred to in paragraph 8 above…10. Requests the secretariat to organize, in conjunction with the nineteenth session of the Conference of the Parties, an in-session workshop on gender balance in the UNFCCC process, gender-sensitive climate policy and capacity-building activities to promote the greater participation of women in the UNFCCC process…” (emphasis added)

As part of increasing awareness around gender issues and strengthening women’s voices, I attended the UNFCCC Gender 50/50 event featuring several high level women working on gender and climate change issues, including the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, Helen Clark (UNDP Administrator), Lakshmi Puri (Deputy Executive Director of UN Women), Bianca Jagger (Founder and Chair, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation), Mary Robinson (Former President of Ireland, and President, Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ)), Tarja Halonen (Former President of Finland), Riley McAuliffe (Global Voices), Elizabeth Njoroge (Executive Director, The Art of Music Foundation), and Wanda Nowicka (Member of Parliament, Poland). They spoke on how climate change impacts them, their families and those around the world. They shared their vision for a world that recognizes gender equality.


Each speaker emphasized that adverse climate change impacts women disproportionately from men. The majority of women around the world run the household, often living below the poverty line. Women have to fetch the water, collect firewood, tend the garden, take care of the family and other household tasks. waterThe purpose of the UNFCCC mandate on gender, is to increase the participation of women at the international level, in the negotiations, and on delegations. Women need to be included at all levels of the decision-making process in order to help support mitigation and adaptation efforts. Also, women need to speak up to have their voices heard, including those working at the highest levels of diplomacy.CCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and other prominent women leaders who shared their vision for women empowerment. Each shared their vision and dreams for women empowerment. The women sitting up front all faced their share of adversity to rise to leadership roles in a male-dominated world. Figueres even choked up a little when speaking about her experiences.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, saluted Figueres for speaking at the World Coal Association’s “coal summit” yesterday. The ill-timing of the conference was not lost on Figueres and she paid a visit to the “coal summit.” Figueres urged the energy companies to keep fossil fuels in the ground and shut down dirty power plants and inject carbon emissions into the ground, such as through CCS.


“The world is rising to meet the climate challenge as risks of inaction mount, and it is in your best interest to make coal part of the solution

Scientists at COP 19 determined that 3.8 trillion tonnes (1 tonne = 1.102 metric tons) of carbon dioxide trapped in the world’s fossil reserves, about 60 percent of it in coal. Also, the scientists reported that 1 trillion tonnes would suffice to push the post-industrial temperature rise past 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). The science supports leaving the fossil fuel resources into the ground. However, the energy and business industries, comprised of mostly male-dominated institutions, leave much to be desired in climate mitigation.  The current rules and regulations and mind-sets in the government and business worlds were shaped by a process that historically and currently excludes women. Their voices were never given a chance to shape the world we live in today, but this paradigm is changing as women around the world refuse to remain silent.

Women are the most affected by adverse climate change impacts. Yet they have not had much say in the process. Can empowering women in the climate change negotiations process find solutions to the climate crisis? There is hope. Women just have to keep supporting and pushing women to raise their voices and share their dreams of a better planet. For now, Figueres is leading the way.

Christiana Figueres’s speech:

Your Excellency, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister,

Honourable Member of the European Parliament,

Distinguished Chair of the World Coal Association,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I appreciate the opportunity to address the International Coal and Climate Summit in a frank and honest exchange on the transition to a low-emission economy.

Let me be clear from the outset that my joining you today is neither a tacit approval of coal use, nor a call for the immediate disappearance of coal. But I am here to say that coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake.

There are some who, deeply concerned about the devastating effects of climate change already felt by vulnerable populations around the world, are calling for the immediate shut down of all coal plants.

There are others who think that coal does not have to change at all, that we can continue to extract and burn as we have done in the past.

The first view does not take into account the immediate needs of nations looking to provide reliable energy to rapidly growing populations in pursuit of economic development and poverty eradication.

The second view does not take into account the immediate need for climate stability on this planet, necessary for the wellbeing of present and future generations.

Today I want to set out an alternative path that is admittedly not easy, but is undoubtedly necessary. That path must acknowledge the past, consider the present and chart a path towards an acceptable future for all. I join you today to discuss this path for two reasons.

First, the energy sector is an intrinsic component of a sustainable future.

And second, the coal industry must change and you are decision makers who have the knowledge and power to change the way the world uses coal.

The path forward begins in the past, recognizing that coal played a key role in the history of our economic development. From heating to transportation to the provision of electricity, coal has undoubtedly enabled much of our progress over the last 200 years.

Coal was at the heart of the developed world’s Industrial Revolution and brought affordable energy to the developing world. However, while society has benefitted from coal-fuelled development, we now know there is an unacceptably high cost to human and environmental health.

The science is clear. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report outlines our predicament. We are at unprecedented GHG concentrations in the atmosphere; our carbon budget is half spent. If we continue to meet energy needs as we have in the past, we will overshoot the internationally agreed goal to limit warming to less than two degree Celsius.

AR5 is not science fiction, it is science fact.

AR5 is the overwhelming consensus of 200 lead authors synthesizing the work of 600 scientists who analysed 9000 peer-reviewed publications. AR5 is arguably the most rigorous scientific report ever written. And, the findings of the AR5 have been endorsed by 195 governments, including all of those in which you operate.

There is no doubt that the science is a clarion call for the rapid transformation of the coal industry. Just this morning, more than 25 leading climate and energy scientists from around the world released a clear statement about the need to radically rethink coal’s place in our energy mix.

Considering that coal energy loads the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, competes for water and impacts public health, the call of science has already been answered by a wide gamut of stakeholders:

Students, faith-based organizations and citizens are asking their investment managers to divest from coal and other fossil fuels. Cities choked by air pollution are limiting the burning of coal.

Development banks have stopped funding unabated coal. Commercial financial institutions are analysing the implications of unburnable carbon for their investment strategies. Pricing of GHG emissions is on the rise, evidenced by trading markets coming online around the globe. And, international policy is moving us toward a global low-emission economy.

All of this tells me that the coal industry faces a business continuation risk that you can no longer afford to ignore.

Like any other industry, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your workforce and your shareholders. Like any other industry, you are subject to the major political,

economic and social shifts of our time. And by now it should be abundantly clear that further capital expenditures on coal can go ahead only if they are compatible with the two degree Celsius limit.

Ladies and gentlemen, the coal industry has the opportunity to be part of the worldwide climate solution by responding proactively to the current paradigm shift. It would be presumptuous of me to put forward a transition plan for coal as you are the repositories of knowledge and experience, and the assets you manage are at stake.

But there are some fundamental parameters of this transition:

    • Close all existing subcritical plants;
    • Implement safe CCUS on all new plants, even the most efficient; and
    • Leave most existing reserves in the ground.

These are not marginal or trivial changes, these are transformations that go to the core of the coal industry, and many will say it simply cannot be done. But the phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is tantamount to human history because will precedes innovation, and innovation precedes transformation. John F. Kennedy called for putting man on the moon in ten years at a point when no one knew how that would be done.

We must transform coal with the same determination, the same perseverance, the same will. We must be confident that if we set an ambitious course to low-emissions, science and technology will rapidly transform systems. Above all, you must invest in this potential, because the coal industry has the most to gain by leveraging the existing capital, knowledge and capacity to transform itself.

The world is rising to meet the climate challenge as risks of inaction mount, and it is in your best interest to make coal part of the solution. These radical changes have the transformative power to bring coal in line with the direction in which society is moving.

I urge every coal company to honestly assess the financial risks of business as usual; anticipate increasing regulation, growing finance restrictions and diminishing public acceptance; and leverage technology to reduce emissions across the entire coal value chain.

You are here today as coal industry leaders, but you can also understand yourselves as long-term energy supply leaders. Some major oil, gas and energy technology companies are already investing in renewables, and I urge those of you who have not yet started to join them.

By diversifying your portfolio beyond coal, you too can produce clean energy that reduces pollution, enhances public health, increases energy security and creates new jobs.

By diversifying beyond coal, you reduce the risk of stranded assets and make yourselves ready to reap the rewards of a green economy.

By diversifying beyond coal, you can deploy your disciplined, courageous and technically skilled workforce into new renewable energy jobs, transforming your companies from within.

The Warsaw Communique is a first step for change because it shows:

    • That the Association accepts climate change as a development risk; and
    • That lower coal emissions is an aspirational and realizable goal.

The communique is a first step, but it cannot be the last. I invite you to use this Climate and Coal Summit to decide how you are going to step up to the challenge of contributing to real climate change solutions.

We must urgently take the steps that put us on an ambitious path to global peaking by the end of this decade, and zero-net emissions by the second half of the century. Steps that look past next quarter’s bottom line and see next generation’s bottom line, and steps to figure health, security and sustainability into the bottom line.

For it will be your children and my children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren who will look back at today and judge our collective commitment to them.

They must be able to look back and recognize this summit as a historic turning point for the coal industry.

Thank you.

See more at: http://www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?


Poland at the Crossroads: catching fire as COP 19 hosts World Coal Summit

On Monday, CAN International awarded Poland the “Fossil of the Day” award for their recent, anti-climate behavior. So, what did the Polish government do to deserve this backlash from the climate change policy community?

COP19: World Coal and Climate Summit Review (video)


Currently, Poland is hosting the UNFCCC COP 19, one of the largest environmental negotiations in the world, at the National Stadium in Warsaw. Just a few miles away, ironically, the Ministry of the Economy and the World Coal Association held a “coal summit.”  The Ministry of the Economy proposes to build a new coal-fired power plant in Pomerania. In response, Greenpeace activists from over 20 countries and Polish environmentalists protested the coal summit.

Poland’s economy and power sector heavily depends on coal production and consumption. Poland is a global top ten producer of coal at 144 Mt a year in 2012. Approximately 88% of Poland’s electricity originates from coal-fired power plants. Poland hosts the dirtiest power plant in Europe, known as Belchatow, as well as six of the ten E.U. cities with the highest particulate concentration in the air. Moreover, the Polish government proposes to develop one of the world’s biggest lignite reserves near Legnica, which would require 20,000 people to be relocated.

At the close of COP 18 in Doha, Poland played an interesting role in the dramatic final minutes of the negotiations for a second commitment period (CP2) for the Kyoto Protocol, called the “Doha Amendment.” Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, designated as economies in transition by the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol (KP), wanted their pre-1990 carbon emission levels to carry over into the CP2, sometimes referred as “hot air.” These allowances, referred in the Kyoto Protocol as assigned amount units (AAUs), are not real accounting credits in a carbon-trading scheme. The E.U. was against this proposal, but Poland took the side of Russia and the oth


er economies in transition (EITs) as they also wanted their AAUs to carry over into CP2, as Poland had an extra 800 million hot air permits left over. Initially, Poland refused to sign the E.U. extension unless the E.U. promised Poland flexibility with its carbon emissions cuts. Also, Poland is rather cozy with Russia, particularly on energy relations, as Poland imports 2/3 of its coal from its eastern neighbor. Thus, Poland (and Russia) could still pollute carbon emissions at

1990 levels. Meanwhile, other Parties to the CP2 would have to reduce by 18% of 1990 levels and the E.U. collectively reduce to 20% below 1990 levels.

The signatories to the CP2 include only 15% of total global emissions, but the E.U. continues to lead the way on carbon mitigation and carbon trading. Poland, as a member of the E.U., has to abide by E.U. climate policies and directives, yet it finds ways to bend the rules and block E.U. attempts to develop clean-energy goals to reduce carbon emissions. At COP 19, the Parties to the UNFCCC continue to call on nations to find ambition to mitigate carbon emissions. Will Poland overcome its addiction to coal to find the ability to lead on combating the climate crisis?


Strengthening the Environmental Governance, Climate Change, and Human Rights Dialogue in the UNFCCC Process

Part of the excitement of attending a COP is attending cutting-edge side events and workshops. This past Saturday, I spent my first day at the UNFCCC COP 19 attending the workshop “Rights, Governance and Climate Change,” jointly organized Yale University’s Governance and Environmental Markets Initiative (GEM) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in collaboration with the University of Warsaw’s Faculty of Law and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) This workshop brought together policy makers, scholars, practitioners and stakeholder from diverse fields and countries.  The main focus of the workshop was to examine substantive and procedural rights in environmental governance, particularly for the climate change regime, and how they can enhance and support equitable solutions in environmental governance. In particular, the workshop aimed to provide outcomes to further innovative research in the climate change, rights, and governance fields.


Background to the Climate Change and Human Rights Nexus

Over the past few years, the international and human rights community has recognized the linkage between human rights and climate change (UN document). In 2007, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) called on the international community to recognize the connections between climate change and human rights implications in the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, known as the Malé Declaration. The international community responded. The UNFCCC COP16/CMP 6 in Cancun, Mexico and the United Nations Human Rights Council affirmed the linkages between key human rights, such as the right to adequate housing, and adverse climate change impacts on these substantive rights. Furthermore, the international environmental field has recognized procedural rights— the right to participation, access to justice and access to information— in the UNFCCC (Doha Work Programme Art. 6) and the 1992 Rio Declaration and the Rio +20 document. The international community wants to further strengthen these substantive and procedural rights in the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development and in the UNFCCC regime.

Rights-Based Language in the UNFCCC

Climate change mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage programs have and will impact human rights in numerous ways, in programs like the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), REDD + , loss and damage and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). imgresThe workshop examined topics on linkages between human Rights and climate Change; the potential of human rights and legal mobilization for addressing climate change; human rights, safeguards, and climate change; procedural rights initiatives at the global and regional level: creating linkages; and opportunities for further linkages and moving the climate change and rights-based regime forward, particularly for the post-2015 regime.

Utilizing Litigation to further the Climate Change Agenda

One of the most intriguing discussions of the day centered on using rights-based, legal methods to bring about action on climate change. This talk, given by Dr. Lisa Vanhala, analyzed legal mobilization and the use of substantive or procedural rights in climate change mitigation. She conducted a survey of climate change litigation across the common law developed countries of Australia, UK, Canada, US as well as international litigation. While international cases have mostly been symbolic rather than holding any entity or country liable for climate change harms, Dr. Vanhala found that domestic litigations were most successful when they have a combination of two instances: the suit was based on a constitutional provision or a statute, that the civil society organization bringing the suit had adequate resources, and the legal opportunity structure enabled the suit to progress through standing, third-party intervenor, legal aid, or timeliness, to name a few examples.

Understanding the elements of a successful or unsuccessful climate change litigation is very useful for pushing the climate change agenda, especially in countries like the US where the political climate remains hostile to most federal-level climate change measures. In the U.S., the most noted case, Massachusetts v. EPA, still presents the key to climate change litigation. This lawsuit surpassed the procedural barriers of standing and justiciability. Importantly, the case established that the EPA does not have the discretion to not ignore “endangerment finding,” that carbon dioxide is a harmful pollutant, as defined in the Clean Air Act, because it endangers public health or welfareus-climate-change-300x225While this case had no human rights implications, Mass v. EPA demonstrated how climate change ligation can succeed in the U.S. Potentially, the case highlights the avenues to further legal action to spur the US to change practices, perhaps using a rights-based based on the right to health or the right to life? That would be a good topic for a thesis! However, it should be noted, that litigation is only one tool in the toolshed to combat climate change. In the meantime, climate change lawsuits remain the exception, not the norm. One of the main questions, however, is whether a country can mobilize human rights and climate change without resorting to litigation? That question remains unresolved for now, perhaps until some sort of international treaty arises or rights-based language gains more traction in the UNFCCC texts.

Full video and transcript of Naderev “Yeb” Saño’s plea to UNFCCC #COP19: “It’s time to stop this madness.”

“Loss and damage is a reality across the world.” Mr. Saño


Link to full transcript of his speech: “It’s time to stop this madness” – Philippines plea at UN climate talks – See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2013/11/11/its-time-to-stop-this-madness-philippines-plea-at-un-climate-talks/#sthash.Vf9RKwgG.dpuf:

Mr. President, I have the honor to speak on behalf of the resilient people of the Republic of the Philippines.

At the onset, allow me to fully associate my delegation with the statement made by the distinguished Ambassador of the Republic of Fiji, on behalf of G77 and China as well as the statement made by Nicaragua on behalf of the Like-Minded Developing Countries.

First and foremost, the people of the Philippines, and our delegation here for the United Nations Climate Change Convention’s 19th Conference of the Parties here in Warsaw, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your expression of sympathy to my country in the face of this national difficulty.

In the midst of this tragedy, the delegation of the Philippines is comforted by the warm hospitality of Poland, with your people offering us warm smiles everywhere we go. Hotel staff and people on the streets, volunteers and personnel within the National Stadium have warmly offered us kind words of sympathy. So, thank you Poland.

The arrangements you have made for this COP is also most excellent and we highly appreciate the tremendous effort you have put into the preparations for this important gathering.

We also thank all of you, friends and colleagues in this hall and from all corners of the world as you stand beside us in this difficult time. I thank all countries and governments who have extended your solidarity and for offering assistance to the Philippines. I thank the youth present here and the billions of young people around the world who stand steadfast behind my delegation and who are watching us shape their future. I thank civil society, both who are working on the ground as we race against time in the hardest hit areas, and those who are here in Warsaw prodding us to have a sense of urgency and ambition. We are deeply moved by this manifestation of human solidarity. This outpouring of support proves to us that as a human race, we can unite; that as a species, we care.

It was barely 11 months ago in Doha when my delegation appealed to the world… to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face… as then we confronted a catastrophic storm that resulted in the costliest disaster in Philippine history. Less than a year hence, we cannot imagine that a disaster much bigger would come. With an apparent cruel twist of fate, my country is being tested by this hellstorm called Super Typhoon Haiyan, which has been described by experts as the strongest typhoon that has ever made landfall in the course of recorded human history. It was so strong that if there was a Category 6, it would have fallen squarely in that box. Up to this hour, we remain uncertain as to the full extent of the devastation, as information trickles in in an agonizingly slow manner because electricity lines and communication lines have been cut off and may take a while before these are restored. The initial assessment show that Haiyan left a wake of massive devastation that is unprecedented, unthinkable and horrific, affecting 2/3 of the Philippines, with about half a million people now rendered homeless, and with scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of a tsunami, with a vast wasteland of mud and debris and dead bodies. According to satellite estimates, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also estimated that Haiyan achieved a minimum pressure between around 860 mbar (hPa; 25.34 inHg) and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated Haiyan to have attained one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (195 mph) and gusts up to 378 km/h (235 mph) making it the strongest typhoon in modern recorded history. Despite the massive efforts that my country had exerted in preparing for the onslaught of this monster of a storm, it was just a force too powerful and even as a nation familiar with storms, Super Typhoon Haiyan was nothing we have ever experienced before, or perhaps nothing that any country has every experienced before.

The picture in the aftermath is ever so slowly coming into clearer focus. The devastation is colossal. And as if this is not enough, another storm is brewing again in the warm waters of the western Pacific. I shudder at the thought of another typhoon hitting the same places where people have not yet even managed to begin standing up.

To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.

The science has given us a picture that has become much more in focus. The IPCC report on climate change and extreme events underscored the risks associated with changes in the patterns as well as frequency of extreme weather events. Science tells us that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.

This will have profound implications on many of our communities, especially who struggle against the twin challenges of the development crisis and the climate change crisis. Typhoons such as Yolanda (Haiyan) and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action. Warsaw must deliver on enhancing ambition and should muster the political will to address climate change.

In Doha, we asked “If not us then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” (borrowed from Philippine student leader Ditto Sarmiento during Martial Law). It may have fell on deaf ears. But here in Warsaw, we may very well ask these same forthright questions. “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here in Warsaw, where?”

What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness.

We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw.

It is the 19th COP, but we might as well stop counting, because my country refuses to accept that a COP30 or a COP40 will be needed to solve climate change. And because it seems that despite the significant gains we have had since the UNFCCC was born, 20 years hence we continue to fail in fulfilling the ultimate objective of the Convention.  Now, we find ourselves in a situation where we have to ask ourselves – can we ever attain the objective set out in Article 2 – which is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system? By failing to meet the objective the Convention, we may have ratified the doom of vulnerable countries.

And if we have failed to meet the objective of the Convention, we have to confront the issue of loss and damage. Loss and damage from climate change is a reality today across the world. Developed country emissions reductions targets are dangerously low and must be raised immediately, but even if they were in line with the demand of reducing 40-50% below 1990 levels, we would still have locked-in climate change and would still need to address the issue of loss and damage.

We find ourselves at a critical juncture and the situation is such that even the most ambitious emissions reductions by developed countries, who should have been taking the lead in combatting climate change in the past 2 decades, will not be enough to avert the crisis. It is now too late, too late to talk about the world being able to rely on Annex I countries to solve the climate crisis. We have entered a new era that demands global solidarity in order to fight climate change and ensure that pursuit of sustainable human development remains at the fore of the global community’s efforts. This is why means of implementation for developing countries is ever more crucial.

It was the Secretary general of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro, 1992, Maurice Strong who said that “History reminds us that what is not possible today, may be inevitable tomorrow.”

We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway.

I speak for my delegation. But more than that, I speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves after perishing from the storm. I also speak for those who have been orphaned by this tragedy. I also speak for the people now racing against time to save survivors and alleviate the suffering of the people affected by the disaster.

We can take drastic action now to ensure that we prevent a future where super typhoons are a way of life. Because we refuse, as a nation, to accept a future where super typhoons like Haiyan become a fact of life. We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, having to count our dead, become a way of life. We simply refuse to.

We must stop calling events like these as natural disasters. It is not natural when people continue to struggle to eradicate poverty and pursue development and gets battered by the onslaught of a monster storm now considered as the strongest storm ever to hit land. It is not natural when science already tells us that global warming will induce more intense storms. It is not natural when the human species has already profoundly changed the climate.

Disasters are never natural. They are the intersection of factors other than physical. They are the accumulation of the constant breach of economic, social, and environmental thresholds. Most of the time disasters is a result of inequity and the poorest people of the world are at greatest risk because of their vulnerability and decades of maldevelopment, which I must assert is connected to the kind of pursuit of economic growth that dominates the world; the same kind of pursuit of so-called economic growth and unsustainable consumption that has altered the climate system.

Now, if you will allow me, to speak on a more personal note.

Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in my family’s hometown and the devastation is staggering. I struggle to find words even for the images that we see from the news coverage. I struggle to find words to describe how I feel about the losses and damages we have suffered from this cataclysm.

Up to this hour, I agonize while waiting for word as to the fate of my very own relatives. What gives me renewed strength and great relief was when my brother succeeded in communicating with us that he has survived the onslaught. In the last two days, he has been gathering bodies of the dead with his own two hands. He is hungry and weary as food supplies find it difficult to arrive in the hardest hit areas.

We call on this COP to pursue work until the most meaningful outcome is in sight. Until concrete pledges have been made to ensure mobilization of resources for the Green Climate Fund. Until the promise of the establishment of a loss and damage mechanism has been fulfilled; until there is assurance on finance for adaptation; until concrete pathways for reaching the committed 100 billion dollars have been made; until we see real ambition on stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. We must put the money where our mouths are.

This process under the UNFCCC has been called many names. It has been called a farce. It has been called an annual carbon-intensive gathering of useless frequent flyers. It has been called many names. But it has also been called the Project to save the planet. It has been called “saving tomorrow today”. We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now. Right here, in the middle of this football field.

I call on you to lead us. And let Poland be forever known as the place we truly cared to stop this madness. Can humanity rise to the occasion? I still believe we can.


During his speech, Sano added an unscripted pledge to fast during the conference, until meaningful progress had been made. He said:

“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”

– See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2013/11/11/its-time-to-stop-this-madness-philippines-plea-at-un-climate-talks/#sthash.Vf9RKwgG.dpuf

COP’ing it Part Deux: Tracking #COP19 & Loss and Damage

Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 18th session in Doha, Qatar, as a student representative of Vermont Law School. It was my first COP and I learned so much “on the job” that cannot be taught in the classroom. I tracked mostly adaptation issues, including the National Adaptation Plans, CDM Appeals Process and “loss and damage.”


No longer a COP rookie, this year, I am excited to be returning to COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland as a civil society observer. I’ve never been to Poland before, so I am looking forward to meeting new people, enjoying Polish culture, and eating delicious Polish food. On the word side of things, I will continue tracking these same issues. My main focus this year will be tracking “loss and damage,” this work program will deal with many problems associated with climate change, including human rights, climate justice, migration and displacement, and economic harm.

Despite UNFCCC efforts to mitigate carbon emissions, the earth’s temperatures are likely to overtake the internationally-recognized danger threshold of 2 degrees Celsius average increase in temperature, according to the IPCC AR5 Report.  Climate change has already begun to disrupt and destroy livelihoods, particularly in developing countries. The climate disruption socio-economic effects include adverse impacts to health, economic growth, water supplies, agriculture and food security, national security, and climate-forced displacement and migration. In other words, climate change will have “widespread and consequential” impacts. Even the USA is taking notice, as President Obama recently issued an Executive Order to step up US Government’s involvement in climate preparedness and resilience, including food security in America.

A memorable event from COP 18 in Doha was the impassioned plea by lead Philippines negotiator and Commisioner of Philippines Climate Change Commission, Nadarev “Yep” Saño, for Parties, particularly developed countries, to take action on climate change because it is already happening as evidenced by Typhoon Bopha and Hurricane Sandy. Mr. Saño said, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

This year the Philippines has also experienced hearbreak, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded to hit land, just steamrolled through the heart of the Philippines, leaving loss, damage, death and destruction in its wake. Thus, what will happen as States and communities fail to adapt and mitigate to climate change?


Image by REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The international community is not so sure on how to proceed, but they are making steady progress. As the negotiations for COP 18 concluded, the final outcome document, called the Doha Climate Gateway, established the new workstream on loss and damage, with the possibility of developing a new legal mechanism. However, what exactly does “loss and damage” mean? The international community has not decided. Practitioners, such as Dr. Koko Warner from the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, advocate that “loss and damage” programs will have to operate in conjunction with adaption.

In past UNFCCC COPs and meetings, State Parties and observers, international organizations and civil society groups realized that the lack of ambition of parties to mitigate climate change would only increase climate disruption and adverse impacts to climate change. Thus, the need to address adaptation arose, as decided in the Bali Action Plan. However, mitigation and adaptation only tell a part of the climate change story. At some point, States and communities will not be able to adapt to climate change.

In Harm’s Way (IPCC SREX)

So far, the Parties to COP18 decided to consider “approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, as part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework (decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 25-29). The Parties to the UNFCCC agreed that the Convention will have “the important and fundamental role to enable coherent and synergistic approaches.” These “adverse impacts,” defined in the Cancun Agreements decision 1/CP.16, are slow onset events that include sea level rise, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification.

Discussions on loss and damage will be focused around three thematic areas: TA1: “Assessing the risk of loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change and current knowledge on the same;” TA 2 “A range of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset events, taking into consideration experiences at all levels;” and TA3 “The role of the Convention in enhancing implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.” Within these thematic areas, negotiators will have to determine a variety of other means on how to deal with adverse impacts to climate change, including risk and disaster management from slow onset and extreme weather events. Additionally, any legal mechanism will have to decide on what are the concepts of “loss,” “damage,” as well as “economic” and “non-economic” losses. Non-ecoomic losses could include issues relating to the rights to culture, right to livelihood, right to identity, right to property, etc. Part of the mechanism will contain financial compensation, which would possibly include climate risk insurance.


(RTCC via Flickr/Greenpeace Southeast Asia)

At COP19, the international community will have to work together to create a legal mechanism to address loss and damage caused by the adverse impacts caused by climate change. This platform will have to address climate adaptation planning, as well as disaster risk and management (DRR) and human rights in the climate change “loss and damage” context. Whether or not the COP19 outcome decision contains a legal mechanism on loss and damage, the international community will still have to help the most vulnerable communities deal with climate-induced disruption adversely affecting their lives. Importantly, any mechanism on “loss and damage” should include a rights-based approach in order to guarantee the fundamental legal protections.

Please follow me on Twitter at @HeatherCroshaw for real-time updates and comments at #COP19.