Just Peace through Climate Action

Display at India's COP Pavilion

Display at India’s COP Pavilion

This year, the COP demonstrated the priority of climate justice by recognizing the first official Climate Justice Day on the UNFCCC Programme. The celebration of Climate Justice Day explored the social dimensions of climate action while elevating the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that led to the Paris Agreement. In fact, COP 22 highlights the unusual global alliance between governments, corporations, universities, NGO’s and faith inspired communities, all fighting against the effects of climate change. Along side the delegate pavilions and green technology entrepreneurs, stand a wide array of associations such as Mediators Without Borders, the Planetary Security Initiative, the Indigenous People’s Pavilion, and Green Faith. Yesterday’s reflective side event sponsored by the  Quaker United Nations Office underscored the importance of such a broad alliance: multi-level problems require multi-level solutions.

Entitled, “Trust and Peacebuilding Approaches for Ambitious Climate Action,” Friday’s QUNO panel focused on climate change as a humanitarian and spiritual crisis, as well as an environmental one, emphasizing the complex nature of the climate change problem. The discussion centered around fighting climate change as a personal moral imperative, the importance of personal equilibrium as well as environmental equilibrium, empowering climate change solutions on a personal level, unity through prayer, climate justice, and above all, love. Panelists included Sonja Klinsky, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Lindsey Fielder Cook, Representative for Climate Change, Quaker United Nations Office Ambassador, Jayanti Kirpalani, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Henrik Grape, Church of Sweden and Joy Kennedy, World Council of Churches.  Emphasizing individual impact, the presentation was empowering because it reminded listeners that they could make a difference by taking small personal steps while waiting for larger national policies to take shape. Their message was one of unity, courage and hope.

Entrance to COP 22 Pavilions

Entrance to COP 22 Pavilions

Later that evening, the closing COP 22/CMA 1 meeting managed to maintain this momentum of unity, courage and hope to successfully adopt their meeting Decision FCCC/PA/CMA/2016/1. In doing so, the COP of Action moved ahead and sent a clear message to the world. To quote U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Jonathan Pershing, in his closing remarks at this final COP 22 meeting, “Momentum for the Paris Agreement cannot be stopped.” In the continued spirit of unity, and showing their personal appreciation for each other, the entire plenary of hundreds of COP 22 delegates paused during a break in the negotiations to sing happy birthday to the delegate from Mali. Hopefully, this spirit of unity carries through to next year when COP 23 is held in Bonn, Germany.

On a personal reflective note, I continue to draw inspiration from the wide range of groups here at the COP, all fighting the effects of climate change.  This COP 22 experience has been particularly meaningful due to the opportunity our Vermont Law School class had to work with a Service Learning Partner Country.  Being able to serve a purpose at COP 22, to provide direct delegation support to a Least Developed Country, became my small way of making a difference in the fight against climate change.  The remarkable people I have met here continue to inspire me with their dedication to Just Peace, through Climate Action.


Bridging the Gap between NDC Commitments and NDC Implementation

During this morning’s Joint High Level Segment, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Cooper Pershing delivered the U.S. National Statement. Addressing the combined meeting of the COP22/CMP12/CMA1, Pershing said, “With the policies already in place, the United States is well-positioned to meet its Paris Agreement targets” and that through current market trends, “the transition to clean energy is inevitable.” These are reassuring words to those wondering if the U.S. can bridge the gap between its Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) and its policies.

Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Lord Nicholas Stern echoed these sentiments today at a COP 22 Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment event presenting the institute’s latest COP study. Lord Stern, Grantham Institute Chair and member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, emphasized the importance of federal structure, stating, “The best way for Parties to implement NDCs is to create supporting policies regionally and locally through cities, states, and provinces.” Pledges are only as good as their implementation. Governments will need to continue to translate words into action through understanding, informed by research, science and policy.  Policy is the bridge. Parties now need the courage to cross it.


Is Time Running Out?

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COP 22 hourglass display representing the limited time left to avoid irreversible climate change before the year 2100.

Referencing the response to climate change at today’s COP 22, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the issue in terms of time.   He stated, “The question is not whether we will transition to a clean energy economy. The question is whether we will have the will power to make the transition in time.  Time is not on our side.”  He was speaking to a group in Marrakech, but his question was really to the world.

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Secretary of State John Kerry in Marrakech, Morocco for the COP 22 Climate negotiations.

 

 

 

 

Sec. Kerry confirmed that the global community is more united than ever and taking real action this year, as evidenced in such historic global agreements as the Paris Agreement, the ICAO Agreement and the Kigali Agreement. Sec. Kerry reassured his listeners that despite the uncertainty that is coming from recent election results, climate change is not a partisan issue.  The majority of Americans, scientists, military leaders, intelligence community, state and city leaders, business leaders, advocacy groups and community organizers are committed to fighting against the problems that contribute to climate change. The Secretary emphasized that although he would not speculate on the incoming administration’s policies regarding the Paris Agreement, he took heart because “issues look very different on the campaign trail than when you are actually in office.”  In fact, the U.S. is on its way to meet its Paris Agreement goals based on market forces and state regulations already in place. Investing in clean energy makes good market sense because as the Secretary said, “you can do good and do well at the same time.”


Transitions at CMA1: the Winds of Change

Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 12.22.37 AMTransition is in the air at the international climate negotiations in Marrakech. With the Paris Agreement going into force sooner than expected, Parties to the Agreement are having to quickly transition from last year’s commitments to this year’s implementation strategies. And with the Paris Agreement’s CMA 1 opening today, the Parties need to get to work. Appropriately, the theme of this year’s COP is the COP of Action, and Parties are taking action with regard to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).    IMG_2121 As Parties are looking for means to act on these NDCs, public-private partnerships are developing to provide the help needed. One such partnership was launched today as part of a COP 22 side event. The NDC Partnership  is a coalition comprised of 25 developing countries,12 developed countries, and 10 international institutions providing Parties with technical and financial support to assist in reaching their Paris Agreement commitments.

The reality of implementing NDCs can be difficult in terms of finance, technology, politics, and the public narrative. As Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute said, “If implementing the NDC is not difficult, then the NDC is not ambitious enough.” But the question is how can Parties best catalyze their NDC implementation? The answer may lie with public-private paScreen Shot 2016-11-16 at 12.17.35 AMrtnerships, facilitated by groups such as the NDC Partnership. These partnerships can connect the Parties with financing to support various NDC programs, expertise, and  technical assistance. For example, the NDC Partnership provides the NDC Funding & Initiatives Navigator. Developed with the UNFCCC, the Moroccan government and the German agency GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), this web-based platform has benefits for both the Parties and the donors. The platform provides a means for Parties to implement their NDC by matching their needs with specific funds. In addition, donors can tailor their programs more effectively to meet the needs of the Parties. The NDC Funding & Initiatives Navigator lists more than 300 funds and support initiatives for implementing NDCs. The Navigator is just one of the many tools available to Parties for NDC implementation.  In addition, the NDC partnership can provide expertise and technical assistance to Parties for developing sustainable cities, encouraging clean agriculture, educating about sustainable consumption, and providing clean energy such as solar and wind power. Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, suggests that key features to NDC implementation are effective spending and involving both the public and private financial sector.

At the opening CMA 1 ceremony today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the “power of partnerships.” The NDC Partnership may be just the type of cooperative action needed to keep the NDCs on track and the Paris Agreement moving forward. Cooperation and unity is imperative to keeping the Paris Agreement commitments, with the bigger picture in mind. As President François Hollande said at today’s CMA 1, “What unites us is what we all have in common and that is our planet.”

 


The Paris Agreement’s Debut: Priorities at CMA1

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 7.59.17 AMOn October 5, 2016, the Paris Agreement passed the threshold required to go into force on November 4, 2016. Over 55 Parties to the Convention have submitted their instruments of ratification, accounting for over 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will occur in Marrakech in conjunction with COP22/CMP12. What will be the priority at CMA1? Currently, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website lists no CMA1 agenda documents. However, the Secretariat’s Progress Tracker of relevant requests from the Paris Agreement and Decision 1/CP.21 provides a good predictor of CMA1’s focus.

The Progress Tracker indicates renewed discussion of Article 6’s market-based mechanisms at CMA1, as Paris Agreement Parties redouble their efforts to establish the system to achieve their pledged contributions. Article 6  provides the starting point for market-based mechanisms. Interestingly, nowhere does Article 6’s language actually use the term market-based mechanisms. Instead, Article 6.1 refers to “voluntary cooperation” when implementing NDCs with Article 6.2’s “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” [ITMOs] and “robust accounting.” Roughly translated, Article 6’s voluntary cooperation works through a carbon trading, market-based mechanism, using ITMOs.

Recent meetings of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific Technology and Advice (SBSTA44) also point to Article 6 priorities during CMA1. At the May 2016 SBSTA44 meeting, Parties emphasized the Paris Agreement’s changed context, in that all Parties have NDCs. Now, with most Parties planning to consider some form of market mechanism to reach their mitigation pledges, they remain divided on how best to proceed. For example, Parties maintain varying views about whether Article 6’s scope should include REDD+.  Given these unresolved concerns, SBSTA44 agreed to continue Article 6 work in Marrakech and invited submissions on the Parties’ varying Article 6 views for discussion at SBSTA45.

Accordingly, over a hundred countries submitted their Article 6 statements, fueling continued Article 6 debate during CMA1.  Some countries’ submissions came as part of a broad range of major negotiation groups; submissions from the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), Forestry Commission of Central Africa (COMIFAC), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), European Union (EU), and Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) addressed an equally broad range of priorities. Prevalent themes involved differences between developed and developing countries’ priorities, concerns regarding transparency in accounting, and the need for clarity in Decision 1/CP.21 § 36 language addressing emissions “corresponding adjustments.”

Additionally, multiple side events scheduled during the Marrakech meeting demonstrate strong support from civil society and the research community for Parties to clarify and implement Article 6. Organizations like the Green Climate Fund, Institute for Environmental Global Strategies, International Carbon Action Partnership and country representatives from around the world will present at these sessions.

Based on the Progress Tracker, SB44 discussions and submissions, and side event interest, Article 6 issues will not only appear on the SBSTA45 agenda. They will also likely play a major role at the inaugural CMA1 meeting, as the Paris Agreement enters into force on the world stage.