Who Should Pick Up the Tab for Capacity-Building?

It’s appreciated (or even expected) when the firm’s partner picks up the bill for a new associate, or when a professor treats his student to lunch. Those who are more established and financially secure tend to lend a helping hand to those still making their way in the world. Apparently, this concept does not hold fast on an international scale, particularly when it comes to capacity-building.

iccad-leaning-adaptation_0Article 8 capacity-building measures aim to increase capacity in countries that do not have the expertise, tools, support, and/or knowledge to address climate change. Expectedly, the poorest countries are the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, e.g., threatened water resources, the spread of disease, increased malnutrition, and agriculture. The countries that need increased capacities the most need technical and financial assistance.

So who is going to pick up the tab for international capacity-building efforts? Developing countries point their fingers at the large, industrialized nations that continue to play primary roles in climate change.

Developing countries insist, “it’s not that we don’t want to improve our capacities, but rather that our people tend to be uninformed, uneducated, or limited by national and financial resources.” They say, “you made this mess, now clean it up.” Developing nations firmly hold that developed nations should be required to help less able nations cope with climate change.

Developed countries respond, “it’s not that we don’t want to help, but we would rather concentrate efforts in on our home soil. But good luck!” Major emitters are not eager to share their resources.

Are developing countries hung up on historical responsibility? Are developed nations reluctant to recognize their role and responsibility in the current climate crisis? Upon whom will financial accountability fall when the Paris Agreement is finalized this weekend?ccrd rep

Where to Next? Climate-Induced Migration

2015-08-06-1438884195-3002752-climatechangeToday is human rights day at COP21. “Human Mobility and Climate Change” was a timely event that shined a light on climate-induced migration.

Climate change drives human mobility, and is projected to further increase the displacement of populations. While migration is generally a voluntary movement, human mobility displacement occurs in situations where people are forced to leave their homes. COP21 gives policy-makers an opportunity to mitigate the displacement of populations that lack the resources to address extreme weather events.

Past UNFCCC processes have recognized the significance of human mobility; the first reference of population displacement emerged in Cancun. It made another appearance in paragraph 7 of the 2012 Doha decision. Nicolas Hulot—Special Envoy of the President of the French Republic for Protecting the Planet—is pleased that the draft texts that have been submitted for agreement in Paris thus far mention migrants in paragraph 10:

Emphasizing the importance of Parties promoting, protecting and respecting all human rights, the right to health, and the rights of indigenous peoples, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and under occupation, and the right to development, in accordance with their obligations…

The panelists said they now feel justified in their outspokenness regarding climate migrations. Still, most yearn for better research and increased capacity-building.

Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council reported that 11 million people were displaced last year from conflict and violence. In 2014, one person was displaced every two seconds. However, social and political conflict are not the only instigators of mass displacement. Few realize that the number of people displaced by natural disasters since 2008 is 22.5 million. Climate change has plagued societies with food scarcity and water resource issues. The Pacific Islands have had two Category 5 typhoons just this year. South Africa is dealing with threatened food security. Countless other countries are heavily affected by droughts.

Egeland encourages States to recognize this “mega-problem” in a legally binding document, and agree that displaced persons have (1) the right to receive assistance if they are forced to flee, and (2) the right to rebuild, live, and integrate elsewhere if they cannot return. “We are way behind in protection and assistance to this group” of which Egeland says “we haven’t even recognized the size.”

lr-figure8UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Turk, argues that protection must be central to the international response to human mobility. Assistant Secretary-General Kyung-wha Kang agrees. She urges policy-makers to mitigate consequences, and to ensure that displaced people are protected and their rights preserved. She says we need to integrate displaced people and support migration and relocation as part of climate control adaptation. Kang calls for a shift from crisis response to crisis risk management.

Kang pointed out that only one percent of international aid went to disaster risk reduction between 1991 and 2010. World leaders need to manage the risks that “we already know.”

Seb Dance is a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Heath, and Food Safety. He predicts that COP21 is going to be the most successful COP thus far. However, he fears that existing policies are outdated and might undermine commitments made in the Paris Agreement. He warns from repeating the “same mistakes we’ve been making for decades.”

The climate crisis has become the “ultimate injustice;” climate change affects mostly individuals who played no part in creating it. Hulot believes humanity can be recovered as the “major feeling that brings people together.” Regardless of the content of the Paris Outcome, he says, this is only the beginning.

An Iceberg in Paris

Zarin-Artist-Bringing-Icebergs-to-Paris-1200After a morning meeting with the Chair of the California Air Resources Board, VLS delegates happened upon a circle of icebergs in the shadows of the Panthéon. The “Ice Watch” installation has had its home in the center of Paris since the start of COP21.

In October, artist Olafur Eliasson set out from the Nuuk, Greenland harbor in pursuit of 88 tons of the ice that covers 90 percent of his country. The captain of Eliasson’s tugboat said, “[ice] is a great part of our national identity. We follow the international discussion, of course, but to every Greenlander, just by looking out the window at home, it is obvious that something dramatic is happening.” The Greenland ice sheet loses thousands of comparably sized icebergs every second due to global warming.


Photo Credit: Rebecca Davidson

Twelve icebergs are arranged in a wide circle to resemble the face of a clock. This is meant to represent the passing of time. Spectators are able to witness the shivering, shining ice melt under the winter sun. When passersby hold their ears to the ice, they can hear the heart of the glacier cracking. Touch it, and it melts even faster—another symbol of mankind’s role in the current climate crisis. Eliasson confronts onlookers with a scientific reality.

Eliasson illuminates:

A circle is like a compass. It leaves navigation to the people who are inside it. It is a mistake to think that the work of art is the circle of ice—it is the space it invents. And it is on a street in Paris—and a street in Paris can’t be more important than it is right now. We all feel that strongly.

“Ice Watch” is humbling and fear-provoking, and yet also hopeful as COP21 negotiations continue nearby.


We Didn’t Start the Fire

Powerful images line the walls of the COP21 venue. They are meant to inspire delegates to reach an agreement on climate control. One such message reads: “Climate change is the single biggest thing that humans have ever done on this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to stop it.”

FullSizeRender1There are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 around the globe. What many fail to realize is their power and duty when it comes to climate change. As the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported, “young people are about to inherit an enormous responsibility for resolving many long-standing complex problems.” Because young people will outlive their elders, they are more likely to confront the direct consequences of accelerating climate change and other environmental shifts.

The need for social resilience is likely to grow, and today’s young will need in their own adulthood to be the main agents of tomorrow’s resilience. Their resilience depends in part on whether they are healthy and educated, whether they have options and opportunities in life, and whether they are fully engaged citizens whose rights are upheld.

Young people have historically participated in the UNFCCC. With additional levels of involvement via international Youth Climate Movements (YouNGO) and the Youth Portal on the UNFCCC website, youth organizations have started to view climate negotiations as a new forum for young people.

COP21 hosted an event titled “Climate Innovators: Empowering a Global Generation of Young People” this afternoon, which featured the work of both budding and experienced innovators. This event contemplated the investments needed to ensure that the newest generation can contribute to a sustainable and resilient future.

Wanjira Mathai, Chair of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, distinguished this event as one of the most important sessions of all of COP21. The role of future generations remains an essential part of the climate change solution. She finds sobering the fact that Parties are talking about ambitious targets for the Paris Outcome, yet it will be the youth who takes forward the implementation of what Parties discuss today. For this reason, she says, young people must take center stage in the Paris debates.

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, thinks it is a mistake to say that the youth represent the future of humanity; he thinks instead that they represent the present. He sheds light on the basic issues of generational fairness and social justice. The youth are clearly not responsible for the climate crisis, but unfortunately, unless decisive action is taken urgently, they will carry this burden into the future.

Young people face problems that are not theirs, and have not been involved in the decision-making process. Do they not feel as if they have the strategies, skills, or power to effectively engage in negotiations? Are the later generations clinging to power? Do young people even understand the pressing nature of climate change? As the architects of prospective solutions, young people encompass the requisite spirit of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. Enabling the youth to respond to climate change requires effective policies in the fields of education, training, and skills building. Ultimately, young people need to be given the design to become leaders.

The panel pointed out that younger generations are notoriously reckless, and do not realize the effects of what they do “until the results are in front of them.” Those concerned with our future can organize their influence by becoming role models to fellow youth, and to show them a conviction and desire to embody the change the world needs.

Young people are catalysts for change. And while we might be the last generation with the power to address climate change, it is not yet the end.

Electric Vehicles: “It’s Almost an Intelligence Test”

As delegates begin week two of negotiations, a panel of scientists and businesspeople opened a dialogue on electric vehicles (EV). These impressive individuals appeared at Le Bourget to discuss needed developments in automotive technology, consumer behavior, available infrastructure, and existing energy systems in the field of electro-mobility.


Today’s Panel

Moderator Nigel Topping opened with an image of New York City in 1906. He painted a picture of horses and buggies crowding the busy streets, with one automobile in the corner. By 1930, he said, this picture is “completely reversed” after a shift from horse-drawn carriages to Ford Model Ts. The question for the panel today was whether it is going to take seven years for the EV revolution, or 17 years. While most models today are closer to 17, “we think it can be done much faster.”

The panelists included:


Electric Charging Station in Paris

Pasquale Romano identified the most prominent barrier in electro-mobility: cost. Romano also examined the phenomenon of charging stations at the workplace. ChargePoint found that when employers offer EV charging at work, employees are 20 times more likely to purchase an EV. “You feel like you’re visiting the future when you visit these lots,” he says. While EV charging stations in cities like Paris help, they are not as effective. Romano says, “next to a cat, [a car] is your most restful asset,” so it is most beneficial to have an EV charger at home and/or at work.

Steve Howard conveyed IKEA’s dedication to an “all-in” approach to transformational change. Howard said that when IKEA began selling LED light bulbs, it needed to change its business, customer base, and value proposition because “people would still just see a light bulb.” The new and improved LED bulb needs to be “outstanding” for people to make the change. The company will soon announce its commitment to selling 500 million by the end of 2020. He is in awe at today’s products compared to several years ago, and said we are leaving yesterday’s technology behind.

IKEA provides extensive international transport to its customers, which is still largely linked to fossil fuel transit. IKEA locations also receive millions of visitors who travel via mass transit. In response to consumer-driven traffic, the company now has 120 stores with charging capabilities. Howard is surveying the vans IKEA customers can hire to transfer large purchases. He plans to exchange these vans for high utilization EV options. Howard’s goal for IKEA is to have universal charging at every store, and this “needs to be the same for every other retailer out there…so let’s go all in.”

There are 80,000 EVs on the road today, so Dr. Philippe Schulz has no doubt that the technology revolution will sweep the international community even faster by creating a mass market. Renault SAS polled that 98% of its customers are satisfied with their EVs. Schulz attributed this success to the production of “sexy products” that also happen to be energy efficient.

Schulz predicted that the parity between electric and conventional vehicles has almost been reached. Batteries have become affordable, and customers cannot ignore the obvious appeal of EVs. Romano chimed in, arguing that we are at “sticker parity” right now because EVs involve no maintenance and require essentially zero cost. He stated that purchasing an EV is such a clear choice that it is “almost an intelligence test.”


Electrically Charged BMW i8 Model

Ursula Mathar affirmed there is both a revolution and evolution; the revolution involves making combustion engine cars more sustainable, while the evolution involves the ground-breaking concept for the BMWi EV series. To ensure that the future of mobility is connected and sustainable, BMW addresses both the customer’s “brain” (the rationale behind electric mobility) and his “heart” (the emotional desire to own a premium car) by convincing the public that EVs are “really fun to drive.” BMW conveys to customers that they receive an additional benefit—rather than losing something—by driving an EV.

BMW is working on integrating the i3 model into car sharing so that the public can experience EVs. Mathar addressed the generational shift of the sharing economy; EVs are more attractive to young people who cannot yet invest in a premium car. Millennials are more flexible and open to experiencing new technologies.

The panelists concluded by discussing various remaining obstacles. Schulz reiterated the issue of affordability, and the need for strong companies that are willing to invest in quick-charging technologies. Howard wanted to make clear that this is a revolution, that every single stake holder is “part of the game,” and that the infrastructure either exists or will exist very soon. The bottom line is that EVs must be affordable and attractive to the average customer, and as the panelists say, “we’re getting there.”

COP21: Threat to Public Policy?


Schengen Area

The European Union recently celebrated 30 years of the border-free Schengen Area, a crucial pillar of the European Single Market. Schengen cooperation guards the fundamental right of 400 million E.U. citizens to cross internal borders without being subjected to cumbersome border checks. This guarantee also applies to many non-EU nationals, cross-border commuters, and tourists. With COP21 fast-approaching the city of Paris, the Schengen Area is struggling to find a balance between freedom of movement and security.

The refugee crisis in Europe has been the worst crisis since World War II. A record number of individuals are seeking asylum within the E.U. A U.N. refugee agency reported that 218,394 people crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe this October, which is close to the number from the entire year of 2014. The refugee crisis is challenging the notion of free movement of people across borders. Pressure is mounting to close the E.U.’s open borders along the migrant trail. The recent flood of refugees has overwhelmed countries outside of the E.U., which have been receiving limited support from Member States. European leaders are demanding a restoration of border control, and are questioning the concept of the Schengen area. Have citizens of the E.U. been taking Schengen and the right to move freely for granted?

cop3The French government will reintroduce border controls for the month surrounding COP21, beginning on November 13th and ending on December 13th, two days after the COP21 is scheduled to end. According to Article 23 of the Schengen Borders Code, this measure is taken “where there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security.” The possibility that any open zone of the Schengen area will be suspended “is impending dangerously over the core principle of free movement and is a further blow to the European integration.”

For this month, no one—including E.U. citizens—will be able to move freely across French borders. French officials published a document via the E.U. Council which states France’s plan to reintroduce controls at the borders of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, the Swiss Confederation, Italy and Spain “on the occasion of COP 21.Le Monde published that “since the Borders Code came into force in 2006, each time border controls have been reintroduced, it has been for the purpose of preventing terrorism and crime, and for security purposes related to the hosting of international meetings or sports events.”

Close-up page of passport with Schengen visa

passport with Schengen visa

It’s not only the refugee crisis that is persuading France to close its borders. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chair of COP21, Laurent Fabius, says that 80 Heads of State and foreign officials will appear at the Conference. He fears violence by protesters and green activists. The Ministry has created a special procedure for accredited participants of COP21, particularly those that require a visa to enter France.

It seems that the civil society mobilizing for COP21 is being targeted; “embassies are requesting various documents including invitations from us and proof of the applicant’s ability to pay for transport, among other requests,” says a spokesperson for Coalition Climat 21. Mouhad Gasmi is the voice against shale gas in Alegeria. He filed a visa application on October 21st, invitation to COP21 in hand. The consulate of France in Algeria gave him an appointment for one month after COP21. Climate 21 further states, “the government is choosing who they want to take part in the official summit.”

The public is “unconvinced of the French government’s claim that it is willing to include them, in all their diversity, in the COP process.” Do France and other E.U. Member States need to sacrifice freedom for safety and peace?

Parisian Preparations: Local Anticipation of COP21

Time is of the essence as the COP countdown continues in the city of lights. The international community is making final preparations for a historic UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris this December. The world has been preparing for Paris for quite some time. The Road to Paris campaign was launched at COP19 in Warsaw. Finance, business, and government leaders established an initiative to develop solutions to climate change at COP21. But what is Paris up to as the conference looms closer?

copPresident François Hollande fired the starting pistol at the Palais de l’Élysée in September during the first of several events featuring France’s commitment to climate change. Monsieur le Président commented, “France wants to set an example. We have already taken some steps like those mentioned by the ministers…but we have to speed up our efforts to become a carbon-free economy…” About one week earlier, Hollande disclosed that France may fail in its bid to craft a new international agreement at COP21. French prime minister Manuel Carlos Valls Galfett added, “the stakes are enormous.”

In France, the Secretariat-General assembled a civil society relations team to lead the charge in preparing for and organizing COP21. The team has consulted all representatives of the civil society constituencies, requesting any thoughts as to the the programming and organization of the Paris-Le Bourget Conference venue. According to the 117 responses, participants think COP21 should cater to younger generations via educational workshops and exhibitions. Most respondents also voiced a desire for accessible conference rooms to foster debates and discourse among parties.

France selected the expansive and accessible Paris-Le Bourget site to host 40,000 COP21 attendees. The venue will be divided into three areas: the conference center, the climate Generations areas, and the gallery. The conference center is the big cheese of the COP21 locations. It is “where the success of COP21 will be decided.” This area is open to accredited guests and operates 24/7. The climate Generations area is accessible to the public, providing an arena for debates and discussions. The gallery is reserved for professionals and offers an overview of climate change solutions developed by companies.


The entire country is enthusiastic. Just this past May at Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers, 200 students participated in a public simulation of COP21. The organizers arranged a “political, diplomatic, scientific, and artistic experiment” aimed at teaching young people to understand and transform the climate change scene. Sciences Po launched an initiative to prepare for COP21 called “Make It Work.” This project combines creativity and political activism.

The French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy created an opportunity for citizen participation that will unite and mobilize civil society. The crowd-sourcing platform allows all French citizens to join in the climate change debate.

Scop2ome worry that COP is not getting enough attention. According to a Forbes survey on Google search statistics, the international media community has “failed to spark any interest in global warming.” Worse than neglect is the negative attention COP21 is receiving from climate justice activists. According to a report by the global EJOLT project, activists have voiced their intention to “hack, resist, and confront…false solutions” and inactivity at COP21.

Negotiators from all countries will meet in Bonn on October 19th for the last time before COP21 to hopefully address any remaining concerns.