Nations in ‘Glass Houses’: The Rules of Transparency

glass houseWhile not as publicly flashy as the issue of ambition, transparency received a good deal of attention during the negotiations that brought us to the Final Agreement in Paris on Saturday. Parties had to come to a consensus about how exposed their internal policies and actions would be to scrutiny. This is a key point, each Party is a sovereign nation yet they are subjected to evaluation by an outside group. The Transparency framework therefore must be implemented in “a facilitative, non-intrusive, and non-punitive manner respectful of national sovereignty.” (Art. 13.1) Essentially, they have moved into “glass houses”. Equality in Transparency requirements attempts to prevent stone throwing.

 

Why is transparency so important? Parties need to be able to see what each other is doing in order to build confidence and trust in the system (Art. 13.1). The framework for Transparency is constructed around both actions and support, therefore affecting all other sections of the Final Agreement. Transparency requirements apply to Parties’ mitigation efforts, adaptation projects and policies, technology transfers, capacity-building, and financial support. Parties are more likely to act in furthering their efforts in mitigation and implementing their NDC plans if they can clearly see that others are doing so as well. Further, developed country Parties, other Parties in a position to do so, and private investors are more likely to provide resources to the developing countries Parties if they can account for the monetary flows and technology transfer.

 

Of course, the cross-cutting issue of differentiation plays a large role in Transparency as well. During the negotiations, recognition that some Parties would have different capacities to assess and then report progress towards full implementation of the Agreement was a sticking point. Ultimately, the “older” system of “Common But Differentiated Responsibility” or “CBDR” was replaced in the Transparency section with “flexibility” considering the respective capacities of the Parties (Art. 13.2).  This is more akin to a sliding scale of ability rather than the older systems of bifurcation. There remains special consideration for LDCs and SIDS in the establishment of the transparency framework (Art. 13.3).

Each Party will report on emissions and removals according to methodologies accepted by the IPCC, information relating to the Party’s NDC, and climate change impacts (Art. 13.7). These wipe cleanreports are to be submitted biennially, with an exception for LDCs and SIDS. The technical expert review of the information submitted will undergo a facilitative, multilateral consideration of their progress. For developing Parties, this review shall include assistance in identifying capacity-building needs (Art. 13.11). Support for the implementation of this and all other requirements of this Article shall be provided on a continuing basis. (Art. 13.14 and 13.15).

Living in a “glass house” requires that Parties keep to their promises made in Paris and that they help others with their housekeeping to clear the view of activities and support. A cleaner world will be our reward.

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The new “High Ambition” Force Awakens in Paris

de brumA new group has been announced during the Paris Climate Talks – the High Ambition Coalition. It is not a formal negotiation group like the G77+ China or the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Rather it represents a block of countries with a common position – recognition of the need for a target of less than 1.5℃.  Apparently, it has been gathering strength for the past six months during secret discussions.

During the press briefing to an unusually packed room on Friday, December 11th at 4:00 pm Paris time, the founder of the group, the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister Tony de Brum, announced that Brazil has just joined. Later that evening Australia announced its acceptance into the group.  austrailia jjoins

The composition of the group of more than 100 countries is a mixed bag of other Parties as well. There are LDCs, SIDS, accompanied by the United States, the EU, and Canada.

During the press briefing, Minister de Brum made it clear that this was a serious group that did not take their commitments lightly. If the countries are to tackle climate change, high ambition coupled with political will are necessary. Simply stated, this is the pathway to survival.  Any country that wished to join must demonstrate dedication to that goal. He further expressed displeasure at some Parties that wished to “gut the text” with a minimalist approach to the Agreement. When asked why China and India were not members, Minister de Brum answered that while they welcomed new Parties to broaden their reach, they would not sacrifice this core belief that high ambition was required in the Paris Agreement. In a later press Conference, the Chinese deputy foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, dismissed the Coalition stating: “We heard of this so-called ambitious coalition only since a few days ago, of course it has had a high in profile in the media, but we haven’t seen they have really acted for ambitious emissions commitments, so this is kind of performance by some members” .

Further, they underscore that the Agreement must be durable and legally binding with rigorous review every five years. This may be the reason that India is so reluctant to join as it has stood by its position for review every ten years. The member Parties agree that they cannot go home without the ambition that they are fighting for; they are determined for its inclusion in the Paris Agreement. During a Press Conference on Monday, December 9th, Secretary Kerry announced the United States’ participation in the Coalition stating : “Addressing climate change will require a fundamental change in the way that we decide to power our planet. And our aim can be nothing less than a steady transformation of a global economy.”  Minister de Brum called for decarbonization as well, this is not just about a temperature target. Clearly, to reach this goal, the framework for transparency will be critical ; “so everybody knows what we are all doing”. Finance, one of the hot button topics, is also critical to the success of a high ambition goal; the 100 billion pledged will need to be actually delivered. Other mechanisms for securing future finance flows, technology transfer and capacity-building must be included in the text for developing Parties for full implementation of their mitigation and adaptation plans. The German Environmental Minister, Barbara Hendricks, further noted that what was needed was a “fair and modern system of differentiation”, one in which every Party contributes to emissions reductions “as much as they can.” After all, she concluded, the Paris Agreement “is more than just a piece of paper.”

 


Climate Justice may be Blind, but it isn’t Mute.  

blind justice

Several concepts and phrases have been bantered around for inclusion in the Paris Outcome document. Most of it centers on the differences between the wealthy nations and those who are not.  “It’s [the issues are] about differentiation, equity, and climate justice.” – India’s Environmental Minister – Prakash Javadekar. While much of the talk has centered around the concept of “Common But Differentiated Responsibility” or “CBDR” for short, the climate justice advocates are concerned about the differentiated impacts of climate change. There is no question that climate change hits the world’s poorest people the hardest. There are many groups advocating for “Climate Justice”; they range from the Indigenous Peoples, to the women’s rights groups, to youth advocates. They are all striving for one common goal – the recognition of particularly vulnerable populations who disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change impacts.

As the Parties are busily reviewing the text this Friday, two separate press conferences were held on this very topic illustrating the urgency and passion with which these climate justice advocates are pushing for acknowledgement in the final text. In the early afternoon both the Friends of the Earth International (FEI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) directly addressed this issue and it infused much of the talk at the press briefings of other entities like Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). These groups were concerned that the newest Paris draft release on Thursday night “regressed as to equity” (Sunita Narain of CSE).

 

Key to understanding their positions is the underlying problem of the lobbying strength of rich corporations. Indeed, the WWF highlighted the extreme influence of the Koch brothers in North American politics and control of fossil fuel resources. Climate Justice requires that civil society holds the negotiators accountable to the people who are most affected by climate change. Political influence appears to be blocking the practical solutions to address mitigation, adaptation and the mechanisms to enforce the needed long-term goal of staying under 1.5℃. Under WWF’s view, the Draft Paris Outcome is a “great escape for polluters and a poison chalice for the poor.” It appears that the mitigation dates and targets are gone from the text, as is the science regarding the achievement of net zero emissions and climate neutrality.

 

The Center for Creative Ecologies

The Center for Creative Ecologies

Practically speaking, the WWF also highlighted what the ramifications of a weak Paris Agreement would mean for the majority of the world’s population. Food insecurity would increase as the climate change impacts affect not only the soil and water conditions but also the farmers’ land use rights. They stressed that the agricultural producers need support at the subnational level to maintain the farmers’ access to land and the means of production. These small-scale farmers make 80% of the food the world consumes. WWF Nigeria pointed out that decarbonization has been removed from the latest Draft Text. This would undermine one of the core elements of the Agreement, the energy transition to renewables. This is a matter of energy security. For much of the South, the lack of transition to renewables means dispossession of land by big companies. What is needed is “energy decentralization and energy democracy.” Both of these issues are tied to the need to move beyond the “climate smart” rhetoric to a system that is truly fair and equitable to the people of the land, not just equity among countries.

 

towerPart of the Climate Justice argument rests upon those cross-cutting issues of differentiation and financial responsibility. The argument to place human rights in the text beyond the Preamble is important so that the mechanisms take those rights into consideration. It is vital to prevent the political tradeoffs between the 1.5℃ target and loss and damage concessions; this pits development against ambition. As CSE noted, by the time India is ready to use its fair share, there will be no room in the carbon market for them. That is why finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building are so critically important. Developing country Parties need to access these resources to move forward quickly in sustainable development. They simply cannot afford to wait. Much like the situation on the whole Climate Deal – the world simply cannot afford to wait.

 


Subnational leaders leading the way

logo_tagline1Under 2 MoU”  – no it’s not Prince’s latest song, it is the initiative of subnational leaders (Mayors and Governors)  committing to limit emissions below 2 metric tons per capita by 2050 which is the amount of reductions needed to limit global warming to less than 2°C. This initiative, supercharged by the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown of California, has grown to include 65 jurisdictions from 20 countries spanning 5 continents. The commitments collectively represent “more than $17.9 trillion in GDP and 588 million people. If the signatories represented a single country, it would be the largest economy in the world by GDP, surpassing the United States.” These subnational efforts can have a real and positive effect to galvanize action at COP 21. They hope to influence other leaders and national governments to follow their lead. Governor Inslee of Washington State proudly declared at the Conference: “Let me say that we rebel against the term ‘subnationals’, we think we are supernationals… we are leading the charge with super work here.”

And that work will need to continue after Paris. These subnational leaders are the ones implementing the many of the efforts to be undertaken in the Agreement. Subnational reductions represent 50% of the potential emission mitigation. These leaders are the ones in charge of directing transformative change in our daily lives in the sectors of transportation, air quality, land use, and building codes.

It was no coincidence that the panelists at the COP 21 press briefing were from the North American Pacific Coast. As Governor Inslee noted: “The West coast lives on innovation – it’s our stock and trade”. He, along with Governor Brown, Mayor Schaaf of Oakland, CA, Mayor Robertson of Vancouver and Mayor Pollak of Montreal, emphasized that Developed Country Parties must act on climate change now or it will cost trillions to fix it in the future. The world needs to stretch to reach the climate goal and local governments can push and provide example for 100% renewables and innovative ways to decrease emissions as a whole. A creative economy will find these solutions.

Green Jobs Now

While some jobs in the “old” economy will be lost, there are new opportunities in the green economy to benefit global health. A green economy creates jobs. The proof lies in the example from British Columbia which put a tax on carbon in 2008. Carbon-intensive industries were able to take a staged approach and given relief as they proceeded to become green. The benefits have been seen over multiple years with emissions reductions and an increase in the economy despite the global financial crisis. The tax is revenue-neutral; it is returned in the form of tax reduction. Therefore, this is an economic stimulus! The transition to clean energy has stimulated the economy of Oakland where the Rising Sun Energy Center is training people coming out of prison and high school graduates to do energy audits and provide skills in installing solar panels and other construction work associated with green energy.

However, it is not only the developed global north who are implementing these initiatives. The second group of panelists was composed of leaders from forest-rich developing countries. The panel included; Governor Ayada of Cross River State, Nigeria; Governor Gambini of Ucayali, Peru; Governor Sandoval-Diaz of Jalisco, Mexico; and Governor Melo de Oliveira of Amazonas, Brazil. These countries must find finds ways to promote green jobs to supply their poor citizens with sustainable development and be provided with sufficient support to preserve their resources. They need to find the balance between providing a livelihood to their people and preserving the wealth of their forests. Creatively, Nigeria has seen growth in green economy. They have provided jobs for their youth as the “green police” who discourage the cutting trees and plant new ones to absorb CO2. Not only is this a means of conservation, it also combats desertification. Peru has been able to reclaim approximately 1 million hectares of degraded areas for re-forestation. Amazonas, home to millions of acres of the “lungs of the world”, is also home to both acai and camu-camu  fruits which are used commercially. Investment in Amazonas’ biodiversity makes it ripe for new sustainable development.lungs

Sustainability is key; developed countries must recognize that their forests represent the wealth of these developing areas. Engagement in a critical dialogue with regard to aid is necessary to ensure the health of the land and all the peoples of the world. As these panelists demonstrate, innovative efforts at the subnational level can lead the world to a transformative economy that keeps the environment safe.

 

 


Finances are the Glue that will make the Paris Agreement Stick

glue

Starting the second week of negotiations, the Climate Action Network’s held a press conference to discuss their view of the current “state of play” in the climate talks. Two themes clearly emerged; the need for a robust and certain climate Agreement to come out of Paris with clear targets and deadlines to send the correct signal to the industrial and business sector, and the financial support from developed countries to reach those targets and deadlines. What constitutes a robust agreement? Review of ambition goals coupled with a ratcheting mechanism to achieve a 1.5℃ target, resubmission of the INDCs, and setting the goal of 100% renewables and decarbonization by mid-century.

 

How do the Parties meet these targets and deadlines? By a robust finance mechanism. The INDCs can only be implemented if there is adequate financing that includes Loss & Damage. The billions pledged in Copenhagen and Cancun kept the developing country Parties at the table; now the call is to implement those mitigation and adaptation strategies to achieve decarbonization of the economy. This will come faster for some countries and slower for others depending upon their different capabilities. The collective financing proposed, which would include “all Parties in a position to do so”, is not the way to secure new financing. This, according to OxFam, is the equivalent of the developed countries “holding the money hostage on this issue.” The developing countries will contribute as they can, of course; but a vague reference too their obligation to do so has no place in the text.Money tree

 

What the developing Parties clearly articulated as a priority throughout last week’s negotiations, continues to threaten the stickiness of this Paris Agreement  – the provision of finances to enable those countries to put their INDCs into effect. The developing Parties have fastened onto the idea of traditional differentiation and are washing their hands of the language that all Parties will contribute if “they are in a position to do so”. They will only cement a deal that has clear markers for capacity to contribute and places those responsible [the global North] as the major financiers of the efforts to stem climate change.

 


Empowering Women in the Fight for Global Food Security

SDG special 245x355

Women and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

“The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have gender equality and women’s empowerment at their core, and include a target to ‘double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women.’ Indeed, rural women are critical to the success of almost all of the 17 SDGs.” UN SG Ban Ki-moon

There is no doubt that climate change affects less developed countries more dramatically. It also affects women more significantly, since they represent the majority of the poor  and vulnerable. On 15 October, the world recently celebrated the 6th anniversary of the International Day of Rural Women, “the majority of whom depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods.” Climate change’s effects on food security are well-known and well-established; therefore, in order to fully address food security, women’s issues must be at the forefront. The UN FAO released a report on 13 October indicating that expanding social protection will offer a faster track to ending hunger.

How can food security via women’s empowerment be achieved through the UN’s SDGs? Specifically, 1 (4) , 2 (3)  5(7)  relate to women’s rights to land. Current land use practices coupled with the exacerbating effects of climate change like droughts and other extreme events have led to soil degradation and desertification.  Women are often responsible for supplying the food and fuel for the household and finding ways of making up for the shortfall when these catastrophic events occur. However, they are not in a position to make decisions about how the land is used – either for their benefit or the environment’s – because they do not have the authority or ownership of it. For example, in most African countries, approximately 75% – 90% of land is held under traditional rules, customs and practices, which mean that women are not able to assert control over it or its use even though they are primarily responsible for its cultivation.

Solar Market Garden in Benin

Solar Market Garden in Benin

The outlook is not dim, however. As the world looks to COP21’s negotiations in Paris, the Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities – an initiative spearheaded by the UNFCCC Secretariat – is shining light on models that “mov[e] the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future.” Projects profiled are “innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.”  One Lighthouse winner is the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF ) Solar Market Garden. In Benin, women are now able to grow food year-round despite a six-month dry season. By using solar-powered pumps with drip irrigation systems, women farmers are able to pump water for irrigation from nearby rivers and underground aquifers instead of hauling it long distances. This is both an environmental and socio-economic benefit as the girls of the village are now able to attend school and the women can allocate their time to other economic pursuits.  “It also empowers them to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities. By embracing solar power and micro-irrigation technologies, these female leaders are trailblazing solutions for both climate change mitigation and adaptation that can be replicated throughout the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa.”

A Group of women attend a workshop in the oasis of Serkla, Guelmima.

A Group of women attend a workshop in the oasis of Serkla, Guelmima.

This is just one example. Looking forward to COP22 in Marrakesh, perhaps the world can witness firsthand the success that women living in the Moroccan province of Errachidia have realized by cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants using renewable energy and selling them in the markets. This UN Women  project is supported by the UNDP Tafilalet Oasis Programme and the Swiss Cooperation.

Clearly, the support of women’s rights to land, mobilizing their agricultural knowledge, and providing social support will provide food security and opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

 


Food Security Will Require Collaboration (not just a combination of raspberry and chocolate)

bandj un SOS“If it’s melted, it’s ruined”; raising awareness for climate change by raising a cool spoonful of a creamy treat. That’s a tall order for Ben and Jerry’s new flavor of ice cream “Save Our Swirled”, which they revealed at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany in early September.  While admirable, and admittedly every bit of positive publicity helps, it ironically belies one of the most serious consequences of climate change – food insecurity for a vast proportion of the world’s population. Acknowledging the critical nature of nutrition to our survival and our absolute dependence upon climate for food production, the UNFCCC established as its objective under Article 2  to stabilize “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system …. to ensure that food production is not threatened.”

Test your knowledge about the Sustainable Development Goals  - Take the QUIZ : http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/sep/25/sustainable-development-summit-2015-quiz-global-goals

Test your knowledge about the Sustainable Development Goals – Take the QUIZ.

But a luscious creamery and the UN Executive Secretary aren’t the only significant combination of interests that are going to need to join forces in order to  satisfy the mandate set forth in The Rio+20 Declaration and Working Group that prepared the Sustainable Development Goals and the outcome document “The Future We Want”. [Note that food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture are particularly addressed in paragraphs 108-118.]    It is the culmination of those efforts that have just been adopted by the UN’s  2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  in New York this weekend (September 25-27). It calls for all countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, to  implement this plan in an integrated,  swirled up way; well, the UN officially used the term “indivisible” in paragraph 18.  While Sustainable Development Goal 2.4 links food security to climate change by requiring that by 2030 countries have sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices in place that will strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, the FAO notes well that “issues related to food and agriculture are comprehensively integrated among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”  All the ingredients exist in the various SDGs to discover a success recipe for food security.

“If it’s melted, it’s ruined”. Most often people think about sea level rise or glacial melt when thinking about climate change, but forget about the devastating effects on fisheries. The newly released World Wildlife Fund report indicates that species like tuna, mackerel and bonito may have declined as much as 74% in the last 40 years. Climate change has profound effects on the health of marine food production which can be the mainstay of food security for some populations.  SDG 14 addresses the need to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.  Melting polar ice and sea level rise can also affect coastal and low-lying field arability. For rice paddies, a global staple, this will have devastating effects. The world’s food supply is in dire straits with the poorest countries to be hit hardest and soonest. That is the point underscored by the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. All countries and all peoples have a right to food security in order to achieve their full potential.

Perhaps what Ben & Jerry’s newest ice cream flavor teaches us most about climate change and food security is that it will take a mixed balance of many factors to find the proper combination to get the solution right. It wasn’t a straight-forward “vanilla” response from thun 4e ice-cream company[i], and so the response for food insecurity will also have to be a multidimensional one. SDG 2 is a broad call to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, but it will will require contributions from a variety of sectors to achieve that goal.  Perhaps we need to think in terms of “Common but Differentiated Vulnerabilities” with regard to food insecurity. This appears to be the approach taken by the Global Policy Report: “Where Rain Falls: Climate Change, Food and Livelihood Security, and Migration”.  Populations can make “informed, resilience-enhancing decisions” if they are supported by sustainable policies that are adaptable to the local situation. At a time when humanity is facing a migrant / refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions, we cannot allow an exacerbation of the problem due to climate change food insecurity issues. We must address the agricultural adaption strategies where possible to ease the dramatic impacts to attempt to preserve livelihoods.

 

 

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[i] Indeed it was a Raspberry Ice Cream with Marshmallow & Raspberry Swirls & Dark & White Fudge Ice Cream Cones response! [http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/save-our-swirled-ice-cream]