Sarah Bashaan: My Stand Out Mediator

Sarah_Bashaan_800The chairs and facilitators of COP 23’s sub bodies are responsible for assisting parties to reach agreement. As we observe the negotiations, we tend to focus on the Parties and their interests. However, the facilitators and chairs of these high-level negotiations must accommodate the interests of individual Parties while helping all Parties to agree. During COP 23, with constant APA plenary meeting suspensions, the Co-Chairs had a difficult task getting Parties to consensus.

The two co-chairs of the APA are women: Sarah Bashaan and Jo Tyndall. Bashaan stood out to me. She joined the Saudi delegation to the UNFCCC in 2012 as a negotiator on Climate Change policy in Response Measures and Mitigation. As Co-Chair of the APA, Bashaan had a particular eloquence in the way she handled the negotiations.

During the APA closing plenary, South Africa, on behalf of the Africa Group, sought to adjourn the meeting due to unresolved items on the agenda. Bashaan responded by first recognizing that the APA Co-Chairs understood the importance of the issue raised by the Africa Group. Second, Bashaan reminded all parties that they had agreed in an earlier SBI decision to complete the APA’s work by noon that day. Bashaan thus reminded Parties that their own procedural desires, not her own, urged continuing the closing plenary as rescheduled.

bc5fc9_dfd4896ce1f04e8094ce9a9d12eb1a3c~mv2Looking back at my experience at the COP and attending many APA sessions, I notice a few things about Bashaan’s leadership tactics. First, she keeps a calm, neutral tone in her voice. Second, she uses the Parties’ prior agreements to get them to cooperate. Third, she respectfully corrects Parties when they use incorrect information. Taken together, Bashaan’s leadership style is effective at helping Parties come to an understanding.


Using an Interactive Simulation Model to Educate Students on our Climate Future

screenshot1o5aC-ROADS stands for “Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support Simulator.” It is a computer simulation tool developed by the non-profit think tank, Climate Interactive, to educate people on how to achieve climate change goals through interactive experiences. Here at COP23, C-ROADS was the focal point of the side event, “NVF: Using Decision-Maker Tools & Climate Education to Build Momentum on Climate Change.” As an award-winning computer simulator that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, C-ROADS focuses on an interactive experience that enables users actually to test their thinking on strategies for reducing emissions.

The C-ROADS simulation tool allows the user to manipulate factors similar to those that climate change negotiators face at the COP. These factors include, but are not limited to,  country categories, emissions per year, the beginning reduction year, and an annual reduction rate. The user can play around with the data, entering different figures for the respective factors and watch the temperature (by 2100) change accordingly.

Panelist Andrew Jones of Climate Interactive, creator of C-ROADS, harkened on the point that, “research shows that showing people research doesn’t work.” Jones took this mantra to create what he calls is a “visceral, interactive experiences that get people actually to test their thinking.” Panelist Florian Kapmeier, of Reutlingen University, used C-ROADS to introduce students, of many age cohorts, to the roles of climate change negotiators. Kapmeier emphasized that students thought lectures were boring and C-ROADS, through interactive learning, was a way to get them engaged. Through its use, Jones hopes to demonstrate that there is no “silver bullet” in climate change mitigation, but educating people on the effects of climate change might help build better climate decision-makers of the future.


Issues Developed, Developing, and Small Island Nations Highlighted in the High Level Segment

The question is what is developing and developed nations are bringing to the world discussion on what needs to happen under the Paris Agreement. The high-level segment of the COP23 started yesterday. In the high-level segment, country heads of government have the opportunity to address the COP for three minutes. With such a short amount of time, the parties have to prioritize what message they want to get across to the COP and make their speeches more pointed.

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Developed nations emphasized their ongoing efforts to mitigate climate change both domestically and internationally. A lot of developed countries emphasized their domestic activities and goals for mitigating the effects of climate change. States like France, Luxembourg, and Germany went into detail about; their current and future domestic policies and their investments in industries to mitigate climate change. France and Germany also highlighted joint EU Goals in addressing climate change across the European continent.

Developing nations emphasized finance and their vulnerability to the effects of climate change. A lot of developing nations noted the need for finances for a variety of similar reasons. The developing countries emphasized this demand for funds by articulating in what ways they were vulnerable to climate change and the current and future effects of climate change on their nations and economies. Guinea and Gabon both articulated the need and urgency for funds to mitigate the ongoing effects of climate change.

With Fiji as the president and host country of the COP, small island developing states (SIDS) have a spotlight this year. Small Island Developing states emphasized the need for Finance and  Loss and Damage. SIDS made a point to emphasize the direct link between climate change and the ocean when they highlighted their vulnerabilities to climate change effects. SIDS also stressed the time-sensitivity of their issues because of their geographic vulnerability. All the SIDS who spoke emphasized the need for Loss and Damage. Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Kiribati highlighted the need to provide resources to the Warsaw International Mechanism to support Loss and Damage efforts. Palau and Nauru specifically stressed the recent hurricanes and typhoons in Asia and the Americas. Almost all SIDS emphasized the importance of climate finance in combatting the realized effects of climate change on their nations.

The answer to the question of what developing and developed nations are bringing to the world discussion on what needs to happen under the Paris Agreement is dependent on their national needs. Developing nations and SIDS emphasized a need for finances and highlighted their specific vulnerabilities to effects of climate change. Developed Nations stressed their continued support to developing nations while highlighting their own domestic policies to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The main point is that countries emphasize their individual domestic needs when addressing the COP.


Two Approaches for realizing the Transparency Framework.

The question presented is which approach is the better for realizing the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement. Articles 13, 14 and 15 prescribe the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement. This blog post will focus on Article 13. Article 13 compiles reports of actions taken under other Articles and aims to provide clarity in steps taken to achieve a Party’s NDC under Article 4 and a Party’s adaptation actions under Article 7. Article 13 identifies two separate frameworks for ensuring transparency: a framework for the transparency of actions taken under Articles 4 and 7, and a framework for transparency in providing and receiving support for climate change actions under Article 4, 7, 9, 10, and 11. The APA was tasked with developing the “modalities, guidelines, and procedures” (MGPs) of the transparency framework in the COP 21 decision. Overall, the transparency framework works as an accountability instrument for parties that have ratified the Paris Agreement.

There are many approaches to realizing the transparency framework. This post will focus on two of those approaches. The first approach is the general party approach to focus on the objective of the transparency framework and build from that focus. A discussion paper published by the Institute for Global and Environmental Strategies (IGES) proposes a second approach. This discussion paper proposes four objectives for broadening the goal of the Transparency Framework to include other climate change goals. “The 4 objectives are: (1) achieve comparability to strengthen transparency, (2) build the capacity of government officials through their use of the means to enhance their self-understanding, (3) trigger domestic actions to introduce a PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)-cycle with GHG MRV to improve performance, and (4) share lessons learned among the Parties. ”

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The party approach tries to increase transparency through working with the original objectives articulated in the Paris Agreement. Those initial goals focus on just reporting for the actions taken under articles 4 and 7 and support given and received for articles 4,7,10,11. In the current COP negotiations, parties are trying to clarify the details of the MGPs of the transparency framework. Therefore, the current approach to the transparency framework only focuses on the reporting guidelines and a consistent picture of how parties are achieving their climate change goals.

The broadened approach tries to integrate other elements into the transparency framework, such as mitigation and capacity building. The expanded approach does this by focusing on “self-analysis.” These self-analyses are where parties try to understand their progress and failures when trying to implement their NDCs domestically. The self-analysis is intended to be the evaluation of whether parties realize their goals in the other sectors. Under this new approach of emphasizing self-evaluation, the transparency framework would take a more instrumental approach in achieving all the targets in the Paris Agreement.

The answer to the initial question of which approach is the better for realizing the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement is variable. I think finalizing the MPG will best answer this question, when there is further clarity on what/ how much is to be reported under the Transparency Framework. Further, I believe the second (broadened) approach is ahead of its time.


The Progress of Global Stocktake in the final APA Informal Sessions.

With Global Stocktake’s expected beginning date in 2023 and pressure from the heads of the APA, there is a race for an informal working document on the Modalities Guidelines and Procedures (MPGs) of the Agenda Item 6 of the APA. Global stocktake is an effort to continuously monitor the collective progress towards achieving the purpose and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

On November 12, the APA released the “Revised building blocks for APA item 6 (GST).” These building blocks capture the key elements and commonalities of the proposals made by Parties under Agenda Item 6. This new document contains a table with headings on the left and details on the right. The building blocks contained the headings “Modalities” and “Sources of Input.” Under modalities, the overarching elements provided for “equity regarding process and themes.” However, the term “equity” is never defined in the document. Moreover, the document prescribed an overall process for the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement  (CMA) to implement for GST. This new method includes a preparatory phase (Activity A), a technical phase (Activity B), and a political phase (Activity C). Lastly, the new document prescribes sources of input, which is the information to provide in the GST.
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While these simple building blocks were a good start, parties made clear their frustrations with the ambiguity of the text. There were three main concerns. First, individuals were concerned that the table did not reflect more of the information submitted by the parties. Parties felt since this is a working paper,  the paper should reveal more of their inputs. Also, individuals wanted more reference to the Paris Agreement, specifically Articles 8 and 2. Lastly, some parties raised concerns on the silence of issues on Mitigation and Loss & Damage.

Second, the term “equity” is not defined. Some parties understood equity to mean equity in outputs and time to provide and assess resources.  A lot of parties wanted equity defined or were confused on what equity was referencing. Further, there was concern about how equity was going to be integrated into the GST reporting mechanisms.

Third, the starting date of Activity A was also a concern. In the informal table, Activity A starts in 2021 or 2022 to ensure the adequate and timely consideration of the input from AR6 of the IPCC. India specifically raised concerns about the idea of kick-starting the process in 2021 because 2018 is supposed to be an assessment of what is happening pre-2020, GST is supposed to be an assessment what is happening the after 2020 period. Iran proposed options to the date requirement where there is a choice between 2021 and 2022.

Going forward, these revised building blocks have a lot of strides to go, clarity-wise to be ready for the APA chairs.


Conflict & Climate Change: The Real Triple C

You read this title and say to yourself, “There is no war in climate change!” “What? Scientists don’t go to war!”  Often the discussions on climate change center around the environmental effects. Experts do not attribute climate change as a direct cause of war, but it is a catalyst for conflict. The connection between conflict and climate change is not a game of six degrees of separation. Many governments and NGOs have already generated reports on the effects of climate change and security.

Climate change causes sea-level rise, natural resource scarcity, and natural disasters. These external pressures pose a considerable threat, particularly to developing nations. Climate change makes forced migration and climate refugees more prevalent. Climate change can contribute to armed conflict in two ways. First, scarcity of natural resources can change the political economy of a state. Second, climate impacts can stimulate conflict by changes in social systems. Climate change causes environmental stress which asserts an influence on peace and security.

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Examples.

Sudan. The conflict in Darfur began because of an ecological crisis that arose from climate change. Southern Sudan started experiencing drought as a result of sea level temperature rise in the Indian Ocean. This drought caused scarcity in food and water resources, and heightened tensions between the Arab herders and nomadic farmers. The conflict in Darfur arose during this drought when there was not enough food and water for all.

Somalia. Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa, which is particularly susceptible to climate change. Somalia has subtle connections between drought, food insecurity, and conflict. Drought and food insecurity plague Somalia, which has caused food crises. The food crises result in internal displacement within Somalia. Civil conflicts have coincided with the food crises. Militant groups have taken advantage of the current environmental vulnerabilities to expand their power, making climate change an external pressure on Somalia.

Syria. Similar to Sudan, the civil war in Syria arose in a time of drought. The drought was ongoing between 2006-2009 in the fertile crescent. As a result, rural Syrians along with Iraqi refugees were forced to migrate to larger cities. After the drought, the Syrian conflict arose in 2011.  Scientists believe that the drought played a role in Syrian unrest because food became expensive and water scarce. The expensive food and water scarcity put external pressures on the political climate in Syria.

The effects of climate change place external pressure on the political climate of nations. As nations seek to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, we face the challenges of how climate change impacts affect security and civil unrest. As we go into climate change negotiations, we should realize the threat of armed conflict that climate change poses.