Transparency Framework Update

Throughout this first week of COP22, I have followed the progress of the enhanced transparency framework (TF). The Paris Agreement created this TF through articles 13, 14, and 15. Because the TF is new, the discussions started out slowly. However, the Parties agreed that there is a sense of urgency in developing the modalities, procedures, and guidelines (MPGs) of implementing the new TF, as the Paris Agreement was ratified earlier than expected.

The Parties of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Paris Agreement (APA) met several times this week to discuss agenda item 5, relating to the TF in article 13 of the Paris Agreement. The co-facilitators, Andrew Rakestraw (US) and Xiang Gao (China) focused discussions on (1) transparency; (2) flexibility; and (3) national capacity. They presented the Parties with a draft work plan, which includes elements on organization of the work plan (balanced and logical manner that addresses elements of article 13), modalities for the work plan (submissions, technical paper, and workshops), and next steps. Most of the Parties welcomed the work plan. They agreed on a number of next steps: targeted submissions of Parties, and an intersessional workshop that will be forwarded to the co-chairs. The co-facilitators will post an updated work plan this evening, and will meet in a final informal consultation on Monday, Nov. 14, to receive Party reflections on the note.IMG_3806

The APA group met to discuss item 6, the global stocktake (GST) in article 14 of the Paris Agreement, several times this week. Co-facilitators Nagmeldin Elhassan (Sudan) and Ilze Prūse (Latvia) summarized Party inputs on the GST in an informal note. Many Parties requested a technical workshop and a technical paper by the Secretariat, however some Parties did not believe they were ready for technical papers. These Parties would prefer more conceptual work guided by the focused submission. Thus, the co-facilitators are working on incorporating the views of the Parties on next steps in a revised informal note. They will release a revised paper to share at the last meeting on Monday, Nov. 14.

Finally, the APA group met to discuss item 7, article 15 of the Paris agreement several times this week as well. Earlier this week, co-facilitators Peter Horne (Australia) and Janine Felson (Belize) released a set of guiding questions for the Parties. These focus areas included: (1) Scope; (2) capacity and national circumstance; (3) trigger mechanisms; (4) relationship with existing bodies; (5) enabling party participation; and (6) next steps. The co-facilitators then released a short summary of the conversations, and offered guidance for working forward. Today, co-facilitators invited the Parties to submit proposals on (but not limited to): specifying the modalities and procedures in paragraph 102, 103 of 1/CP.21, elaborating the elements the mandate, and sharing views on how to take work further such that it is in line with 1/CP.21. The purpose of these focus questions was to help the Parties develop the concrete details of the mandate; the co-facilitators have appreciated the rich exchange on conceptual ideas, however it is now critical to get down to the concrete details so that it is prepared for the CMA by 2018. The Parties were not prepared to answer these questions today. They may, however, offer recommendations at their final consultation next Monday, Nov. 14.


Decarbonizing Transportation

One moral dilemma for travellers who care about climate change is knowing that international transport raises our carbon footprint significantly. There are small things we can do individually to help minimize our environmental impact, such as zero waste practices or investing in carbon offsets to balance out the emissions. Travel, however, could decrease its carbon footprint if companies and governments invested in decarbonizing transport.

ICAO-logo-360x242Today, at the side event, “Charting Pathways to Decarbonize Transport,” several transportation experts spoke on their modalities and ideas for a common approach across all modes of transport for decarbonizing. It is essential to have a plan to decarbonize all sectors of transport by 2050.

Jane Hughes with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) spoke about how ICAO is addressing aircraft noise and emissions technological improvements, operating procedures, proper organization of air traffic, appropriate airport and land-use planning, and the use of market-based options. ICAO recently created a market-based mechanism, a “carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation” (CORSICA). As of October 2016, 66 States intend to voluntarily participate in this global market based mechanism, which will ultimately help achieve the global aspiration of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards.

There are options available on the national and local levels as well. As we are all too aware in the United States, most people drive their own cars everywhere, rather than taking public transportation. This has lead to an excessive amount of GHG emissions. In the alternative, public transportation could be improved. Alain Flausch from the Union International Association of Public Transport (UITP) stated that while America is not considered a public transit country, 60% of people New York City use public transit. This is evidence that when it is available, people will choose to use public transit. This is imperative for climate change because choosing one subway ride (in exchange for driving) can save 4.5 kilo of GHG emissions saved,

Jose Vegas from the International Transport Forum (ITF) then spoke, explaining that ITF has recently launched a global initiative towards carbon-free transport. This initiative involves several actions with two very important impacts. First, it demonstrates that carbon reduction projects are possible (economically and politically). And second, it inspires emulation in that others may now take similar actions by others. The overall objective of a carbon-free transport is a commonly acceptable roadmap to bring transport to carbon neutrality by 2050. “Common roadmaps” may not mean that the same actions will be taken within every sector, Mr. Vegas mentions, but it does mean that all sectors can have the same end goal.

The ITF can provide perspectives of impacts on local performances, as well as a systems’ view of indirect and induced impacts of local measures. ITF also wants to support governments in identifying measures for their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Decarbonizing transportation sectors will be a challenge, but these policy makers presented exciting news for travellers who want to see the world, while not contributing to its destruction.


The Power of Youth in Climate Action

Three espressos into the day  and I was ready for a nap, but the afternoon side event I chose to attend turned out to be surprisingly invigorating and inspiring. Since I did not get an NGO ticket to the APA informal consultation I wanted to attend, I decided to check out the “Intergenerational Inquiry: the Highlight of the Young and Future Generations Day 2016” side event. To be honest I thought these sessions were going to be demonstrations of what governments or local communities can do to help increase awareness. Instead, I walked into a highly energized, passionate display of youths from around the world who are a part of YOUNGO. YOUNGO organizes the Conference of Youth (COY12) every year which is hosted before the annual COP, and today presented several inspiring youth-led initiatives.IMG_3796

Richard Kinley, opened the meeting in a reflective mood because this is his last COP, as he will be leaving his role as UNFCCC Deputy Executive Secretary next year. He reminded us that we are in a much better place for climate change action than we were in 1991, however we are nowhere near the necessary commitments as it might even be too late. These youth, then, are so important because they are the faces of social and economic change. They are the drivers of the market, and therefore have immense capacity to create change as they help drive new social lifestyles and economic models. Mr. Kinley reminded us that the change we need is immense, and it is going to take the energy, vigor, commitments, and passion of youth to keep pushing forward.

The floor then turned to several young people who are fighting climate change. Fazoua Bour, a member of COY12, explained that the Moroccan youth civil society has tried to deliver a message to the delegates involved in COP22. In a passionate speech, Ms. Bour proclaimed that young people are qualified to make proposals, even here at a UN conference; ideas are is not about age, but about capacity. Therefore, COY12 is campaigning for action, education, and for young people who want to express their ideas. There is not enough time to wait to for adults to negotiate, argue, and implement a global agreement.

Young people are starting to fear that these agreements will take too long and the solutions will be too late. They feel the urgency climate change impacts, and are therefore the ones who can be IMG_3784creative enough to help us develop solutions. As Hakima El Haite, the COP22 Special Envoy and Morocco’s Climate Champion, said “we are too old to re-imagine the world…[however] we have the responsibility to make it a reality to improve your world, the one you are dreaming of.” One example of this creativity was displayed, as they also presented the COY12 award-winning film. The young woman who made the film explained that every documentary she had seen about climate change was too depressing and boring so she has created a film series of fun, inspiring images to make people interested and dedicated to the cause.

These are the ideas the world needs. In light of recent events, we now face increasing obstacles to promote the health of the environment, but I never want to look at my younger cousins or future children and have to say, “I’m sorry I didn’t do enough.” The young people at this event today reminded me of my pre-coffee, pre-law school, pre-nightly-wrinkle-cream days (I am 24 years old). When I was a kid I was crazy about earth, I had the energy to run through parks, pretend to talk to animals, once I even climbed a tree to prevent my neighbors from cutting it down. I don’t know when I got to be so tired and honestly lost that sense of hope. The YOUNGOs are a force to be reckoned with and I applaud them for their enthusiasm and appreciate that push they gave me this afternoon.


Farming for the Future: Climate Change and Food Security.

The United Nations weather agency recently announced that the past five years have been the hottest on record, with increasing evidence showing that this is man-made climate change. Thus, the urgency for solutions increases here at COP22 where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is meeting to discuss and improve climate change goals. One way to mitigate climate change is to decrease GHG emissions. One way to do this, is to revise global farming techniques. Today at the “On-farm renewables and sustainable intensification to address climate change and food security” side event, several farming experts discussed opportunities to improve farming and food security. The experts discussed the use of sustainable intensification and renewable energy, co-benefits and trade-offs around land use, deforestation concerns, and exploration of funding options. Most notable was the conversation about sustainable intensification agriculture. Sustainable intensification is the optimization of all provisioning, regulating and supporting agricultural production process. Thus, sustainable intensification projects for agriculture help maintain and enhance production through the promotion of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) has several new programs to improve sustainable intensification. “LIBERATION: Linking Farmland Biodiversity to Ecosystem Services for Effective Ecofunctional Intensification,” which will help identify the relationship between semi-natural habitats and on-farm management and biodiversity. This project also seeks to connect farmland biodiversity to ecosystem services. It will do this by examining different strategies to mitigate ecosystem services. Another project, “Mainstreming Agro-biodiversity in Law PDR’s Agricultural Policies, Plans and Programmes (FSP),” which will provide farmers with the necessary incentives, capabilities and support institutional framework to converse agricultural biodiversity in Lao.

Intensification of crop and livestock production are also essential to mitigate climate change and provide food security. In order to keep up with demand for beef and leather, for example, 21 million ha of deforestation has occurred in the Brazilian Amazon between 2000 and 2015 to support cattle. Simon C. Hall, the manager of Tropical Forests and Agriculture National Wildlife Federation (NWF), spoke about insights from the Brazilian cattle sector. The NWF has been working in South America with local partners for over 20 years to eliminate tropical deforestation from agriculture supply chains. They hope to accelerate the development and implementation of intensification for sustainability because the implications of deforestation are staggering: longer dry season, reduced rainfall, increased temperature. Sustainable Intensification on the other hand (when coupled with zero deforestation commitments), will lead to: land sparing, reduced emissions from LUC, reduced losses of wildlife habitat and biodiversity, increased market access, preferential purchasing agreements, and reduced leakage and rebound effects.

These, and many other projects presented at this side event on addressing climate change through new farming techniques, provide examples on how we may work towards farming for a sustainable future.


Modalities, Procedures, and Guidelines (MPGs) for the Transparency Framework of the Paris Agreement

Transparency is critical for building international trust, facilitating progress, and ensuring commitments for climate action. This is why one key outcome of the Paris Agreement last year was the agreement of an enhanced transparency framework (TF) set out in Article 13. Before the Paris Agreement, Annex I Parties and non-Annex I Parties had two different sets of reporting requirements. Once the Paris Agreement is in force, the new TF will apply to all Parties, while allowing flexibility to take into account Parties’ various capacities.

Moroccan Foreign Minister and COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar (L) and French Minister for Environment Segolene Royal launch the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Moroccan Foreign Minister and COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar (L) and French Minister for Environment Segolene Royal launch the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22).

In Bonn this May, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) released a set of questions to the APA Co-Chairs to help guide Parties in their deliberations under APA provisional agenda item 7 (modalities and procedures for the effect operation of the committee in Article 15 of the Paris Agreement) to help prepare for COP22. The APA also invited Parties to submit their views on other agenda items concerning the TF, in hopes of facilitating the TF sessions at COP22.

Today, Nov. 8 2016, the Parties met in several informal consultations to discuss the modalities, procedures, and guidelines (MPGs) of the Paris Agreement’s TF. The MPGs for action and support referred to in Article 13 of the Paris Agreement are not fully developed yet, which is why the Parties met at an informal consultation today to begin discussions and developing a work plan for MPGs of the TF. The Secretariat asked the Parties to discuss and prioritize the following three main topic areas:

(1) what should be the key elements of the modalities, procedures, and guidelines for the TF? (2) with respect to the elements identified under question 1, how should experience from the existing MRV arrangements under the Convention inform the MPGs and how should flexibility for those developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities be reflected? and (3) how should we organize work in 2017 and 2018 to ensure that the MPGs are created on time?

At this consultation, Brazil and Singapore both emphasized the urgency to complete a work plan given the tight timeline (the Paris Agreement was ratified almost four years before most Parties expected), and therefore believed that creating a work plan was the most important issue. The European Union (EU) emphasized its desire to focus on clarifying the MPGs in terms of the “flexibility” aspect of the TF. The EU stated that the submissions of the Parties in response to the APA questions after Bonn already provide a lot of information, so the APA should draw on those submissions and move forward here at COP22.

All Parties agreed on the need for a pragmatic approach to design a system and be deliberate to use the information available, while seeking staff and tech means to finance the work as well. There will be three more meetings on the MPGs of Article 13, at which the Parties will seek to develop a work plan to be completed by 2018. Hopefully these meetings will develop effective MPGs for the TF before leaving Marrakech

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Ecological Migration and Migrating Towards Ambitious Climate Change Commitments at COP22

In 2011, the UN projected that the world will have 50 million environmental refugees by 2020. These are people who need to resettle due to climate change impacts such as drought, food shortage, disease, flooding, desertification, soil erosion, deforestation, and other environmental problems. This past week the New York Times released two stories about the plight of “ecological migrants” in the deserts of northern China. The first is a visual narrative about people living in the expanding Tengger Desert. The second article highlights the world’s largest environmental migrant resettlement project, in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

“Ecological migrants” are the millions of people whom the Chinese government had to relocate from lands distressed by climate change, industrialization, and human activity to 161 hastily built villages. China has already resettled 1.14 million residents of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where the average temperature has risen 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years (more than half of that increase occurring from 2001 to 2010) and annual precipitation has dropped about 5.7 millimeters every decade since the 1960s.

China is only one example of a region where people have had to relocate due to climate change. Where will everyone go? This is a problem that all countries need to figure out quickly because, if the UN’s prediction is accurate, the current system of asylum, refugee resettlement, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) may prove inadequate.

The Marshall Islands need to figure out where their people will go as their island nation is quickly disappearing underwater. Predictions of dangerous tropical storms and rising salt levels in their drinking water may force citizens to flee even before the entire island is lost. In Bangladesh, about 17% of the land could be inundated by 2050, displacing an additional 18 million people.

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Road leading to Isle de Jean Charles often floods, cutting off the community.Credit: Josh Haner/The New York Times.

Climate change relocations are not limited to small, developing nations. The United States has begun preparing for its own. In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced grants up to $1 billion in 13 states to help communities adapt to climate change, including the first allocation of federal money to move an entire community due to the impacts of climate change: a $48 million grant for Isle de Jean Charles.

Other than the overcrowding of cities and uprooting and destruction of rural lifestyles, the global refugee crisis presents a larger concern: national security. Last year at COP21 in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tied the conflict in Syria and the resulting global refugee crisis to climate change. Secretary Kerry linked Syria’s drought and resulting urban migration—first domestic, then international—as a key factor to the civil war. This was a relevant example of how climate change can exacerbate existing political turmoil within a country.

Thus, all countries must stay committed to climate change goals, not only for maintaining millions of people’s lives and homes, but for national safety throughout the world. Whether they consider it a focus or not, many countries are currently facing the problem of creating new domestic policies on immigration. While it may be too late for some vulnerable areas to completely avoid the need to relocate its people, every climate change action helps mitigate the problem. Hopefully the issue of relocation and climate change refugees or “ecological migrants” will push countries to be more ambitious about their climate change actions at the upcoming COP22.