Adaptation and GCF at the Koronivia Workshop

Today was our delegation’s first day at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. The experience was a whirlwind. We all were figuring out where to go for meetings, identifying who was speaking for each Party, and how to best soak in all the activities of COP. We attended sessions in our area of expertise, and sometimes those sessions overlapped areas of expertise. The Koronivia Workshop was such a program with an overlap between adaptation and agriculture.

The Koronivia workshop was split into sessions: morning and afternoon. Both sessions included adaption and financing discussions. Presenters offered a PowerPoint about projects in their respective countries. The agenda can be found here.

At the end of the afternoon session, countries and NGOs were able to contribute to an open discussion. The Co-Facilitators opened the floor to discuss three questions about the constituted bodies (CBs), useful modalities to implement outcomes from the workshops, and future topics that may arise from the outcomes. Suggestions from the countries were helpful and constructive, but there was no decision made on how to proceed. Check the blog tomorrow for more specific answers given to the above questions from our ag expert, Liz.

One concerning question was raised about the role of the GCF. A GCF representative was present; however, GCF did not give a formal presentation because the workshop was focused on Parties and CBs. The GCF is not a CB, so its role in Koronivia is not mandatory. But the GCF representative stated that many projects currently funded by the GCF are agriculture focused and expressed that the GCF will continue to fund similar programs. GCF addressed concerns about their funding process. GCF guided all Parties to provide more information about their projects to develop tailor-made funding efforts. GCF can, and will, support climate resilient agriculture. Each country needs to request to funding in order for funds to be dispersed to their project.

The workshop concluded with the announcement that there will be an informal consultation on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at noon to discuss some issues that were not addressed during this workshop. For information on the first session, and an overview of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, please see this blog post.

New Global Commission on Adaptation

On October 16th, 2018, a new Global Commission on Adaptation (the “Commission”)—led by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva—was launched in the Hague.

Tclimate_change_67he Commission’s main purpose is to enhance the visibility and political importance of climate change adaptation by focusing on solutions, catalyzing the global adaptation movement and accelerating actions in various areas—with special attention on ensuring that support reaches the most vulnerable—including:

  • Climate-resilient food and rural livelihood security;
  • Resilient cities;
  • Ecosystem-based solutions;
  • Adaptation finance;
  • Resilient global supply chains;
  • Climate-resilient infrastructure; and
  • Climate-resilient social protection.

It intends to demonstrate that climate change adaptation is not only essential, but can also improve human well-being and lead to better and more sustainable economic development. The Commission also seeks to emphasize that the costs of adapting to climate change are lower than those economies will face if they continue with a business-as-usual approach.

watch-livestream-adaptation-commisionCountries participating and supporting the Commission include Canada, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, China, India, South Africa, Indonesia and the UK. The Commission is supported by a Secretariat at the World Resources Institute (in Washington DC) and by the Global Centre for Adaptation (in the Hague) as well as by a group of scientific experts worldwide, who will prepare background documents on various aspects of climate change adaptation.

As reported in the media, members of the Commission will also visit different countries for consultations in order to produce a report to be presented to the current Secretary General of the UN António Guterres at the Global Climate Summit in New York in September 2019.


Planting the Seed: Agriculture in Climate Negotiations

KJWA3With COP24 right around the corner, sights will be set on the newest agenda item, agriculture. In a landmark decision, Parties at COP 23 adopted the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). This decision ended the six-year stalemate on how to address agriculture in the international climate talks. The KJWA “. . . seeks to develop and implement new strategies for adaptation and mitigation within the agriculture sector, that will help reduce emissions as well as build its resilience to the effects of climate change.” The inclusion of KJWA will support Parties’ goals of addressing climate change and food security.

The KJWA is in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep the global temperature rise this century “well below 2⁰C” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5⁰C. Globally, agriculture accounts for approximately 19-29% of greenhouse gas emissions, making agriculture vital to climate negotiations.

Under KJWA, SBSTA and SBI will jointly address agricultural issues through workshops and expert meetings, and by working with constituted bodies under the Convention. All bodies will consider agriculture’s vulnerability to climate change and approaches to addressing food security.

To start the work, key elements were identified. The agriculture issues include; methods for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience; improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland; improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems; improved livestock management systems; and the socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector. By implementing these methods, emissions will be reduced and resilience in the agricultural sector will support food security.

Picture1At SBSTA /SBI 48, Parties set out a road map of work under the KJWA that includes six new workshops to be held sequentially up until COP26. The first Koronivia workshop will take place in Katowice and focus on modalities for implementing the outcomes of the preceding five in-session workshops on issues related to agriculture.

Several Parties and observer organizations have submitted comments for the first Koronivia workshop on agriculture. One of the most notable submissions came from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The submission stressed the importance of “facilitating knowledge exchange of information on good practices and lessons learned, capacity building for implementation and action in the agricultural sectors and enhancing access to climate finance in least developed and developing countries for the agricultural sector.” CGIAR System Organization, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture and the World Bank also submitted similar key messages.

Through submissions the message stressing the importance of agriculture in climate negotiations is clear. To address climate change and food security, agriculture must be considered in the negotiations.




Preventing the Proliferation of Pestilence


The shifting temperature from climate change is increasing the range of unwanted pests, spreading deadly diseases and endangering human health. For example, the warmer temperatures are expanding the habitat of mosquitoes that carry diseases such as Zika, malaria, and dengue fever. The COP noted that in 2015, changed climatic conditions in Florida and Louisiana creates the environmental suitability for the Zika virus vectors to expand into the United States.

Climate Change DiseasesIn 2005, COP11 established through DC2/CP.11 the “Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change” (NWP). The NWP’s objective is to assist all Parties improve their understanding and assessment of impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation in order to make informed decisions on adaptation actions. Under the guidance of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) chair, the NWP gathers technical information on adaptation and seeks to identify knowledge gaps within the international community by engaging with over 350 expert organizations and other COP bodies such as the Adaptation Committee (AC) and the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG). Using a multi-step plan, the NWP streamlines the adaptation information to Parties, allowing health health risk strategies to be easily accessible.

Nairobi BannerAccording to the key findings in the 10th Focal Point Forum, climate change negatively impacts human health because it lengthens the transmission season and expands the geographical range of many diseases. Using this information, in March 2018, the NWP created the Adaptation Knowledge Portal to conveniently hold hundreds of case studies and tools for Parties to access when establishing their NAPs. Looking forward, the SBSTA encourages Parties to use this information when creating or implementing their NAPs. For example, St. Lucia included in its NAP an adaptation measure to “model and map the risk of climate-sensitive disease with climate change scenarios to support long-term planning” and to “improve data collection and analysis for modelling and mapping climate-related disease.” This measure is a great solution that other Parties can also implement to deter the health effects of expanding diseases.

Recently, the risk from expanding diseases seems to be placed as a low priority for COP. The 11th FPF did not discuss increasing disease transmission nor will the upcoming 12th FPF discuss the topic. Even in the realm of loss and damage, the Warsaw International Mechanism recognizes that non-economic losses do cover human health impacts, but has not explicitly addressed this issue. In the 2018 WIM Excom Report, SBSTA stresses the issues of slow-onset and extreme climate events, but does not expand on health related non-economic issues. Although WIM Excom has not been vocal on the issue, World Health Organization (WHO), UN Environment, and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has recently, jointly launched a new global coalition on health, environment, and climate change to reduce the annual 12.6 million deaths caused by environmental risks. However, this coalition focuses mainly on the negative effects of air pollution. I believe it is pertinent for the UNFCCC to join the coalition to begin a dialogue about human health risks at the COP and then to take initiative to bring climate-related diseases onto the COP agenda.

Early Warning to COP

Aftermath HD

Climate change is causing an increase in natural disasters while vulnerable countries lack the proper infrastructure to counter them. To tackle this issue, vulnerable countries have been working on implementing early warning systems (EWS). In addition to saving lives, EWS provide reliable risk information which allows sound investments into a country’s infrastructure. However, these vulnerable countries often lack the capacity to install EWS and require cooperation from the international community to implement them.

IAftermath Bridgendonesia’s recent struggle with its EWS exemplifies the lack of capacity building. On September 28, 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake created a series of tsunamis that devastated the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Over 1,200 people were killed and over 61,000 displaced. A network of 22 buoys connected to seafloor sensors float off Indonesia’s coast, intended to warn the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics of tsunami activity. This high-tech EWS was installed after the 2004 tsunami that killed nearly 150,000 people. However, the detection buoys were defective, leaving thousands of people helpless in the wake of the disaster. The agency did issue a tsunami warning, but lifted the warning after 34 minutes because  the tsunami detection system did . According to Indonesia, the EWS has been malfunctioning since 2012 because it did not have the funding to repair or perform routine maintenance on EWS.


The UN has stressed the importance of implementing EWS since the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2005. However, the UNFCCC did not address early warning systems until COP16 created the Cancun Adaptation Framework in 2010. Nonetheless, the talks were important to build momentum to have EWS explicitly included into the Paris Agreement (PA) under Article 7(7)(c). This provision reads that Parties should strengthen their cooperation on enhancing action on adaptation by “strengthening scientific knowledge on climate, including research, systematic observation of the climate system and early warning systems, in a manner that informs climate services and supports decision-making.”

The inclusion of EWS in the PA–a binding treaty–is crucial in helping vulnerable countries develop early warning systems to reduce the impacts of disasters. According to the WMO, 54% of surface stations and 71% of atmospheric weather stations emit no data. To address this issue, decision 1/CP.20 invited Parties to consider including an adaptation plan in their INDCs, and a majority of the Parties defined EWS as a priority for adaptation.

COP24 is especially important for the implementation of EWS because this COP will finalize the implementation rules for the PA. With the fifth anniversary of Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) being held in Poland, loss and damage will likely be a prioritized negotiation which relies heavily on EWS. The 2018 Report of the Excom of WIM recommends cooperation to support preparedness through EWS — a hopeful sign for aiding vulnerable countries to maintain functional EWS and prevent another incident like Indonesia’s from happening again.

Green Climate Fund Approves $1B in New Projects

GCF logoOn October 21, 2018, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board concluded its 21st meeting by approving 19 new projects, totaling $1.038 billion. This board meeting comes right after the IPCC released the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5) (which we posted on here and here) and a little over a month before COP24. As UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa told GCF Board Members at the start of their meeting, “Never has there been more need for multilateral cooperation. And never has finance played a more central role to the overall climate regime itself.”

GCF was set up by UNFCCC in 2010, as part of the Convention’s financial mechanism. When the GCF began to gather resources in 2014, developed countries, and some developing, pledged $10.3 billion. Initial mobilization lasts until 2018, while the Fund remains open for further contributions during this time from both public and private sources.

The GCF is designed to focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation, in part as a reaction to the broader mandate of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the original operating entity of the UNFCCC’s financial mechanism. “The Fund pays particular attention to the needs of societies that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and African States.” Another key point GCF makes is that “[o]ur innovation is to use public investment to stimulate private finance, unlocking the power of climate-friendly investment for low emission, climate resilient development. To achieve maximum impact, GCF seeks to catalyse funds, multiplying the effect of its initial financing by opening markets to new investments. The Fund’s investments can be in the form of grants, loans, equity or guarantees.”

Green Climate FundWhen addressing the importance of this most recent GCF Board meeting, Executive Secretary Espinosa underscored that its outcome will impact the outcome of COP24: “Success here means sending a clear and unmistakable message of trust to developing countries that they can have confidence in the process going forward.” Espinosa’s remarks were well taken as the GCF approved the 19 proposed projects. See the full list of approved projects and monetary breakdown here.

Her comments came after the preceding GCF Board meeting failed to deliver its mandate. This contentious July 2018 meeting resulted in the resignation of GCF Executive Director, Howard Bamseyand, and no new project approvals. Tensions ran high at this meeting for several reasons. The first two had a direct impact on the Fund’s bottom line: the United States decided in 2017 to halt $2 billion of its Obama administration $3 billion pledge and inflation rates reduced the present value of commitments made in 2014.  In addition, policy gaps for prioritizing the numerous applications whose requests exceed the GCF’s capitalization hampered Board Members’ ability to make the tough selection decisions. The GCF currently has $10 billion pledged out of the $100 billion promised for 2020.

The GCF has been plagued with issues and controversy for the past year. In February 2018, GCF had a green-climate-fund_WEBboard meeting that approved $1 billion in projects. Although the willingness of GCF to approve more projects is hopeful, civil society organizations and parties saw it as problematic, given that the GCF has difficulty dispersing money for projects already approved. As of December 2017, the fund has only released roughly $150 million, or less than 6% of the nearly $3 billion it had committed up to that point. The GCF reported in the February 2018 meeting that this funding is going toward the 18 projects that are under implementation. The Board had approved of 53 projects by the February meeting. So what is taking so long for the Board to disperse funding? Who is receiving this funding? And how is the GCF now reporting that there “39 projects under implementation, worth $1.6 billion in GCF resources that are being deployed as climate finance in support of developing countries’ climate ambitions under the Paris Agreement?” The jump from 18 to 39 projects under implementation in eight months seems either overambitious or over-reported. The biggest question here is how these 39 projects are receiving their funding after the turmoil of the GCF in the past eight months. To take from Espinosa’s remarks again, “The outcome of [the October Board meeting] of the GCF will impact those negotiations in Katowice.”

Looking toward COP24: The GCF submitted a report to the UNFCCC on Sept. 17, 2018, for consideration at the upcoming COP24. Table 14 included in its Annex VII lists all projects approved by the Board to receive funding from the GCF as of July 31, 2018. In this table, the GCF does not report what has been dispersed, only the GCF funding and total project value.

Energy Justice: Mitigation, Adaptation, AND Sustainable Development Goals in the IPCC Special Report

Cooking in MyanmarOver three billion people rely on wood, charcoal or dung for cooking, with primarily women spending 15-30 hours per week collecting these resources. Household Air Pollution (HAP) results in over 4 million deaths a year. The second most impactful climate change pollutant is black carbon and HAP contributes 25% of black carbon. Clearly, we can integrate mitigation, adaptation, AND sustainable development.

The first sentence of the Global Warming of 1.5°C IPCC Special Report references the Paris Agreement’s enhanced objective “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.” (Article 2) The IPCC report references and builds on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved and adopted by national leaders in September 2015. The SDGs consist of 17 goals and 169 targetsSustainable Goals developed as a sustainability framework. Top goals include the elimination of poverty and hunger; an increase in health, education, and gender equality; and access to clean water, sanitation and affordable energy. Additional goals address economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and responsible consumption, life below water and on land, climate action, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals.

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.29.54 PMThe IPCC report highlights one of the largest differences between 1.5°C and 2°C as the disproportionate impact on poor and vulnerable populations, furthering inequities. However, addressing these inequities through sustainable development can also become a positive. One bright spot in an otherwise dire report is the potential for significant synergies between sustainable development with mitigation and adaptation strategies. But ONLY IF we think about the issues holistically and find mechanisms to cooperate internationally. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement recognizes “the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches” and mentions supporting and promoting sustainable development in Paragraphs 1,2,4, and 9. A failure to consider mitigation and adaptation strategies in the context of sustainable development and the SDGScreen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.28.58 PMs could result in the opposite effect of creating long term negative impacts on the health and survival of those populations that contributed the least to the problem and have extremely limited resources to weather the consequences.

Let’s strengthen our sustainable development goals through enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and provide some accountability with some teeth in Katowice.

The Paris Agreement and the Green Economy

imagesThe adverse impacts of climate change are no secret. We are constantly reminded of the gloomy consequences that will arise at our continued rate of consumption without significant intervention. It is predicted that growing wage gaps combined with climate change will cause over 100 million people to fall into poverty. Moreover, this alarming statistic could impact the well being of children in Africa and Asia, causing 120 million to suffer from malnourishment by 2030. Current projections indicate that our urban footprint will likely triple, demand for food will increase by 35%, and the world’s water needs are expected to rise by 40%.The adverse effects of climate change are not exclusive to impoverished and marginalized communities. By 2030 global economic loss is expected to reach 3.2%, indicating that even the private sector is not immune.

With the Paris Agreement, the paradigm shifted to place international focus on the transition from a traditional economy to a green economy ̶ meaning one that recognizes the relationship between environmental sustainability, economic development, and climate change. Under the Paris Agreement, countries must submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to mitigating global climate change while operating within their national environmental and economic objectives. These NDCs set national targets by utilizing mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. Cumulatively, the commitments established by each country aim to meet the Paris Agreement’s objective of holding the increase in global temperature to “well below 2⁰C.” The implementation of mitigation and adaptation mechanisms require funding and corporate involvement to perform the work. In this manner, the Paris Agreement has propelled the green economy forward. As United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently stated, “Those that will be betting on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, on the green economy, will be the ones that have a leading role in the economy of the 21st century.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) announced in its annual report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs, that 24 million new “green” jobs will be created globally by 2030. Likewise, within the same timeframe, the green economy is anticipated to offset predicted economic losses in traditional industries. The drastic advancements in renewable energy technology and innovation also support this assertion.  For instance, more development in solar and hydroelectric energy technology reduced the demand for coal-based energy in many countries. In addition to this, industry leaders such as Microsoft and Amazon developed cloud-based computing services that enable small companies to reduce 90% of their CO2 footprint. What is even more impressive is that the green economy’s net-worth now exceeds that of the fossil fuel sector (6% of the global stock market), according to a report by FTSE Russel. All of which lends credence to the words of ILO Deputy Director-General, Deborah Greenfield, who insisted that the green economy “can enable millions more people to overcome poverty and deliver improved livelihoods.”

Without a doubt, the green economy’s momentum shows no signs of stopping and has grown to exceed $1 trillion USD. However, this raises the question of how well-prepared are countries to handle the transition to a low-carbon economy. It is important to note even the green economy must be properly guided with the right policies.  The aggregate collaboration from countries committed to the Paris Agreement is promising, and could provide the impetus for such guidance and direction for a sustainable economic shift. Only time will tell.

We can do more!

earthobservation_earthAfter two weeks of negotiations in which we observed UNFCCC Parties, stakeholders, and all the people that make possible the Conference of the Parties (COP), I leave Bonn with several reflections.

Parties do have the ability to achieve consensus and adopt the necessary decisions towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

People all around the world are working to fight climate change. Universities, institutions, NGOs, and subnational governments like cities are individually trying to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement, for example by using and promoting renewable energy to reduce GHG emissions.

Volunteers and observers (like VLS) are there to encourage and support the negotiators in this journey 24/7. So, what are we missing to move forward in the implementation of the Paris Agreement? Why do we still think/feel that the negotiations are going too slowly?

Even though the Paris Agreement entered into force just 11 months after its adoption in December 2015, Parties agreed that its effects would only take place from 2020 onward while they worked to put in place the implementing rules needed to make the Paris Agreement operational.

But the implementation action plan is not clear yet. For example, the developing countries are still waiting for the developed ones to commit in matters relating to finance so that they can achieve their NDCs. In addition, it is not clear how Parties are going to register their adaptation communications in the public registry determined by the Paris Agreement.

Time is passing by. COP23 was important and some decisions were taken, but we need more. We need more commitments from the developed world. We need more people passionate about climate change. We need to implement more actions to pursue the global temperature goal, and limit the temperature increase to 1.5 ºC above pre-industrial levels. do-more-quote

What am I going to do? I want to keep doing what I am doing, even though sometimes it feels that it has no impact. I will talk to people (communities, schools, family) and explain to them how a simple action like turning off a light can mitigate the effects of climate change.Hopefully, if we start changing minds, we will stop changing the climate.

Intentions and Realities: A case for better fund management

Uganda ChildrenOne of the biggest hang-ups to addressing climate change is finance.  How are research projects funded?  How are solutions funded so that they can be implemented at a meaningful scale?  While finance was not my area of focus at COP 23, it certainly came up concerning “agriculture, forestry, and other land use” issues (AFOLU).  One of the most impressionable moments I had at COP 23 concerned finance for adaptation in agriculture.

At a side event for “addressing climate change for a world free of hunger, malnutrition and poverty,” the conversation among the facilitators and stakeholders seemed collaborative.  Then, Kagandga John, the Executive Director of Kikandwa Environmental Association (KEA) of Uganda, spoke.  He started slowly, thanking the Chair and other members joining the roundtable discussion.  He expressed his gratitude that finally agriculture and food security were being talked about seriously.  Then his voice escalated.  “You sit here and talk about funding innovative projects in agriculture.  You even continue to suggest new pilot projects for our region.”  At this point, he became animated, his voice nearing a crescendo.  “But I will tell you now that WE ALREADY KNOW how to adapt our farming to climate change!  Stop funding new pilot projects!  Start funding projects that already work.  Come to Uganda, we will show you.”

Part of the financing problem appears to be the mismanagement of available funds.  Is this possible?  For developing countries like Uganda, this inefficiency must be very frustrating.  After the meeting, I spoke with Kagandga John.  I learned that the education center in the Mityana district of Uganda that educates children about the environment and climate change must close due to lack of financial support from the local and international community.

Surely there is a better way to manage funds for developing nations.

The Indigenous Platform: A win-win for climate and indigenous rights

climate impactsYesterday I observed a side event that left me feeling anxious about our future. With all the acknowledgment of climate change and the steps taken by parties to the UNFCCC since 1992, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. In fact, nowhere on the graph presented did the tangent show progress in decreasing emissions. That’s right! After 25 years of learning and negotiating about climate change, it seems we are making little progress with respect to our ultimate goal of reducing global emissions. The implications of this, if gone unabated, could be catastrophic. Indeed, as the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration now exceeds 400 ppm, we are headed into uncharted territory. Our lives depend on our ability and capacity to adapt to the coming changes as well as to mitigate what we can. Who will show us the way?

It has long been recognized that indigenous knowledge is invaluable for addressing and responding to climate change. For this reason, a platform was established at COP 21 in Paris to afford indigenous people the opportunity to share their traditional knowledge and unique perspective for adapting to, and mitigating climate change. The following year, in Marrakesh, the COP decided to adopt an incremental and participatory approach to developing the indigenous platform. But in the waning hours of COP 23, the COP adopted a decision that includes a formal statement of the purpose for the platform as well as how it will function.

indigenous-potatoes-790x547The purpose of the platform is to “to strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples related to addressing and responding to climate change.” The platform will facilitate the exchange and sharing of best practices and lessons learned on mitigation and adaptation and work to enhance the engagement of local communities and indigenous peoples in the UNFCCC process. This is important and exciting! Who knows better the nuances and changes of a particular environment and ecosystem than the people who have relied on them for generations? When it comes to reforestation efforts, it is the indigenous and local communities that understand the seeds to be used, the viability of the soil, and the changes in weather patterns that will determine growth. When it comes to producing food, these people know best what farming techniques will be successful and sustainable, or what practices need to change due to changing weather and hydrological cycles. We can learn so much!

But perhaps the most exciting thing about the platform is what it provides to indigenous peoples and local communities- a seat at the table. The platform is expected to build the capacity of indigenous people and local communities so that they can engage in the UNFCCC process. The platform is also expected to build the capacities of Parties to meet their NDCs under the Paris agreement.

indigenous-peopleWhat does this mean? It sounds like there is finally going to be a collaborative effort between Parties and indigenous people and local communities to address climate change- both in terms of mitigation and adaptation. Speculating as to what co-benefits may flow from this, it seems evident that Parties must now seriously take up the issue of land tenure with respect to the indigenous communities within their respective states. Perhaps indigenous populations will finally gain the security of holding enforceable rights to their traditional, native territories- ensuring the continuation of their culture.
The platform is a win for the climate and indigenous populations.

G77 + China: Perspectivas de la COP23

230202_600Compuesto por 130 países, el G77 + China representa el grupo negociador más grande en la Convención Marco sobre el Cambio Climático (CMCC). El día de hoy durante su conferencia de prensa, la señora María Fernanda Espinoza en nombre del grupo, expresó los retos y debilidades de la COP23, así como los resultados positivos de las negociaciones sostenidas durante las últimas dos semanas en Bonn, Alemania.

En cuanto a los resultados positivos, el grupo resaltó la creación de la plataforma para las comunidades locales y los pueblos indígenas , la cual busca reforzar los conocimientos, las tecnologías, las prácticas y los esfuerzos de las comunidades locales y los pueblos indígenas para hacer frente al cambio climático.

Igualmente, destacó el trabajo que se ha realizado en el área de las pérdidas y daños con ocasión a los efectos de cambio climático en la que se están cuantificando los mismos para así definir los recursos necesarios para mitigación y adaptación y sobretodo recuperación después de un evento de cambio climático como los vividos en los últimos meses (Huracanes Irma y María).

Por otro lado, en lo que tiene que ver con las debilidades y los retos a los que todavía se enfrenta el grupo, Espinoza señaló que aún no está claro cómo las Partes van a cumplir con sus compromisos de adaptación y mitigación, en especial por los problemas de acceso a financiamiento y recursos, transferencias de tecnologías y el fortalecimiento de capacidades de los países.

En cuanto al financiamiento, resaltó que ocho años después de su creación el Fondo Verde Climático no ha recaudado el monto determinado para cada año y el acceso a este se hace cada vez más difícil, lo que pone en desventaja a los países menos desarrollados.

¿Qué está haciendo el G77 y China para mejorar el acceso al financiamiento y que las Partes puedan cumplir con sus metas de mitigación y adaptación? change_in_hand_2x3

El grupo presentó una propuesta ante la Conferencia de las Partes-COP23, en la que además de solicitar que el procedimiento para acceder a los recursos económicos sea más sencillo, se está solicitando un acceso real y consistente a los recursos que se necesitan por parte de los países.

Adicionalmente, se solicitó que estos recursos sean nuevos, predecibles y sostenibles en el tiempo para que se puedan financiar las actividades por medio de las cuales se busca cumplir con los compromisos adquiridos bajo el Acuerdo de París.

Así las cosas, y aunque se cumplieron algunos de los objetivos que se tenían para la COP23, los medios de implementación y en especial el acceso al financiamiento y los recursos sigue siendo “la pata débil” de las negociaciones.

Se espera que con la petición efectuada por el G77 y China, la COP continúe negociando y se llegue a un consenso para mejor el financiamiento que requieren los países menos desarrollados para cumplir con las metas propuestas bajo el Acuerdo de París.

When the Storm Comes…

Climate Change is already having a significant impact on our planet.  Indeed, even our largest resource and carbon sink is suffering- our oceans.

seychellesWhile once thought of as an abundant, even infinite source of food and wealth, our warming planet is changing all of that.  Coral reefs are bleaching.  Schools of tuna are changing their migratory paths.  And anadromous fish, like Pacific salmon species are struggling to complete life cycles.  Exacerbated by commercial over-fishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, many fish populations and fisheries are dangerously depleted.  This spells economic and food insecurity for many coastal communities- but especially for small-island developing states (SIDS) and archipelagos.  For these communities, this also means decreased resilience to the impacts of climate change.

But what can a small island nation do?  Implementing policies to restore marine fisheries and secure climate resilience through implementing sustainable practices costs money.  And many SIDS have limited financial resources and very little they can count on as an export to build financial capacity.  For Seychelles, a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the solution was found when its leaders turned their backs on the islands… and looked out to sea.

With 3000 times more ocean under its sovereignty that land, the ocean is an indispensable resource for Seychelles.  Still, Seychelles came into the Paris Agreement with a significant amount of national debt.  To alleviate that burden, it exchanged its debt for protecting its ocean- effectively relinquishing sovereignty of one-third of its oceans by placing it in a trust.  This expanded Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and helped to ensure fish stock recoveries.  To further build a sustainable fishery, Seychelles created a “Blue Bond” economy which uses bonds to fund the development of its sustainable fisheries.  The Blue Bond economy also consists of a Blue Grant Fund which is accessible to domestic fisherman and other fish-workers.  These funds are used as an incentive for those in the fishing industry to adopt sustainable practices.  Provided they comply with sustainable practices, funds are readily available to help them achieve and maintain those practices.

Blue economyWhy does this work so well?  Because this is a bottom-up approach where the government is in fact considered a “minority” entity.  The structure of this system does not rely on government control because the resource is placed in a trust.  How did they persuade the fisherman to get involved with establishing protected areas?  They simply asked them where they wanted to fish.  The fisherman initially refused to cooperate with the process- afraid to deviate from business as usual practices.  But when they were told that one morning they may wake up to find their favorite fishing area protected and off limits, the fisherman were persuaded to engage in the process.  Thus, collaborating with the fisherman included them in the process and strengthened the framework for the trust.

For Seychelles, talking about jobs, nutrition, food, and even people is synonymous with talking about marine resources and FISH!  The dependence on its surrounding ocean cannot be overstated.  As such, climate change poses a significant threat.  But by placing a large portion of its EEZ into protected areas and building a sustainable fishing economy, Seychelles has taken a precautionary approach to address the impacts of climate change.  The result?  Increased biomass, increased maximum sustainable yield, increased food security and climate resilience.  And with increased resilience comes the ability to adapt to the coming changes.  As Seychelles’ permanent representative to the U.N. stated; “When the storm comes, we will be ready.”

Shining a Light on Sustainable Fisheries Management


Back in October before COP23 began, I made the prediction that Fiji’s leadership at the COP would lead the focus towards ocean sustainability. Today, the Food and Agricultural Organization sponsored a series of side events in the Bonn Zone on ocean and coastal zone management. One side event, in particular, discussed the adaptation techniques of countries to climate change, particularly regarding fisheries and aquaculture. Natural fisheries are plummeting and sustainable ocean management is the best step forward. Senegal, in particular, has taken a hard stance on fisheries management with the strict appliance of its fisheries laws both domestically and to non-domestic actors within its jurisdiction. Senegal also saw an increase in marine protected areas with a total coverage of roughly 306,000 hectares while also an increase in their aquaculture programs to fight food scarcity.

Ernesto Peña-Lados the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in the European Commission emphasized that the forward movement for sustainable fisheries management was not new laws but better programs. Mr. Peña-Lados made the insightful statement that there are several countries with good laws and poor management while those with less stringent laws maintained good management practices. This, he pointed out, was due to how the laws were implemented, enforced, and understood in the countries that undertook them. The laws were the same but the application is different.8794127-13911266

This is a bright light for our future. Oceans are finally receiving the interest they deserve and concern beyond that of rising sea levels and warmer waters. Fisheries sustain such a large portion of our population and if the laws are good enough, there is nothing to stop us from implementing them better.

Draining the Swamp

Peatlands contain peat soil, which is wet, thick, and made of partially-decomposed plant materials. The International Peatland Society (IPS) cover approximately 3% of the Earth’s surface. Tropical peatlands in Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Southern Africa contain 10-12%of the total peatland resource. Peatlands are also extremely valuable ecosystems because they foster biodiversity, are a habitat for multiple species, provide quality drinking water, support local economies, and minimize flood risk.

Figure-1-Global-peatland-distribution-Riccardo-Pravettoni-UNEPGRID-Arendal.As the plants in the peatlands remain saturated with water and fail to decompose, carbon gets trapped within the plants. Due to this process, the soil acts as a carbon storage. When peatlands are drained, the plants complete the decomposition process and release copious amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Approximately 15% of peatlands have been drained, which contributes nearly 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per day. The remaining 85% of peatland contains approximately 550 gigatons of carbon. In 2016, the draining and burning of peatland accounted for 5% of anthropogenic carbon emissions.

peat_presentation300pxUsing international climate policies, it is important to conserve and rehabilitate peatlands globally. International cooperation towards more sustainable use of peatlands began at the 2011 Durban Forum which recognized “wetland drainage and restoration,” as a focus area. The Durban Forum later identified peatlands as “hotspots” of greenhouse gas emissions in 2013. Moving up to this past year, at COP 22, a new global initiative was launched in Marrakech to reduce GHGs by protecting peatlands. The Global Peatlands Initiative, led by the UN Environmental Program, aims to increase conservation, restoration, and sustainable management. The initiative aids national governments in meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  (UNFCCC). From this structure, countries are more incentivized and have the ability to address peatland conservation and restoration in their mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development goals.

In addition, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has presented strategic action plans to ensure peatlands are used effectively and efficiently. The FAO facilitates action by guiding nations through their “strategic actions.” The FAO actions include assessment, monitoring, protecting, and resorting of peatlands. It also has broader goals of ensuring sustainable care of the peatlands such as engaging with local communities, generating effective economic governance, stimulating market-based mechanisms to support the peatlands, and information exchange on peatland care. The IUCN has also bolstered the FAO’s actions and further recommends peatlands be considered in forestry agreements relatingto climate change and a moratorium on peat exploitation.

downloadThe United Kingdom have both taken active steps towards conservation and rehabilitation of peatlands within their territory. Peatlands cover 12% of the UK’s total territory, but 80% are in poor condition due to drainage or extraction. In response to this issue, the Wildlife Trusts have taken on the mission of restoring the peatlands on a regional basis called the “Million Hectare Challenge.” As a part of this, more than ten regions in the UK have adopted individual long-term rehabilitation programs. Regional programs such as the UK’s Million Hectare Challenge and FAO’s international initiatives provide foundations for other counties.

Peatland restoration remains an ongoing issue, but it is has become a recognized method for nations to satisfy their sustainable goals and meet their obligations under the UNFCCC. Overall, peatlands represent an opportunity for significant reduction of greenhouse cases if managed correctly. Luckily, as the standards and methods are being developed, it is likely restoration will become increasingly efficient and effective.