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’s Debut: Priorities at CMA1

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 7.59.17 AMOn October 5, 2016, the Paris Agreement passed the threshold required to go into force on November 4, 2016. Over 55 Parties to the Convention have submitted their instruments of ratification, accounting for over 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will occur in Marrakech in conjunction with COP22/CMP12. What will be the priority at CMA1? Currently, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website lists no CMA1 agenda documents. However, the Secretariat’s Progress Tracker of relevant requests from the Paris Agreement and Decision 1/CP.21 provides a good predictor of CMA1’s focus.

The Progress Tracker indicates renewed discussion of Article 6’s market-based mechanisms at CMA1, as Paris Agreement Parties redouble their efforts to establish the system to achieve their pledged contributions. Article 6  provides the starting point for market-based mechanisms. Interestingly, nowhere does Article 6’s language actually use the term market-based mechanisms. Instead, Article 6.1 refers to “voluntary cooperation” when implementing NDCs with Article 6.2’s “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” [ITMOs] and “robust accounting.” Roughly translated, Article 6’s voluntary cooperation works through a carbon trading, market-based mechanism, using ITMOs.

Recent meetings of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific Technology and Advice (SBSTA44) also point to Article 6 priorities during CMA1. At the May 2016 SBSTA44 meeting, Parties emphasized the Paris Agreement’s changed context, in that all Parties have NDCs. Now, with most Parties planning to consider some form of market mechanism to reach their mitigation pledges, they remain divided on how best to proceed. For example, Parties maintain varying views about whether Article 6’s scope should include REDD+.  Given these unresolved concerns, SBSTA44 agreed to continue Article 6 work in Marrakech and invited submissions on the Parties’ varying Article 6 views for discussion at SBSTA45.

Accordingly, over a hundred countries submitted their Article 6 statements, fueling continued Article 6 debate during CMA1.  Some countries’ submissions came as part of a broad range of major negotiation groups; submissions from the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), Forestry Commission of Central Africa (COMIFAC), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), European Union (EU), and Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) addressed an equally broad range of priorities. Prevalent themes involved differences between developed and developing countries’ priorities, concerns regarding transparency in accounting, and the need for clarity in Decision 1/CP.21 § 36 language addressing emissions “corresponding adjustments.”

Additionally, multiple side events scheduled during the Marrakech meeting demonstrate strong support from civil society and the research community for Parties to clarify and implement Article 6. Organizations like the Green Climate Fund, Institute for Environmental Global Strategies, International Carbon Action Partnership and country representatives from around the world will present at these sessions.

Based on the Progress Tracker, SB44 discussions and submissions, and side event interest, Article 6 issues will not only appear on the SBSTA45 agenda. They will also likely play a major role at the inaugural CMA1 meeting, as the Paris Agreement enters into force on the world stage.


It’s All About the Benjamins: Ratcheting Up Financial Support for Developing Countries

In 2009 Parties to COP15 in Copenhagen agreed to a global goal of mobilizing $100B (that’s right, billion) per year for climate finance by 2020. A recent OECD report indicated that we are well on our way to achieving that goal (with $62B committed in 2014). Unfortunately though, $100B may not even be enough to keep global temperature rise between 1.5˚C and 2˚C. For this rDollarseason, much of the discussion at COP21 has centered on the scale of climate finance. Exactly how much additional funding will be necessary? For now, the answer seems to be “more.”

In response to this need, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), one of the entities responsible for providing climate finance under the UNFCCC, announced a new initiative today: the Climate Aggregation Platform (CAP). The GEF will seed CAP with $2M, which is expected to catalyze over $100M in co-financing from other partners, including from the Inter-American Development Bank.

CAP is just one piece of an ongoing effort by all global actors to increase access to climate financing from a variety of sources. The draft Paris Outcome places an emphasis on the use of public funds, but also acknowledges the role that private finance will play in addressing climate change. Private investors, which currently comprise about 25% of global climate investment, typically offer loans rather than grants. This means that the investors expect to make their money back over time. Therefore, to entice private

Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility

Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility

investors to promote clean energy in developing countries, there must be some indication that the project represents a sound investment. CAP aims to help facilitate these types of robust investment opportunities.

First, CAP will establish a global working group to provide key finance and industry stakeholders with transparent access to, and coordination of, climate-related projects in developing countries. CAP will also promote project standardization, with the goal of creating uniform contracts and repayment plans. Finally, CAP will develop in-country demonstration projects and provide technical support for other pilot transactions. These actions will serve to increase the number of qualified projects, creating a scalable pipeline of clean energy investments.

Establishing a streamlined framework for project development has two major benefits: It increases the penetration of clean energy technologies in the developing world, thereby serving climate change goals. It also allows investors to aggregate a large number of projects, thereby reducing the financial risk. In the same way that insurance companies profit by insuring large groups of people with a variety of health risks, climate investors will be more successful if they invest in large numbers of projects with a variety of risk profiles. As your financial planner will tell you, a diverse portfolio is generally a strong portfolio.

And confidence is high that, if we build it, they will come. Since the financial crisis of 2008, there is a significant appetite for impact investments, which are transparent investments in projects that have demonstrated social benefits. Many institutional investors, along with independently wealthy individuals, are actively seeking investments like clean energy projects in the developing world. There is approximately $46B in impact investment already under management, and that number is on the rise. Leveraging a small amount of public money has been shown to catalyze additional private investment in these types of projects. Some studies indicate that $1 of public funding can attract $20 of private funding. Just last week, Bill Gates alone pledged to contribute $1B in seed capital to potentially transformative energy systems with “near zero carbon emissions.” And he’s getting his friends to pitch in too.

Developing programs like CAP that foster a strong market for investment in climate-friendly projects is one of the most important things that come from COP21.


This is the face of civil society on the final day of COP19

UNFCCC logoA fundamental part of UNFCCC law making is inviting civil society to observe it.  In this way, negotiators may keep their constituencies in mind when locked in tense debates in far away countries, and “we the people” may keep an eye on our delegation’s representation of us.  Article 6 of the Convention encourages parties to promote educational exchange and public awareness about climate change and the UNFCCC’s processes for combatting it.  As a member of a law school observer delegation and a professor of international environmental law, I’m here in Warsaw poised to fulfill this mandate.

Today, the media talk outside the National Stadium is about NGOs walking out en masse yesterday, ADP lineexpressing with their feet frustration over the slow progress to date.  (Note:  Alisha broke the story here.) Last week there were reports of three youth NGO members losing their credentials due to unpermitted protests.  One of the memes running around the internet (and delegates’ computer screens – you can tell by the sudden bursts of sardonic laughter in the meeting rooms) parodies this COP’s parameters of “free speech” via the banner ban. Honestly, I took these measures as reasonable bureaucratic responses to COP15‘s uber civil society participation in Copenhagen, where it looked like the UN meeting organizers did not consult our Danish host’s occupancy and fire code regulations.

IMG_4335But this week — as a devotee of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP), having watched it work each day to negotiate and draft the building blocks of the new climate change text that will take the Kyoto Protocol’s place — I’m beginning to feel a bit uncivil.  At first, I lauded the co-chairs’ thoughtful approach to these difficult, multilateral negotiations:  they put the walk in their talk of parties negotiating with each other and not them by trapping them in a smaller room, around a rectangular table, so that they could give and take face to face.  The downside of this arrangement has been less room for us observers.

Professor T. Bach charging her and her computer's battery during the 4th hours of waiting on the ADP line.

Professor T. Bach charging her and her computer’s battery during the 4th hour on the ADP line.

When this room change started on Tuesday, we all entered, yellow and pink badges equally.  But the COP19 urban legend has it that parties later complained about insufficient seats for their members.  In response, starting Wednesday, those of us wearing yellow NGO badges were kept from entering with the pink-badged state parties, forced to stand in line for at last a half hour post-start to gain access to the negotiations — to play the very role that the treaty designed for us.This delay has intensified as the APD negotiations have.  Today, I’ve been in line for more than four hours.  I can report some progress on this front; we’re now allowed to sit down on the hallway floor while waiting to play our role in “civilizing” international climate change law making.

N.B. 7pm, just admitted to the meeting room, after 5 hours on line.  Surreal experience, for (presumably) youth NGOers have staged a demonstration, infiltrating the stadium seating above the temporary meeting rooms where we’re located (on the pitch below) and chanting loudly.  Thus dull roar provides a backdrop to some parties terse words.