What’s cooking in the COP24 kitchen?

IMG_2287The Polish Presidency addressed observers this evening about what remains to be negotiated on the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines before their impending deadline.  As the second week of COP24 comes to a close, tensions are high as the remaining items to be hashed out by high level Ministers run late into the evenings. This comes as no surprise, given the existential crises certain Parties are facing as a result of our changing climate.  In the words of the Presidency, “discussions continue to happen in silos, as they try to ‘cook’ a balanced text” that is fair in the eyes of all Parties.

The remaining items to be negotiated include: Financial matters; Modalities, procedures and guidelines under the Paris Agreement (PA); Adaptation; Cooperative instruments under Article 6; Matters relating to technology; Response measures; NDC registries; and the Talanoa Dialogue and IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C.  This is no small feat, given the mounting social, environmental, and economic pressures. A few prominent observer groups felt strongly about these items, and when invited by the Chair of the session did not hesitate to voice their opinions and confront the Presidency about their concerns.

IMG_2281The Environmental Non-Governmental Organization (ENGO) felt that responses in NDCs to the IPCC report remained inadequate, and feared that trading and compromise would not end favorably for “non-PAWP” related items.  The Women and Gender group echoed these concerns, stressing most about the preamble of the pending 1/CP.24, because anything that does not reflect these principles “would be a fraught to humanity.”  The Indigenous Peoples Organization responded to the Presidency by admiring the fact that while the COP is trying to “cook a balanced package,” they are concerned about human rights issues, and the IPCC 1.5 Report.  YOUNGO called attention to the lacking mandate around enhancement of NDCs, and fears that the Talanoa Dialogue will not be preserved in the final process.  Trade Union-NGO (TUNGO) group wanted clear recognition of the IPCC report as well, because “this is why we are here.” The IPCC report is the “why” and the “how” to address our climatic conundrum.

The Presidency responded to everyone’s concerns by reiterating what was said in the plenary earlier that day, and what he outlined in his introduction to this session.  He directed observers to the Talanoa Call for Action that called for a rapid mobilization of a variety of social actors to respond to the climate goals agreed upon in the PA, and expects most of these issues to be preserved in the final text as well.  While the Presidency hoped to console observer’s concerns, we all still wait in anticipation to see what the head chefs in the Convention kitchen have cooked up for the finale of COP24.


IPCC special report leaves the world in dire straits

In response to an invitation from the Parties of the Paris Agreement (PA), and pursuant to the Article 2 efforts to limit temperature increases well below 2°C, the IPCC prepared a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), released Monday, 8 October, 2018.

Climate scientists sounded the alarm yet again, painting a dire picture of the future without immediate and drastic mitigation and adaptation measures worldwide.  High confidence statements made by the panel include:

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 3.58.11 PM

  • Human activities have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels
  • Current global warming trends reach at least 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052
  • Staying below the 1.5°C threshold will require a 45% reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net-zero by 2050
  • Pathways to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot will require removal of an additional 100-1000 GtCO2

Pathways of current nationally stated mitigation ambitions submitted under the PA will not limit global warming to 1.5°C.  Current pathways put us on target for 3°C by 2100, with continued warming afterwards.

The ENB Report summarizing SR15 was able to shine a light on the good that can come from responses to this special report (not to mention upholding the ambition intended with the PA).  SR15 shows that most of the 1.5°C pathways to avoid overshoot also help to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in critical areas like human health or energy access. Ambitious emission reductions can also prevent meeting critical ecosystem thresholds, such as the projected loss of 70-90% of warmer water coral reefs associated with 2°C.

Groups like the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are intensifying their adaptive scientific support through a “fully-integrated, ‘seamless’ Earth-system approach to weather, climate, and water domains,” says Professor Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist of the WMO.  This “seamless” approach allows leading climate scientists to use their advanced data assimilation and observation capabilities to deliver knowledge in support of human adaptations to regional environmental changes.  By addressing extreme climate and weather events through a holistic Earth-system approach, predictive tools will help enhance early warning systems and promote well being by giving the global community a greater chance to adapt to the inevitable hazardous events related to climate change.

WRI Graph

Success ultimately depends on international cooperation, which will hopefully be encouraged by the IPCC’s grim report and the looming PA Global Stocktake (GST) in 2023.  In the wake of devastating hurricanes, typhoons, and the SR15, it’s hard to ignore both the climate and leading climate scientists urging us to take deliberate, collective action to help create a more equitable and livable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

In Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 20 decides to convene a “facilitative dialogue” among the Parties in 2018, to take stock in relation to progress towards the long-term goal referred to in Article 4 of the PA.  Later renamed the Talanoa Dialogue, these talks have set preparations into motion and are helping Parties gear up for the formal GST, with the aim of answering three key questions: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How will we get there?

Discussion about the implications of SR15 will be held at COP24, where round table discussions in the political phase of the dialogue will address the question, “how do we get there?”

It won’t be by continuing business as usual.

 


From INDC to NDC: Diversity in ambitions and fairness

APA1-2 Co-chairs: Sarah Baashan (Saudi Arabia) and Jo Tyndall (New Zealand)

APA1-2 Co-Chairs: Sarah Baashan (Saudi Arabia) and Jo Tyndall (New Zealand)

The Paris Agreement requires Parties to communicate their first NDC along with their instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement. However, this requirement is typically accomplished when a Party has communicated an INDC prior to joining the Paris Agreement, unless it decides otherwise. So far, 163 INDCs have been submitted, while the Paris Agreement has been ratified by 100 Parties out of the 197 Parties to the Convention.

Although the Parties have the choice to submit new and more ambitious NDCs with their instrument of ratification, few choose to do so. One reason for this is the lack of guidance on what an ambitious NDC should look like and what it should contain. The importance of guidelines is currently being discussed under the APA1-2 meetings, including features of NDCs, information to facilitate NDC clarity, transparency and understanding, and accounting for Parties’ NDCs. More ambitious NDCs are needed as the submitted INDCs are not consistent with the goal of having a reasonable chance of avoiding a rise in global average temperature of more than 2°C above its pre-industrial level. However, it is important to note that even if a country is on track to meet its targets it does not necessarily mean that it takes on more stringent action than a country that is not on track, as it depends on the level of ambition and fairness of the INDCs.

Before achieving the level of ambition needed, the Parties also need to sort out through the divide created by the role of CBDR-RC and national circumstances in the adoption of the guidelines, thus reaching on the issue of fairness. The developing world is asking for support from the developed countries in the form of capacity building, financing and technical assistance in order to adopt and implement ambitious NDCs. For example, 85% of the developing countries ask for financing for their INDCs.

But, how can you measure the level of ambition and fairness? In their INDC, the parties have adopted a subjective rationale approach on the basis of what they think is fair and ambitious, ranging from development status, share of global emissions, per capita emissions, improvements against past developments and current trends, past action or mitigation potential, vulnerability to climate change impacts. Also, how do we know what approach is better?

What is clear today is that the ambitions reflected in the NDCs are not sufficient. A decision is needed on how to asses fair and ambitious NDCs while taking into consideration the national circumstance of each country and the global climate goal of remaining under 2°C. While the APA1-2 is going to touch upon the implementation and guidance for the NDCs and the ambition and fairness mechanism, there are also some other global avenues through which support for NDCs ambition can be enhanced such as: broadening the field for new entrants with different professional expertise, establishing and linking partnerships between the research community and institutions, international organizations and national governments.

Guidelines on how to asses ambitious and fair NDCs will constitute a barrier for Parties wanting to invoke status quo and inaction for their climate procrastination.

 

 


Losing Loss and Damage? Or Will the Paris Agreement Adapt?

Last night marked the 4th meeting of the Comité de Paris, a group of ministerial leaders that carries out informal consultations “to make progress and facilitate compromise on the draft Paris Outcome and package of decisions transmitted to the COP by ADP.” At a meeting earlier in the day, COP President Laurent Fabius reported on the status of Adaptation and Loss and Damage (L&D) in the new Paris agreement.

Source: L'Express

Source: L’Express

Fabius explained that through informal consultations, Parties have almost concluded on the major issue of Adaptation to climate change impacts, which will enable focus on L&D. However, at the start of last night’s meeting, Fabius commented that he still had no updates from Parties on L&D in the agreement. The responses that followed suggest that negotiations are far from complete on Article 4 on Adaptation and Article 5 on L&D.

After the COP President’s opening remarks at last night’s meeting, 60 countries and groups shared their positions on the newest draft agreement text. Comments included a landslide outcry across developing countries and negotiating groups for increasing the ambition for Adaptation, and giving clear attention to L&D. Many developing countries and negotiating groups also said it was essential to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.

Source: GCCA

Source: GCCA

South Africa, on behalf of the G-77 and China, pointed out that their group’s key proposals on Adaptation don’t appear in new text. They said that they trust that Parties will be able to engage further on Adaptation for developing countries. On L&D, the group acknowledged that there will be further consultation to advance on the issue. The current draft text has two options for Article 5 on L&D. First, to include it in its own Article, Article 5. The second option would be to incorporate it in Article 4 with the Adaptation provisions. South Africa, on behalf of the G-77 and China, stated that there should be a separate article on L&D, which must be clearly bounded by the principles of the Convention, particularly the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDRRC) that addresses permanent impacts of climate change. Many countries echoed South Africa on behalf of the G-77 and China’s position in subsequent remarks, including as described in yesterday’s ENB report, the G-77 and China, with Vietnam, Haiti, and Timor Leste, among others, emphasized the need for a distinct article on L&D.

Guatemala, on behalf of AILAC, agreed that Parties must continue to make progress in a bridging proposal for L&D, and said that in moving toward the final phase of negotiations, there is a need to catalyze actions in the area of Adaptation and the need to include a registry for adaptation actions. The most recent version of the draft text dropped the bracketed reference to a registry for adaptation communications that was included in the previous version. Chile echoed these sentiments, supporting AILAC’s proposal for Adaptation, including a registry for nationally determined priorities that would act as catalyst for short-term climate adaptation actions.

The coming hours and days will shed more light on the status of Adaptation and L&D in the Paris agreement.


What’s next and who makes it happen at COP21?

COP21 Comite de Paris

At COP21 on Saturday, December 5, the ADP transmitted the draft Paris Outcome (the Agreement, as we’ve called it all year) and its accompanying Decision to the COP. The text still contains many bracketed phrases (choices to be made), and there are key outstanding issues, such as on long-term goal, the timing of review of pledges, the provision of support to developing countries, loss and damage, and principles of equity and differentiation. (Be sure to see our posts from Week 1 for more details).

In its first action, the COP established the Comité de Paris (the Paris Committee), chaired by COP21 President, Laurent Fabius, to conduct informal consultations to facilitate achieving agreement by mid-week. These “informals” will cover thematic areas, and thus help to tackle cross cutting issue concerns such as differentiation, ambition, and adaptation/loss&damage. These launched on Sunday, and resumed today with closed meetings, along with bi-lateral meetings arranged by co-facilitators of each issue area to pursue compromise.

We will get a sense of the potential for progress at the Committee’s first Plenary tonight, where facilitators will share today’s outcomes by articulating their “assessment[s] of the possible concepts for solutions.”

The agreed upon facilitators, ministers from member Parties, are being paired for these consultations, and have received guidance from the COP President. Their mandate is clear: “Bridge differences with a focus on issues that require solutions to enable a timely and successful conclusion of the Paris Outcome.” And each duo has been given its “key issues.”

Stay tuned!


COP21 Begins in 24 Hours: Will a Paris Agreement [Decrease] [Solve] [Do Nothing On] Climate Change?

imagesIf all politics are local, but greenhouse gases find their way into the atmosphere’s international space, how can the global community act collectively on climate change? In 1992, the solution was to adopt an international treaty. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) declared climate change a “common concern of mankind,” and committed 166 countries to tackling it. Most UNFCCC parties were developing countries, who had contributed relatively few emissions given their pre-industrial poverty but were nonetheless already experiencing the irreversible, negative effects of climate change. Under the convention’s principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities” (CBDRRC), developed countries and top greenhouse gas emitters like the European Union and the United States agreed to take the lead.

Yet, progress has been slow. In 2007, this leadership took the form of the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, which placed clear greenhouse gas emission limits on developed countries while imposing none on developing countries. When the United States refused to ratify, its emissions, along with those of rapidly industrializing developing countries like China, India, and Brazil, escaped international regulation. Consequently, when negotiations for continuing the protocol beyond its first 2008-2012 period faltered at COP15 in Copenhagen, a new approach to international limits on greenhouse gas emissions began to CO2take shape. It gained momentum at the two subsequent conferences of parties (COPs) held in Cancun and Durban. Now, almost six years on, there is emerging agreement that all parties—developed and developing countries—should make individual, international climate change mitigation pledges determined by each party’s national government.

At COP21 in December, the current 196 UNFCCC parties will decide if they can sign on to this new paradigm of international climate change regulation. The Durban Mandate requires the parties to “develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” by the end of 2015. In Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2015, the parties will have their last opportunity to shape the international climate change law that will take the place of the Kyoto Protocol when it ends in 2020.

copDuring four negotiation sessions this year, the parties drafted a “Paris Package” that consists of a core legal agreement based on a system of nationally determined contributions and several COP decisions addressing implementation and political issues. The current 31-page draft agreement outlines how parties’ individual contributions will be internationally measured, reviewed, and verified. These pledges no longer focus solely on mitigation. Consistent with appeals from the developing world, the draft agreement pays almost equal attention to adaptation and finance actions. Likewise, it sets out conditions for transparent international reporting. Under it, parties take responsibility for determining whether their national efforts collectively keep global temperature rise below the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recommended upper limit of 2 degrees Celsius.

This new system of national pledges that are internationally made and scrutinized for sufficiency had a World Resources Institutetrial run this year. By Oct. 1, 2015, 147 parties had submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), covering approximately 86 percent of total global emissions. While each INDC derives from national priorities, overall they tend to include substantive contributions on mitigation, adaptation, and finance, as well as important process pledges on reporting and verification, technology transfer, and capacity building. Developed countries have pledged absolute mitigation targets and resources for vulnerable developing countries. Higher-income developing countries like Brazil, China, and Mexico have made concrete greenhouse gas mitigation pledges. Other developing countries have described their mitigation and adaptation efforts and goals, but made them conditional on receiving financial assistance. Transparency in this pledging process has been prioritized: INDCs are publicly available at the UNFCCC website and have been reviewed closely by the UNFCCC secretariat, non-governmental organization (NGOs), and the press.

CAT_thermometer_20141207That’s the good news. The bad news is that, at least in the short term, these intended contributions do not add up to keeping atmospheric warming below the 2-degree Celsius goal. A Nov. 1, 2015, UNFCCC report concluded that while the INDC pledges—if fulfilled—would slow down the global rate of greenhouse gas emissions, they will not maintain the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. Likewise NGOs like Climate Action Tracker (CAT) and Climate Interactive reach the same conclusion. CAT calculates that achieving the unconditional INDC pledges would still likely lead to a 2.7-degree Celsius increase. Climate Interactive’s math adds up to a predicted 3.5-degree Celsius increase.

So how could COP21’s Paris Package address this shortfall and result in a new international agreement that leads parties to bend the global emissions curve to a 2-degree Celsius or lower pathway?

  • First, it would use these INDCs as a starting point only and include provisions in the new agreement that require all parties to increase their contributions in regular, transparent cycles. In this way, COP21 serves as “a way station in this fight, not a terminus,” as Bill McKibben recently wrote.
  • Second, it would emphasize the need for all parties to adapt to changes already locked in by historical emissions, and recognize the permanent loss and damage experienced by the most vulnerable developing countries.
  • Third, to achieve these first two, it would show agreement on the amount and kind of financing available for developing countries to achieve their pledges. COP15’s promise of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation activities is still on the table. A recent OECD report indicates that climate finance reached $62 billion in 2014. But many note that mobilizing private finance is not the same as pledging public funds, and call for developed country governments to do more.
  • Fourth, it would include a COP decision that ramps up the INDC pledges before the new agreement takes effect in 2020. From now until then, non-state actors like cities, states, and provinces, as well as businesses and consumer groups, have focused their subnational powers on renewable energy and energy efficiency actions intended to narrow the emissions gap.
  • Fifth, it would reflect a new understanding of CBDRRC. While this core principle no longer translates into developing countries getting a bye on greenhouse gas emissions limits, it also does not exempt developed countries from their historical responsibility for climate change and their capacity to provide finance and technology for low- or no-carbon development. The deep tension over how to fairly bring all parties into a common framework that recognizes different starting points permeates the draft text through heavily [bracketed] language.

The UNFCCC requires consensus to lift these brackets. The negotiations thus far have produced little of it. Instead, despite its fractured international politics, the G77+China has flexed its negotiation muscle IMG_0920through disciplined coordination of member countries that otherwise align with the diverse agendas of the Africa Group, Arab Group, and Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs). AOSIS, which represents low-lying countries whose very existence is threatened by sea level rise, works with the least developed countries group (LDCs) to press for strong adaptation and loss and damage provisions. The E.U. and U.S. are committed to market mechanisms for achieving mitigation reductions and private climate financing along with government contributions. Two negotiating groups, the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG) and AILAC, seek to find common ground. The EIG is the only group that includes both developed and developing countries. AILAC’s members are middle-income Central and South American countries that are growing rapidly yet can still reorient toward low-carbon pathways. But these national negotiators can go only so far: While they are masters of the technical details and crafting precise legal language, it appears that the true power to compromise resides in their national capitals.

Leading up to COP21, weekly meetings of heads of state and their environmental, foreign affairs, and finance ministers have taken place. In this way, local politics are actively engaged on the international problem of climate change. All parties preparing for Paris have said clearly what they want to avoid—no repeat of COP15, no “ghosts of Copenhagen” haunting COP21. It will be a day-by-day proposition with some bumpy rides along the way. Follow the journey here till its finish!

 


Hot and Bothered

earth on fireThis title appeared today on the Economist’s report on climate change in red hot capital letters wrapped around a vulnerable-looking Earth.

I think it better sums up the report’s tone than its substance.

While the Economist points to IPCC graphs to back up its scientific facts, it totally lacks the global scientific body’s analytical nuance. Instead the report trots out more than a few blanket statements that overshoot the mark, like:

  •  the Kyoto Protocol “had achieved little and become unworkable; its passing was not much lamented”
  • COP21’s “fragmented, voluntary approach avoids the debate that had paralysed climate talks for years, about whether the burden of cutting greenhouse gases should be carried just by the rich world or spread more widely.”

In doing so, this widely read publication shows its short sightedness.  The first commitment period IMG_0876(2008-12) of the Kyoto Protocol not only achieved its overall mitigation target of 5%, but set up the kind of legal, finance, and governance structures that now surround national and international markets for carbon trading.  The last three years of ADP debate about the “Paris Package” to be adopted at COP21 in a fortnight has anything but avoided debate about CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities), the core enviro equity principle at play in these 196-party negotiations. Anyone reading the current draft negotiation text or reading the global headlines on adaptation and finance pledges pre-COP21 can see this fact.

To be fair, the Economist takes some provocative positions that merit consideration and debate, like:

• “Paying for yet more wind turbines and solar panels is less wise than paying for research into the technologies that will replace them.”
• Mankind “will have to adapt, in part by growing crops that can tolerate heat and extreme weather, in part by abandoning the worst-affected places.”
• “More research is required on deliberately engineering the Earth’s atmosphere in order to cool the planet.”

But it would foster more serious attention to them with less cheek – and less quoting of climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg of the “Copenhagen Consensus Centre.”