The Rebound of Age-old Agricultural Ecology

A side event at the Pacific and Koronivia Pavilion sponsored by France at Tuesday’s installment of COP24 focused on the development of agroecology and scaling-up its performance and potential.  The meat of the session focused on research and development around shifting agricultural norms toward using more local inputs, supporting holistic ecosystem approaches such as integrated pest management, and pursuing a landscape approach that builds habitat for animals while also supporting agriculture.  The session ultimately concluded that ecosystem services are sound, healthy investments for future generations that simultaneously address both mitigation and adaptation needs.

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 8.06.55 PMAs a part of its wider agroecology project, France distributed its plan for development from 2015-2020 of its agroforestry systems.  The publication pairs trees and agricultural production in the same fields, bringing back age-old farming practices that combined mixed crops and livestock that gave us hedgerows and their associated economic and ecological roles.  Some of these roles include shelter for animals, erosion prevention, water regulation, and carbon sequestration.

France’s plan breaks down into 5 main “Axes” and 23 Actions.  Axis 5 deals with “International Advocacy and Spread of Agroforestry,” because France believes that agroecology is a strong solution for farming in France and around the world to meet significant challenges like food security and biodiversity enhancement using pragmatic methods.  Sharing knowledge and receiving feedback on experiences in other countries will enhance the French vision, and help with future preparations by developing partnerships that will lead to higher performance.

In accordance with Decision 4/CP.23, the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) was initiated this year. After initial meetings, Parties agreed on a “Road Map” for how the KJWA will play out in future joint sessions.  Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 6.31.12 PMSBI and SBSTA 49 accepted comments leading up to COP24 on Topic 2(a), “modalities for implementation of the outcomes of the five in-session workshops on issues related to agriculture and other future topics that may arise from this work.”  At the end of the first week of COP24, the subsidiary bodies adopted a draft text, and submissions are being accepted on topics 2(b) and 2(c) of the KJWA “Road Map” that will help move agriculture forward on the SBI/SBSTA 50 agenda next year.

Topic 2(b), “Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience,” and to a greater degree Topic 2(c), “Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems,” offer France the opportunity to significantly contribute to the KJWA.  Although official evaluation of their agroforestry plan will not be conducted until 2020, ongoing monitoring combined with international dialogue has the potential to help transfer ideas and build land use capacities, both within the Convention and in our fields.


Protestors as Nonparty Stakeholders

Today at COP23, the United States Climate Action Center event “America’s Pledge on Climate Change,” had speakers that included Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, California Governor Jerry Brown, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They reassured the world that America’s Paris contribution would be met regardless of inaction at the federal level. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto showcased Pittsburgh’s work to turn around its recession by creating new opportunities for industry workers in a post-industrial city; he cited the BlueGreen Alliance, which was formed between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club on a mission that there should not be a choice between jobs and the environment.

Germany US Climate CampaignGovernor Jerry Brown was the star of the morning because of the immense leadership role he and the State of California have taken on climate. However, he was interrupted by groups of vocal protesters who stood up from the crowd with big banners shouting, “Keep it in the ground.” The protest was organized by the It Takes Roots delegation, a group of indigenous and marginalized peoples working on climate justice issues, who were speaking out against local industry pollutants in communities. This head-to-head confrontation immediately chilled the room, which was enjoying the congratulatory atmosphere of the event. Before long, someone attempted to initiate a pro-Governor Brown chant.

Making sure the world recognizes that American cities, states, and businesses are committed to tackling climate change is a worthwhile endeavor. This strengthens negotiations, especially when there has been emphasis placed at the COP on increasing ambition before 2020. However, the way the protesters were approached at this morning’s event was not in the true spirit of COP23. The ‘Pacific COP’ is a COP that prides itself on hearing Indigenous voices and nonparty stakeholders. This would have been an opportunity to showcase this effort. This also serves as a reminder that in the face of not only climate change but also a transition to a low-carbon economy, it is imperative that vulnerable communities are not left behind.


Equity Takes Center Stage in Global Stock Take Discussions

In determining the modalities, procedures, and guidelines for the Global Stock Take under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, equity is the name of the game. Parties joining the first informal consultation on the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement on November 7, 2017 have repeatedly mentioned the need for considering the impact of applying the principle of equity to the Global Stock Take. With the Transparency Framework’s emphasis on flexibility and the differentiation between the reporting requirements of the developed and developing parties, one would think that defining equity should be easy. This has not been the case.

Experts on the principle of equity were asked to weigh in on the matter at a side event held later the same day. These experts agree that equity in the Global Stock Take involves accounting for each Party’s “fair share” of the burden of curbing Green House Gas omissions so as to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target temperature. However, they do not agree on what “fair share” means.

Dr. Allison Doig of the Christian/ACTCOVER Alliance expressed the view that, in light of the urgency in which all Parties must begin addressing climate change, “fair share” means that Parties must “do more.” Parties will do things differently, but they must “do more.” According to a report published by the Civil Society Review, developing countries carry their “fair share” of the burden when they dramatically deepen their domestic mitigation and when they support developing countries’ actions to do the same. This is so because developing country Parties have expressed their willingness to do more, but they lack the capacity to achieve their goals. According to Dr. Doig, developing country Parties can only succeed with the help of developed countries and to carry their fair share, developed countries must extend help.

Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research did not completely agree. To him, equity can only be achieved when Parties can measure and compare similar efforts done with similar technology. Current Nationally Determined Contributions do not reflect this, as Parties determine the point from which they will calculate their emission targets. Different times will have different technologies. Therefore, efforts based on NDCs are incomparable and cannot be the basis for determining equity. For Prof. Edenhofer, the answer to the issue of determining equity is an internationally harmonized carbon pricing.

Carbon prices, unlike NDCs, are comparable and transparent. If Parties can agree to carbon prices, equity can be easily determined through the Equal Effort Principle. Under this Principle, those that have to spend more to mitigate their carbon emissions will be compensated by the Green Climate Fund for their efforts. Those that can spend less to do the same will have to donate to the GCF. Their donations will go towards those who cannot easily afford to install emissions reduction technology. This way, all Parties are required to put the same amount of effort in curbing their emissions and no one country disproportionately bears the burden.

At the moment, these views are merely theoretical. Parties are still in the early stages of developing the modalities for the Global Stock Take. However, Parties need to begin looking into mechanisms for determining equity and fair share like the ones summarized above if they are to incorporate equity into the Global Stock Take.

 


Engagement of Nonparty Stakeholders at COP23

Bula.zone_COP22 in Morocco was the first COP to stress public participation of non-party stakeholders. This built off of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which emphasizes the inclusion of civil society. At COP23 this year, Fiji wants to continue this new practice of including civil society in climate change discussions with a first-ever dialogue between the Parties and nonparties — the Talanoa Open Dialogue. In a COP23 side event titled Yardsticks for Success, speaker Jenny Jiva from the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholder governance in climate action. This sentiment was affirmed by Fiji Ambassador Deo Saran who emphasized the need for inclusivity in the COP, especially concerning marginalized voices and indigenous peoples. The event also highlighted the need to engage people in climate action; not only do people need to be able to see how the COP affects mitigation and adaptation efforts on the ground, but people should feel they have an effect on how climate action occurs. This emphasis on inclusivity should manifest in the Talanoa Open Dialogue on November 8, 2017, which is an open dialogue where Parties are encouraged to share stories and build trust. The inclusion of civil society in this event is indicative of the inclusive environment the Fiji Presidency is aiming to create.


Wheels of climate change policy roll on in Bonn

trump+climate+environmentWhile angst about the pending Trump decision on the Paris Agreement (PA) remained a subtext of the annual intersessional climate meetings that wrapped up last week in Bonn, Germany, the technical work trundled on.

More than 3,300 (negotiators, observers [including a VLS delegation], plus secretariat and other agency staff) participated in:

  • the 46th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI),
  • the 3rd part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA1.3),
  • several COP-mandated companion events (e.g., indigenous peoples, climate finance reporting, capacity building), and
  • more than 90 side events.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin gave its usual comprehensive (if dry) lowdown of the meetings. By many reports (here, here, here, and here), the negotiations moved rather smoothly. In particular, positions on APA agenda items got clarified, even though negotiating texts are still out of reach. The APA must deliver a Paris rulebook by December 2018.

Aside from the Trump question, the media coverage (e.g., here, and here) spotlighted the contentious tussle over conflict of interest (read: corporate/fossil fuel industry influence on climate policy). But that shadow side of the SBI’s imperative to “further enhance the effective engagement of non-Party stakeholders,” was not the only thing we watched.

A few of our observations:

  • APA round tables got a thumbs up for the airing and clarifying of views and could speed introduction of “contextual proposals” for PA rulebook pieces. Five will be held ahead of COP23, though observers will be excluded.

  • Parties are determined to understand, manage and capitalize on the linkages between Paris Agreement articles, and between the APA work and PA work of the subsidiary bodies. This is important and rich ground for cohesiveness.
  • More frequent interventions are coming from the new “coalition” of 3
    3K1A3741

    Marcia Levaggi, Argentina, speaking on behalf of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay (Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth)

    contiguous South American countries – Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. They constitute 3 of the 4 members of Mercosur, the Southern Common Market, which is on track to a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association. We’ve known them as part of multiple different negotiating groups: G77+China (all 3); Coalition of Rainforest Nations (Argentina, Uruguay); BASIC (Brazil); Like-minded Developing Countries (Argentina); and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). We’ll be keeping an eye on this development.

  • The Long Term Climate Finance workshops (LTF) may catalyze concrete COP consideration of strategies to address the confusing
    3K1A6693

    Breakout during LTF event. (Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth)

    multi-lateral climate finance architecture and developing countries’ challenges in accessing finance. (See the World Resources Institute new pub out on this issue.)

  • The SBSTA’s agriculture agenda item hopped on a rollercoaster, disrupting the 4-year stalemate between developed and developing countries over adaptation vs mitigation. The excitement generated by delegates’ Week 1 mantras (“very substantive dialogue,” “feels like a family”) landed with a thud in the end. No mature elements moved forward to the SBI; nor was an agriculture work programme recommended. We do see slightly positive prospects looking ahead, given the Co-Facilitators’ non-paper. Stay tuned for our deeper dive on this.
  • The Gender Action Plan workshop wasn’t covered by anyone, but you’ll get the in-depth story with our next post.

Next up? Thank you, Carbon Brief, for the chart of steps toward COP23.Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 1.11.43 PM

 


Reflections on a Week in Marrakech

20161113_152219[1]

 

As our 787 banked right to begin our final descent into Casablanca I caught my first glimpse of the Moroccan landscape. It was greener than I expected. On the ground I was struck by the warmth of the weather and the people. At the airport I was given a free sim card and then met the host with whom Jonas and I were staying the first night. He told us about how Marrakech has developed over the years, his passion about how great the city is on full display. After dropping our stuff at the riad we began to explore the area, talking with street vendors and taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of this city. The pride of the Moroccan people was on display everywhere we went, clearly demonstrating how proud they were to host the UNFCCC COP for the second time. Giant red banners reading “ACT” lined the streets and reminded us that this COP is one of action and implementation.

At the COP, the negotiations went far smoother than I expected, with very few disagreements between the Parties in the meetings I attended. Of course much of this was due to the extensive bilaterals and informals that were going on in the background. We were not privy to these discussions, where I’m sure most of the fireworks and arguments were occurring. However, there were some disagreements during the final plenary, which had to break multiple times to help the Parties reach consensus. Bolivia and Brazil engaged in a back-and-forth about whether the adopted text was balanced enough, with the former refusing to support the language. During the breaks, China and a few other Parties worked with both sides to help all involved reach consensus. The COP President worked hard throughout the night to keep the mood light and encourage cooperation. He even had everyone in the room sing Happy Birthday to the Mali delegate before he had to rush off to catch a plane to Madagascar. The Parties ultimately reached consensus and concluded COP 22/CMP 12/CMA 1 around 1AM on Saturday.

The side events at COP 22 covered a wide variety of topics and all the ones I attended were rewarding. I had anticipated that some would fall flat but my expectations were exceeded. I was able to attend a few sessions held at various country’s pavilions, which exposed me to many different perspectives. Often these events had refreshments too; -an immense boost during the long days. While some ran a little late, almost all had an opportunity for questions at the end. I think the best part of the side events was the Q&A sessions that followed each because the speakers were less constrained than during their presentations. Many of the speakers stayed after the sessions were over and answered questions one-on-one. A couple of times, when I didn’t have to run off to another session, I was lucky enough to speak with a few of them.

The most rewarding part of our COP experience was working with our service-learning partners to help them better understand the process and participate in the negotiations. Like most LDCs, our partners struggle to procure the resources needed for sufficient staff to attend all the meetings and negotiations that impact their interests. During our briefings we presented on the negotiations and a few relevant side events we attended and then answered any questions that our partners had. After the more formal presentations we broke off into one-on-one conversations and were really able to dig into the issues. It felt great to see how our work was helping them. Despite everything going on at home and around the world the COP was uplifting and inspiring. The progress set in motion in Paris cannot be stopped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The GCF – Can We Count On It?

gcf.logoIn 2009, as we reported earlier, developed country Parties to the UNFCCC committed to jointly mobilize $100 billion/year by 2020 to help developing countries address their climate change needs. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the designated heavy lifter for this goal – was created by COP16 in 2010. Its purpose is to fund developing country efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change through “low-emission and climate-resilient development.” (See our coverage of the private sector role in the GCF here, and co-financing efforts toward the $100 billion goal here.)

The GCF, now with pledges of just $10.3 billion, became fully operational in 2015. However, as of the start of 2016, only $1.6 billion was reported actually in hand, and none of the $168 million the GCF Board approved for the first 8 projects at its November meeting had been distributed. (We Im-startiving-pig-pay-green-climate-fund-nowreported on the U.S.’s $3 billion pledge here, the first $500 million of which has now been deposited into the Fund.)

The Fund’s goal for 2016 is to distribute $2.5 billion. Its press release also reports a package of current proposals worth $1.5 billion, with 22 projects totaling $5+ billion in the proposal pipeline. (A conflicting update from the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) reports $6.2 billion in 124 proposals and concepts in the 2016 pipeline, including 22 that are approval ready.) In either case, that 2016 goal is a high bar.

The GCF Board made some foundational progress at its 12th meeting in early March in Songdo, Korea, including adopting its first Strategic Plan (SP) and a 2016-2018 action plan. (The final SP had not been released as of this posting, but the draft can be found here.) It also accredited 13 new entities (some with pending status), which will bring the total accredited to 33. Additionally, the Board authorized its first Project Preparation Facility grant ($1.5 million to Rwanda). This new and evolving facility is designed to support developing country accredited entities in creating highly fundable projects.green-climate-fund-photo9

The Green Climate Fund has its critics. Hallway talk at COP20 in Lima buzzed about the potentially reckless pace UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres had set for the Fund’s scaling up. Governance questions arose soon after. Now, Small Island Developing States and others are facing onerous and highly bureaucratic accreditation hurdles for accessing it. Leading up to the March meeting, civil society voiced strong objections to the limited meeting access, and to the potential accreditation of international banking giants HSBC and Crédit Agricole.

Unfortunately, the Board’s emerging accreditation strategy, intended to address concerns, wasn’t ready for prime time by the March meeting. In related action, the Board awarded pending accreditation to HSBC and Crédit Agricole – both with substantive conditions to be met before final approval. One of these for HSBC, according to APMDD, is getting a positive report from the U.S. federal monitor’s review of the corporation’s money laundering reforms. HSBC_London_800(That report’s release is currently delayed until a federal appeals court ruling). Interested readers can find the accreditation assessments in appendices of the report of the Board’s decisions.

On a definite positive note, after considerable discussion, the Board ultimately agreed to live webcasting of its meetings in an 18-month experiment, beginning in June

As the GCF story unfolds, let’s hope for lots of transparency and lots of pledges turning to lots of cash. The developing world is counting on it.gcf


Climate Justice may be Blind, but it isn’t Mute.  

blind justice

Several concepts and phrases have been bantered around for inclusion in the Paris Outcome document. Most of it centers on the differences between the wealthy nations and those who are not.  “It’s [the issues are] about differentiation, equity, and climate justice.” – India’s Environmental Minister – Prakash Javadekar. While much of the talk has centered around the concept of “Common But Differentiated Responsibility” or “CBDR” for short, the climate justice advocates are concerned about the differentiated impacts of climate change. There is no question that climate change hits the world’s poorest people the hardest. There are many groups advocating for “Climate Justice”; they range from the Indigenous Peoples, to the women’s rights groups, to youth advocates. They are all striving for one common goal – the recognition of particularly vulnerable populations who disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change impacts.

As the Parties are busily reviewing the text this Friday, two separate press conferences were held on this very topic illustrating the urgency and passion with which these climate justice advocates are pushing for acknowledgement in the final text. In the early afternoon both the Friends of the Earth International (FEI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) directly addressed this issue and it infused much of the talk at the press briefings of other entities like Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). These groups were concerned that the newest Paris draft release on Thursday night “regressed as to equity” (Sunita Narain of CSE).

 

Key to understanding their positions is the underlying problem of the lobbying strength of rich corporations. Indeed, the WWF highlighted the extreme influence of the Koch brothers in North American politics and control of fossil fuel resources. Climate Justice requires that civil society holds the negotiators accountable to the people who are most affected by climate change. Political influence appears to be blocking the practical solutions to address mitigation, adaptation and the mechanisms to enforce the needed long-term goal of staying under 1.5℃. Under WWF’s view, the Draft Paris Outcome is a “great escape for polluters and a poison chalice for the poor.” It appears that the mitigation dates and targets are gone from the text, as is the science regarding the achievement of net zero emissions and climate neutrality.

 

The Center for Creative Ecologies

The Center for Creative Ecologies

Practically speaking, the WWF also highlighted what the ramifications of a weak Paris Agreement would mean for the majority of the world’s population. Food insecurity would increase as the climate change impacts affect not only the soil and water conditions but also the farmers’ land use rights. They stressed that the agricultural producers need support at the subnational level to maintain the farmers’ access to land and the means of production. These small-scale farmers make 80% of the food the world consumes. WWF Nigeria pointed out that decarbonization has been removed from the latest Draft Text. This would undermine one of the core elements of the Agreement, the energy transition to renewables. This is a matter of energy security. For much of the South, the lack of transition to renewables means dispossession of land by big companies. What is needed is “energy decentralization and energy democracy.” Both of these issues are tied to the need to move beyond the “climate smart” rhetoric to a system that is truly fair and equitable to the people of the land, not just equity among countries.

 

towerPart of the Climate Justice argument rests upon those cross-cutting issues of differentiation and financial responsibility. The argument to place human rights in the text beyond the Preamble is important so that the mechanisms take those rights into consideration. It is vital to prevent the political tradeoffs between the 1.5℃ target and loss and damage concessions; this pits development against ambition. As CSE noted, by the time India is ready to use its fair share, there will be no room in the carbon market for them. That is why finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building are so critically important. Developing country Parties need to access these resources to move forward quickly in sustainable development. They simply cannot afford to wait. Much like the situation on the whole Climate Deal – the world simply cannot afford to wait.

 


Civil Society keeps the heat on for climate ambition

UNFCCC PlenaryScene COP21As countries seek to arrive at a mutually acceptable text for the Paris Outcome this week, there is a lot of focus on ambition to reduce emissions, and on financial support to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. In fact, these are among the key high-level political issues that must be resolved. It is hoped that tomorrow’s new draft text from minsters will bring some clarity on these issues.

Reuters-BerlinClimateMarchNov27

Civil society has been working hard to help move the needle in favor of stronger ambition and greater equity through action leading up to and at this COP.

 

As we reported earlier (here and here), among its contributions to the conversation is a recent report by a powerhouse group of NGOs in climate change work – Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs. INDCs are countries’ intended nationally determined contributions, statements of planned actions for mitigation (and, in some cases, adaptation) covering the next 10 or 15 years, that they voluntarily submitted prior to COP21, in keeping with COP Decision 1/CP.19 in 2013 and 1/CP.20 in 2014. (See our last week’s and previous posts related to INDCs)FairShars-CSO EquityReview of INDCs Rpt Cover

With negotiations on “level of ambition” in a seemingly precarious state, we thought it helpful to reiterate the stark reality of the shortcoming of the INDCs. These pledges represent wide-ranging levels of commitment that together, according to UNEP and others, won’t achieve the emissions reductions essential for a habitable planet. There is, in fact, a deeply alarming gap. The Fair Shares report is not alone in stating that, “even if all countries meet their INDC commitments, the world is likely to warm by a devastating 3°C or more.”

The report’s assessment is based on the maximum carbon we can have in the atmosphere to provide the world “a minimal chance of keeping warming below 1.5°C and a 66% chance of keeping it below 2°C.” Its INDC analysis utilizes 2 parameters: 1) historical responsibility (based on the cumulative emissions of a country); and 2) capacity (based on national income “over what is needed to provide basic living standards”) – with these given equal weight in the calculation. The methodology appropriately accounts for “a breadth of perspectives” related to income and time benchmark complexities.

CSO FairSharesRPT Fig9Key findings for the 10 countries covered in the report are that Russia is not contributing at all to its fair share, and that Japan, the U.S., and the EU are all falling short at levels of just 10%, 20%, and slightly more than 20% of their fair shares, respectively. Conversely, the mitigation pledges of most developing countries “exceed or broadly meet their fair share,” even though the pledges of many of those are conditional.

Enter climate finance! Notably, the “fair shares” of many of the wealthy countries are beyond what they can achieve domestically. To ‘balance the books,’ so to speak, developed countries could ramp up actions to meet their own fair share, and make clear commitments to aid developing countries in achieving theirs.

It will take scaled-up and fair cooperation among countries to address the inequitable distribution across countries’ emission reduction pledges and close the emissions reduction gap. It is uncertain if COP21 Parties will achieve this.

Thankfully, civil society is keeping the pressure on.


CAN International flashes climate movement’s teeth on Day 1

CAN International logo

 

CAN (Climate Action Network) International’s COP21 opening press conference this morning delivered strong words for the leaders and negotiators. (CAN International is a recognized “network of NGOs working on climate change from around the world.” Member groups well known in the U.S. include 350.org, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund.) Four organizations presented:

Keya Chatterjee of US CAN praised the climate movement’s hard work since COP15 in Copenhagen that has achieved today’s powerful level of engagement. She noted that 2 of the 3 key ingredients for a just transition to a livable world have been met: 1) an activist base -“check;” and 2) a permissive majority – “check.” The third requirement, political leadership, is being demanded at COP21 where leaders are called to reveal “if they are with the world or not.” Activists clearly feel that Obama’s political credibility is on the line.

CAN Intl Webcast panel Nov30

Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid decried the current inadequate offerings of developed countries on mitigation and adaptation that will result in the sacrifice of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. He shared that the INDCs will deliver a too high 2.7°C increase, and called on the Parties to complete a strong agreement that provides for robust adaptation help, a loss & damage mechanism, and the climate finance to make these happen.

Tim Gore from Oxfam predicted that the negotiations will be brutal, and could get nasty. Three of the flash points he anticipates:

  • Current commitment questions- $100Bill/year by 2020. Will this happen and will there be enough adaptation finance from it? The Africa Group has put a proposal on the table to ensure $32 billion for adaptation from GCF by 2020.
  • Loss & Damage- “a David & Goliath issue,” with the US not wanting to move on it at all, and the other developed countries happy for the U.S. to take the hard line position.
  • Post 2020 finance- “the great known unknown” at these talks. There is a serious need to for a new commitment on finance. The key tradeoff is between getting new numbers on the table and getting others at the table. But who goes first?

Pierre Cannet of WWF France called upon Parties to reach a solid, inclusive, transparent agreement that also provides for a role by civil society. He congratulated France’s efforts to make this COP a real success. Pierre’s primary message was to stay in the negotiators’ ears in Paris, and keep the messages coming through demonstrations and marches, predicting that civil society’s vital role in building a strong response will serve “to change course and make history.”

KeyChatterjee-USCAN at CAN Webcast Nov30One of the most impassioned statements of the press conference came during the Q&A, when Keya Chatterjee (USCAN), expressing the commitment of the massive climate movement in the U.S. to hold the country’s leaders accountable to mitigation targets, nearly shouted, “I promise you, over our dead bodies, will these targets not be met!”

The Movement is unapologetically here. Let’s hope the political will is.

 

UNFCCC Live Webcasts header

Please note: Press conferences at the COP are a great way for remote followers to get real time news and views. You can tune in via the UNFCCC webcast page and catch the live action before it reaches your favorite news feeds.


Outside the ADP negotiation rooms

IMG_0920Some days at UNFCCC negotiations, the glass looks more full outside the negotiating rooms.

Given the 4am revisions of the negotiation texts, meetings today started off slowly.  The ADP gathered in the late morning to acknowledge the new text, send the G77 and other negotiating groups off for coordination on it, and announce the afternoon and evening “spin off groups.” These smaller, more focused meetings are drafting sessions.  Under the UNFCCC rules of procedure, the Parties may choose to exclude observers.  On Day 2 of this penultimate ADP session, that’s precisely what happened.  So Parties met behind closed doors to work on four parts of the draft agreement (mitigation, finance, capacity building, and technology transfer) and the draft decision on Workstream 2 from 3pm till 9pm.

Good thing.  This gave civil society organizations (CSO) even more time to shine light on the UNFCCC Parties’ slow progress in achieving the Article 2 goal of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” One CSO project merits special attention.

Fair Share:  A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs was launched at the ADP negotiations on Day 2.  The review’s authors are “social movements, environmental and development NGOs, trade unions, faith and other civil society groups,” who “have come together to assess the climate commitments that have been put on the table through the UN climate negotiations.” (A full list of them may be read here.) Thefair shares bar graph methodology is straight forward and simple (two adjectives rarely applied to the UNFCCC):  compare a country’s historical GHG emissions to its INDC pledge filed during the last eight months.  Fair Shares does this number crunching bearing in mind the IPCC’s calculation that we have a limited global carbon budget remaining before catastrophic warming sets in. Reviewing the voluntary, nationally determined INDC pledges in this light, the review “seeks to ascertain whether the Paris Agreement will be ambitious enough and tolerably fair.”

In the end, the review recommends that the Paris Agreement should include:

  • Targets to reduce emissions in 2025, 2030, 2040 and 2050, working toward “near-zero emissions” by mid-century;
  • A “step-change” in international climate finance;
  • A “clear and fair plan to address the emissions gap through new cooperative action fuelled by scaled-up support from the developed countries that are most responsible.”

Conservative Backlash to the U.S.– China Climate Agreement

The United States–China climate change agreement announced this Wednesday already faces strong resistance in the U.S.  As detailed here, the U.S. and China, which combine to produce nearly half of the world’s emissions, struck a deal to strengthen their reduction commitments. The U.S., which has already pledged to reduce emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, now promises to reduce them by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. China promises to cap its emissions by no later than 2030 and to produce one-fifth of its energy from zero-emission sources by then. The historic agreement has the potential to serve as a “wake-up call” for the international community. Deemed a gamechanger, analysts and policy advisers say the agreement could galvanize large-scale cooperation in Lima, setting the pace for a binding climate treaty in Paris 2015.

taylor postHowever, Republican leadership in the U.S. Congress has vehemently opposed the climate change partnership and threatens to derail U.S. committed emission reduction efforts.  After last week’s midterm elections, conservative leadership will control next year’s Congress and thereby U.S. climate policy. Next year’s Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was one of the first to condemn the U.S.–China partnership.  Calling the plan “unrealistic” and part of President Obama’s “war on coal,” he said that it would lead to a loss of U.S. jobs. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) agreed with McConnell, stating that the plan is “the latest example of the president’s crusade against middle-class families.” Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Fred Upton (R-MI) member and Chair, respectively, of the Energy and Commerce Committee, also criticized the agreement. Both lawmakers said the deal meant that China is “promising to double their emissions while the administration is going around Congress to impose drastic new regulations inhibiting our own growth and competiveness.” Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who authored The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” also declared the agreement a “charade.”

Despite the resistance to the U.S.–China agreement David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council says the agreement attempts to jump one of the highest hurdles in international climate negotiations the “vicious cycle of finger-pointing.” The agreement deflates a vital tenet of right-wing dogma: “limiting our carbon emissions would serve no purpose, since other countries in general, and China in particular, would never agree to limit theirs.”

mcconnellHowever, strengthened by an influx of climate change deniers and fossil fuel pundits, Republicans have made it known they plan to launch an all-out war on Obama’s climate legislation, starting with the President’s Climate Action Plan. McConnell has said as Senate Majority leader, his top priority next year is to “do whatever [he] can to get the EPA reined in.” Previously, McConnell said a viable tool Republicans have is the federal budget process, which they can use to constrain the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) funding. He also mentioned earlier this year that he could look to a rarely used law—the Congressional Review Act—to repeal the EPA’s regulations on automobile and power plant emission and mercury reductions. The EPA’s ability to regulate emissions is central to U.S. climate change policy.

McConnell’s efforts to derail domestic and global climate action are joined by other climate deniers like Senators Jim Inhofe and Ted Cruz. Inhofe, who is slated to take over the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, voted against federal disaster relief for Sandy and has compared the EPA to the Gestapo. Despite the fact that 97 percent of the world’s scientists claim unequivocally that anthropogenic climate change is real and happening now, Inhofe thinks the UN invented the idea of climate change to “shut down the machine called America.”

Similarly, Cruz, who was re-elected last week and is in line to chair the Subcommittee on Science and Space, which oversees agencies like NASA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation, also denies climate change realities. In an interview with CNN last February, Cruz said he doesn’t think the Earth is warming. “The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened,” said Cruz.

republican leadershipOther newly and re-elected congressman like Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), and Shelly Capito (R-West Virginia) all ran for election and won on a platform that denied the existence of climate change, promoted opening up more federal land for oil and gas drilling, and supported the Keystone XL pipeline. In September, Senator Sullivan, a former Alaska attorney general, said “the jury’s out” on whether climate change is man-made. Senator Cotton, has stated “[t]he simple fact is that for the last 16 years the earth’s temperature has not warmed.” Cotton has also pushed for new coal power plant construction and the Keystone XL pipeline. Senator Daines has already signed a pledge that he will “oppose any legislation relating to climate change.” Claiming global warming, to the extent that it exists, is probably caused by solar cycles. Similarly, House member Lankford called climate change a “myth,” and along with Gardner, Cotton, Capito, and Daines voted to prevent the Pentagon from considering the national security impacts of climate change. U.S. conservative leadership is also likely to use the federal budget to prevent the State Department from offering funding to the UN’s Green Climate Fund. A fund that is essential to help the world’s least developed countries adapt to the effects of climate change.

ipcccThe conservative backlash threatens to derail the most ambitious efforts the world’s largest emitters have taken to lead an aggressive stance on climate change. Jake Schmidt, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international program, warns that “[a]nything that undermines the President’s ability to follow through on his climate plan will undermine Paris.” In issuing the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, chair Rajendra Pachauri called the work “yet another wake-up call to the global community that we must act together swiftly and aggressively.” The report released this month confirmed once again that “human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions are the highest in history.” The report warns that to avoid the most damaging and potentially irreversible impacts of climate change (e.g., “substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaptation”) we must switch to renewable energy, phase out fossil fuels, and set emission reduction goals. Despite this most recent report, the conservative leadership mentioned above stands on a policy platform that is in direct opposition to the report’s recommendations. How far will political posturing and scientific reality diverge? Only time will tell.


The road from Bonn to Lima (by way of Copenhagen this week)

Looking back on last week’s ADP2-6 special session, it would be easy to echo the notes of pessimism that pervaded Saturday’s press reports.  RTCC (Responding to Climate Change) commented after last Thursday’s stocktaking session that “much work remains” in the session’s last two daysIMG_4368 and noted the frustrated ADP Co-Chairs “offering government negotiators a stern reality check.”   Artur Runge-Metzger acknowledged that the “ambition to finalize the two decisions is no longer possible in Bonn” because State Parties had “not touched on many important things.”  Kishan Kumarsingh put it more bluntly, calling on delegates to “look yourselves in the eye; ask yourself if we are on track.”

adp in bonnSaturday’s Business Insider opened with these words:  “Concern was high at a perceived lack of urgency as UN climate negotiations shuffled towards a close in Bonn on Saturday with just 14 months left to finalise a new, global pact. The six-day meeting of senior officials in the former West German capital was meant to lay the groundwork for the annual round of ministerial-level UN talks in Lima in December. In turn, the Lima forum must pave the way to a historic pact which nations have agreed must be signed in Paris next year, to curb planet-altering climate change. But some negotiators and observers expressed concern that the Bonn talks focused too much on restating well-known country positions on how responsibility for climate action must be shared.”  BI quotes David Waskow of the World Resources Institute (WRI) saying that while the ADP2-6 talks had been constructive, “there is nervousness that the pace is somewhat slow” and  Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) echoing this concern more pithily: “People are starting to panic a little.”

EU dealEven some good news from individual countries – foreshadowing their INDCs or intended nationally determined commitments/contributions, the content of which was under negotiation all week in Bonn – did not appear to hearten negotiators.  For example, the AFP (L’Agence France-Presse) announced on Thursday that “a European deal on curbing carbon emissions yielded a rare concrete input Friday to UN climate talks, but did little to ease frustration among negotiators demanding progress on a global pact in Bonn.”  The EU-28’s agreement to cut GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030 over 1990 levels (building on the EU’s current projected 20% decrease from 1990 to 2020), along with 27% renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, was hailed in Brussels but downplayed by some developing country negotiators in Bonn.

Claudia Salerno of Venezuela talking with a U.S. counterpart in a COP19 ADP huddle.Claudia Salerno, Venezuela’s lead negotiator at the ADP (pictured at right facing the camera), spoke on behalf of the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) negotiation bloc when she called the EU goals “too little and too late.”    Likewise Sweden’s pledge of $550 million to the Green Climate Fund barely took the edge off developing countries concern about the slow progress of all developed countries in meeting their COP15 pledge of mobilizing $100 billion per year of climate finance by 2020.  Even though the Swedish government’s press release announced that it is “now choosing to take greater responsibility for Sweden’s climate impact and is making a commitment ahead of Paris 2015 by increasing Green Climate Fund (GCF) financing by approximately USD 550 million (SEK 4 billion) and allocating an additional SEK 500 million to international climate action,” Bloomberg News led its Friday report on ADP2-6 with  “a dispute about how to link greenhouse-gas emissions cuts to a promise from the wealthiest nations for $100 billion a year in climate aid emerged as a major stumbling block at UN talks on global warming.”  As UCS’s Meyer observed, “there has to be some collective signal from the developed countries that the direction of climate finance will be upwards and not fall off a cliff. You need more clarity on post-2020 finance if you want to get an agreement in Paris.”

Finally, a Greenpeace report  noted by the GCCA (Global Call for Climate Action) last week that China — now the world’s largest GHG emitter — had decreased its coal usage this year gained little traction in the Bonn talks.  Because China burns almost china factorshalf of the coal used worldwide each year, the fact that it decreased its coal consumption by about 2% while also growing its economy 7.4% and increasing its energy consumption by 4% indicates that the country is on track to meet the mitigation goals it announced at last month’s UN Climate Summit.  This change looks to have resulted from a combination of several “bottom up” initiatives within China, including its National Energy Agency’s proposals to limit coal consumption growth to 2% (by more than doubling wind power capacity and increasing solar capacity fivefold between 2013 and 2020) and regional pledges in 12 of China’s 44 provinces (representing 44% of national coal usage) to limit their coal consumption and the launch of 8 regional carbon markets that prepares China to meet its national emissions trading scheme targeted for 2016.

At the ADP’s closing plenary, State Party delegates spoke out about the road from Bonn to Lima, ignoring the Co-Chairs’ request to end ADP2-6 without individual country interventions.  A general theme was G77 birthdaysounded by Bolivia speaking on behalf of the G77+China that was echoed by most parties: feeling the political pressure from civil society and wanting to avoid a “take it or leave it” situation in COP20’s final moments, the G77 urged the co-chairs to reorient the ADP’s work in Lima by starting with a clear working text and formal groups that focus negotiation on all core elements of agreement.  Ecuador, representing the LMDCs, drew a very clear picture of what it wanted to avoid:  “We represent sovereign states.  We expect to negotiate with dignity,” not in huddles resulting from a mismanaged process.  South Africa, concluding that “the latest version does not reflect the bridges that we’ve built,” additionally called for appointing facilitators to lead these focused groups and working specifically from an updated and reorganized version of the current non-paper.  While directing her remarks to the Co-Chairs, the SA lead ADP negotiator reminded everyone in the room – State Party delegates, UNFCCC staff, civil society organizations –  that “time is not on our side.” Picking up on this last point, the Swiss ADP lead negotiator, speaking for the EIG (Environmental Integrity Group, the only UNFCCC negotiating bloc to include both developing and developed country members), redirected negotiators’ frustration from the ADP leadership to its membership:  “Slow motion this week due to speed limits imposed by parties on themselves, not by co-chairs.”  He observed that the week’s focused work on mitigation commitments had been productive, permitting the parties to delve into more detail and nuance, and commended the Co-Chairs for “creating this space.”

Next stop on the road to Lima is this week’s 40th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-40), which began meeting this morning at the Tivoli Conference Center in Copenhagen, AR5Denmark.  Its goal: to consider and finalize the IPCC’s Synthesis Report (SYR), which integrates and synthesizes the findings from the three Working Group (WG) reports already published. Taken together, the three WG reports and the SYR will make up the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) that the 196 UNFCCC parties will rely on in Lima. From today until the final gavel on Friday, the IPCC will approve, line by line, the SYR’s Summary for Policymakers (SPM) and adopt the draft SYR – no mean feat, given that more than 800 authors and review editors from 85 countries have had a hand in preparing AR5 during the past six years.  Maybe the IPCC’s process could suggest some conflict resolution techniques for the UNFCCC parties?


Over 400,000 Come Together in NYC for People’s Climate March

Yesterday over 400 thousand people marched through the streets of New York City yelling, singing, drumming, and clamoring for climate change justice. The march made the front page of the New York Times as the largest single environmental gathering in history, but across the world yesterday cities came together: 30,000 in Melbourne, almost 5,000 in Paris, 40,000 in London, 15,000 in Berlin, and 5,000 in Rio de Janeiro, to name just a few of the other 2,500 events around the globe. In New York, six of our delegation joined the march, myself included.

For march5me, the trip started at 3 A.M. in Vermont when a group of us left the V.L.S. parking lot, car-pooling to a bus in Montpelier filled with climate marchers, headed straight to N.Y.C. As we boarded, I took a glimpse up at the stars remembering my awe of the natural wonders of this world and wondered whether future generations would have clear skies to view these celestial lights. In my excitement, I anticipated singing, speeches, and storytelling on the bus, but in the early A.M., mostly we all just slept. It wasn’t until we approached the city that people really started stirring, and to fulfill our expectation of civil demonstrations, we quietly sang one song. But as soon as the bus parked, the activity started. The first sound to hit us of the streets of New York was the strong rhythm of a band of African drummers, playing as they made their way down the sidewalk to the March. On the same block, posters were set out with markers, the top stated in bold: “I’m Marching For” with a blank underneath for each person to write their own reasons for marching. In the blanks some wrote, “the Humans,” My Unborn Children,” or “My Mom.” As we moved closer to Central Park, the crowds drew denser; I saw more signs with messages from organizations and individuals with declarations of hope, anger, representation, and action. In the running for cutest sign was one carried by a little boy around three or four. Next to a drawing of a tiger, it said, “I like tigers,” and on the back it said “Save the tigers.”

We stood without moving in the masses for nearly two hours, marchmarchoccupying ourselves by meeting strangers and hollering out chants, such as, “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!” and “Divest, divest, put fossil fuels to rest!” Eventually real marching commenced. The march stretched a mile through N.Y.C.’s busy streets, down Central Park West, through Times Square, and eventually culminating in a block party on 42nd. I realized at Columbus Circle exactly how incredible it was to to be standing in that street, the rush and isolation of the automobile, for that moment, completely displaced for individuals in collective procession. My reverie ended when another chant broke out: “What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!” Perhaps the most powerful moment during the march was the moment of silence, where thousands of people stood together completely silent honoring those already lost due to climate change. The moment ended in a grand alarm with ringing bells and shouts; we must have action now.

For those interested in celebrity sightings, there were plenty, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gorden Levitt, I was happy to spot Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, but also would have loved to see Ban Ki-Moon, who was marching with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Al Gore, and Jane Goodall. But Ban Ki-moon at Climate Marchmore impressive than any particular individual in attendance was the vast diversity of the populace represented. There were blocs for the youth, for energy, for different states (I started the march in Vermont’s bloc); there were Buddhists and vegans, Indigenous groups, Unitarians, people of all ages (the youngest not yet even born)–all marching in solidarity. At one point I saw a huge arc that exemplified the feeling. On it stood a man carrying a sign, which read: “An atheist on the arc? Unite for climate justice!”

The big question at the end of the day as we all stood around exhausted but still warm with excitement, was “what next?” How do we keep this energy up and move it onto the next project of building new systems and policies to bring our march chants into pragmatic codes? Of course, many are already deep in the process of building changes to battle climate change. The UN will be continuing its work tomorrow at the UN Climate Summit. Millions are already working within their communities, but there is still more to go, and I hope we can keep our voices up as we all head back to our respective homes and keep that global solidarity with us and we continue working for climate justice in our own communities and projects. I got home exhausted, sweaty, and hopeful.


Chinese citizen suit on air pollution

When looking at the local factors that can shape a UNFCCC state party’s “nationally determined” contribution or commitment, litigation looms large in the U.S.  Exhibit A: President Obama’s decision to use his executive branch authority to implement his Climate Action Plan.  Although he intends to deliver SCOTUSon the U.S. promise to reduce its GHG emissions 17% below the 2005 baseline, the President still can’t move any faster than legal challenges to his rulemaking permit.  While the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA led to the EPA making an endangerment finding on carbon dioxide and then regulating it under the Clean Air Act’s mobile source authority, the agency’s decision to expand regulation to stationary sources like factories and electricity generation facilities has been challenged in court by industry.  Yesterday, the USSC heard oral argument on Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, where the specific question presented on certiorari is “whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.”  This Christian Science Monitor article tees up the case and this one predicts that the stationary souce rule will be struck down based on the oral arguments.

Litigation in China, however, isn’t as frequent – or at least, as well known.  That’s why a report today on a suit filed by a person in smog-ridden Hebei Province north of Beijing merits attention.  Many recent news china air pollutionarticles from Chinese state media have indicated increased Environment Ministry efforts to curb China’s well-known air pollution.  But there have been few reports of individual litigants challenging government action or inaction.  Li Guixin, a resident of Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern province of Hebei, submitted his complaint to a district court asking the city’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law.”  He also asked for compensation.  Li claims money spent on face masks, an air purifier, and a treadmill to get indoor exercise in December are due to him:  “Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes.”  For more on the suit and the government’s response, read here.