COP19 RINGOs Calling

Beth Martin, Engineering and Science Director / Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic at Washington University in St. Louis, is working to pull together a list of RINGO students and advisors who attended this year’s COP and/or are interested in sending students and advisors to future COPs.

Beth writes: “The idea of pulling together a network is to better enable communication between both students and faculty in the Young RINGO context (students attending COP in a research capacity).This would enable students in programs to  build connections and compare notes and at the same time provide faculty a way to do the same. I am beginning to pull this together and at this point I am not sure what the final form(s) will be.  A LinkedIn network and Facebook group have both been suggested, for example.  But first – I am collecting names.  Please contact Beth at martin@wulaw.wustl.edu if you:

1)  want to be in this network.

2)  know others from your institution who want to be included.

3)  know other institutions who want to be included.

4)  have suggestions for the form of the network.”

university grp shotI met Beth in November when we were both leading delegations to COP19 in Warsaw.  She and I organized a social gathering during the COP’s first week – and were happily surprised by some 30 students and professors who turned out and spent a couple of evening hours at our apartment sharing their COP19 work and experiences.

Beth also passes on a request from Sara Kerosky, Research Associate in the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at UCSD.  Sara’s lab is doing a survey of how NGOs use (or not use) international law in their advocacy work.  She and her colleagues hope to complete their research soon and share the results so that NGOs may use them when working at future COPs.  The link to the survey is http://tinyurl.com/ILARenvironment.  I spent a solid half hour taking the survey yesterday and found myself more deeply thinking about the development of international environmental law (vs. policy), the UNFCCC process, and the various roles that a variety of NGOs play in it.  Time well spent on several levels.

 

 


Side (event) . . .

Side events can more than occupy one’s time at a COP.  Presented by a range of actors — academics, activists, businesses, government agencies — they can range in content and quality.  Thus I was fortunate that the few I attended at COP19, given my focus on tracking the ADP negotiations, were fascinating and informative.

IMG_4254

Joana Abrego of the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental, at right.

On the Saturday mid-COP, a day-long conference on human rights and climate chance organized by the Yale University Governments and Environmental Markets Initiative, UNITAR, and the law faculty of the University of Warsaw (that Heather covered well) sought to bring together activists and academics “to
examine how substantive and procedural rights can be used to support, design, and implement effective and equitable solutions to address climate change.”  The third session of the day addressed “human rights, safeguards, and climate mechanisms.”  Dr. Constance McDermott of the University of Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests & Environmental Change Institute provided an overview of forest program safeguards, noting that while the context for the COP19 discussion is REDD+, that these safeguards are rooted in financial institutions like the World Bank.  Joana Abrego of the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental encouraged academics to research the actual implementation of public participation requirements of CDM and REDD+ programs, not just their theoretical constructs.  She described conditions in Panama, where 33% of the territory is protected area, 76% is inhabited by indigenous peoples, and more bird species exist than in U.S. and Canada combined.  She spoke of Panama’s interest in hosting CDM projects, almost all hydropower projects.  With 19 registered projects and 48 in the pipeline, required community engagement and participation have varied significantly.  Abrego described one proposed CDM project, Barro Blanco, which indigenous people fought because of the effect on their river but was nonetheless approved for CDM registration, and Bonyic, another dam project within indigenous peoples’ territory that was rejected by the CDM.  Given this uneven human rights track record, she underscored the need for both research and activism on developing clean energy while protecting IP rights.

Allie Silverman '12 of CIEL.

Allie Silverman ’12 of CIEL.

Allie Silverman of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) focused on safeguards within the REDD+ program of the UNFCCC.  She began by acknowledging that these safeguards, which are procedural and substantive in nature, can be seen by different beholders as either a market-based way to reduce emissions by protecting forests and communities or an attack on indigineous communities, given their traditional place outside international markets.  While CIEL doesn’t take a pro or con position on REDD+ safeguards, it does see the risks of the relatively minimal safeguards, especially as they are put into play on the ground. Allie, VLS’12, who is one of my amazing former students, described CIEL’s rights-based approach to REDD+ project development, implementation, and ongoing monitoring (harkening back to Abrego’s point) and specific projects to extend its reach.  For example, she previewed a web tool (currently in beta form, undergoing peer review) that will provide access to a variety of legal instruments for countries considering REDD projects (e.g. those on self-determination, right to participate, ILO 169, information and consent), intended to help lawyers and legal activitists do their work more effectively.  CIEL is also creating a community guide that builds on the more technical legal information in the web tool to strengthen work with civil society groups like indigenous peoples groups.

In sum, an incredibly exciting side event session, where I learned about one slice of international climate change law as applied and studied from both the ground up and the top down.

And had the joy of watching a former student show her passion for her work post VLS.  Lex pro urbe et orbe.  Law for the community and the world.


Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

“The only people with the power to actually change anything are the local elected officials.”
– the Environmental Minister of Ghent, Belgium

No matter what happens in the international climate change negotiations, there is one thing everyone can agree on: the impacts of climate change, and the actions taken to address it, will ultimately happen on a local level.

This was recognized by the United Nations during the first-ever “Cities Day” on Thursday (full title: “COP Presidency Cities and Sub-national Dialogue of the Cities Day”), which would have been a real milestone if not for what Christiana Figueres called “the elephant in the room”: the delegates negotiating the ADP had cut the provisions that many in the room had worked so hard to get in.

“I know you were delighted to see the original text [proposed] by the chairs… and know you must be disappointed by the version this morning,” the Executive Secretary stated.

It’s been a bit of a ride this week for organizations like ICLEI, and C40, groups representing coalitions of cities or mayors working on climate change. They’re more or less in the same role as the rest of the ENGOs hanging around the COP, as cities cannot be Parties to the UNFCCC. Although I do hope that a mayor would have a little bit more luck getting a meeting with a negotiator.  Regardless, they are in the same place as everyone else right now; waiting to see what final product the ADP negotiators’ late-night last-day quarterbacking will produce.

Nantes Declaration of Mayors and Subnational Leaders on Climate Change (Sept. 2013, adopted by 50 cities and over 20 regional or intergovernmental coalitions of local governments), the ADP hosted a workshop on Thursday, November 14.  The ADP workshop on pre-2020 ambition: urbanization and the role of governments in facilitating climate action in cities directly informed the draft text that was on the negotiating table as of Monday this week.

Monday’s draft included a vague “activities to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation actions”, and a sub-national forum to be held in conjunction with the next ADP session in June 2014.

4(f) Welcoming and encouraging activities to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation actions, including through cooperative initiatives, at the national and multilateral levels and by subnational and local governments and non-State actors;

5(b) The organization of a forum to identify key priority areas for collaborative work on mitigation and adaptation at the sub-national level, to be convened in conjunction with the session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action that is held concurrently with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies (June 2014);

In Thursday morning’s draft, that language disappears, replaced by a plan for a new –something- to facilitate sharing of best practices by cities in order to enhance mitigation ambition, under an entirely new number. The ADP negotiators have a funny way of saying “Happy Cities Day”.

7. Resolves to enhance mitigation ambition, as a matter of urgency and guided by the principles of the Convention, by accelerating the full implementation of the decisions constituting the agreed outcome pursuant to decision 1/CP.13 (Bali Action Plan)1 and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol2 and by launching the [X] to ensure the highest possible mitigation efforts under the Convention by:

As of Friday morning, the text looked much better. ICLEI President David Cadman encouraged people in the morning Cities Day events to talk to negotiators to get the original language back in, and seems to have succeeded. Cities and subnational governments are included in plans for technical meetings in conjunction with the next ADP session in June; the sub-national forum to be held in conjunction with the next ADP session in June 2014 returns (4d); and facilitation of exchange of info between cities included.  What it means practically is more meetings and reports and business as usual for the UNFCCC, but it may mean more resources for the people actually doing the work on the ground in the future.

4. The ADP requested the secretariat to conduct the following activities in order to implement decision -/CP.195:

(b) In relation to paragraph 4 of that decision, enhance the visibility on the UNFCCC website of quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets, quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments and nationally appropriate mitigation actions;

                      (i) Organize, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs of the ADP, technical expert meetings at the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential, including those identified in the technical paper “Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition”,6 with the participation of Parties, cities and other subnational authorities, civil society and the private sector;

(d)In relation to paragraph 5(b) of that decision, convene, during the session of the ADP to be held in conjunction with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies, a forum to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation.

5. Decides to accelerate activities under the workplan on enhancing mitigation ambition in accordance with decision 1/CP.17, paragraphs 7 and 8, by

(b) Facilitating the sharing among Parties of experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in identifying and implementing opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, with a view to promoting the exchange of information and voluntary cooperation;

The Final Conclusion
Late on Saturday afternoon, COP19 adopted a final text on ADP.

“Facilitating the sharing among Parties” seems to have hit the cutting room floor, but it appears that cities will in fact have a place at the expert meetings and the forum during the next ADP meeting

4. The ADP requested the secretariat to conduct the following activities in order to implement decision -/CP.19:3

(c) In relation to paragraph 5(a) of that decision:

(i) Organize, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs of the ADP, technical expert meetings at the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential, taking note of those identified in the technical paper “Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition”,4 with the participation of Parties, civil society, the private sector and cities and other subnational authorities, where appropriate;

(d) In relation to paragraph 5(b) of that decision, convene, during the session of the ADP to be held in conjunction with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies, a forum to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation.

 


Stop Climate Madness!

CAN protest Nov 22 COP19

As I approached the stadium after a kebab dinner near Rondo Warzyngtona, I heard what sounded like people singing from inside the stadium.  A lot of people.

Not having Tracy’s patience to sit in line, I went in search of the commotion.  My guess to go inside the stadium on the elusive Level 0 was correct, as I could hear the chanting much more clearly.

“Stop climate madness! Stop climate madness!” they chanted.

CAN protest Nov 22 COP19

The canny organizers of the Climate Action Network had cleverly exploited an underutilized feature of this venue, where the plenary rooms are temporary structures set up on the playing field; stadiums echo.  The 100 people or so chanting at the wall of Plenary 1 sounded like 1000.  And apparently they had gone through the proper channels to arrange this too, as there was no problem from security, even when it ended and people headed away.  The United Nations does allow protests, if you schedule it with them.

“We Stand With You! We Stand With You!” the protesters chanted, in support of the Philippines.

Will it make a difference?  As Tracy said, the delegates could hear it. And she was in the room on the other side of the stadium.

CAN protest Nov 22 COP19


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.


Enough is enough.

13 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) walked out of the CoP today in protest of the lack of action (according to them) taking place at the CoP. The 13 NGOs include: Aksyan Klima Pilipinas, ActionAid, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Constryendo Puentes, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Ibon International, International Trade Union Confederation, LDC Watch, Oxfam International, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, Peoples’ Movement on Climate Change, and WWF. Read their statement here.