Justice Not Charity: It’s Just Compensation

Article 8 of the Paris Agreement was monumental for advocates of Loss and Damage. But the first draft of Article 8 reveals the concessions and compromises developing countries made to get it. Notably struck from the final version are the words and concepts of “compensation.” In the early draft, “compensation” was referred to as a “regime” for developing countries to receive support – specifically “LDCs, SIDS, and countries in Africa affected by slow onset events.” Without this clause, developing countries are left to the ambiguity of the current Article 8. Ever since, there has been financial tension between developed and developing countries to provide for the tragic loss and damage costs climate change has incurred.

Without the context of “compensation” in the Paris Agreement (and without any formal agreements afterwards), many developing countries are left with a seemingly lack of avenues to finance their recovery efforts. Fortunately, not all these avenues have closed against them. Formal litigation efforts for climate change damages is one burgeoning justice avenue developing countries may use to collect remedies from historically polluting countries. As climate change litigation gains traction, advocates should pay attention to framing loss and damage issues as a matter of justice rather than a matter of humanitarian aid. As Sabine Minigner of Brot for die Welt said on Tuesday (11/14/2017), climate change compensation is not charity but justice. Developing countries should not be penalized for carbon emissions they did not emit.

This burgeoning legal environmental justice concept can be seen in U.S. courts of common law. For example, the monumental case of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil began with a vulnerable people’s group in Alaska. The eventual plaintiff-appellants alleged that many fossil fuel giants (oil, coal, electric utilities, etc.) had contributed to global warming. Under tort law they sued for remedies of $400 million under public nuisance. The case was unfortunately dismissed for judicial doctrinal reasons. But even though the plaintiffs in Kivalina did not succeed, their litigation proves an important stepping stone as U.S. courts grapple with justice for those impacted by climate justice.

The U.S. is not unique in its litigation – many other countries are establishing legal avenues through plaintiff actions to bring polluters to justice. Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 1.43.13 AMBut the Kivalina case is still unique in that the plaintiffs were not seeking injunctive or immediate action, but reactive after-the-fact measures to bring them to their previous status quo. This was not litigation with goals for unjust enrichment. It was a matter of loss and damages and how a plaintiff can get a tortfeasor to compensate them for such. In that sense, climate change litigation parallels concepts of tort litigation.

And in most, if not all, tort casebooks the themes of justice, equity, and fairness are featured. The basic concept being that if one person hurts another, the tortfeasor (the one hurt) should be held liable in court to restore that person as far as they have damaged them. With this in mind, climate change litigation – as an arm of justice – may operate similarly.  Maybe climate change litigation will gain more traction as those without, sue those who have and courts get more comfortable with climate science within their courts. So even though the Warsaw Implementation Mechanism will wait for another Excom to determine its finance arm, vulnerable people groups may have another avenue to recover incurred climate change damages from polluters. And really they should, it would just be justice taking form in compensation.


Money doesn’t grow on trees

moneytreeWalking into the COP, observer and party delegations alike are given a bar of chocolate. And while the candy bar does not give its holder a Golden Ticket, it does draw chocolate-lovers’ attention to an important message for the Trillion Tree Campaign. That campaign is spearheaded by Plant-for-the-Planet, an NGO launched in 2007 by a nine-year-old boy to plant a trillion trees on the world’s degraded forest land. Such efforts are priceless when it comes to climate change: trees are the only “machines” on earth that can store carbon. Plus, they provide invaluable resources (like cacao for the COP’s beloved chocolate).

The Paris Agreement highlights the importance of forests, as well. Article 5 of the Agreement calls for parties to take action in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and to conserve and enhance sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases. Programs like REDD+ aim to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Working under the UNFCCC, REDD+ provides technical and financial support for developing countries to reduce emissions and enhance the removal of greenhouse gases.

The biggest challenge for REDD+ is now moving to implementation. At the COP, parties are discussing–and will soon decide–what implementation should look like in terms of governance: should the UNFCCC create a new body or structure to govern REDD+ implementation, or do the existing structures suffice? Should parties continue to meet in voluntary meetings that support implementation of activities that contribute to mitigation actions in the forest sector, or have these meetings already served their purpose?

One argument put forth by many developed countries–who are against future voluntary meetings–is the Green Climate Fund’s (GCF) recent decision to allocate $500 million to results-based financing for REDD+ activities. This decision, as the argument goes, shows that the financial landscape for REDD+ implementation is now in place, and that parties and entities have taken the Paris Agreement (particularly Article 5) quite seriously.

Under the program, the GCF pays at most $5 per ton of CO2eq of emissions reduced. The pilot program applies to projects showing results between 2013-2018, and thus is still open for developing countries.

The decision is a result of multilateral negotiations, which were not–and are never–perfect or easy. But the decision took into account a large spectrum of national interests. Many countries do not want to compromise this decision by reaching alternative conclusions in future voluntary meetings for REDD+.

With a scorecard indicating the highest standard for REDD+ activities, developing countries now have a gold standard for the program that sets the bar high for financing. For the sake of REDD+ and the Paris Agreement, it is important that results-based financing has become a part of GCF’s portfolio: this provides GCF with the opportunity to test the waters of this approach while also inspiring a race to the top in implementing REDD+.


Future of the Adaptation Fund: Developing Countries vs. Developed Countries

adaptation-fund-logoThe Adaptation Fund (AF) is a mechanism created through the Marrakesh Accords but funded through the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) described in the Kyoto Protocol. The intention of the COP in the creation of the AF is the facilitation and funding of adaptation projects in developing countries to strengthen their resistance to climate change. Two percent of the funds invested in CDMs go to the Adaptation Fund where the money can then be divvied out to developing countries when they send in proposals. But the Kyoto Protocol was only intended to last ten years. Enacted in 2010, the Kyoto Protocol will reach its end in 2020 and with the end of the Kyoto Protocol comes the end of CDMs, and thus the end of the funding for the Adaptation Fund.

At COP23 there have been significant concerns about the future of the Adaptation Fund, where future funding will come from, and if that means the Fund will operate in the same manner as before. But these issues, as most do, draw a dividing line between developing countries and developed countries. In the most recent review of the Adaptation Fund in COP23, developing countries continued to emphasize the critical nature of the Fund in providing critical finasudanncial assistance as these countries attempt to adapt to the increasing effects of climate change. Many developing countries have emphasized the need for the increase in the scope of the Adaptation Fund, finding the review of the Adaptation Fund Board too narrow and limiting the abilities of these countries to acquire necessary funding. Developing countries also emphasized the need for certain aspects of the Fund that have caused them concern. This includes predictability, adequacy, and consistency. In particular, the Least Developed Countries negotiating group advocated for a further integration of the Adaptation Fund into the Paris Agreement in order to facilitate the continuance of the Fund and the assistance it provides to the LDCs.

Developed countries, on the other hand, had little opinions on the continuation of the Adaptation Fund. In the Marrakesh Accords, the purpose of the Fund was intended to assist in developing countries on their climate change resilience initiatives. No benefit was gleaned by the developed countries in the implementation of this Fund. And they will glean no benefit from the continuance of this Fund under the Paris Agreement. But there was no equal assessment in how to address the Adaptation Fund from the perspectives of the developed countries. Some countries enjoyed the small-scale implementation techniques that function well through the Adaburkina_faso_tearfund1_1ptation Fund. Other countries advocated for the continuous improvement of the Adaptation Fund to reinforce the constantly changing needs of developing countries. Overall, developed nations appeared to be ambivalent towards the Adaptation Fund and its future; striving forward to complete the agenda item with as little fanfare as possible.

The future could be bright for the Adaptation Fund. It has the ability to further the needs of developing countries to reduce the damage sustained in the ever-increasing extreme weather and natural disasters the world is facing. But if actions aren’t taken in COP23 and future COPs then when the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2020 those funds will be out of view for the vulnerable countries that need it.


Teachers Without Borders

In the context of climate change, capacity building focuses upon developing the infrastructure, response and communication mechanisms, access to finance, climate awareness, and human capital of developing countries. This in turn enables the countries to meet carbon emission goals and develop sustainably. Developing countries face significant capacity challenges, which frustrate their ability to carry out their commitments under interactional climate change agreements. These issues stem from a lack of public awareness, shortage of experts and research institutions, insufficient international, aid and domestic political instability.

The COP 23 capacity building session entitled “Balancing International Standards & National Context” further delved into this issue. Speaker John O Niles, representing the Carbon Institute, identified the need of a stable workforce that can measure, report and verify obligations under international agreements as invaluable elements of download (1)effective capacity building. For instance, the Paris Agreement requires “soft” pledges of domestic commitments to take inventories of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), submit national communications, make pledges, and then implement those pledges over time. This essentially requires capacity in the form of a “GHG accountant” at each step of the process to be making assessments and informing policy decisions. Without an active educated workforce, this process falls apart.

Ideal capacity building allows for sustained and transformative development of domestic infrastructure. In other words, ideal projects would lead to the creation of an educated workforce well-equipped and funded to address international climate change obligations. Traditionally, capacity building has taken the form of monetary investment paired with training by experts. These are usually conducted via bilateral and multilateral efforts. This often involves a developing country investing money in consultancy companies which provide training workshops. These short-term assistance projects can be unresponsive or unadaptable to the local customs, political climate, and economic markets. In addition, many are considered high risk investments that deter possible foreign investors. Thus, capacity building has met with many challenges to effective implementation. However, new strategies to implementing capacity building have been gaining traction.

One such expanding  category of capacity building that has met with increased success is the trans-border partnership of academic institutions. These allow for sustained negotiations and trainings between developed institutions and developing countries. For instance, Emory University initiated the Global Climate Initiative by partnering with Nanjing University. This relationship provides mutually beneficial collaboration on climate change issues and trains a new generation of internationally-aware students. Additionally, the Norad Program allows for training of faculty and universities. Norad connects himagesigher education institutions within Ethiopia, Malawi, and Norway. This program develops an educated faculty, improves regional collaboration, and enhances outreach to local communities by their home institutions. These partnerships between academia and developing governments is beneficial because it allows national governments and their respective universities to build a qualified workforce.


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
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    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
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    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

 


Trump’s proposed budget would cut US international climate change work significantly

trump budgetAccording to Inside Climate News, the Trump Administration’s recently unveiled budget proposal would cut $10.1 billion from the United States’ current international climate work, which represents a 28% reduction from the status quo.

It would eliminate the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), which funds all climate-related bilateral efforts, like collaborations with China and India, and contributes to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The GCCI also assists developing countries manage their emissions and increase their renewable energy capacity.

The proposed budget also eliminates the U.S. contribution to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which helps developing countries prepare for climate impacts. The U.S. under the Obama Administration has pledged $3 billion to the GCF, and thus far,$1 billion has been paid.

In a recent press conference on the budget, Michael Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, represented the administration’s views on climate change: “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.”


Adaptation and Climate Resilience – Help Wanted

climate_change_adaptationA recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) half-day seminar – Climate Change Adaptation Investments and Measuring Effectiveness – considered a pressing suite of interrelated issues. As Timmons Roberts of Brown University (one of the moderators) stated, “[t]his seminar is not an academic exercise.” Developing countries urgently need climate change adaptation help and they want and need to know if the commitments from developed countries are being met.

Their concerns go back to a key premise for the Paris Agreement (PA) – developing countries agreeing to compromise their own fossil fuel industrialization (a faster, less expensive path toward poverty reduction than leaping over it into renewables) in exchange for the promise of greater support for both mitigation and adaptation. This weighed heavily last month in Marrakech, especially with release of the controversial Climate Finance “Roadmap” by a subset of OECD countries just before the climate conference. In addition to objections to the Roadmap’s methodology (we touched on this here), the much greater support documented so far for mitigation over adaptation flew directly in the face of the balance between the two that had served as another “ground rule” for achieving PA consensus.Tracking-Climate-Finance-400x264

With that backdrop, this NAS seminar featured academic, investment, agency, and civil society perspectives from around the world that explored:

  • How adaptation action is counted, financed and evaluated, including in the context of climate resilient development;
  • The challenges of adaptation investment decision-making within competing and sometimes overlapping contexts (e.g., the relationships of strict criteria to vulnerability reduction to resilience building, and of adaptation finance to climate finance to development finance); and
  • How the effectiveness of adaptation activities and resilience building can and should be measured.ccrc_wordcloud

The discussion helped illuminate an evolution of terminology, concepts and experience at the intersection of adaptation science, practice and policy. The response to climate change is no longer just about mitigation and adaptation. The PA’s purpose (laid out in Article 2) clearly broadens that response to include climate resilience, while also omitting “adaptation” from the language on finance flows (i.e., making them “consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development”).

This evolution is confounding decision-making around support and evaluation, which is in turn impacting the accounting of adaptation finance and the capacity of on-the-ground communities to adequatefieldly deal with climate change.

These are a few of the key takeaways drawn from the robust presentations and discussion:

  • The ultimate goal is that of reducing vulnerability, and the strategy is to build dynamic climate resilience (not just resilience to a certain set of conditions). Thus, resilience, as a goal, should be embedded into adaptation interventions/projects of every kind, with regular reviews tied to the results of resilience building activities.
  • A shared system of resiliency principles is needed to guide financial support and implementation, as opposed to a unified definition of adaptation (as crafted by a cadre of multi-lateral development banks) or a host of different definitions (currently being utilized by a broad set of agencies).
  • There is no convergence across the wide-ranging landscape of indicators of success and their associated metrics; but tapping other fields (e.g., evaluation) and establishing linkages between developers and implementers can significantly address this issue.
  • Lessons to date point to adopting flexible adaptation pathways and success indicators that: a) account for all system resources (economic and non-), and b) rely on iterative, stakeholder-sensitive decisions over time (built-in learning, decision-making under uncertainty).

Let’s hope these and other lessons rapidly translate into credible, applicable guidance capable of assuring finance support accountability and long-term effectiveness of on-the-ground interventions. Developing countries need both.


A Numbers “Crunch” – Trump & The UNFCCC

Number-crunchingLike most every other institution around the globe, for a while now, the UNFCCC has been called on to do more with less. This is clearly reflected in the Executive Secretary’s recent budget presentations that report contributions to UNFCCC trust funds have declined significantly for at least the last 5 years. In fact, 2016 contributions are just 43% of the 2012 level. And all the while, the COP has added new tasks, including, most recently, the raft of work associated with the 2015 Paris Agreement.reduce-boost-graph SmallbizTrends

At a COP22 informal session on November 11, Espinosa shared that the Secretariat, with its mandated zero-growth budget, will be unable to fully deliver on its current mandates. So, all countries are being called on to meet their full commitments and to increase their voluntary contributions.

It just so happens that the U.S. is a big piece of this budget picture, contributing (as of October 21) more than 20% of the total $30.3 mill* in 2016 receipts for the 3 non-Kyoto Protocol related funds. These include the Trust Fund for the Core Budget (with country-specific contribution levels based on UN-determined proportions) and two voluntary funds: Trust Fund for Supplementary Activities and Trust Fund for Participation in the UNFCCC Process (the latter to help developing country Parties attend COPs and other meetings).

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 11.50.06 PMAnd, of course, there is the ongoing U.S. climate funding via appropriations from Congress, development finance, and export credit, which totaled $2.6 billion in 2015. That was before $500 million was transmitted to the Green Climate Fund earlier this year in partial fulfillment of the $3 billion U.S. promise (that constitutes 30% of that fund’s total pledges). All of it adds up to a very big number in the climate finance world.

Then, on November 8, from stage right: enter President-elect Trump.

While the potential impact on the climate regime is about more than money (check out our Monday story), the finance implications are indeed great. Considering Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges, the Republican Party’s platform position, and the Transition Team’s recent statements, when it comes to climate funding, those calculators only subtract.

Many negotiators and high-level ministers attending COP22 from around the world have been cautioning against hasty speculation on U.S. policy post-January 20, 2017. Behind the scenes, however, and certainly within the Secretariat, the number crunching has doubtless turned to nail biting.

 

* Based on 11/17/16 EUR-USD exchange rate

(Image credits: Calculator = seocopywriting.com; Diverging costs/revenue= smallbiztrends.com; Scissors & currency= neatoday.org)


Bridging the Gap between NDC Commitments and NDC Implementation

During this morning’s Joint High Level Segment, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Cooper Pershing delivered the U.S. National Statement. Addressing the combined meeting of the COP22/CMP12/CMA1, Pershing said, “With the policies already in place, the United States is well-positioned to meet its Paris Agreement targets” and that through current market trends, “the transition to clean energy is inevitable.” These are reassuring words to those wondering if the U.S. can bridge the gap between its Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) and its policies.

Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Lord Nicholas Stern echoed these sentiments today at a COP 22 Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment event presenting the institute’s latest COP study. Lord Stern, Grantham Institute Chair and member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, emphasized the importance of federal structure, stating, “The best way for Parties to implement NDCs is to create supporting policies regionally and locally through cities, states, and provinces.” Pledges are only as good as their implementation. Governments will need to continue to translate words into action through understanding, informed by research, science and policy.  Policy is the bridge. Parties now need the courage to cross it.


Mobilizing the Private Sector to Finance Adaptation

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Today at COP 22 the Japanese delegation hosted a side event at their pavilion about mobilizing the private sector to finance climate change adaptation. The panelists discussed ways to involve the private sector from regional, business, and public policy perspectives. The panelist from Bangladesh, Dr. Saleemul Huq, then present specific examples of how the private sector has helped mobilize adaptation finance in his country. The World Bank estimates that $70-100 billion will be need annually from 2010-2100 to adapt to the impacts of climate change. It also estimates that the private sector could mobilize $140-240 billion for adaptive measures annually during the same period. However, very few companies are pursuing these adaptive measures, due in large part to the lack of profitability. To mobilize the private sector, governments and international organizations must incentivize investments and enhance monitoring and reporting efforts to ensure sufficient return on investments. The private sector will only finance adaptation measures that are also good for their bottom line.

Dr. Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development at Independent University and lead author of chapters in the IPCC’s Assessment Reports provided an example of a good adaptation measure and a bad, or maladaptation, measure. Both projects involved mobilizing private sector finance to adapt to climate change . But the latter created more problems than it solved. In the good example, a private agricultural business developed and sold salt-water resistant rice to combat the inundation of rice fields by salt water. The company turned a profit and made a vulnerable population more resilient. In the maladaptation example, a private aquaculture company bought up inundated rice fields, turned them into shrimping operations, and then leased the operations to the farmers. These shrimping operations are good for the companies, who turn massive profits, and the government, which taxes the shrimp exports. While this practice is aimed at adapting to an increasingly saline ecosystem, it is highly exploitative of the rice farmers, most of whom lost their jobs after selling their farms, and drastically altered the landscape by making it entirely salt-water based. The company turned a profit but the social and environmental impacts made a vulnerable population more vulnerable. These examples underscore the opportunities and challenges associated with mobilizing private sector finance to adapt to climate change. We have to remember that in board rooms and commercial banks, money talks and altruism takes the backseat. 


LDCs – Concern, yet hope, entering Week 2 of COP22

Courtesy www.afd/frAt the end of the first week, many were expressing concern that Marrakech’s purported COP of Action wasn’t measuring up for the world’s most vulnerable countries. Yesterday morning, Least Developed Countries (LDC) Chair, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, identified troubles on key issues of ambition, adaptation / loss & damage, and climate finance. In particular, he noted that:Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 3.37.17 PM

  • The Paris Agreement rulebook development is being stymied and strong action on pre2020 commitments is not materializing.
  • Adaptation needs of the most vulnerable, exploding as a result of inadequate mitigation by developed countries for decades, are not being addressed in a balanced manner, with even the adaptation registry being complicated. And, foot dragging on other seemingly simple decisions, such as the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), is eroding trust and confidence that the global community will concretely respond to the very real and devastating losses and damages increasingly suffered by poor countries on the front lines of climate change impacts.
  • Developed countries have been blocking the Paris-mandated inclusion of the Adaptation Fund in the Paris Agreement rulebook, and the developed country recent “roadmap” to reach the promised $100 billion/year by 2020 lacks credibility – – unfortunate circumstances in the face of developing countries’ low-carbon climate resilient development needs now estimated to collectively exceed $4 trillion.

Work did continue yesterday, while heads of state and ministers arrived for the high-level segment. By the end of the day, among some positive developments were two improved draft decisions on the WIM (here and here). (More on these to come.) Additionally, the Green Climate Fund expedited grants for Liberia’s and Nepal’s National Adaptation Plans. Climate finance remains a hot topic on this week’s COP22 agenda, in particular, the upcoming High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance; so, Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 3.09.30 PMhope remains for new and encouraging news on that front. (Check back with us on this, too!)

 

Photo credits: Action Time courtesy www.afd/fr; Informal negotiations courtesy iisd enb


Bonn Challenge Takes First Steps

rainforestThe Bonn Challenge is a global initiative to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2020, and 350 million by 2030. So far, 38 countries have pledged to restore 124.32 million hectares in order to achieve this goal. The challenge now is holding these nations to their commitments and ensuring the necessary financing mechanisms are in place to support their efforts.

A partnership of several organizations, including the Global Canopy Programme and Unlocking Forest Finance, has initiated three pilot programs in South America to test a landscape-focused approach. A landscape restoration project focuses on the drivers of deforestation – generally, agriculture and poverty – and works with local communities to manage land uses in a way that meets the needs of the community and the needs of the ecosystem as a whole.

The pilots focus on finding private investors to build disneypermanent markets for premium crops, rather than securing government and NGO grants, because these partnerships will be more permanent and sustainable than a government-sponsored program. For example, Walt Disney has partnered with local coffee farmers in San Martin, Peru to grow sustainably harvested coffee at a fair price for exclusive sale at Disney World. This guarantees the farmers a premium market that ensures their continued participation in the program.

In addition, today the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the launching of its new website for tracking news, analysis, resources, and updates on forest landscape restoration projects around the world. The website so far provides detailed analysis on policies, successes, and failures in 42 different nations. It will also soon offer a “Bonn Challenge Barometer,” which will quantifiably track forest landscape restoration successes in support of the Bonn Challenge and provide resources to help address obstacles to progress.


Ecological Migration and Migrating Towards Ambitious Climate Change Commitments at COP22

In 2011, the UN projected that the world will have 50 million environmental refugees by 2020. These are people who need to resettle due to climate change impacts such as drought, food shortage, disease, flooding, desertification, soil erosion, deforestation, and other environmental problems. This past week the New York Times released two stories about the plight of “ecological migrants” in the deserts of northern China. The first is a visual narrative about people living in the expanding Tengger Desert. The second article highlights the world’s largest environmental migrant resettlement project, in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

“Ecological migrants” are the millions of people whom the Chinese government had to relocate from lands distressed by climate change, industrialization, and human activity to 161 hastily built villages. China has already resettled 1.14 million residents of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where the average temperature has risen 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years (more than half of that increase occurring from 2001 to 2010) and annual precipitation has dropped about 5.7 millimeters every decade since the 1960s.

China is only one example of a region where people have had to relocate due to climate change. Where will everyone go? This is a problem that all countries need to figure out quickly because, if the UN’s prediction is accurate, the current system of asylum, refugee resettlement, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) may prove inadequate.

The Marshall Islands need to figure out where their people will go as their island nation is quickly disappearing underwater. Predictions of dangerous tropical storms and rising salt levels in their drinking water may force citizens to flee even before the entire island is lost. In Bangladesh, about 17% of the land could be inundated by 2050, displacing an additional 18 million people.

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Road leading to Isle de Jean Charles often floods, cutting off the community.Credit: Josh Haner/The New York Times.

Climate change relocations are not limited to small, developing nations. The United States has begun preparing for its own. In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced grants up to $1 billion in 13 states to help communities adapt to climate change, including the first allocation of federal money to move an entire community due to the impacts of climate change: a $48 million grant for Isle de Jean Charles.

Other than the overcrowding of cities and uprooting and destruction of rural lifestyles, the global refugee crisis presents a larger concern: national security. Last year at COP21 in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tied the conflict in Syria and the resulting global refugee crisis to climate change. Secretary Kerry linked Syria’s drought and resulting urban migration—first domestic, then international—as a key factor to the civil war. This was a relevant example of how climate change can exacerbate existing political turmoil within a country.

Thus, all countries must stay committed to climate change goals, not only for maintaining millions of people’s lives and homes, but for national safety throughout the world. Whether they consider it a focus or not, many countries are currently facing the problem of creating new domestic policies on immigration. While it may be too late for some vulnerable areas to completely avoid the need to relocate its people, every climate change action helps mitigate the problem. Hopefully the issue of relocation and climate change refugees or “ecological migrants” will push countries to be more ambitious about their climate change actions at the upcoming COP22.


SCF, Meet Loss and Damage

financeThe Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and damage (L&D) is going on a somewhat surprising date this year with the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF). The job of the SCF is to assist the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in conducting its climate finance functions. The job of the WIM is to enhance action and support to address loss and damage in developing countries particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts. (We’ve covered the WIM and L&D extensively, e.g., here, here and here.)

The reason this ‘date’ is interesting is that nowhere in any COP decisions is the SCF directly instructed to engage the issue of L&D or pursue a close relationship with the WIM. Climate finance language is strictly aimed at mitigation, adaptation, and building capacity and enabling environments for those. Yet, sometime in mid-2016, the SCF will hold its annual Forum Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 7.38.12 PMdesigned to advance communication and information exchange as well as linkages. And, this forum’s topic will be: “Financial instruments that address the risks of loss and damage.”

It is true that, at COP19, Parties asked the SCF to “further enhance its linkages with the Subsidiary Body for Implementation and the thematic bodies of the Convention.” It is also true that, at COP21, Parties decided to endorse the SCF’s 2016-2017 workplan, which included this year’s Forum. But the guardian may not realize what seriousness (mischief?) might come of this liaison between two of its wards.

The WIM’s Executive Committee actually made the first move at SCF’s 11th meeting in October 2015, requesting the ‘date’ based on an aspect of its 2-year workplan approved by COP20. And, while the WIM might not have looked like the SCF’s type, there apparently was enough chemistry for a quick “Yes.” Earlier this month, at the SCF’s 12th meeting, the 20 Committee members reviewed input from multiple stakeholders and got the plans rolling.Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 7.33.26 PM

What makes this kind of engagement between the SCF and the WIM important, is that, even though the Paris Agreement includes a distinct article on L&D (quite a significant outcome), it contains no provision for financing efforts to address this critical climate change issue. Thus, the SCF giving its attention to L&D could be extremely influential.

One clear way this can happen beyond the exposure and focus of the forum, is through the 2016 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows (BA), on which the SCF began work during its 12th meeting. The BA is a comprehensive compilation used to support the COP’s climate finance responsibilities. Not surprisingly, L&D received no attention in the 2014 edition. ba_titleIt most certainly will in the 2016 BA, with the Forum’s attention to this substantive issue.

Where Parties take it from there will tell a lot about the prospects for these two. Will the SCF and WIM really bond? Will they decide to go steady? Might there be a real future for L&D under the climate finance wing of the climate regime? Some are undoubtedly dreaming of wedded bliss!Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.13.32 PM


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