Tackling Global Deforestation Emissions

47574086_322370901704236_7711810644088979456_nThe Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) organized a side event on Insights from REDD+ MRV process.  REDD+ involves the implementation of five activities and MRV stands for measuring, reporting, and verification. The event also included a panel of two countries, Malaysia and Ghana, and a LULUCF expert on their experiences with REDD+.

REDD+ MRV procedurally came from COP19 under the Warsaw Framework on REDD+. The full history on REDD+ can be found here.  Decision 13/CP.19 provided the guidelines and procedures for the technical assessment of submissions from Parties on proposed forest reference emission levels for forest reference levels. Decision 14/CP. 19 provided modalities for MRV. There are 4 steps of REDD+ MRV process which include: submission of FREL/RFL, technical assessment of FREL/FRL, submission of results as a technical annex to a BUR, and technical analysis of results.

Elizabeth Philips from Malaysia facilitated the REDD+ program in her country.  It has a system where forests are at a subnational jurisdiction.  They have a bottom-up apprREDDoach for REDD+. What they learned from this process was to have their regional experts improve the data by fixing soil carbon and looking into dead wood and dead matter. The technical assessment helped to bridge the gaps. “This was not just a system on paper, but one that has been implemented.”

Roselyn Fosuah Adjei from Ghana talked about her country’s draft submission to the UNFCCC. There are three areas that Ghana looked into: deforestation, forest degradation, and carbon stocks enhancement. One of the challenges they dealt with was illegality. Ghana’s IP based their data and maps on indigenous knowledge that is generationally passed down. Illegality was a concern because this knowledge was not recorded or stored anywhere. Ghana’s IP based their data and maps on indigenous knowledge that is generationally passed down. Due  They had some, but not all. Ghana does hope to submit a modification to its initial draft before going into the results based demonstration of REDD+.

Jason Funk, a LULUCF expert, spoke about his experience as an expert in this field. Due to the REDD+ MRV process as being more facilitative and constructive in nature, it is a collaboration with the country to work on their forest reference emissions level. His position is more of a peer review process that helps the country feel more confident about the work because of having someone else review the material.

Make a Birthday Wish for the Warsaw International Mechanism

COP 24 marks five years since the birth of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage at COP19 in Warsaw. What can we expect to see when the Mechanism comes home to Poland for its five-year anniversary this December in Katowice? Hopefully more than the same. A review of the WIM Executive Committee’s most recent meeting shows how the Mechanism’s core functions shape its current focus.

On October 15, 2018, the Committee released its annual report covering October 2017–September 2018. The report highlights how the Committee’s work during this period achieved the WIM’s three central functions:

  1. Enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset impacts . . .
  2. Strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders.
  3. Enhancing action and support, including finance, technology, and capacity-building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

This year, the Committee undertook efforts to move forward on finance, technology, and capacity-building for addressing loss and damage. The report specifically notes that the Committee’s work “has progressed toward the enhancement of cooperation and facilitation” in the WIM’s key substantive areas: (1) slow onset events (SOE), (2) non-economic losses (NEL), (3) comprehensive risk management approaches (CRM), (4) human mobility, and (5) action and support.

In March 2018, the Committee established three expert groups, one each on SOE, NEL, and CRM. The Committee also established a roster of experts to identify experts to fulfill these groups’ activities per the Committee’s five-year rolling workplan. Under this workplan, the Committee works within five cross-cutting workstreams in preparation for priority activites come 2019–2021; workstream A deals with SOE, B with NEL, and C with CRM.

Below is an overview of information on experts registered in the roster as of September 10, 2018. Without doubt, this roster brings together a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and resources to address loss and damage.

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 19.29.38

In May, the Committee convened over 200 experts for the Suva dialogue (named in Fiji’s honor at COP23). This dialogue explored mobilizing and securing expertise and enhancing support—particularly finance, technology, and capacity-building—for addressing loss and damage, especially from extreme weather and slow-onset events. Based on information from these experts and other sources, the Committee enumerated 24 recommendations in its annual report. Still, these many recommendations differ little from ones past.

Not surprising that many complain about the Committee’s focus on process above all else. Specifically, critics lament how long it has taken to tackle the substance of SOE and NEL instead of only DRM. Indeed, whether the Committee is finally picking up speed here is the question of the day. After perusing the report, it becomes easier to understand why many remain dissatisfied with the Committee’s efforts.

For one, vulnerable people and countries facing climate change’s worst impacts desperately need finance. A recent report showed that poor people and countries pay the majority of loss and damage costs. For example, only 23% of the loss and damage costs from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Dominica one year ago, came from finance.

Perhaps parties will take the chance to review and potentially reset the WIM at COP24 by issuing stronger recommendations to tackle the displacement and finance issues that continue to plague the world’s most vulnerable.

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.


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.

Bring in the subs

As Lindsay chronicled here and here, COP19 officially acknowledged the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation activity at the subnational level.  Even though the UNFCCC is premised on negotiation between nations (state parties), all involved recognize the groundswell of climate change laws and projects at the city and regional levels, where the rubber literally meets the road.  The stats of C40, asubs coming in consortium of the 40 largest cities in the world, pack a punch:  8% of the world’s population, 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, and 21% of the global GDP.  No second string players here, and tremendous potential for actual change, if there really is no I in team.

Looking ahead to the legally binding agreement that will take the Kyoto Protocol’s place, the COP19 ADP decision and conclusions consciously include cities and other subnational governments to participate in upcoming ADP-sponsored technical meetings and forums to share mitigation and adaptation best practices culled from their work to date.

pacific coast action planGiven this international spotlight on local climate change work, a couple of recent publications emphasizing subnational climate change activity in the U.S. merit a closer look.  In VLS’s Top Ten Environmental Watchlist, my colleague Hillary Hoffmann analyzes the Pacific Coast Action Plan as a possible “blueprint for locally driven climate and energy policy.”  By signing it, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington, and the premier of British Columbia agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy incentives along the Pacific Coast – and bypassed their respective federal legislatures!  As Washington Governor Jay Inslee summed up subnational pride and can-do attitude, “on the West Coast, we intend to design the future, not to wreck it.”

Together, California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia have a population of 53 million and a GDP of $2.8 trillion, making it the world’s fifth largest economy.  Given how their economies are regionally linked, the Action Plan’s signatories agreed to1) link carbon-pricing programs for “consistency and predictability;” 2) “harmonize 2050 targets for greenhouse gas reductions;” 3) ground all policies in the “scientific understanding of climate change;” 4) “adopt low-carbon fuel standards in each jurisdiction;” 5) have 10% of all “new public and private vehicle purchases” be electric by 2016; 6) support high-speed passenger rail service throughout the region; 7) support “emerging markets and innovation for alternative fuels;” 8) streamline “renewable energy infrastructure;” 9)“integrate the region’s electricity grids;” and 10) work together to “press for an international agreement on climate change in 2015.”

Hmmm, a bunch of leaders sitting in a room amidst their jurisdictions’ flags, negotiating mitigation targets, science-based standards, consistent carbon accounting rules . . . sound familiar, n’est-ce pas?

NYC high lineKudos to the Left Coast. So what’s happening on the Atlantic?  A recent article in the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, tells “a tale of two cities,” New York, NY and New Bern, NC, to emphasize how differently two East Coast cities are responding to climate change predictions in their urban planning.  In New York City, where the NY City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) predicts that storms like Superstorm Sandy will occur every two years by 2100 and almost a million people will be living in flood-prone areas by 2050, Mayor Bloomberg launched PlaNYC. Its goal: reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. How?  By renovating skyscrapers to use less energy, increasing green space, and improving walkability and bikeability. Der Spiegel notes that the city has already planted 800,000 new trees, made Times Square a pedestrian zone,  and constructed over 600 miles of bike paths, resulting in a 16% reduction in CO2 emissions since 2005.  On the adaptation front, flood wall construction is in the mix, along with other beach and land erosion techniques.

In contrast, when the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) issued a report predicting a sea-level rise of more than one meter and the NC Department of Public Safety determined that this rise would cost $7.4 billion to rebuild homes, office buildings, and public facilities wiped out by storm surges, the state legislature responded:  with a law that says that the sea level off the North Carolina coast will not rise more quickly than it has in the last 100 years. Period.  Thus urban planners, like those in New Bern, are instructed to disregard the CRC’s science-based advice, because North Carolina legislators forbid the seas to rise.

Maybe they recommend flood insurance, just in case?  (Read here to learn more about recent federal attempts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program.)

Stay tuned.  It will be interesting to watch how these subs change the state of play as they enter the international arena — and challenge some starter spots.


UPDATE:  The NYT 12/15 reports that as he prepares to leave office, Mayor Bloomberg is creating a consulting group to “reshape cities around the globe” staffed by many of his top NYC employees.  This development alone will fuel significant subnational activity at next year’s ADP negotiations.

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.



New appointment to Obama’s CC team

Will John Podesta’s transition from a White House “outside advisor” to an official “inside advisor” have an impact on the next round of ADP discussions coming up in March, 2014?

john podestaAs this Grist article notes, Podesta is a veteran political insider, having served both the Clinton and Obama administrations before taking up his position at the Center for American Progress (CAP).  While it’s reported that his portfolio will include health care, his real focus is expected to be on climate change, specifically on seeing the President’s Climate Action Plan through by getting the maximum use of executive power to push the U.S. to lower its GHG emissions.


The US team at the penultimate ADP negotiation session at COP19.

Grist emphasizes Podesta’s vocal opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, but I’m more curious about his potential impact on Stern’s negotiating team and its approach to the upcoming meeting in Bonn.  Given the shift to nationally determined commitments, a country’s domestic climate change policies are critical to the shape and scope of a new international agreement.  This recent report from CAP indicates that the U.S. is in a neck-and-neck race with China and Germany for first place in the “green revolution” leaders’ circle.  It concludes by proposing “that the United States take advantage of its true national strengths: the ability to innovate from the state and local levels up, and to combine policies that work for different regions of the country into a coherent whole. … an integrated set of regional energy strategies. This is our competitive edge.”

***  Hat tip to LLM candidate Heather Croshaw for alerting me to this Grist article.  ***

US-China relations post-COP19

Today’s HuffPost features an article on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s view that China is poised for beijing air qualitya green revolution.  McCarthy sees internal pressures by the rising Chinese middle class on its political leaders to do more on environmental regulation and climate change.  She cited to the now famous example of the U.S. embassy’s air quality monitoring that led to a diplomatic brouhaha – and greater transparency from the Beijing municipal authorities.  Recent school closures and public health threat warnings due to industrial smog recall the Donora, PA killer smog that spurred the fight for the Clean Air Act.  McCarthy made these remarks on the eve of a trip to China to seek ways to work with the Chinese government on environmental regulation.

Venezuela working with the U.S.

Venezuela working with the U.S.

Post COP19/CMP9, as I think about the question most often asked of me – what was accomplished at this negotiation? – I’m struck by the interplay between multilateral and bilateral treaties in making international environmental law.  There is a long tradition of bilateral (think US-Canada Great Lakes Compact and governing Commission) and regional multilateral (think of the Rhine River treaty and its governance structure) environmental treaties that have provided very effective legal and environmental management of common natural resources.  The challenge in addressing climate change is trying to regulate a natural resource – the atmosphere – shared by every country in the world, which is being degraded in a variety of ways through multiple means of pollution.  One legal solution is the UNFCCC, which seeks an all-in approach, and the annual COPs that refine the complex inner workings of this legal compact. Post COP15 in Copenhagen, there have been repeated calls for scrapping the UNFCCC and focusing instead on getting the top 25 emitting countries who contribute some 75% of GHGs to the atmosphere to negotiate a new treaty amongst themselves.

EU working with India.

EU working with India.

But this HP article reminds me of the importance  and potential for bilateral and regional multilateral treaties to add to, not supplant, the work of the Framework Convention.   McCarthy signals the US-China work to come (and we shouldn’t lose sight of the achievements of this past summer) – all of which builds on and adds to the working relationships that are the backbone to broader UNFCCC progress toward a binding legal agreement for all 195 countries in 2020.

Extra, extra! Read our COP19 wrap-up in the Huffington Post!

Congrats to our Week 2 Observer Delegation on its recent publication in the Huffington Post courtesy of climate and energy reporter Ben Jervey.  In it, we recap COP19/CMP9’s last week of activity, analyzing what this “nuts and bolts” COP did and didn’t achieve. Specifically, we take a close look at adaptation, loss and damage, subnational initiatives, new REDD+ rules, and technology, all in light of the ADP’s struggle to find common ground on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, and capacity-building to ensure maximum participation in the legal agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2020.

VLS COP19/CMP9 Observer Delegation Week 2

VLS COP19/CMP9 Observer Delegation Week 2

P.S.  Given that the Huff Post version did not include all of our links, I’m pasting below the draft that includes them.

As COP19/CMP9 comes to a close, the Vermont Law School Observer Delegation reflects on what it witnessed during the second week of the climate change meeting. As the high-level ministers began arriving on Monday, the pace of negotiations ramped up. Beginning with several days of speeches about the contours of the legal agreement post-Kyoto Protocol, financing mechanisms, alternative energy, and adaptation needs in developing countries, the technical discussions of COP19’s first week turned to long days and nights of political bargaining.

In this piece, we explore what this “nuts and bolts” COP did and didn’t achieve. Specifically, we take a close look at adaptation, loss and damage, subnational initiatives, new REDD+ rules, and technology, all in light of the ADP’s struggle to find common ground on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, and capacity-building to ensure maximum participation in the legal agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2020. For more detail about these subjects and play-by-play of the most contentious issues, see our blog.

Adaptation Activities Accelerate

Although adaptation is still a relatively new idea under the UNFCCC, COP19 expanded its reach by conducting workshops to showcase achievements to date and negotiating a new loss and damage provision (covered in the next section). COP16 established the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAN), which sought to enhance action on adaptation under the Convention. National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) were established at COP17 to help countries assess their vulnerabilities and climate change risks, and adapt to them. NAPs aim to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change by building adaptive capacity and resilience. They contain four main elements: (1) laying groundwork and addressing gaps, (2) preparing preparatory elements, (3) creating implementation strategies, and (4) reporting, monitoring and reviewing data.

Bangladesh is currently working on a NAP that looks at health security, disaster management practices, and infrastructure. It currently experiences storm surges and flooding, which impacts crops and food security. Malawi wants to implement a NAP due to its vulnerability to road flooding. It currently lacks sufficient policy, institutional, and legal frameworks, and faces low awareness, skills, and know-how among the general public.

While adaptation has clear benefits, it can be expensive and so the parties ask: is it worth it? Presentations at COP19 answered in the affirmative. Emergency responses to remedy damage from climate change can be even more expensive than investing in adaptation measures. Climate change impacts, like the recent Typhoon Haiyan, often cause GDP to decrease, as developing country governments spend their limited budgets on disaster relief. By investing in adaptation up front, disasters do less damage when they hit, so not as much money is spent on reactive remedies.

While COP19 included much discussion of mitigation, parties acknowledge that even the most stringent mitigation efforts cannot avoid climate change. This makes adaptation necessary. It’s not an either/or proposition.  As the UNFCCC makes increasingly clear, international climate change law must address both.

The (R)evolution of Loss and Damage

The tragedy wrought in the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan placed the concept of “loss and damage” center stage in Warsaw. Loss and damage would pick up where adaptation and mitigation fall short, helping developing countries to improve risk reduction and assessment, strengthen adaptation, enhance capacity building to deal with slow-onset events like sea level rise or extreme effects like typhoons, and compensate them.

COP18 set a legal mandate to establish institutional arrangements, such as an international mechanism, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate on developing countries.  Covering both economic and non-economic losses, it could include the loss of livelihood, damage to property, food insecurity, climate migration, loss of identity, and potential human rights abuses. Due to Russia’s blocking of the agenda, the June 2013 SBI meeting did not go forward and work on this mandate was delayed to the COP19 SBI meeting.

At COP19, negotiators worked on this SBI agenda item around the clock, trying to draft text that was responsive to developing countries’ compensation needs and developed countries’ liability concerns. Tired of Australia’s antics to scuttle constructive discussions, the G77 negotiator, Bolivian Rene Gonzalo Orellana Halkyer, walked out of the meeting at 4 am this past Wednesday morning and other G77 countries followed suit. Undaunted, high-level party delegates, co-chaired by ministers from Sweden and South Africa, attempted to hammer out a text, debating whether it should be an institutional arrangement, work program, or task force. Would it get its own mechanism under an UNFCCC institution, like the Clean Development Mechanism does, or be housed under the SBI or SBSTA, or simply sit under the adaptation pillar?

At the closing plenary, delegates approved “the Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change impacts.” Controversially, it is organized under CAN’s adaptation pillar. G77+ China, AOSIS, and Yeb Saño from the Philippines made it known that this text was inadequate, as loss and damage meant “beyond adaptation.” This opposition sparked an hour huddle, with U.S Special Envoy Todd Stern and Fiji’s Sai Navoti discussing the use of “under” while surrounded by at least 50 other negotiators.

Afterward, the COP19 President announced consensus on retaining the word “under” while including an amendment requiring review of the mechanism at COP22 in 2016. Going forward, the executive committee to the Warsaw international mechanism will meet and develop a work plan by COP20; a two-year review will take place at COP 22; and the COP will make an “appropriate decision” on loss and damage governance based on this review.

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

On Thursday, November 22, during the first-ever COP Presidency Cities and Sub-national Dialogue of the Cities Day, one environmental minister declared that “the only people with the power to actually change anything are the local elected officials.”

While international agreements on climate change have languished, cities around the world have acted. For good reason: two-thirds of urban dwellers live on the water, subject to sea level rise and lethal heat waves from the urban heat island effect. The Cities Climate Leadership Group C40 membership  comprises 40 of the 50 biggest cities of the world and represents 8% of the world’s population, 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, and 21% of the global GDP. Together, cities have the collective clout to get something done.

The COP19 Dialogue of the Cities Day, organized by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), C40, and EUROCITIES, highlighted work that is already happening in local municipalities around the world, and sought support for it from the national and international levels. Roundtable discussions focused on adaptation, transportation, waste, and buildings. A recurring theme was the potential for a bottom-up approach that empowers local governments to combat climate change by creating a platform for continuous dialogue between cities, national government, and UNFCCC parties.

Building on this event, ICLEI (which coordinated the adoption of the Nantes Declaration of Mayors and Subnational Leaders on Climate Change in September, 2013)  advocated for a more substantive forum for identifying key priority areas of collaboration on mitigation and adaptation at the city and subnational levels during the next ADP session in June, 2014. Although the ADP decision text changed throughout the last few days of negotiations, and ICLEI did not receive all it sought, the final iteration includes cities and subnational governments in technical meetings “to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building” and a subnational forum “to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation,” both to be held at the next ADP session. In short, this COP19 decision means more meetings, reports and business as usual for the UNFCCC. But with this clear recognition of a subnational role in UNFCCC lawmaking may come more resources for the people actually doing the work on the ground.

REDD+ Is a Go

One of the more significant outcomes of this week was the package of decisions, known as the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), that the COP approved to provide a formal framework, safeguards, and funding in hopes of cutting deforestation in half by 2020 and halting it by 2030. Every schoolchild knows that the forests are the world’s lungs: this is the UNFCCC’s smoking cessation program.

REDD+ has been implemented on the ground by various development organizations, including the World Bank, USAID, and the World Wildlife Foundation, in a somewhat haphazard and experimental fashion since its conception in Montreal in 2005 and development in Bali in 2007. It was met with serious criticism by indigenous peoples around the world as another form of colonialism, with Bolivia in particular championing to keep market mechanisms out of this mitigation activity. This new version of REDD+ hopes to address those concerns. The safeguards included for biodiversity, ecosystems, and indigenous peoples’ territories, livelihoods, and rights are commendable. It may even serve as a mechanism for governments to more formally recognize indigenous land rights. Hopeful thinking? Perhaps. We will have to watch carefully how the new REDD+ decisions improve its implementation on the ground.

Good News About Technology

Developing nations will require new technologies to achieve their goals of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. At COP16 in Cancun, the UNFCCC established the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), a technology transfer mechanism that collaborates with national governments to develop and implement desired climate technologies. Two months before COP19’s start, the CTCN Advisory Board approved the CTCN Modalities and Procedures for adoption at COP19. While both SBSTA and SBI adopted the CTCN’s report, and forwarded a draft decision for approval, , the COP did not reach the agenda item.  Instead it will instead take up these items at SBSTA 40 and SBI 40 in Bonn next year.

Nevertheless, a COP19 side event organized by the UNFCCC Secretariat marked the official opening of the CTCN. While most of the world may not have noticed, COP19’s advancement of CTCN is crucial for developing nations striving to fulfill their commitments under the UNFCCC. The CTCN can now accept requests from countries’ Nationally Designated Entities (NDEs), which is good news for achieving international, on-the-ground progress for mitigation and adaptation.

Developing countries can now request from CTCN resources to develop and implement clean energy technologies. Clean energy is essential for reaching all parties mitigation targets, and CTCN can supply the requisite experts to deploy these innovative technologies. At the CTCN event, Zambia announced plans to submit a request for clean energy projects. Bangladesh has described plans to request agricultural technologies from CTCN, in order to improve crop yields. Agriculture is a main cause of deforestation, and improving agricultural practices has the direct and immediate impact of keeping more carbon out of the atmosphere. Of course, new technologies will be necessary to adapt to the effects of climate change. Following Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines will request a collaboration with CTCN to rebuild with clean energy.

ADP:  2(b) or not 2(b)

By 2am Saturday morning – two hours after COP19/CMP9 was due to end – tired and tense negotiators left the room where they had spent the last eight hours locking horns over language in the fourth draft decision the ADP had debated since Monday. Environment ministers from Venezuela, E.U., U.K., and U.S. were in the room working directly with their negotiating teams. Yet even they left not knowing if the parties would achieve their COP19 mandate of determining the elements of the new legal agreement to be negotiated in Peru next year, signed in Paris in 2015, and put into effect in 2020.

The contested language reflects the main sticking points between developing and developed countries about constructing mitigation targets, setting timelines, balancing pre- and post-2020 mitigation, and financing.  For example, Article 2(b)’s language of post-2020 mitigation targets was changed from commitments to contributions in the final round.  This obligation, applicable to all countries under the Doha Amendment, focuses on parties doing “domestic preparations for their intended nationally determined contributions” and reporting them “in a manner that facilitates the clarity, transparency, and understanding” of them as early in 2015 as possible.  Subpart 2(d) was added to request financial support for developing countries doing this domestic work. Notably this language of differentiation eschews references to Annex 1 of the UNFCCC, even though the G77+China and AILAC asserted in every ADP session that the post-2020 agreement is made under the Convention and thus the Annex applies as is.

All parties agreed that pre-2020 mitigation commitments under the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period is lacking, whether in terms of number of countries (participation) or amount of GHG emissions avoided (stringency). Thus Article 4 calls on developed countries to make or enhance their national emissions reduction targets, and for developing countries to do the same with their nationally appropriate mitigation actions. Article 3 urges developed countries to follow through on the financing, technology transfer, and capacity-building work that it has already committed under the Convention, noting its ability to leverage compliance with Article 4.

How to complete the ADP’s work and how to fund it reached some resolution by the closing plenary.  On process and timelines, delegates agreed to meetings of high level ministers at both the June inter-sessional meeting in Bonn and at COP20, as well as an additional sessions in March and possibly another one between June and December. The ADP decision also noted the U.N. climate change summit that Ban Ki-Moon will host on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly’s September meeting. Thus the parties will have up to five meetings next year to turn the COP19 ADP decision into a working draft to kickstart COP20 discussions.   On finance, however, there was less resolution. Developing countries insisted on the developed countries living up to their capacity to fund this climate change lawmaking, as part of their common but differentiated responsibility, and mistrusted calls for private financing. The U.S. noted the importance of private financing as a complement to public funding, highlighting the role the latter could play in middle- and high-income countries while reserving government funds for the lesser developed countries.

Overall, while COP19/CMP9 made some progress toward Lima and Paris, it was limited by continued concerns about the transparency of negotiations and moving toward an “applicable to all” standard without some accounting for historical responsibility. As the Earth Negotiations Bulletin observed, a “sense of resolve was notably absent” in Warsaw, due as much to an absence of political will as to the vagaries of the UNFCCC process. While the REDD+ framework and other “nuts and bolts” adjustments represent real steps forward in elaborating an international system of climate change law, a question remains whether they are enough to motivate countries to continue to invest in it.


This post was written by Tracy Bach, Heather Croshaw, Alisha Falberg, Dan Schreiber, and Lindsay Speer, members of the Vermont Law School COP19/CMP9 Observer Delegation. You can read more of their observations at their COP19 blog, Substantial and sustained.


Warsaw, Wildlife, and Greenpeace

The trip has cIMG_2014ome to an end. And what an experience it was. During the 12-14 hour days, it felt like it was going on forever, but at the end of theIMG_2023 week I was questioning where my week had gone. Some of the highlights included getting 2 feet away from Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, walking around Old Town, hearing the inspiring words of Christiana Figueres, working with my great NGO, Wildlife Conservation Society, actually seeing the international process at work, and getting to know my fellow VLS delegates better.

My biggest disappointment was the lack of discussion throughout the week on my chosen topic: wildlife, endangered species, and biodiversity. While I tried to tailor each of my posts to my topic and analyze each side event to figure out its indirect link to the conservation of species, I noticed that the topic was rarely, if ever, discussed. Biodiversity and ecosystems where mentioned broadly here and there (most notably in the ocean acidification and REDD+ side events I attended), but for the most part, I heard nothing on how climate change is adversely impacting CITES-logo-high-resolution-300x171species. I am aware that the UN has other treaties, such as the Convention on Biodiversity and CITES, but knowing what I know about how climate change is affecting species, I would have thought at least one side event would have had that focus. This became particularly more puzzling to me when I learned more than one wildlife conservation group attended the CoP. While I realize that most people place a higher value on the plights of the human race when it comes to climate change, the importance of conserving biodiversity cannot be overlooked. As the Lion King says: “we are all connected in the great circle of life.”

On my last night in Poland, Heather, Lindsay, and I had the unique experience of attending a Greenpeace party. Greenpeace gave a recap of of their 2 weeks at the CoP. They had some exciting protests against cop19_greenpeace_670pcPoland’s reliance on coal and unveiled brilliant t-shirts: a play on the Godfather – the “coalfather.” I, not for lack of want, did not get lucky enoughBZboykZCIAANefn.jpg_large to secure one. There were also several demonstrations on the Arctic 30. Greenpeace is currently on a campaign to free the arctic 30; 30 peaceful activists from around the world who boarded the Arctic Sunrise in an attempt to board a Russian oil rig in protest of reliance on fossil fuels and to try and stop the drilling. The Russian authorities took control of the Arctic Sunrise and the arctic 30, who are now detained in Russia for piracy and hooliganism. Their call: “Free the Arctic 30.”

190010eb-f999-4d88-990c-f46dd6596ee8.fileGreenpeace in Greenland

Overall, I am thankful for this cultural and learning experience.




“A foundation COP” of nuts and bolts

A presidential stocktaking during COP19's final days.

A presidential stocktaking during COP19’s final days.

“Stocktaking” is a now a new word in my vocabulary.  While I regularly do it, I don’t normally make the time to name it as such.  In the polyglot system of the United Nations, awkwardly-formal-but-descriptive terms like this one (and “functions and modalities,” “institutional mechanisms,”  “work programmes”) are essential to the process of moving a group forward to action.

So now, speaking of “moving forward” (a common phrase at COP19), let’s take stock of how the media is portraying the outcome of COP19.

Today’s NYT focuses on the ADP and L&M final deals, explaining more IMG_4323about the latter than the former.  It led off with the idea that COP19 is “keeping alive the hope” of globally dealing with climate change, but ends on a bummer note: “Treaty members remain far from any serious, concerted action to cut emissions. And developing nations complained that promises of financial help remain unmet.”  Both valid points, and the second is a true accounting of what I witnessed in the ADP sessions.  But the first one misses the mark on this “foundation COP’s” mission, which the co-chairs stressed during the wee hours of Friday/Saturday’s marathon negotiation session: the ADP’s mandate for COP19 was to establish the elements and timetable for making the legal agreement that will bind countries to emissions reductions, not negotiating the agreement itself.

The NYT also chronicled how the U.S. called out China’s intransigence on future GHG emissions being “applicable to all” and how developed countries recognized their historical responsibility for creating global warming even though they resist being held “liable” for it.

IMG_4316China’s Xinhua news service focused on the glass half full, leading with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s positive view of COP19:  “The decisions adopted in Warsaw serve as an important stepping stone toward a universal legal agreement in 2015.”  Using the carefully negotiated language of “contributions” (rather than commitments), the article closed by observing that the ADP agreement “was seen as a key step paving the way for all countries to reach an ambitious global climate pact in 2015, and a sign of their desire to avert a breakdown of the climate talks.” It also gave a nod to a next stepping stone, the climate summit hosted by Ban Ki-Moon in September 2014 (on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly meeting):  “He has asked world leaders, as well as leaders from business, finance, local government and civil society, to bring bold announcements and actions that will lead to significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and strengthened adaptation and resilience efforts.”

The head Chinese negotiator for ADP, center background.

The head Chinese negotiator for ADP, center background.

Continuing with the stepping stone “path” metaphor for summing up the Warsaw meeting, but offering more “real politick” talk in a separate (but linked) news article, the Chinese delegation noted its disappointments. “There are many issues that we are not actually satisfied with but we can accept,” Xie Zhenhua, head of China’s COP19 delegation and also deputy chief of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.  According to him, “to make the meeting a success and the multi-lateral mechanism effective, China has shown the biggest flexibility and made concessions on some issues.”

Interestingly, BusinessGreen provides the more detailed and accurate accounting of COP19 specifics (as I witnessed them), as well as the most nuanced analysis. (I am not familiar with the publication but the comments indicate a very different readership than my regular reading list!)  It directly reports that “the eventual agreement resulted in a draft text that requires countries ‘who are ready’ to make ‘contributions, without prejudice to the legal nature,’ ideally by early 2015 at the latest” and acknowledges that this wording represents “significant watering down” of the penultimate draft’s use of “for those in a position” to deliver a climate “commitment” by early 2015.IMG_4282Nonetheless, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey views this as a sufficient outcome for “all nations have now agreed to start their homework to prepare for a global climate change deal in 2015” (reprising the homework theme of his HLM opening plenary remarks). “While the long negotiations in Poland showed there are many tough talks ahead of us, the determined diplomacy of the UK and EU achieved our aims, building alliances with our friends across the world.”

Jonathan Grant, Director at PwC’s sustainability and climate change IMG_4357team, joins the chorus using sports analogies to characterize the outcome achieved yesterday inside the National Stadium. “By taking us to the brink of collapse, looking over the edge and then pulling back, we come away feeling delighted that any progress has been made at all,” he said. “A victory was always expected, but like the England football team, the COP made this a lot more dramatic than it needed to be. The ‘talks about talks’ phase is now over, as countries agreed to the agenda for the negotiations and the timeline for coming up with some numbers.”

BusinessGreen closes with Nicholas Stern’s dose of reality therapy.  The author of the famous Stern Report, who now chairs an institute at the London School of Economics, views COP19’s output as IMG_4152“simply inadequate” compared to the scale and urgency of the risks of climate change: “If the world is to have a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming, which it is generally agreed would occur if there is a rise in global average temperature by more than two centigrade degrees compared with the late 19th century, annual emissions of greenhouse gases will need to be cut at a much faster rate than is currently planned by countries.”

That, folks, reminds the process-oriented “policy” types that their nuts and bolts are still out of step with the science types’ brass tacks.

Will it be the Warsaw Miracle? ADP and long-term finance adopted at COP 19, just loss and damage to go.

Early this afternoon, the ADP adopted draft text after a lengthy “huddle” to decide on 2(b) and 2 (c). Cuba and Bolivia made reservations as they thought the new text did not go far enough under Article 4 of the UNFCCC. In the COP19/CMP9 session, the COP President Marcin Korolec adopted the new ADP text. He almost even smiled! Then, the President moved onto a few other agenda items (check UNFCCC website for new documents). One of them was the third contentious issue over the past few days: long-term finance (#WTF). Amazingly, the President called for the adoption of the long-term finance text. It actually happened.

COP19/CMP9 Plenary begins to discuss Loss & Damage

COP19/CMP9 Plenary begins to discuss Loss & Damage

Then, the President moved onto Agenda item 3(b), Loss and Damage (L&D, not LDM). I make this distinction, because the wording of the L15 draft text houses the “Warsaw international mechanism” on L&D “under” the adaptation pillar of the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAF) (see para 1). Thus, the current text does not establish L&D as its own separate mechanism (LDM), like the Clean Development Mechanism.

Mr. Yeb Saño makes remarks on loss and damage.

Mr. Yeb Saño makes remarks on loss and damage.

Fiji, on behalf of G77+China, strongly objected to the use of the word “under,” which was supported by the United States. It was a matter of semantics that created the furor in the Plenary room. Then, the Philippines’s Mr. Yep Saño made opening remarks, supporting Fiji’s position. He pleaded that negotiators needed to “think outside of the box” to find solutions and that “loss and damage is beyond adaptation.” He urged that developing countries need help to deal with a problem caused by developing countries’ historical carbon emissions. Adaptation is not enough, Mr. Saño pleaded, and that loss and damage needed to be its own mechanism.

The negotiation blocks of AOSIS, G77+China and others asked the COP President for a huddle. The President permitted a 15 minute huddle. A huge group of High-Level negotiators, including USA’s Mr. Todd Stern, immediately began discussing the word “under.” The huddle centered around Mr. Stern as he talked about the USA’s position on L&D.



Over 30 minutes later, the huddle finally concluded. The COP President announced that the Parties had reached a consensus, but did not elaborate for another 10 minutes. The Plenary patiently waited to hear what the “consensus” embodied. When the COP/CMP session resumed, Mr. Korolec announced that the consensus centered on the word “under,” meaning the L&D would remain under the Cancun Adaptation Framework. However, he explained that this current L&D arrangement would be reviewed at COP22 in 2016, per paragraph 15. Additionally, the Parties presented three amendments to the text in the preambular text, paragraph 1 and paragraph 15. Before the adoption of the text, Mr. Yeb Saño made a reservation on the record that the 2016 review should reconsider the institutional location of the Warsaw international mechanism on loss and damage (aka as a separate international mechanism under the UNFCCC).

Will update more later – my computer’s battery is out of power!

COP 19 still going… we’re still in extra time: penalty-shoot out or a nil-nil draw?

The UNFCCC COP 19 is still going and going, much like the Energizer bunny or a cricket match. At this point in the game, the negotiations have produced two draft text on ADP (Agenda item 3) and long-term finance (LTF), but an updated draft on loss and damage remains in the locker room with some ailment (UPDATE: the coach, COP 19 president Mr. Marcin Korolec just said a new draft text on loss and damage will be available for selection!). However, the clock approaches 120 minutes. Will the negotiations end in a nil-nil draw, go to penalty kicks or will the COP19 Presidency manage to score a goal, in the name of a package deal. Will Christiana Figures draw a red card or blow the final whistle on the UNFCCC negotiations?


Poland’s National Stadium has hosted a number of international football (soccer) matches.

So, why am I using sports terms and analogies? The COP 19 is being held in Poland’s National Stadium (Stadio Narodowy), which is the home of the Polish national soccer team. Throughout the two weeks, the delegations have used sports analogies to describe or encourage a resolution to the COP negotiations.

The Guardian Eco blog captured some of the best sports analogies spoken by delegates at the COP/CMP:

Donald Tusk, prime minister of Poland: 

“The match is won by the team. In order to win, players have to collaborate.” 

Christiana Figueres, UN’s top climate official:

“There are no two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”  

Ed Davey, chairing a meeting and calling a new speaker to the podium:

“Peter is now warming up on the touchline.”

And an extended riff from Rachel Kyte of the World Bank:

“The UK’s football teams are sometimes accused of punting the ball down the field in the hope someone tall will pick it up. [In the climate talks] we should play tiki-taka [the preferred elegant, passing style of World Cup champions Spain]. This should be the World Cup of climate change.”

To which Davey responded:

“The World Bank is trying to take over FIFA.”

And finally, a startling admission from the US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern. Seated in the EU’s main meeting room, which sports the football jerseys of all the member states across one wall (the UK is represented by a Team GB shirt from the Olympics, rather than the national sides), he could not resist commenting that his three soccer-mad sons would love it. But as for Stern himself: “I’m a fan of the Spanish team.”

The Spanish National Team's Pique gets a red card. Not very tiki-taka.

The Spanish National Team’s Pique gets a red card. Not very tiki-taka.

Who doesn’t love the Spanish National Team and their tiki-taka style of fútbol, where they pass-pass-pass-pass the ball, holding possession for the majority of the game, perhaps score a goal or two and win a World Cup? In this spirit, winning teams have to deliver results and play as a team. Selfish actions only hurt the collective, especially if one person (or negotiator) has the opportunity to score points (such as political points), yet drags the shot wide of the net. As the Spanish National team will find out (or has already found out), the successful tiki-taka style will lose its cutting edge, its invincibility, as other teams figure out their weaknesses. Teams have to evolve and change strategies in order to be successful. The same tactics will not always win.

As State Parties to the COP19 enter into extra time, the 120 minute marks looms. They are furiously negotiation resolutions on the final three issues on ADP, LTF and loss and damage to produce some kind of Warsaw package. Hopefully, the late nights and long days will not be in vain. The President’s Stocktaking has finished and the ADP talks has resumed. The UNFCCC process has to evolve and not rely on zero-sum-game tactics to get results. Yes, tiki-taka is a pretty way to play football/fútbol/soccer, but these players still get red cards and they lose matches. In other words, no player is immune from the rules of the game. Sometimes long-ball tactics win the game. The trophy here, at the UNFCCC, is not a shiny gold object but is a healthy planet.

I cannot speak to the physical state of the negotiators, but I hoped they stretched before embarking on this marathon. I think I tweaked my hamstring (metaphorically speaking) as I hobbled back to the venue this morning. In other words, I admire the stamina of these negotiators who are working around the clock to produce some kind of results. The planet and future generations depend on COP 19 finding the back of the net.

COP 19 is the never-ending story… ADP, Loss and Damage and Finance still unresolved

The clock has passed 1:30 am and the COP is still going… Negotiators and the High Level Ministers are still hard at work tweaking draft texts for the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), Finance, and Loss and Damage, respectively.The UNFCCC COP19/CMP was supposed to end on November 22nd, ideally with much pomp and circumstance, glasses of champagne, and a new climate agreement probably with some catchy name (the Warsaw Miracle?).

Where's the Finance? #WTF

Where’s the Finance? #WTFThe COP19, however, still has several issues to resolve before closing. Negotiators, civil society observers and COP 19 personnel are patiently waiting in the various meeting rooms, hallways, and the plenaries for the latest resolutions on ADP, Finance, and Loss and Damage.

The COP19, however, still has several issues to resolve before closing. Negotiators, civil society observers and COP 19 personnel are patiently waiting in the various meeting rooms, hallways, and the plenaries for the latest resolutions on ADP, Finance, and Loss and Damage.

This afternoon, COP 19 President Mr. Marcin Korolec held a closing Plenary session to officially end several agenda items under the COP, CMP, SBI and SBSTA tracks. At about 9 pm, the president suspended the closing plenary to give the negotiators more time to resolve the bracketed and crossed out lines of text for the remaining three issue areas. The co-chairs from South Africa and Sweden lead the informals on Loss and Damage produced a draft text around 13:50, but the negotiations transitioned to bilateral meetings and then onwards to the High-Level Ministerial consultations. The majority of these meetings take place behind closed doors, with the exception of ADP that has let limited NGO observers into the meeting.

IMG_0808Throughout the day and into the evening, the Loss and Damage negotiators discussed the options of creating an international arrangement, a work programme or an international mechanism to address the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries. Based on the latest draft text, loss and damage might become an international mechanism under the UNFCCC, supported by SBSTA and SBI, which would be a huge plus for developing countries. This means that the developing countries might have traded on another issue, such as ambition or the timeline to report emissions in the ADP.

“The developing nations are looking for a new institution with legal and executive powers that would compensate people for loss and damage caused by extreme weather events, exacerbated by global warming. Richer countries want it to be dealt with within the existing institutions…We’re trying now to bridge those two and really see if there can be a two-step approach starting with co-ordinating the already existing framework and seeing how we can enhance that in a second phase but that needs to be captured in a decision,” said Mr Nafo [Seyni Nafo from Mali, the spokesman for the Africa Group of countries].”

Into the night, the loss and damage consultations focused on footnote 2 of the draft text, which references “Section II: enhanced action on adaptation.” More specifically, the “Warsaw Mechanism” to address loss and damage, in paragraph 1, states that the COP19 “establishes the Warsaw mechanism to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change (hereinafter referred to as the Warsaw mechanism), consistent with paragraph 14 of decision 1/CP.16…” In turn, paragraph 14 of the Cancun Agreements refers to common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and then several sub-paragraphs referencing enhanced adaptation.

The United State's seat in the Plenary remains empty due to late-night/early morning consultations.

The United State’s seat in the Plenary remains empty due to late-night/early morning consultations.

The CBDR principle causes some political divisions between developed and developing countries. In particular, developed countries, such as the United States, do not want Loss and Damage to become a “blame and liability mechanism” and make developed countries financially and legally liable for the damage caused by historical carbon emissions. Loss and damage is supposed to help the victims of the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries, not just financially but also address non-economic losses.

For COP 19 to be a success, all parties will have to make convergences on loss and damage, ADP, and climate finance. Without some sense of obligation to work together for the common good, these climate talks will fail. Loss and damage will be the norm, not the exception, because the other avenues will fail to provide the pathways for a sustainable and equitable future. Let’s hope that COP 19 (Warsaw Communique?) does not become the next Copenhagen Agreement…

COP19 in OT at the National Stadium

IMG_4337The ADP was due to have finished the open-ended discussion of its most recent draft this morning by 11am.  It’s now almost midnight and at 8:37, the co-chairs announced a stop in the debate over Article 2(b) to break into smaller groups to conduct an “informal informal” about the competing proposals on the table.  The BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China), supported by AILAC and a number of other developing countries, favor changing the language, to shift the focus from “nationally determined” commitments to something more internationally monitored.  They also are dismayed at how the Article 2 language (a – c) seems too mitigation oriented and doesn’t sufficiently signal adaptation, financing, and technology commitments.  (I wasn’t admitted until the discussion was some 20 minutes under way, so I may have missed something.)

Philippines talking to Singapore.

Philippines talking to Singapore.

The U.S., EU, New Zealand, and Chile support the original language.  Or, as a proferred fallback, an amendment offered by the Dominican Republic (instead of national commitments, “national preparations to determine their commitments”) which is acceptable to many of the parties.Although the negotiation was ostensibly about the words on paper, Bolivia’s negotiator posed the $100 billion question in the room: “where is the finance?”  He reminded everyone of the civil society walkout yesterday because “nothing” was achieved on loss and damage, finance, and technology transfer.  He stressed the need for quantified dollar commitments from developed countries before his country could agree to the proposed text.  And he stated in no uncertain terms that “there is no possibility to say there’s no money for adaptation, but there is money for war and spying; NATO spends $1trillion per year in wars alone.”  In the end, Bolivia and AILAC concluded that they have to have clear commitments or cannot go forward.

Venezuela (L), Bolivia (R)

Venezuela (L), Bolivia (R)

The Venezuelan lead negotiator followed up to agree with her colleague: no one can fool themselves about not having the money to make commitments happen, she began pointedly.  She looked straight at the co-chairs and told them in no uncertain terms that “you two have the opportunity in your hands to make this COP not a failure.” She went on to declare that “a blaming game is childish,” obliquely referring to “someone from a major developed country having blamed LMCs  (Like Minded Countries) for creating a  firewall between the majority who want this text and group of small countries who are getting in the way.”  (She later referred to this person as a she, confirming the reference to Connie Heddegard of the EU.)  The pace of Venezuela’s intervention intensified when she refuted the characterization of the AILAC countries (and implicitly, their concerns) as small:  “We represent 50% of the world’s population and are not a minor group.”  She finished by asking the chairs, “are you really listening? What’s next – will there be a text to take or leave at the closing plenary or do we face a Copenhagen situation?”

The co-chairs enjoying the break in action.

The co-chairs enjoy the break.

Co-chair Kishan was visibly irritated when he replied “we co-chairs will not take the blame for what the parties in the room have done.  The fact that no one in the room is happy with the text indicates that it is a party-driven process; if this COP fails, then everyone is equally responsible.”

The wise and well spoken negotiator from Colombia (who I’ve come to respect immensely this week) took the floor after this heated exchange, and in a calm but firm voice reminded everyone that “we’re not just negotiating a climate treaty, it is one of economies and societies.”  Depending on the language used, this COP “could prejudice the future of developing countries’ development.”  She sought to bridge the gap by noting that the annex had been watered down in terms of guidance, but that she (and others) could live with it in order to achieve consensus.

My ADP hero, the wise leader from Colombia (supporting the chair?)

My ADP hero, the wise leader from Colombia (supporting the chair?)

Having set out that concession, she confirmed that the language of nationally determined commitments was not acceptable because these emission reductions require international review to determine whether they will achieve the 2 degree C. cap that scientists have set.  She also asked for a clear timetable for these 2(b) commitments, to show ambition to the world community.  This, she stated, was a reasonable request, given that her group had let go of an assessment phase (in paragraph 6).  In the end, though, she grimly observed that she did “not feel that there is a sense of movement in the room.”

A scrum of negotiators.

A scrum of negotiators.

2(b) or not 2(b), that 'tis the question.

2(b) or not 2(b), that ’tis the question.

We’re now almost 3.5 hours into a break taken ostensibly to discuss an article containing 5 lines.  The entire draft document begins with a decision comprising a preamble and 7 articles, proceeds to a conclusion comprising 10 articles, and ends with an annex of bullet-pointed areas of further reflection.  Article 2(b) is thus a very small proportion of the words to be determined by this group.  Right now, at midnight, it’s very hard to imagine how the rest of the text will be resolved before COP19 sunsets, er sunrises?

Women's day continues at COP19.

Women’s day continues at COP19.

Stay tuned.  Very interesting.  And very open, once we got inside the door.  For negotiators vey freely mingled with us, and spoke with their colleagues just inches away.  Right now there is a lot of smaller group conversation and folks are quite chipper despite the hour.  I have a plane to catch tomorrow and won’t likely make it to the end. But I hope to at least here the conclusion of this round of informals.


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