Our Talanoa: Recognizing a Common Thread

Few things are as complex as the myriad relationships that exist between the countries of the world. Like unruly children, they’ve fought, made peace, gotten bored, and hit each other again when mom wasn’t looking. Putting them in a room together, even when they’re negotiating for something mutually beneficial, can be a hotbed of tension. The Talanoa Dialogue ensures each is heard, IMG-7730preventing conflict with one simple rule: no blaming others, and no criticisms.

Talanoa” is a Fijian word used to describe an inclusive, participatory, and transparent dialogue that focuses on sharing experiences through story-telling in order to build empathy among participants. During the process, parties build trust and advance knowledge in a way that fosters stability. The dialogue was undertaken pursuant to decision 1/CP.21 and slated for 2018; its goal was to take stock of progress towards the long term goals of the Paris Agreement and inform the preparation on nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

cr=w_1200,h_750,a_ccThe dialogue focuses the parties on three questions: “Where are we? Where do we go? How do we get there?” To answer these questions, there was a Preparatory Phase and a Political Phase. The Preparatory Phase began in January, 2018 and will conclude at the COP. Its primary goal is to build a strong scientific base for the Political Phase, which, in turn, will take stock of the collective efforts of the Parties to reach their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Once in the Political Phase, Parties engage in Ministerial Talanoas of 12-13 participants. Each is facilitated by Ministers from the Pacific Region or from Poland. These break-out sessions revolve around storytelling and discussion based on guiding questions. These sessions gave delegates the chance to speak unabashedly about their country’s unique circumstances and about their goals for the future. They promise an opportunity to be honest with partner states about what the climate regime and the goals of the Paris Agreement mean for your people.

If the Parties are warring siblings, the Talanoas are the peace that comes with age and understanding. Once removed from their adversarial positions at the negotiation table, the only realization left to them is that we’re stuck with each other, for better or worse.


The Pre-2020 Stocktake: Disappointment and Resolve

As with any massive undertaking, practice makes better. The Global Stocktake in 2023 is no different.image1024x768
In accordance with decisions at COP21, to implement enhanced action prior to 2020, and at COP23, emphasizing that enhanced pre-2020 ambition can lay a solid foundation for post-2020 goals, this year’s COP held a two-part assessment of global progress. The first event, held on December 5th, was a Technical Review, while the second event, held on December 10th, was a High-Level meeting of the Parties. Each session was composed of two panels. Each answered predetermined questions followed by an open plenary discussion where Member Parties could intervene.
The Technical Review’s first panel, consisting of the heads of the subsidiary bodies, considered “the work of the UNFCCC process related to the mitigation efforts up to 2020.” It addressed issues such as technology transfer, capacity building, and the IPCC 15 report. The second panel, made up of financial bodies and technical experts, highlighted “efforts of the UNFCCC process to enhance climate implementation and ambition up to 2020.” It focused on ease of access to climate finance, as well as on parties’ progress towards their finance commitments.
COP24-6Today’s High-Level meeting saw two panels made up of ministers of various Developed and Developing Country Parties: Poland, Grenada, the European Commission, China, & Australia in the first session, followed by Norway, Brazil, Germany, Ethiopia, Japan, & Finland. The panels began by discussing the pre-2020 efforts of Parties to mitigate greenhouse gases & ways to enhance efforts, and the provision of support for climate efforts and enhancing efforts, respectively.
Discussions in each session forced Parties to consider their efforts to implement mitigation strategies, make climate finance more accessible, and to meet the various commitments and ambitions in the pre-2020 period. While the aim of this stocktake was to “provide a space for holistic reflection by ministers and other high-level representatives,” it raised serious questions regarding gaps between Parties’ commitments and the reality exposed by the IPCC 15 and other reports.
While Panelists focused on the positive and what had been working thus far, such as finding the right incentives to delink economic growth from emissions, doubts were raised during the plenary. Most poignant was India’s intervention: “Are these pre-2020 actions adequate? Have we addressed the task before us?”
To which, it seems, the answer is “No. Not yet.”


Where Do We Grow From Here?

The historical first workshop on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) took place on the second day of COP24. The discussion focused on the modalities for implementing the outcomes of the five in-session workshops on issues related to agriculture and other future topics that may arise from this work. There was more than what met the eye happening. The workshop revealed across-the-board concerns the parties had going forward.

kjwa24The decision, 4/CP.23, requests the SBSTA/SBI to jointly address issues related to agriculture, working with constituted bodies (CBs) under the Convention. Representatives of the CBs presented information on the following questions:

  1. What is the general mandate of the constituted body?
  2. How has the work of the constituted body contributed to Parties’ implementation of work on agriculture?
  3. How can the work of the constituted body help Parties to advance their work on agriculture?

The Adaptation Committee (AC) seeks to advance Parties’ work in agriculture by incorporating an agriculture lens into an upcoming technical paper on linkages between mitigation and adaptation. Additionally, the AC provides guidance to the Nairobi Work Programme on potential agriculture-related activities. Kenya proposed the questions “how do we see using Nairobi Work Programme to help agriculture or what can we do differently? Make it useful? To receive knowledge?” Kenya continuing, “what can we do as parties and the KJWA that can advance agriculture? How do we implement the outcomes of the five workshops? How can we help you?”

The Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) are working on supplemental guidelines based on water, gender, agriculture, etc. Their percentage distribution of NAPA projects = 21% agriculture and food security. The European Union (EU) asked the question “how do you see the contents of 5 workshops useful to your work?” Uganda, looking at the key elements identified by the workshops, sought answers to “how can we increase the access of knowledge for farmers from the five workshops?” “How can we improve connectivity?”

The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) has improved the coherence and coordination of climate change finance delivery. In SCF forums, agriculture has been addressed as well as forestry. “From the presentation, looking at the investment, how do you see the committee engaged in KJWA?” Kenya asked. Further, Uruguay inquired, “the reduction of emissions should be considered in agriculture, so how can we ensure that emission reduction is not an obstacle for implementation?”

The Climate Technology Centre and Network Advisory Board (CTCN) discussed how the CTCN can support a country’s agricultural systems by enhancing agricultural and rural development. CTCN can identify appropriate technology-neutral approaches that make agriculture more resilient. In response, Kenya explains “you are aware of the five topics and the last two require technology development and transfer under Koronivia. Has the CTCN considered the outcomes and topics under KJWA? What can parties do? How do we send a message to you to incorporate the topics discussed here?”

Climate-AgricultureConcerns going forward are apparent and have only minorly been addressed. The only known going forward is the procedure.  The Koronivia workshop will be meeting again on Wednesday.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE.

 


Planting the Seed: Agriculture in Climate Negotiations

KJWA3With COP24 right around the corner, sights will be set on the newest agenda item, agriculture. In a landmark decision, Parties at COP 23 adopted the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). This decision ended the six-year stalemate on how to address agriculture in the international climate talks. The KJWA “. . . seeks to develop and implement new strategies for adaptation and mitigation within the agriculture sector, that will help reduce emissions as well as build its resilience to the effects of climate change.” The inclusion of KJWA will support Parties’ goals of addressing climate change and food security.

The KJWA is in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep the global temperature rise this century “well below 2⁰C” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5⁰C. Globally, agriculture accounts for approximately 19-29% of greenhouse gas emissions, making agriculture vital to climate negotiations.

Under KJWA, SBSTA and SBI will jointly address agricultural issues through workshops and expert meetings, and by working with constituted bodies under the Convention. All bodies will consider agriculture’s vulnerability to climate change and approaches to addressing food security.

To start the work, key elements were identified. The agriculture issues include; methods for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience; improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland; improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems; improved livestock management systems; and the socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector. By implementing these methods, emissions will be reduced and resilience in the agricultural sector will support food security.

Picture1At SBSTA /SBI 48, Parties set out a road map of work under the KJWA that includes six new workshops to be held sequentially up until COP26. The first Koronivia workshop will take place in Katowice and focus on modalities for implementing the outcomes of the preceding five in-session workshops on issues related to agriculture.

Several Parties and observer organizations have submitted comments for the first Koronivia workshop on agriculture. One of the most notable submissions came from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The submission stressed the importance of “facilitating knowledge exchange of information on good practices and lessons learned, capacity building for implementation and action in the agricultural sectors and enhancing access to climate finance in least developed and developing countries for the agricultural sector.” CGIAR System Organization, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture and the World Bank also submitted similar key messages.

Through submissions the message stressing the importance of agriculture in climate negotiations is clear. To address climate change and food security, agriculture must be considered in the negotiations.

 

 

 


Working Towards an “Ocean COP”

Ocean health is a big deal. It provides food security and resources to sustain our economies. It regulates our weather patterns. It absorbs heat and our carbon dioxide emissions. We often forget how dependent we are on the oceans. But lucky for us, UNFCCC Parties recognize that the “well below 2˚C” goal is not achievable without the ocean.

In June 2017, Fiji and Sweden co-chaired the first UN Ocean Conference in New York City—a conference on ocean health and sustainability. Fiji used that momentum as the COP23 President to bring awareness of ocean health to climate change discussions. Partnering again with Sweden, this dynamic duo co-chaired the Ocean Pathway. In total, 10 parties and 14 Advisory groups committed to the Ocean Pathway at COP23. Participation is likely to increase at COP24 following a year of devastating weather events.

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The Ocean Pathway is a new innovation to incorporate ocean conservation into the international climate change regime. This two-track strategy will (1) “increase the role of ocean consideration in the UNFCCC process” while (2) “significantly increasing action in priority areas impacting or impacted by [the] ocean and climate change.” 

The first track aims to develop a strategy to implement the ocean into UNFCCC negotiations with the “Friends of the Ocean” process—an open forum for Parties to discuss, debate, and implement measures to combat ocean concerns for the next two COPs. The goal is to make COP25 the “Ocean COP” by developing an effective work programme and potential agenda item by 2020.

The second track will strengthen previous ocean and climate change actions by developing new partnerships and platforms to increase momentum in the ocean conservation movement. Such actions include reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reducing fossil fuel consumption, and increasing protection of blue carbon areas. Most important to COP24, the Because of the Ocean Coalition encourages Parties’ to include ocean-related measures in their NDCs! Not only will Parties combat climate change, but they can also tackle important concerns like ocean acidification, sea level rise, and pollution. A major win in the marine conservation realm!


Is Insurance Betting on a Green Future?

The insurance industry is now one of the many actors in the private sector that are adapting to climate change. Insurance companies like Alianz or Prudential are taking actions to adjust. These big insurance companies work with groups like ClimateWise to navigate the financial world in light of climate change. But as climate change progresses, it is still uncertain whether this big insurance money will benefit or deter environmentalists’ efforts against climate change.

Traditionally, insurance companies do not like to invest in risky business. Their business model is sustained through pooling funds, investing to grow funds, and paying out funds only when necessary. To invest and to grow, insurance companies price their clients based on their behavior. They consider what to charge clients based on how often these clients would have to be compensated. Insurance companies rely heavily on data and statistics to determine the options of their customers. For example, data has shown that most auto accidents involve young drivers. So the pricing model for teenagers is much higher than the average 25+ year old. In health insurance, smokers are charged higher rates than non-smokers.

'It's standard procedure. Your rates will come down after a few years in the risk pool.'

‘It’s standard procedure. Your rates will come down after a few years in the risk pool.

From an insurance company’s perspective, this practice is merely smart business. It is simply charging the riskier clients a higher premium to compensate for the higher likelihood of a pay out. In one way, this business model looks like insurance companies penalize certain client groups due to cold studies and statistics. Conversely though, insurance companies can use their pricing model to encourage certain behaviors. Their pricing models are tiered to prefer some customers over others. This subtle encouragement can shift behaviors to reduce the risk pool.

Insurance companies like Allianz are already practicing this scheme with climate change in mind by offering their clients “Green Solutions”. Their Green Solutions model charges clients based on three main elements. The first is to facilitate and promote green technology. The second is to mitigate climate change and conserve the environment. And the third is to help customers adapt to, and protect against, increasing environmental risk. Considering Allianz’s second element, behavior that is “environmentally friendly” is seemingly financially encouraged.green_solutions__288x200

Alternatively, other companies like Illinois Farmers Insurance Co. are getting involved within climate change by instigating litigation against the government. After extreme storms in 2013, sewer water flooded many of their customers. Illinois Farmers sued the “greater Chicago, Cook County, the City of Chicago and numerous other cities, towns, and villages” for the costs of its increased pay outs. Under the claims of negligent maintenance liability, failure to remedy known dangerous conditions, and takings without just compensation, Illinois Famers Insurance sued for just remedies.

chicago+riverwalk+flooded+4+thumb Within their complaint, they cite negligent action being taken in the face of climate action. They accuse the government for failing to “implement reasonable stormwater management practices and increase stormwater capacity.” They alleged that the government knew of the city’s limitations for rainwater overflow despite knowing the consistent yearly precipitation increase. They claim that the government’s negligence on climate change adaptation resulted in higher costs to private insurers. So rather than sue polluting companies for contributing to climate change, Illinois Farmers Insurance used its litigation to bring attention to the lack of adaptation action by the government.

In their desire to reduce risk and costs, insurance companies are reacting to climate change with more speed than governments. From encouraging climate friendly behavior to discouraging negligence, it is interesting to note the ways that the insurance industry can shape the response to climate change. Because money talks, the insurance industry could be an ally for environmentalism.

 


We can do more!

earthobservation_earthAfter two weeks of negotiations in which we observed UNFCCC Parties, stakeholders, and all the people that make possible the Conference of the Parties (COP), I leave Bonn with several reflections.

Parties do have the ability to achieve consensus and adopt the necessary decisions towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

People all around the world are working to fight climate change. Universities, institutions, NGOs, and subnational governments like cities are individually trying to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement, for example by using and promoting renewable energy to reduce GHG emissions.

Volunteers and observers (like VLS) are there to encourage and support the negotiators in this journey 24/7. So, what are we missing to move forward in the implementation of the Paris Agreement? Why do we still think/feel that the negotiations are going too slowly?

Even though the Paris Agreement entered into force just 11 months after its adoption in December 2015, Parties agreed that its effects would only take place from 2020 onward while they worked to put in place the implementing rules needed to make the Paris Agreement operational.

But the implementation action plan is not clear yet. For example, the developing countries are still waiting for the developed ones to commit in matters relating to finance so that they can achieve their NDCs. In addition, it is not clear how Parties are going to register their adaptation communications in the public registry determined by the Paris Agreement.

Time is passing by. COP23 was important and some decisions were taken, but we need more. We need more commitments from the developed world. We need more people passionate about climate change. We need to implement more actions to pursue the global temperature goal, and limit the temperature increase to 1.5 ºC above pre-industrial levels. do-more-quote

What am I going to do? I want to keep doing what I am doing, even though sometimes it feels that it has no impact. I will talk to people (communities, schools, family) and explain to them how a simple action like turning off a light can mitigate the effects of climate change.Hopefully, if we start changing minds, we will stop changing the climate.


Sarah Bashaan: My Stand Out Mediator

Sarah_Bashaan_800The chairs and facilitators of COP 23’s sub bodies are responsible for assisting parties to reach agreement. As we observe the negotiations, we tend to focus on the Parties and their interests. However, the facilitators and chairs of these high-level negotiations must accommodate the interests of individual Parties while helping all Parties to agree. During COP 23, with constant APA plenary meeting suspensions, the Co-Chairs had a difficult task getting Parties to consensus.

The two co-chairs of the APA are women: Sarah Bashaan and Jo Tyndall. Bashaan stood out to me. She joined the Saudi delegation to the UNFCCC in 2012 as a negotiator on Climate Change policy in Response Measures and Mitigation. As Co-Chair of the APA, Bashaan had a particular eloquence in the way she handled the negotiations.

During the APA closing plenary, South Africa, on behalf of the Africa Group, sought to adjourn the meeting due to unresolved items on the agenda. Bashaan responded by first recognizing that the APA Co-Chairs understood the importance of the issue raised by the Africa Group. Second, Bashaan reminded all parties that they had agreed in an earlier SBI decision to complete the APA’s work by noon that day. Bashaan thus reminded Parties that their own procedural desires, not her own, urged continuing the closing plenary as rescheduled.

bc5fc9_dfd4896ce1f04e8094ce9a9d12eb1a3c~mv2Looking back at my experience at the COP and attending many APA sessions, I notice a few things about Bashaan’s leadership tactics. First, she keeps a calm, neutral tone in her voice. Second, she uses the Parties’ prior agreements to get them to cooperate. Third, she respectfully corrects Parties when they use incorrect information. Taken together, Bashaan’s leadership style is effective at helping Parties come to an understanding.


Intentions and Realities: A case for better fund management

Uganda ChildrenOne of the biggest hang-ups to addressing climate change is finance.  How are research projects funded?  How are solutions funded so that they can be implemented at a meaningful scale?  While finance was not my area of focus at COP 23, it certainly came up concerning “agriculture, forestry, and other land use” issues (AFOLU).  One of the most impressionable moments I had at COP 23 concerned finance for adaptation in agriculture.

At a side event for “addressing climate change for a world free of hunger, malnutrition and poverty,” the conversation among the facilitators and stakeholders seemed collaborative.  Then, Kagandga John, the Executive Director of Kikandwa Environmental Association (KEA) of Uganda, spoke.  He started slowly, thanking the Chair and other members joining the roundtable discussion.  He expressed his gratitude that finally agriculture and food security were being talked about seriously.  Then his voice escalated.  “You sit here and talk about funding innovative projects in agriculture.  You even continue to suggest new pilot projects for our region.”  At this point, he became animated, his voice nearing a crescendo.  “But I will tell you now that WE ALREADY KNOW how to adapt our farming to climate change!  Stop funding new pilot projects!  Start funding projects that already work.  Come to Uganda, we will show you.”

Part of the financing problem appears to be the mismanagement of available funds.  Is this possible?  For developing countries like Uganda, this inefficiency must be very frustrating.  After the meeting, I spoke with Kagandga John.  I learned that the education center in the Mityana district of Uganda that educates children about the environment and climate change must close due to lack of financial support from the local and international community.

Surely there is a better way to manage funds for developing nations.


A stumbling block at COP 23 – Finance

huddle-Fiji-in-BonnThe cost of mitigating climate change is estimated at 200-350 billion Euros (236-413 Billion USD) per year by 2030. It is a manageable sum in terms of a global burden, only 1% of global GDP. In terms of who pays and how much to pay, however, it becomes a disputed figure. For example, developed countries agreed in 2010 to “mobilize” 100 billion USD annually by the year 2020 in paragraph 98 of the COP16 decision 1/CP.16. Unresolved issues regarding this commitment remain, even in 2017.

Philosophically, this divide has on one side the developed countries as having the ability and the responsibility to pay. Developed countries use more energy than under developed countries. On the other side, the underdeveloped countries need financing and the know-how to ensure that future development in their countries is environmentally friendly and sustainable.

At COP23, this issue came to the forefront where it stopped the APA closing plenary dead in its tracks on Wednesday afternoon, the day the APA was scheduled to close. Negotiations lasted through the night. The underdeveloped countries, led by the G77, wanted developed countries to make concrete commitments through the biennial communication requirements as required by Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement. The G77 also referred to Paris Agreement Articles 13 (transparency) and 15 (compliance) to make this requirement enforceable.greendollars

In response the developed countries argued that Article 9.5 is a procedural matter and that the G77 countries want to discuss the dollar commitments. They argued that this is beyond the scope of the Paris Agreement.

The result was to urge both sides to act on their commitments and to refer this matter to a High Ministerial Dialogue for further discussion.  In other words, onwards to 2018.

 


Lets get on the same page

Capacity Building Initiative on TransparencyThe Paris Agreement, ratified by 170 Parties, at last count, has a clear goal for the world: Hold the rise in average global temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. While the goal is clear, the solutions are complex and challenging. This is especially true for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). LDCs lack the capacity and technical expertise to tackle these problems.  The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognized the disparity between developed and LDCs in article 4.9 and implemented mechanisms to assist LDCs build capacity.

One of the recent mechanisms to be implemented as a part of the Paris Agreement is the Capacity Building Initiative on Transparency (CBIT). The goal of this initiative is to “strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of developing countries to meet the enhanced transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement.” In this context, transparency is more than access to information; it also refers to accuracy and standardization. Transparency allows all Parties to measure and compare the collective progress made by each country’s pledged climate change actions.

CBIT calls for transparency on two fronts: the first is transparency of actions and the second is transparency of support:

  • Transparency of actions is completed through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as called for by the convention in Article 4.1(f). Simply, NDCs are a set of measures taken by a country to limit GHG emissions. But this task is a more complex process than it seems. In order to meet the requirements of the PA Article 13.5, NDCs need to be backed by scientific data that can be Measured, Reviewed, and Verified (MRV). LDCs need to develop expertise in the methodologies used for collecting data. As an example, the first NDC submitted by Papua New Guinea (PNG) presented data with “considerable uncertainty”. To address that gap, PNG received financial assistance through CBIT to hire the expertise needed to collect the data needed to MRV its pledged actions. As the NDCs are evaluated collectively, they are compared to the ultimate goal of the PA. In turn, as delegates meet annually, they can evaluate climate change actions against the goal more effectively.
  • The PA in Article 13.6 requires “transparency of support.” The PA tasked the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with administering fund distribution. In order to facilitate that, the GEF publishes a report that details the support given under the CBIT fund. In its recent report of early November, 2017, $17,389,995 in CBIT funds was distributed to fourteen countries for transparency capacity building. This report also lists funding from other sources, including almost $19 million in co-financing for these projects.

In terms of spending on climate change actions, the CBIT fund doesn’t readily draw attention. However, it is an important part of combating climate change. By providing these practical measures, in addition to the climate change policies, the COP and its entities provide more holistic solutions. CBIT can be seen as one brick in giant wall of solution options. I would like to think of it as a corner stone that supports this wall far beyond its size would indicate.


The Indigenous Platform: A win-win for climate and indigenous rights

climate impactsYesterday I observed a side event that left me feeling anxious about our future. With all the acknowledgment of climate change and the steps taken by parties to the UNFCCC since 1992, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. In fact, nowhere on the graph presented did the tangent show progress in decreasing emissions. That’s right! After 25 years of learning and negotiating about climate change, it seems we are making little progress with respect to our ultimate goal of reducing global emissions. The implications of this, if gone unabated, could be catastrophic. Indeed, as the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration now exceeds 400 ppm, we are headed into uncharted territory. Our lives depend on our ability and capacity to adapt to the coming changes as well as to mitigate what we can. Who will show us the way?

It has long been recognized that indigenous knowledge is invaluable for addressing and responding to climate change. For this reason, a platform was established at COP 21 in Paris to afford indigenous people the opportunity to share their traditional knowledge and unique perspective for adapting to, and mitigating climate change. The following year, in Marrakesh, the COP decided to adopt an incremental and participatory approach to developing the indigenous platform. But in the waning hours of COP 23, the COP adopted a decision that includes a formal statement of the purpose for the platform as well as how it will function.

indigenous-potatoes-790x547The purpose of the platform is to “to strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples related to addressing and responding to climate change.” The platform will facilitate the exchange and sharing of best practices and lessons learned on mitigation and adaptation and work to enhance the engagement of local communities and indigenous peoples in the UNFCCC process. This is important and exciting! Who knows better the nuances and changes of a particular environment and ecosystem than the people who have relied on them for generations? When it comes to reforestation efforts, it is the indigenous and local communities that understand the seeds to be used, the viability of the soil, and the changes in weather patterns that will determine growth. When it comes to producing food, these people know best what farming techniques will be successful and sustainable, or what practices need to change due to changing weather and hydrological cycles. We can learn so much!

But perhaps the most exciting thing about the platform is what it provides to indigenous peoples and local communities- a seat at the table. The platform is expected to build the capacity of indigenous people and local communities so that they can engage in the UNFCCC process. The platform is also expected to build the capacities of Parties to meet their NDCs under the Paris agreement.

indigenous-peopleWhat does this mean? It sounds like there is finally going to be a collaborative effort between Parties and indigenous people and local communities to address climate change- both in terms of mitigation and adaptation. Speculating as to what co-benefits may flow from this, it seems evident that Parties must now seriously take up the issue of land tenure with respect to the indigenous communities within their respective states. Perhaps indigenous populations will finally gain the security of holding enforceable rights to their traditional, native territories- ensuring the continuation of their culture.
The platform is a win for the climate and indigenous populations.


Nefarious Nets: Private Insurance in the Public Sector?

At the end of the day, the insurance industry is a business. But they are also a risk pool. So while they may be companies with stockholders and CEOs with a bottom line, they are still risk shares that are meant  to minimize damage impacts amongst their insured customers. But as the insurance industry becomes savvier with personalized data about who to insure and how much to charge them – customers should ask themselves whether they can really trust their insurance company to be less of a capitalizing business and more of a safety net against damage.

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As climate change damages rise, big insurance companies have begun to calculate risk costs with extreme weather events in mind. This calculation development has put insurers like Munich Re and Willis Re on the forefront of early action planning and early risk warning conversations at COP23. These two insurance companies are currently in partnership with InsuResilience. InsuResilience is a recently launched UN initiative that operates as a financial mechanism to buoy those who are vulnerable to climate change.

As a financial mechanism, InsuResilience will operate as a climate risk insurance provider to vulnerable people groups. This could occur directly with smallholder farmers or governments themselves. They have multiple programs and insurance plans that can provide service for small countries or service for small farmers. InsuResilience says that their plans will have the means to provide for “rapid emergency assistance and reconstruction, as it can very quickly disburse cash to the insured party.” The website claims that they will provide an effective and proactive approach to extreme weather events compared to the reactive measures taken by humanitarian charity efforts. Their unique position to act quickly could “save lives, protect[] livelihoods and assets, and safeguard[] development gains.”

As it affects developing countries and their campaign to receive compensation for climate change loss and damages, InsuResilience is a boon. InsuResilience allows developing and vulnerable countries to minimize the detrimental effects of climate change. In that way, InsuResilience follows a basic risk pooling example as countries pool their resources to protect and rebuild after an extreme event. For example, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu have pooled their resources into the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI) Insurance. PCRAFI proved itself to be a successful program when Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in 2015. Because of PCRAFI, Vanuatu was able to receive a US$1.9 million cash pay out. Vanuatu received its funds within one week of Tropical Cyclone Pam and Vanuatu was able to use those funds to support their recovery process by mobilizing nurses into the affected provinces. 150316073014-01-cyclone-pam-0316-super-169PCRAFI is just one of the regional programs that InsuResilience supports. InsuResilience works with African Risk Capacity (ARC), Global Index Insurance Facility (GIIF), India, Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), and more. 2cb97666-2c50-4fb7-a0c4-d0dfade57163But PCRAFI is also being “complemented by reinsurance provided by Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, Swiss Re, and Munich Re.” PCRAFI is not unique in that its funds are being complemented by private insurers. Granted, this position is not unique – but private insurers are taking a larger role in Climate Change than just reinsurance.

So while PCRAFI, its counterparts, and InsuResilience are providing vulnerable people groups safety nets against the financial costs of climate change damages – it is still being funding by private insurers. While private insurers are not inherently “nefarious”, the capitalist goals behind their operation provide a shadow of whether developing countries can trust these insurance companies to be less of a capitalizing business and more of a safety net against climate change damage.

 

 


Using an Interactive Simulation Model to Educate Students on our Climate Future

screenshot1o5aC-ROADS stands for “Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support Simulator.” It is a computer simulation tool developed by the non-profit think tank, Climate Interactive, to educate people on how to achieve climate change goals through interactive experiences. Here at COP23, C-ROADS was the focal point of the side event, “NVF: Using Decision-Maker Tools & Climate Education to Build Momentum on Climate Change.” As an award-winning computer simulator that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, C-ROADS focuses on an interactive experience that enables users actually to test their thinking on strategies for reducing emissions.

The C-ROADS simulation tool allows the user to manipulate factors similar to those that climate change negotiators face at the COP. These factors include, but are not limited to,  country categories, emissions per year, the beginning reduction year, and an annual reduction rate. The user can play around with the data, entering different figures for the respective factors and watch the temperature (by 2100) change accordingly.

Panelist Andrew Jones of Climate Interactive, creator of C-ROADS, harkened on the point that, “research shows that showing people research doesn’t work.” Jones took this mantra to create what he calls is a “visceral, interactive experiences that get people actually to test their thinking.” Panelist Florian Kapmeier, of Reutlingen University, used C-ROADS to introduce students, of many age cohorts, to the roles of climate change negotiators. Kapmeier emphasized that students thought lectures were boring and C-ROADS, through interactive learning, was a way to get them engaged. Through its use, Jones hopes to demonstrate that there is no “silver bullet” in climate change mitigation, but educating people on the effects of climate change might help build better climate decision-makers of the future.


We are working on it!

Island in the oceanAttending COP23 as an observer is a privilege because you are able to attend international multilateral negotiations. You witness established alliances use their power as a block and observe the dynamics of side negotiations. In these international multilateral negotiations, delegates agonize over words and paragraphs. They set their lines in the sand early and often. All of it done with diplomatic speak and collegiality but sometimes some get close to stepping over the line. Most of all, it is a privilege because you get to see the world trying to solve a problem collectively. With all this privilege, there is no denying that at times, these negotiations are frustrating. On rare occasions, the frustration causes one to think that the process is not working.

In a conversation with a delegate, I asked whether he is experiencing such frustration. Stalled talks are particularly challenging for him because he is from a Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which the United Nations considers as vulnerable nations because of climate change effect.  SIDS are usually located in the paths of hurricanes, which are happening with more frequency and more force. In the summer of 2017, for the first time, this delegate’s country issued mandatory evacuations from one of the outlying islands because no available shelter was adequate against the wrath of the coming storm. In the aftermath, the island became uninhabitable.

Additionally, SIDS are very vulnerable to rising sea levels. If water levels continue to rise, the oceans will soon reclaim these islands. Their challenge is their reluctance to make these issues public. Because their economy is dependent on tourism, climate change effects will drive off tourists, which will hurt an already fragile economy.

To answer my question, the delegate simply smiled. Then he started looking around at the other delegates and asked how many countries are represented. I told him there are delegates from 170 countries. He asked what are they all doing here? I told him that they are working on climate change issues. He replied with an even bigger smile, “exactly!” and repeated shortly after– We are working on it.

It is true that the COP process is complicated. One is instantly overwhelmed by the structure. There are three processes contained within the COP (UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement). Furthermore, each convention, protocol, or agreement has its own framework, and they sometimes intersect with each other. Having said that, the complexity of the process really lies in the magnitude of participants. At last count, there are one hundred and seventy countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement. These countries represent different needs, levels of development, levels of ability, and a different sense of urgency. Even with the common shared goal of limiting the increase in the Planet’s average temperature, the complexity is how to arrive at the desired results. In other words, who does what and who pays for what is the main source of difficulty at the COP negotiations, but…..

We are working on it!

 

Negotiation agenda