Justice Not Charity: It’s Just Compensation

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

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

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

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

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

G77 + China: Perspectivas de la COP23

230202_600Compuesto por 130 países, el G77 + China representa el grupo negociador más grande en la Convención Marco sobre el Cambio Climático (CMCC). El día de hoy durante su conferencia de prensa, la señora María Fernanda Espinoza en nombre del grupo, expresó los retos y debilidades de la COP23, así como los resultados positivos de las negociaciones sostenidas durante las últimas dos semanas en Bonn, Alemania.

En cuanto a los resultados positivos, el grupo resaltó la creación de la plataforma para las comunidades locales y los pueblos indígenas , la cual busca reforzar los conocimientos, las tecnologías, las prácticas y los esfuerzos de las comunidades locales y los pueblos indígenas para hacer frente al cambio climático.

Igualmente, destacó el trabajo que se ha realizado en el área de las pérdidas y daños con ocasión a los efectos de cambio climático en la que se están cuantificando los mismos para así definir los recursos necesarios para mitigación y adaptación y sobretodo recuperación después de un evento de cambio climático como los vividos en los últimos meses (Huracanes Irma y María).

Por otro lado, en lo que tiene que ver con las debilidades y los retos a los que todavía se enfrenta el grupo, Espinoza señaló que aún no está claro cómo las Partes van a cumplir con sus compromisos de adaptación y mitigación, en especial por los problemas de acceso a financiamiento y recursos, transferencias de tecnologías y el fortalecimiento de capacidades de los países.

En cuanto al financiamiento, resaltó que ocho años después de su creación el Fondo Verde Climático no ha recaudado el monto determinado para cada año y el acceso a este se hace cada vez más difícil, lo que pone en desventaja a los países menos desarrollados.

¿Qué está haciendo el G77 y China para mejorar el acceso al financiamiento y que las Partes puedan cumplir con sus metas de mitigación y adaptación? change_in_hand_2x3

El grupo presentó una propuesta ante la Conferencia de las Partes-COP23, en la que además de solicitar que el procedimiento para acceder a los recursos económicos sea más sencillo, se está solicitando un acceso real y consistente a los recursos que se necesitan por parte de los países.

Adicionalmente, se solicitó que estos recursos sean nuevos, predecibles y sostenibles en el tiempo para que se puedan financiar las actividades por medio de las cuales se busca cumplir con los compromisos adquiridos bajo el Acuerdo de París.

Así las cosas, y aunque se cumplieron algunos de los objetivos que se tenían para la COP23, los medios de implementación y en especial el acceso al financiamiento y los recursos sigue siendo “la pata débil” de las negociaciones.

Se espera que con la petición efectuada por el G77 y China, la COP continúe negociando y se llegue a un consenso para mejor el financiamiento que requieren los países menos desarrollados para cumplir con las metas propuestas bajo el Acuerdo de París.

The Value of a Tree

How much is a tree worth?  How do you calculate its value?  Board feet?  Ecoservices?

PNW ForestFor many people advocating for the implementation of REDD+, the value of a forest is great.  Forests in developing countries like Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Mongolia are recognized for their vital role in protecting water sources, sequestering carbon, and controlling erosion.  The forests are also valued because they provide ecosystem services and protect biodiversity.  These benefits individually and collectively act as a buffer to the effects of climate change – creating a resilient ecosystem.

But what about the value of a tree?  More importantly, how should developed states value their trees and forests? The Temperate forests of Oregon and Washington and the Boreal forests of Alaska are considered global champions for climate change mitigation.  Yet the timber industry as well as the state and federal agencies that manage forests on public lands value a tree and even entire forest by extractable board footage.  Simply put, the value of a tree is determined by the immediate profit that can be realized by its removal as well as the jobs created in the process.  Little to no account is given to intangible worth like ecosystem services and the forests’ rich biodiversity.  Given less consideration are unforeseeable future benefits like a stable climate.


But if we are to adequately determine whether to remove a tree or a forest, perhaps we should take a page from the book of developing nations.  In doing so, it behooves us to place a proper value on the resource- considering its worth entirely.  We may find that the forest, yes even the tree, is worth more standing.


How to Improve the Role of Women for Climate Change Solutions

ZAN-EH-2011-005Every year at the COP, the number of actors and stakeholders that want to fight climate change increases. Women are developing an important leadership on this matter, but it is necessary to keep improving their participation.

The United Nations developed a fact sheet called Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change, which concludes that “the consultation and participation of women in climate change initiatives must be ensured, and the role of women’s groups and networks strengthened.”

The number of women leading the climate fight is increasing. They play an important role and are making a difference at every decision-making level. “In the US studies show that more women believe in the science of climate change than men and are likely to act upon it.

Women have been constantly fighting for their basic rights at a global scale and although they have such experience demanding respect for their rights, it is necessary to improve their participation in climate change issues. So, how can we improve the role of women for climate change solutions?

We need to continue working with study cases, background and training to keep empowering women to challenge climate change decisions taken by corrupted governments.

Women´s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN) “is a solutions-based, multi-faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions.”wecan_fb_default2

WECAN is committed to educate and empower women through stories and case studies to advocate for climate justice, gender equality, and rights of nature among others. To accomplish this purpose, WECAN created the “U.S WOMEN´S CLIMATE JUSTICE INITIATIVE”. This initiative calls for immediate action on climate justice and protection of natural resources.

It includes a series of online education and advocacy trainings. These free trainings seek to empower women to reclaim democracy, and make a difference in decisions made by the government while understanding issues relating climate change.

Today at COP23, WECAN reiterated the importance of women for climate change solutions. It highlighted that women are no longer only victims of climate change, but a solution to it.

Education is definitely the key to improve women participation in issues regarding climate change. Helping women understand what are community rights and rights of nature, and ecological economics and the price on carbon, would empower them to claim their rights.

Their knowledge and experience on issues related to the management of natural resources is the perfect combination to make substantive contributions in the decision-making process on environmental governance. More education means more women participation, which hopefully means more progress in the fights against climate change.

Who is representing the US at COP23?

COP 23You are on your way to COP23, the place to be for everything climate change. You walk through the doors and find yourself among hundreds of people from all over the world, running from one session to the other, with a quick stop perhaps for a cup of coffee. You attend negotiations and presentations, and develop an understanding of what is important to a country or a block of countries as they attempt to reverse the alarming rise in the planet’s temperature.

After a day or two, the chaos becomes normal and all the different languages you overhear start having a familiar tone. You begin to appreciate the setting: located by the Rhine and intersected by a city park, dotted with ponds where ducks, geese, and swans keep residence. It is beautiful. Then, as you are waiting for an electric car/bus to take you between the Bula and Bonn Zones, you notice a white dome shaped building to the side. Curious, you head there and find a sign for the U.S. Climate Action Center.  Peppered throughout the place is the hash tag #wearestillin.

You feel surprised because the U.S. declared its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But a list of this Center’s events shows these presenters: Al Gore, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, Governor Jerry Brown of California, Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington.  In other words, a collection of American environmental rock stars and members of the U.S. Climate Alliance fill the place.

But then you notice that the U.S. delegation is hosting a “side event” titled The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation. Unlike events held at the U.S. Climate Action Center, which attracted many attendees, this event drew protests. So who is representing the United States?

A closer look at the U.S. Climate Action Center shows that it as an effort by California Governor Jerry Brown that is funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It has attracted a collection of states, counties and municipalities; colleges and universities; businesses; non-profit organizations; faith organizations; and ordinary citizens. All told, the U.S. Climate Action Center spans all fifty states, 127 million Americans, and $6.2 trillion, all intent on honoring continued U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement. A delegation called the People’s Delegation at COP23 pledged to the UNFCCC that “we are still in.”

The U.S. delegation, with representatives from the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is the delegation of record.  It, and only it, has the authority to negotiate on behalf of the U.S. (at least till the U.S. projected exit in 2020). But I believe the delegation that can effectuate the goals of the Paris Agreement has the upper hand. If “we are still in” manages to reduce GHG emissions in the U.S., then they are the delegation of record!

When the Storm Comes…

Climate Change is already having a significant impact on our planet.  Indeed, even our largest resource and carbon sink is suffering- our oceans.

seychellesWhile once thought of as an abundant, even infinite source of food and wealth, our warming planet is changing all of that.  Coral reefs are bleaching.  Schools of tuna are changing their migratory paths.  And anadromous fish, like Pacific salmon species are struggling to complete life cycles.  Exacerbated by commercial over-fishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, many fish populations and fisheries are dangerously depleted.  This spells economic and food insecurity for many coastal communities- but especially for small-island developing states (SIDS) and archipelagos.  For these communities, this also means decreased resilience to the impacts of climate change.

But what can a small island nation do?  Implementing policies to restore marine fisheries and secure climate resilience through implementing sustainable practices costs money.  And many SIDS have limited financial resources and very little they can count on as an export to build financial capacity.  For Seychelles, a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the solution was found when its leaders turned their backs on the islands… and looked out to sea.

With 3000 times more ocean under its sovereignty that land, the ocean is an indispensable resource for Seychelles.  Still, Seychelles came into the Paris Agreement with a significant amount of national debt.  To alleviate that burden, it exchanged its debt for protecting its ocean- effectively relinquishing sovereignty of one-third of its oceans by placing it in a trust.  This expanded Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and helped to ensure fish stock recoveries.  To further build a sustainable fishery, Seychelles created a “Blue Bond” economy which uses bonds to fund the development of its sustainable fisheries.  The Blue Bond economy also consists of a Blue Grant Fund which is accessible to domestic fisherman and other fish-workers.  These funds are used as an incentive for those in the fishing industry to adopt sustainable practices.  Provided they comply with sustainable practices, funds are readily available to help them achieve and maintain those practices.

Blue economyWhy does this work so well?  Because this is a bottom-up approach where the government is in fact considered a “minority” entity.  The structure of this system does not rely on government control because the resource is placed in a trust.  How did they persuade the fisherman to get involved with establishing protected areas?  They simply asked them where they wanted to fish.  The fisherman initially refused to cooperate with the process- afraid to deviate from business as usual practices.  But when they were told that one morning they may wake up to find their favorite fishing area protected and off limits, the fisherman were persuaded to engage in the process.  Thus, collaborating with the fisherman included them in the process and strengthened the framework for the trust.

For Seychelles, talking about jobs, nutrition, food, and even people is synonymous with talking about marine resources and FISH!  The dependence on its surrounding ocean cannot be overstated.  As such, climate change poses a significant threat.  But by placing a large portion of its EEZ into protected areas and building a sustainable fishing economy, Seychelles has taken a precautionary approach to address the impacts of climate change.  The result?  Increased biomass, increased maximum sustainable yield, increased food security and climate resilience.  And with increased resilience comes the ability to adapt to the coming changes.  As Seychelles’ permanent representative to the U.N. stated; “When the storm comes, we will be ready.”

Stories of Loss and Damage: Non-Economic Loss

Non-Economic Loss (NELs) can be – simply – understood as loss that is not economic and “not commonly traded within the market.” It is complex and its worth can be misunderstood because it has no commercial value. But that does not mean it is any less harmful for a country or vulnerable people group to incur a non-economic loss. NELs can destroy or undermine an entire society or culture. So although they are abstract, their place within Loss and Damage (L&D) conversation should not be forgotten.

Most of the L&D negotiation sessions that have taken place at COP23 have focused on matters of finance, but after an inspiring conversation with Koko Warner of the U.N, I have realized that L&D negotiations need to tell the stories of loss. The classic tension between developed countries and their neglect to pa climate change damage to developing countries is an institutional story that dehumanizes the issues of L&D. L&D is more than just a compensation mechanism for developing countries, it is the story of vulnerable people who have been impacted by climate change. In the future of negotiations, the narrative of NEL within L&D should not be forgotten. So, readers should please consider a few narratives of NEL.

First, is the story of the Italian farmer – Ms. Guidobaldi – and  her “children.” As climate change rises  average temperatures, farmers in the Mediterranean have noticed inconsistencies within their crops. Crop loss and inconsistent yield would be a simple economic loss, but the impact of losing an eight generation farm and business due to climate change has consequences. 314B5D0200000578-3449847-image-a-19_1455656461413A loss of identity, culture, or lifestyle can easily be categorized as a NEL. This specific type of loss is what happens to many people groups impacted by climate change. They often find themselves displaced or forced into an alternative culture where the costs of assimilating are high.

The second story is that of the Quechua in the glacial Andes. The Quechua face a NEL in that as the glaciers recede, their religious doctrine decree the world’s end. On top of that – and maybe more importantly – the glaciers serve the Quechua as a water source. With a receding water source and a religious belief in retribution, the Quechua face a unique choice of evils.5m2a6101-501_custom-92b8cd1377b6116e2d7fdc45424d380270cb259c-s1500-c85

As climate change disasters become more consistent and temperatures higher, neither the Quechua’s or Ms. Guidobaldi’s problems will easily disappear. In fact, they will likely exacerbate with the changes in climate. For these reasons, it is important that negotiators humanize L&D and remember that behind bland conversations of shall and should there are victims whose entire livelihoods and realities have been completely upended.




Issues Developed, Developing, and Small Island Nations Highlighted in the High Level Segment

The question is what is developing and developed nations are bringing to the world discussion on what needs to happen under the Paris Agreement. The high-level segment of the COP23 started yesterday. In the high-level segment, country heads of government have the opportunity to address the COP for three minutes. With such a short amount of time, the parties have to prioritize what message they want to get across to the COP and make their speeches more pointed.


Developed nations emphasized their ongoing efforts to mitigate climate change both domestically and internationally. A lot of developed countries emphasized their domestic activities and goals for mitigating the effects of climate change. States like France, Luxembourg, and Germany went into detail about; their current and future domestic policies and their investments in industries to mitigate climate change. France and Germany also highlighted joint EU Goals in addressing climate change across the European continent.

Developing nations emphasized finance and their vulnerability to the effects of climate change. A lot of developing nations noted the need for finances for a variety of similar reasons. The developing countries emphasized this demand for funds by articulating in what ways they were vulnerable to climate change and the current and future effects of climate change on their nations and economies. Guinea and Gabon both articulated the need and urgency for funds to mitigate the ongoing effects of climate change.

With Fiji as the president and host country of the COP, small island developing states (SIDS) have a spotlight this year. Small Island Developing states emphasized the need for Finance and  Loss and Damage. SIDS made a point to emphasize the direct link between climate change and the ocean when they highlighted their vulnerabilities to climate change effects. SIDS also stressed the time-sensitivity of their issues because of their geographic vulnerability. All the SIDS who spoke emphasized the need for Loss and Damage. Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Kiribati highlighted the need to provide resources to the Warsaw International Mechanism to support Loss and Damage efforts. Palau and Nauru specifically stressed the recent hurricanes and typhoons in Asia and the Americas. Almost all SIDS emphasized the importance of climate finance in combatting the realized effects of climate change on their nations.

The answer to the question of what developing and developed nations are bringing to the world discussion on what needs to happen under the Paris Agreement is dependent on their national needs. Developing nations and SIDS emphasized a need for finances and highlighted their specific vulnerabilities to effects of climate change. Developed Nations stressed their continued support to developing nations while highlighting their own domestic policies to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The main point is that countries emphasize their individual domestic needs when addressing the COP.

Two Approaches for realizing the Transparency Framework.

The question presented is which approach is the better for realizing the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement. Articles 13, 14 and 15 prescribe the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement. This blog post will focus on Article 13. Article 13 compiles reports of actions taken under other Articles and aims to provide clarity in steps taken to achieve a Party’s NDC under Article 4 and a Party’s adaptation actions under Article 7. Article 13 identifies two separate frameworks for ensuring transparency: a framework for the transparency of actions taken under Articles 4 and 7, and a framework for transparency in providing and receiving support for climate change actions under Article 4, 7, 9, 10, and 11. The APA was tasked with developing the “modalities, guidelines, and procedures” (MGPs) of the transparency framework in the COP 21 decision. Overall, the transparency framework works as an accountability instrument for parties that have ratified the Paris Agreement.

There are many approaches to realizing the transparency framework. This post will focus on two of those approaches. The first approach is the general party approach to focus on the objective of the transparency framework and build from that focus. A discussion paper published by the Institute for Global and Environmental Strategies (IGES) proposes a second approach. This discussion paper proposes four objectives for broadening the goal of the Transparency Framework to include other climate change goals. “The 4 objectives are: (1) achieve comparability to strengthen transparency, (2) build the capacity of government officials through their use of the means to enhance their self-understanding, (3) trigger domestic actions to introduce a PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)-cycle with GHG MRV to improve performance, and (4) share lessons learned among the Parties. ”


The party approach tries to increase transparency through working with the original objectives articulated in the Paris Agreement. Those initial goals focus on just reporting for the actions taken under articles 4 and 7 and support given and received for articles 4,7,10,11. In the current COP negotiations, parties are trying to clarify the details of the MGPs of the transparency framework. Therefore, the current approach to the transparency framework only focuses on the reporting guidelines and a consistent picture of how parties are achieving their climate change goals.

The broadened approach tries to integrate other elements into the transparency framework, such as mitigation and capacity building. The expanded approach does this by focusing on “self-analysis.” These self-analyses are where parties try to understand their progress and failures when trying to implement their NDCs domestically. The self-analysis is intended to be the evaluation of whether parties realize their goals in the other sectors. Under this new approach of emphasizing self-evaluation, the transparency framework would take a more instrumental approach in achieving all the targets in the Paris Agreement.

The answer to the initial question of which approach is the better for realizing the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement is variable. I think finalizing the MPG will best answer this question, when there is further clarity on what/ how much is to be reported under the Transparency Framework. Further, I believe the second (broadened) approach is ahead of its time.

Handmade Solar Cookers: Mitigation Starts at Home

A solar cooker is “a device which uses the energy of sunlight to heat food or drink to cook it or sterilize it.”  Solar Cookers International (SCK) was founded in 1987 in the Central Valley of California. SCK started by pooling its knowledge to produce “solar cooking manuals to help others build and use simple solar box cookers similar to those developed in the mi-1970s by Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole.” solar-cooking-1

Solar cooking can improve health by preventing dirty cooking, which produces air pollution causing major health problems like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, and respiratory tract infections.

In Tanzania, a group of women who used solar cooking for 10 months saw their health problems from smoke decrease from 77% down to 13%. Equally important, it can also reduce cooking expenses. “The sun is free”, so as soon as a person, family or enterprise has access to solar technology, they are saving what they are supposed to invest in cooking with fossil fuel.

In addition, SCK has training sessions that promotes and provides training in use and construction of solar cookers, which can reduce cooking expenses even more. It can also prevent deforestation by reducing demand for charcoal made from wood.

SCK uses the acronym “CARES” to describe the solar cooking process.“C” is the collection of the energy through reflectors on a solar a cooker. “A” stands for absorbing solar energy through black cookware. “R” means retaining the heat to use it for cooking, rather than losing it tothe ambient air. “E” means efficient and easy, while “S” indicates safety. There are three types of solar cooking that use this process: (1) reflective panel cooker (2) solar box ovens and (3) parabolic reflector.

SCK expressed that the principal reason for attending COP23 is to make more people aware about the environmental and health benefits of solar cooking. Only a quarter of the Parties include cooking in their climate change plans and only two mentioned solar cooking as a mechanism to achieve the target of their NDCs. The challenge is to help Parties realize that solar cooking and clean cooking are mechanisms for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.01b549f334a66d8601e0468ce0334fc6_f728

So, can solar cooking improve the Paris Agreement implementation? The answer is yes. Encouraging the use of solar cooking in homes, business establishments, and schools would: (1) reduce environmental harms like deforestation, (2) improve health reducing smoking effects, and (3) reduce fossil fuel investments.

React Slow, Lose More

To truly relieve climate change damage in the future, status quo relief measures must change. On Monday, November 13, 2017, the START Network hosted an event to precisely describe how to do so. In the “Risk Informed Early Warning & Early Action for Less L&D in Drought Contexts and Forest Fires,” speakers Michael Kühn, Matthias Ahmling, and Emily Montier discuss parametric insurance measures and full paradigm shifts on how we approach loss and damage. (Parametric insurance is different from traditional insurance measures in that the pay out occurs through a triggering event. Traditional insurance measures pay out once damage assessments of the triggering event occur.)

Climate change damage will continue to worsen as climate change induced extreme weather events (like hurricanes) occur with more and more frequency. Today, approximately 27 billion dollars are spent to alleviate climate damage in vulnerable countries. As damages increase, humanitarian charity will likely stagnate and be unable to provide help to the needy. To prevent this, fundraising for humanitarian aid must shift from being a reactive measure to a proactive measure.

Reactive measures occur when extreme weather events provoke humanitarian giving. Rather than wait for extreme weather events, proactive measures provide means to immediately react to climate change damage. This is accomplished through risk sharing pools or insurance schemes. This is beneficial because vulnerable countries no longer have to wait for funds to be raised to receive aid. An example of this action is the NGO, START Network, which provides aid through its pooled funds.

The START Network is a collaborative NGO made up of “42 national and international aid agencies from five continents.” They aim to “deliver effective aid” by “harnessing the power and knowledge of the network to make faster and better decisions to help people affected by crises.” Their mission statement highlights their commitment to early action measures. (Early action measures are those taken using pools of money prepared in advance of climate change damages – which are gathered via proactive measures). As climate change causes more predictable extreme weather events, the international community should look to loss and damage aid and compensation through a proactive rather than reactive lens.

Adaptation for Profit: Increasing agriculture productivity without compromise?

large agAre you a capitalist?

This was the question asked of the attendees of “The Business Advantage: Scaling up Private Sector Climate Action in Agriculture” side event at COP 23.  None of us admitted to being a capitalist.  But then we were ask if we valued social or environmental economy.  The unanimous answer was, yes.  “Well..,” said Tony Simons, Director of ICRAF, “…you are a capitalist.”

The most basic notion of capitalism is to take actions to maximize something.  Thus, if we choose to maximize anything, even something like social well-being or the world’s natural systems, we are capitalizing.  We are capitalists.  So what does this have to do with how the private sector can contribute to climate change mitigation?  According to Simons and a panel of representatives from IFAD and CGIAR, joining hands with the private sector is the most feasible way to spread climate-smart agricultural (CSA) practices.  But first, we must dispel the common belief that capitalism itself is an evil within a system.

If we are to realize food security, and mitigation and adaptation in the agricultural sector, the panel argued that innovations in agriculture need to be scaled up.  The panel asserted that there are ways to intensify farming practices as to realize system efficiency.  This would mean realizing higher yields and increased meat production while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture.  While, there were various techniques discussed, there was no forthright application of science offered.  Nonetheless, the general consensus was that these techniques needed to be communicated to the private sector and financial institutions needed to be convinced of them.  After all… scaling up of agricultural innovations costs money.  But apparently, this will not happen without joining hands with the private, industrial agriculture sector.

small scaleWhile scaling up innovations to take climate action in the agriculture sector makes good sense, I left the event troubled by two thoughts.  First, the concept of establishing global CSA practices requires bridging the gap between the small-scale and industrial farmer and providing funding to the small-scale farmer to take on these innovations.  Unfortunately, lending institutions are not amiable to doling out large quantities of small loan amounts.  But this is precisely what needs to happen if small-scale farmers are going to scale-up CSA.  Thus, the paradox. If small farmers are going to scale up CSA, they need funding to do it.  But a lending institution wants to see a “bankable” project before lending- something a small farmer cannot show without some financial assistance.  It’s a catch-22.

Furthermore, if the private sector is going to get on board, they must be able to make a profit.  “Profitability should be the angle of approach,” they said.  “The private sector can contribute to NDCs in terms of mitigation, but it will not do so without realizing tangible (financial) benefits.”  And indeed this is so.  One corporate food and agriculture representative who sat on the panel assured us that sustainable, climate-smart agriculture was in their best interest.  Yet, she noted that her corporation’s first priority was yield, then resilience.  Is it really possible to increase productivity without compromising the climate system…or the corporate bottom line?

What seemed conveniently left out of this equation in the end was social and environmental economy.  After all, are we not all capitalists?

It takes more than government

green roof busHundreds of people, from all over the world, gather in Bonn, Germany for the twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23). At first glance, COP23 appears to be policy driven, science based, and a negotiations filled conference. It is that and more. It has become the place for green industry where 850 different organizations applied to participate in COP23 and offer their products and services.

This interaction did not occur by accident.

When the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997, it called for enabling the private sector to “promote and enhance the transfer of, and access to, environmentally sound technologies” in Article 10 (c). In the Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016, Article 6.4 (b) calls for incentivizing the public and private sectors to participate in mitigating green house gases. These treaties create the conditions for private sector involvement in mitigation. So private/non-profit organizations are active participants in COP23 and not simply vendors at a trade show.

A good example of such partnership is in transportation, which is one of COP23’s Global Climate Action (GCA) themes. ABB, a for-profit company with over 136,000 employees spread over a 100 countries, works on projects as varied as sun powered rickshaws and clean energy buses. Non-profits have also played a role in shaping climate change policies. Organizations like the Institute for Transportation and Development Policies (ITDP) work with policy makers on an international level and also seek to influence policies at the local level in urban areas.

These organizations go beyond the boundaries of a country and provide needed technical expertise that policy makers sometimes lack. In a recent GCA meeting at COP23, representatives of these organizations pointed out the need for different climate friendly policies in Barcelona, Spain than in Atlanta, GA. Even though they have populations similar in size, Atlanta occupies an area that is over twenty five times larger than Barcelona.

“Replace NAFTA Don´t Let Trade “TRUMP” Climate: #TransformTrade”

“Find the Justice now, Keep it in the Ground, … not in this town, we will fight this NAFTA now and replace it next round.” That is the song that a group of young people from Canada and the U.S. sang in the Bonn Zone of the COP23 today.

According to the Sierra Club, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)  has empowered corporate polluters and locked in fossil fuel dependency, “boosting destructive mining in Mexico and contributing to the rise of Canada´s toxic tar sands industry.” Captura de pantalla 2017-11-14 a las 12.50.14 a.m.

President Trump signed an executive order to renegotiate NAFTA to grow the U.S economy.  Even though it was not intended, the Sierra Club believes that this renegotiation could be an opportunity to incorporate and enforce the climate goals in the Paris Agreement.

For these young people, the trade agreements are more binding than the climate agreements. Transforming NAFTA limiting fossil fuel activities and improving workers lives, will enhance the protection of workers rights, communities and the planet.

As noted by Anthony Torres from the Sierra Club, “corporate trade agreements like NAFTA have undermined the Paris Agreement´s core objective of tackling climate change. Instead leading environmentalists across North America have called for a NAFTA replacement that incorporates and enforces the Paris Agreement´s climate goals.”IMG_9274

Likewise, Maia Wikler from SustainUS and a Vancouver, BC resident said: “My government has an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure that NAFTA´s replacement enforces the Paris climate goals rather than undermining them. So far, our trade and climate agreements have gone in opposite directions- a huge gap not being addressed at this conference.”

Everyday we get to see more young people clamoring for decision makers to improve climate actions. #TransformTrade is one more. Hopefully, if the governments involved in NAFTA follow their petitions, and don´t let trade “trump” climate, the renegotiation of NAFTA will incorporate the Paris climate goals.



The Progress of Global Stocktake in the final APA Informal Sessions.

With Global Stocktake’s expected beginning date in 2023 and pressure from the heads of the APA, there is a race for an informal working document on the Modalities Guidelines and Procedures (MPGs) of the Agenda Item 6 of the APA. Global stocktake is an effort to continuously monitor the collective progress towards achieving the purpose and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

On November 12, the APA released the “Revised building blocks for APA item 6 (GST).” These building blocks capture the key elements and commonalities of the proposals made by Parties under Agenda Item 6. This new document contains a table with headings on the left and details on the right. The building blocks contained the headings “Modalities” and “Sources of Input.” Under modalities, the overarching elements provided for “equity regarding process and themes.” However, the term “equity” is never defined in the document. Moreover, the document prescribed an overall process for the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement  (CMA) to implement for GST. This new method includes a preparatory phase (Activity A), a technical phase (Activity B), and a political phase (Activity C). Lastly, the new document prescribes sources of input, which is the information to provide in the GST.
While these simple building blocks were a good start, parties made clear their frustrations with the ambiguity of the text. There were three main concerns. First, individuals were concerned that the table did not reflect more of the information submitted by the parties. Parties felt since this is a working paper,  the paper should reveal more of their inputs. Also, individuals wanted more reference to the Paris Agreement, specifically Articles 8 and 2. Lastly, some parties raised concerns on the silence of issues on Mitigation and Loss & Damage.

Second, the term “equity” is not defined. Some parties understood equity to mean equity in outputs and time to provide and assess resources.  A lot of parties wanted equity defined or were confused on what equity was referencing. Further, there was concern about how equity was going to be integrated into the GST reporting mechanisms.

Third, the starting date of Activity A was also a concern. In the informal table, Activity A starts in 2021 or 2022 to ensure the adequate and timely consideration of the input from AR6 of the IPCC. India specifically raised concerns about the idea of kick-starting the process in 2021 because 2018 is supposed to be an assessment of what is happening pre-2020, GST is supposed to be an assessment what is happening the after 2020 period. Iran proposed options to the date requirement where there is a choice between 2021 and 2022.

Going forward, these revised building blocks have a lot of strides to go, clarity-wise to be ready for the APA chairs.