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’ing it Part Deux: Tracking #COP19 & Loss and Damage

Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 18th session in Doha, Qatar, as a student representative of Vermont Law School. It was my first COP and I learned so much “on the job” that cannot be taught in the classroom. I tracked mostly adaptation issues, including the National Adaptation Plans, CDM Appeals Process and “loss and damage.”


No longer a COP rookie, this year, I am excited to be returning to COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland as a civil society observer. I’ve never been to Poland before, so I am looking forward to meeting new people, enjoying Polish culture, and eating delicious Polish food. On the word side of things, I will continue tracking these same issues. My main focus this year will be tracking “loss and damage,” this work program will deal with many problems associated with climate change, including human rights, climate justice, migration and displacement, and economic harm.

Despite UNFCCC efforts to mitigate carbon emissions, the earth’s temperatures are likely to overtake the internationally-recognized danger threshold of 2 degrees Celsius average increase in temperature, according to the IPCC AR5 Report.  Climate change has already begun to disrupt and destroy livelihoods, particularly in developing countries. The climate disruption socio-economic effects include adverse impacts to health, economic growth, water supplies, agriculture and food security, national security, and climate-forced displacement and migration. In other words, climate change will have “widespread and consequential” impacts. Even the USA is taking notice, as President Obama recently issued an Executive Order to step up US Government’s involvement in climate preparedness and resilience, including food security in America.

A memorable event from COP 18 in Doha was the impassioned plea by lead Philippines negotiator and Commisioner of Philippines Climate Change Commission, Nadarev “Yep” Saño, for Parties, particularly developed countries, to take action on climate change because it is already happening as evidenced by Typhoon Bopha and Hurricane Sandy. Mr. Saño said, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

This year the Philippines has also experienced hearbreak, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded to hit land, just steamrolled through the heart of the Philippines, leaving loss, damage, death and destruction in its wake. Thus, what will happen as States and communities fail to adapt and mitigate to climate change?


Image by REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The international community is not so sure on how to proceed, but they are making steady progress. As the negotiations for COP 18 concluded, the final outcome document, called the Doha Climate Gateway, established the new workstream on loss and damage, with the possibility of developing a new legal mechanism. However, what exactly does “loss and damage” mean? The international community has not decided. Practitioners, such as Dr. Koko Warner from the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, advocate that “loss and damage” programs will have to operate in conjunction with adaption.

In past UNFCCC COPs and meetings, State Parties and observers, international organizations and civil society groups realized that the lack of ambition of parties to mitigate climate change would only increase climate disruption and adverse impacts to climate change. Thus, the need to address adaptation arose, as decided in the Bali Action Plan. However, mitigation and adaptation only tell a part of the climate change story. At some point, States and communities will not be able to adapt to climate change.

In Harm’s Way (IPCC SREX)

So far, the Parties to COP18 decided to consider “approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, as part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework (decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 25-29). The Parties to the UNFCCC agreed that the Convention will have “the important and fundamental role to enable coherent and synergistic approaches.” These “adverse impacts,” defined in the Cancun Agreements decision 1/CP.16, are slow onset events that include sea level rise, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification.

Discussions on loss and damage will be focused around three thematic areas: TA1: “Assessing the risk of loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change and current knowledge on the same;” TA 2 “A range of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset events, taking into consideration experiences at all levels;” and TA3 “The role of the Convention in enhancing implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.” Within these thematic areas, negotiators will have to determine a variety of other means on how to deal with adverse impacts to climate change, including risk and disaster management from slow onset and extreme weather events. Additionally, any legal mechanism will have to decide on what are the concepts of “loss,” “damage,” as well as “economic” and “non-economic” losses. Non-ecoomic losses could include issues relating to the rights to culture, right to livelihood, right to identity, right to property, etc. Part of the mechanism will contain financial compensation, which would possibly include climate risk insurance.


(RTCC via Flickr/Greenpeace Southeast Asia)

At COP19, the international community will have to work together to create a legal mechanism to address loss and damage caused by the adverse impacts caused by climate change. This platform will have to address climate adaptation planning, as well as disaster risk and management (DRR) and human rights in the climate change “loss and damage” context. Whether or not the COP19 outcome decision contains a legal mechanism on loss and damage, the international community will still have to help the most vulnerable communities deal with climate-induced disruption adversely affecting their lives. Importantly, any mechanism on “loss and damage” should include a rights-based approach in order to guarantee the fundamental legal protections.

Please follow me on Twitter at @HeatherCroshaw for real-time updates and comments at #COP19.

Countdown to COP19/CMP9

CC clockAmbition.  Annex B targets.  Second commitment period.  Flexible mechanisms.  State parties.  Green Climate Fund.  Loss and damage.  Reforestation, deforestation, and afforestation.  Joint implementation.  Annex I.  Annex II.  Monitoring, review, and verification.  Adaptation funding.  Common but differentiated responsibilities.  Clean development mechanism.  Carbon emissions trading.  IPCC.  SBI.  SBSTA.  ADP.  AAU.  CER.  ERU.

These are some of the concepts our student observer delegation is mastering as we prepare to witness the next step in international climate change law making at the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 9th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol – a.k.a. COP19/CMP9 – that will kick off in Warsaw, Poland in just 10 days.cop19 logo

From the Berlin Mandate to the Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Road Map and Cancun Agreements to the Durban Outcomes and the Doha Gateway, all eyes turn to Warsaw to watch how countries will commit themselves to mitigating the human drivers of climate change.

A month ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most recent report on the physical science, Climate Change 2013, stating in a press release that warming in the climate system is “unequivocal” and that it is “extremely likely” that human influence has been the dominant cause of it.

WG1 2013According to Qin Dahe, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, “observations of changes in the climate system are based on multiple lines of independent evidence.  Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”

As a result, his Co-Chair Thomas Stocker adds that “heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer.  As the Earth warms, we expect to see currently wet regions receiving more rainfall, and dry regions receiving less, although there will be exceptions.”

What kind of “substantial and sustained” actions should we look for at COP19/CMP9 that will help UNFCCC parties progress toward a new comprehensive climate change agreement to be signed in Paris in 2015?

Here’s what Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of thechristiana figueres UNFCCC, highlighted in her October 21 speech in London :

  1. ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol;
  2. implement the finance and technology agreements already negotiated to support developing countries;
  3. operationalize the Green Climate Fund;
  4. create mechanism for asserting loss and damage claims; and
  5. clarify the elements of the envisioned Paris 2015 agreement that will create an “ambitious and clear” draft for review in Peru in 2014.