Sharing of Knowledge Through Indigenous Peoples Platform

IPOBIn an exciting side event, the indigenous peoples (IP) of Bolivia and Chad shared experiences related to the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) implementation. The Bolivian Platform of Indigenous Originary Campesino Peoples Against Climate Change took a deep dive into the plurinational state of Bolivia. The Indigenous peoples of Africa Committee (IPACC) with the support of GIZ showcased a similar case-study in Chad.

The IP of Bolivia provided a brief history of how their lands were taken away from them. The area in the highlands and lowlands of Bolivia was described as “our Bolivia.” The original land inhabited by the indigenous peoples went all the way up into what is now Alaska. They “lived without problems without discrimination, harmoniously.” When the Spaniards arrived a fight for water and natural resources became continuous. “It was very expensive.”

The fight for their lands took time and was difficult, but progress has been made. IP are now recognized in the Constitution and an assembly made up of fifty percent women and fifty percent men was created. The country before had never had plurality and now they do.

“IP have always struggled,” a panelist said. Their fight for Mother Earth is just beginning and actors must come together to counteract climate change. “Mother Earth needs to be cared for.” “Within South America, we need to work harder to defend our land, territory, and water. “That’s how we will fight back climate change.”

2018-04-09_ibrahim_0Ms. Hindou Ibrahim Oumarou provided knowledge and experience from the perspective of an IP from Chad. In Chad, the IP live by a nomadic way of life. Which means they move from one place to another, depending on the season. They possess the knowledge to find water, to understand the weather, and how to adapt to climate change. The IP of Chad want to share their knowledge and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) helps them to do this.

 

 


Indigenous Women May Just Be the Key to Successful Latin American NDCs

 

Perempuan_Adat_Harus_Dilibatkan_dalam_Negosiasi_Perubahan_IklimDelfina Katip, a preeminent Peruvian advocate for indigenous women’s rights, gave an incredible presentation on the power of indigenous women in climate change adaptation for a side event called Minga NDC and Talanoa Dialogue: Indigenous strategies for climate ambition. The panel began with opening remarks on the importance of including the interests of indigenous people in the Peruvian NDC. International climate change negotiations have been somewhat isolated in the past, not acknowledging other groups’ interests–especially native populations. Achieving the ambitions outlined in NDCs will be a collective job, and the Peruvian presenters made it clear that the country cannot move forward without the national government acknowledging indigenous people’s needs.

Katip’s message was very clear: indigenous women need to participate in climate change actions and projects in Peru.

These women know how to utilize native biodiversity, and how to adapt to changes in the environment. In Peru, climate change has affected both the forestry and clean water availability, thus changing the biodiversity in those areas. Yet these women have learned to keep producing food in their regions. They possess amazing skills to analyze the consequences of climate change,
positive and negative, and develop successful solutions. She described multiple government projects that have failed because officials never thought to ask the local women important factors (like the effects on agriculture, the youth, or biological factors that would negate there projects) they should consider. The role of the woman has always been under appreciated, but NOT today.

The overarching theme here is that NDCs cannot stay as just a document with fancy words. It is time to apply the experiences that women, and men, have with climate change consequences to adaptation strategies. If we can start analyzing conservation through the eyes of adaptation, that will lead to success.


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.


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


Protestors as Nonparty Stakeholders

Today at COP23, the United States Climate Action Center event “America’s Pledge on Climate Change,” had speakers that included Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, California Governor Jerry Brown, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They reassured the world that America’s Paris contribution would be met regardless of inaction at the federal level. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto showcased Pittsburgh’s work to turn around its recession by creating new opportunities for industry workers in a post-industrial city; he cited the BlueGreen Alliance, which was formed between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club on a mission that there should not be a choice between jobs and the environment.

Germany US Climate CampaignGovernor Jerry Brown was the star of the morning because of the immense leadership role he and the State of California have taken on climate. However, he was interrupted by groups of vocal protesters who stood up from the crowd with big banners shouting, “Keep it in the ground.” The protest was organized by the It Takes Roots delegation, a group of indigenous and marginalized peoples working on climate justice issues, who were speaking out against local industry pollutants in communities. This head-to-head confrontation immediately chilled the room, which was enjoying the congratulatory atmosphere of the event. Before long, someone attempted to initiate a pro-Governor Brown chant.

Making sure the world recognizes that American cities, states, and businesses are committed to tackling climate change is a worthwhile endeavor. This strengthens negotiations, especially when there has been emphasis placed at the COP on increasing ambition before 2020. However, the way the protesters were approached at this morning’s event was not in the true spirit of COP23. The ‘Pacific COP’ is a COP that prides itself on hearing Indigenous voices and nonparty stakeholders. This would have been an opportunity to showcase this effort. This also serves as a reminder that in the face of not only climate change but also a transition to a low-carbon economy, it is imperative that vulnerable communities are not left behind.


Unlocking the secrets of the past

thulo-sailungIn adapting to climate change, the decision makers of today can find great wisdom in the traditional knowledge of indigenous people. Traditional farming practices can offer a huge potential for resilience and adaptation to climate change. In Kenya, for example, traditional varieties of plants are more genetically diverse than modern varieties, and are better able to withstand more environmental stress.

Yet climate change has resulted in a double threat to these varieties: first, communities have suffered loss of the plants themselves; second, they have suffered the loss of traditional knowledge associated with the success of those plants. Given the large potential for traditional knowledge in building resilience, organizations like Caritas are working to resurrect local and traditional knowledge that can spread the seeds for climate resilience.

Another example can be found in the rain shadow of the Himalayas. The Lo people of Nepal–equipped with traditional knowledge on how to manage local irrigation–have transformed their arid, dry village into green agriculture fields they use during the summer. The village of the Lo people is 3,000 to 4,200 meters above sea level, with temperatures that drop to as low as -20 degrees Celsius in the winter. Transforming these harsh environments to lush, green fields is certainly a talent worth learning.

Traditional knowledge relevant to adaptation can also help individuals better predict weather patterns. Further, using traditional knowledge gives a voice to the people on the ground when searching for solutions to climate change. Women in particular have a major role when it comes to this traditional knowledge.

At COP 21, the parties recognized the need to strengthen knowledge, technologies, practices, and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples when it comes to climate change. The COP thus established a platform for the exchange of experiences and the sharing of best practices on mitigation and adaptation in a holistic and integrated manner.

But the COP could go much further in operationalizing this language. And that’s exactly what  the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and others have called for the COP to do. The COP thus needs to continue to think globally, but start “doing” locally. Relying on traditional knowledge is one way to bridge that wide gap.

 

 


Climate Change and Indigenous Governance

CMARI Reservation, the location of the pilot project of RIA in Colombia. Photo by Rodrigo Durán Bahamón

CMARI Reservation, the location of the pilot project of RIA in Colombia. Photo by Rodrigo Durán Bahamón

COP23 commenced its series of Thematic Days with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which included a series of side events on the protection of traditional indigenous knowledge and how this knowledge is being used in climate change action. Indigenous people are directly connected with the land and therefore feel the effects of climate change on the ground very acutely, although they are not typically involved in the climate change policymaking process. As indigenous communities are uprooted and impacted by climate change, these cultures and their traditional knowledge are threatened.

Loss of cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge has been classified as a noneconomic form of Loss and Damage (L&D). L&D is broadly defined as the unavoidable and irreversible effects of climate change and encompasses both extreme weather and slow onset events. Examples of slow onset events include sea level rise, desertification, ocean acidification, and loss of ecosystem services. L&D is also categorized by economic losses – such as loss of property, infrastructure, and agricultural production – and noneconomic losses. Some noneconomic losses are loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, human displacement, and the loss of heritage, culture, and indigenous knowledge. However, far from being entirely about loss, Indigenous Peoples’ Day highlighted the protection of traditional knowledge currently undertaken by indigenous communities around the world.  

The side event “Traditional Knowledge, Paris Agreement and Indigenous Territorial Organizations” featured Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA), an indigenous organization that works for the protection and security of indigenous territories within the Amazon Basin. Indigenous peoples have revered and relied on the Amazon for hundreds of years. Research through Rede Amazônica de Informação Socioambiental Georreferenciada (RAISG) found that indigenous territories only contribute to 8% of all deforestation in the Amazon, and 90% of deforestation takes place in unprotected areas in the remaining 48% of land. Initiatives, like REDD+ Indigenous Amazonian (RIA), promote shared management between indigenous peoples and governments where indigenous land protection knowledge is implemented utilizing government capacity.

The side event “Protecting and promoting indigenous territories and knowledge” highlighted indigenous practices in Africa that are working on climate change adaptation. Here, too, speakers highlighted that good governance must be based on the integration of local indigenous values and management systems with resources from the state. A speaker from the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) highlighted several examples of traditional knowledge for adaptation. One example is a traditional grazing practice in Morocco called Agdal, which seeks to create a balance of biodiversity by closing off areas to grazing during certain times of year.

A request that IPACC had for COP23 was the creation of a list of indigenous practices on climate change action. The hope is that this list would be shared internationally and eventually included in school books so the knowledge could be passed on through generations. RIA and other governance initiatives also serve as a model for governments and indigenous communities around the world. These efforts, from just two parts of the world, highlight the incredible emerging role for indigenous involvement in climate change governance.


Closing the UNFCCC Gender GAP?

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.47.14 PMThe Gender Action Plan, with its apt acronym – GAP – was on the agenda earlier this month at the UNFCCC intersessional meetings in Bonn, Germany. And, rightly so. Women’s equal and meaningful participation in the development and implementation of effective climate policy is an agreed goal of the Parties to the Convention. Since COP7 in 2001, when Parties endorsed an increase in women’s participation, this goal has been increasingly articulated and characterized through a total of 75 decisions and mandates within decisions across the UNFCCC programs. (The secretariat’s compilation of these, organized by 9 thematic areas, is an excellent reference.)

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 4.24.07 PMYet, despite all these, Parties have faltered (see secretariat’s annual reports, 2013-2016). As we reported at COP22, in Marrakech (Nov-Dec 2016), Parties again acknowledged women’s under-representation throughout the Convention process and the inadequate progress toward gender-responsive climate policy. This recognition generated the Gender and climate change decision (21/CP.22), which directed the SBI to enhance the Lima work programme on gender (LWPG) and develop a Gender Action Plan (GAP). The GAP’s function is to “support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates.”

At SB46, an in-session workshop provided the primary substance for the GAP. Some of it came from twenty submissions with proposed GAP elements and advice on the workshop’s structure received from Parties (9), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) (8), and NGOs (3). Additional and rich input came from two pre-workshop events: 1) a 2-day informal consultation in March among 45 representatives of Parties, NGOs, and IGOs held at The Hague, Netherlands, and 2) a May 9 Listening and Learning Climate Justice Dialogue among negotiators and grassroots women focused on bringing forth key messages/principles.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.42.46 PMAn open update session on the LWPG ahead of the GAP workshop also introduced the proposed framework that had emerged from the Hague consultation. This comprehensive framework, containing 5 clusters with associated priority/key results areas, and activities for each, was subsequently moved forward as the starting point for the Day 2 breakouts.

The first half-day covered the GAP mandate, the secretariat’s compilation of decisions and mandates, an overview of the submissions, outputs from the 2 pre-workshop events, and lessons learned from other action plans. This was followed by a facilitated dialogue addressing the Plan’s overall objectives and what success would look like in 2019 (when the LWPG is reviewed). Day 2’s breakouts explored and refined the 5 proposed clusters, priority/key results areas, and draft activities. (On-demand webcasts are available here: 5/10 and 5/11)

SBI47 will consider the outputs of these breakouts in establishing the GAP, when it returns to Bonn in November. To what extent the SBI makes modifications is a big question. One ambitious key result under the Gender balance, participation and women’s leadership cluster calls for reaching 50% representation of women in all Party delegations and constituted bodies under the UNFCCC by 2019.

As pressure grows for more than baby steps, so does the hope for an effective new tool to actually make women’s equal and meaningful participation in the development and implementation of effective climate policy a reality.


Just Peace through Climate Action

Display at India's COP Pavilion

Display at India’s COP Pavilion

This year, the COP demonstrated the priority of climate justice by recognizing the first official Climate Justice Day on the UNFCCC Programme. The celebration of Climate Justice Day explored the social dimensions of climate action while elevating the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that led to the Paris Agreement. In fact, COP 22 highlights the unusual global alliance between governments, corporations, universities, NGO’s and faith inspired communities, all fighting against the effects of climate change. Along side the delegate pavilions and green technology entrepreneurs, stand a wide array of associations such as Mediators Without Borders, the Planetary Security Initiative, the Indigenous People’s Pavilion, and Green Faith. Yesterday’s reflective side event sponsored by the  Quaker United Nations Office underscored the importance of such a broad alliance: multi-level problems require multi-level solutions.

Entitled, “Trust and Peacebuilding Approaches for Ambitious Climate Action,” Friday’s QUNO panel focused on climate change as a humanitarian and spiritual crisis, as well as an environmental one, emphasizing the complex nature of the climate change problem. The discussion centered around fighting climate change as a personal moral imperative, the importance of personal equilibrium as well as environmental equilibrium, empowering climate change solutions on a personal level, unity through prayer, climate justice, and above all, love. Panelists included Sonja Klinsky, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Lindsey Fielder Cook, Representative for Climate Change, Quaker United Nations Office Ambassador, Jayanti Kirpalani, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Henrik Grape, Church of Sweden and Joy Kennedy, World Council of Churches.  Emphasizing individual impact, the presentation was empowering because it reminded listeners that they could make a difference by taking small personal steps while waiting for larger national policies to take shape. Their message was one of unity, courage and hope.

Entrance to COP 22 Pavilions

Entrance to COP 22 Pavilions

Later that evening, the closing COP 22/CMA 1 meeting managed to maintain this momentum of unity, courage and hope to successfully adopt their meeting Decision FCCC/PA/CMA/2016/1. In doing so, the COP of Action moved ahead and sent a clear message to the world. To quote U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Jonathan Pershing, in his closing remarks at this final COP 22 meeting, “Momentum for the Paris Agreement cannot be stopped.” In the continued spirit of unity, and showing their personal appreciation for each other, the entire plenary of hundreds of COP 22 delegates paused during a break in the negotiations to sing happy birthday to the delegate from Mali. Hopefully, this spirit of unity carries through to next year when COP 23 is held in Bonn, Germany.

On a personal reflective note, I continue to draw inspiration from the wide range of groups here at the COP, all fighting the effects of climate change.  This COP 22 experience has been particularly meaningful due to the opportunity our Vermont Law School class had to work with a Service Learning Partner Country.  Being able to serve a purpose at COP 22, to provide direct delegation support to a Least Developed Country, became my small way of making a difference in the fight against climate change.  The remarkable people I have met here continue to inspire me with their dedication to Just Peace, through Climate Action.


Using the Paris Agreement to Incorporate Indigenous Peoples Knowledge into Climate Change Policies

Panelists presenting today on indigenous peoples knowledge outlined land use and resource management practices adopted by indigenous peoples that are viable and sustainaenvironment_climate_bolivia.jpeg_1718483346ble approaches to climate change adaptation. To date, climate change approaches have focused largely on utilizing modern technologies and developing new technologies to the detriment of indigenous peoples. Panelists began by describing specific indigenous adaptation approaches, but slowly shifted the discussion toward human rights.

One panelist’s presentation stood out in particular. Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri, a panelist from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation (AIPP), presented on holistic land use and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples. Kittisak told the story of the Pgakeuyaw people in Thailand. Made up of 20 households, 35 families, 107 people, and 5 clans, the Pgakeuyaw believes in a deep connection between humans and nature, and that without the forests, there is no life. The Pgakeuyaw have developed a complex system for managing their land that involves classifying land use into categories such as settlement area, cemetery area, wet-paddy field area, and mix farm land, to name a few. The way the Pgakeuyaw manages resources reflects their intricate knowledge of the different ecosystems within their village territory; the way they manage their land and avoid land pressure and degradation demonstrates their sustainable and holistic approach to land-use practices.

Until recently, the needs and practices of indigenous groups like the Pgakeuyaw were pushed aside to make room for new and fresh climate change policies. Edward Porokwa, a panelist from the Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organization (PINGO’s) Forum, boldly pointed out that actions taken to address climate change affect indigenous peoples just as much as the adverse effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement represents a step in the right direction in encouraging Parties to consider the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as indigenous knowledge bases, although indigenous peoples feel the Agreement does not go far enough.6a00d8341d43c253ef00e54f1c02678833-500wi

The Paris Agreement explicitly calls for the consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples in the preamble, and the taking into account of the knowledge of indigenous peoples in adaptation actions in Article 7.5. Areas of the Paris Agreement beyond those two provisions present opportunities for the rights and knowledge of indigenous peoples to be considered by Parties. These include Article 5.2’s mention of non-carbon benefits and Article 8.4’s inclusion of the need to account for non-economic losses and the resilience of communities, livelihoods, and ecosystems.

To ensure the rights of indigenous peoples are protected, Tunga Bhadra Rai, a panelist from the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), stressed that when implementing the Paris Agreement, Parties must tap into indigenous knowledge bases for adaptation approaches, include non-carbon benefits as mitigation approaches, and focus discussions on capacity building and non-economic loss and damage.

Despite the lack of attention to indigenous peoples in previous climate change negotiations, COP 22’s emphasis on community-based approaches presents a real opportunity for these voices to be heard. 

 


Loss and damage at SB44 – Whither the WIM?

101803802-495496305.530x298While, as we posted last week, loss and damage (L&D) was not on the agendas of the Subsidiary Bodies or the APA at the UNFCCC intersessional meetings held in Bonn, May 16-26, some attention was paid to this important issue.

Four side events covered varying aspects of L&D policy and action, both inside and outside the UNFCCC. These included climate migration, climate litigation, non-economic losses (we posted on this last week), and existing disaster risk management tools. (Links to event presentations can be found at the SB44/APA1 side event site.)

In addition, the Presidencies of COP21 and COP22 held a meeting for observer delegations to provide input on Article 8.4Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 5.11.27 PM of the Paris Agreement and action areas of the 2-year workplan of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) Executive Committee (Excom). (As we reported earlier, the workplan is scheduled to be completed for review at COP22.) Among those presenting were: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Climate Action Network (CAN) International, the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative, a range of NGO constituency groups, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum.

Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, and one of the (Least Developed Countries) LDCs’ top advisors,Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 5.13.02 PM suggested that the purpose of this event was “to gauge the level of interest amongst parties and observers.” Given the throng of attendees and the passion with which many statements were delivered, it is clear that interest and engagement levels are high.

And, there is good reason – this is a highly political subject. According to presenters at the side events, developing countries are increasingly experiencing much worse L&D and sooner than expected from drought, heat waves, major storms, sea level rise, and salt-water intrusion. Climate-induced migration is gaining wider acknowledgement and attention. At the same time, L&D has essentially achieved recognition as a separate pillar of the climate regime through Article 8 of the Paris Agreement. Yet, the Paris decision included a clause preventing Article 8 from serving as “a basis for any liability or compensation;” on top of which, no specific reference to financing to address L&D is present in either the Agreement or the decision.

Concern is great, and the primary message is that the WIM should ramp up its engagement with the robust sphere of non-state actors and resources to both address current actual losses and damage and establish equitable, aggressive policies and strategies to avoid future L&D. Hotbeds of engagement exist for all of its current workplan action areas. (The 2-year workplan can be found here.) Dr. Huq considers migration and finance as “the two most critical,” and recommends fast-tracking those.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.50.21 PMThe urgency is mounting ahead of COP22. Among the questions we’ll be following, as the Excom holds its final 2016 meeting in September, is whether the 20-person body will seek an extension or try to meet the review deadline. Among its tasks is to “[d]evelop a five-year rolling workplan for consideration at COP22 building on the results of this two-year workplan…”

Will the Excom fail to deliver? Will a delay lose the political momentum of COP22? Neither those suffering now, nor those at current risk can afford that.


Caught on the Front Lines of Climate Change

In an event hosted today by WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management), six inspiring women shared their stories of community, loss, and leadership. The panel was comprised of women from diverse and remote regions of the world, including a Native American of the Ponca Nation, a representative from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a Quechua-speaking native of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and several leaders of global non-profit organizations. All of these women came to COP21 with the same message: the voices of women and indigenous peoples are essential to effectively addressing climate change.

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Panelists at today’s event, Global Women & Indigenous Peoples on the Frontline of Climate Solutions: Forests & Renewable Energy

Each of the panelists shared shockingly similar stories of their lives and their communities, highlighting their plight against the effects of climate change. Most indigenous communities contribute very little to climate change, yet feel the effects far more profoundly than the rest of the world. Women also face disproportionate impacts from climate change, indicating that this group had tremendous insight to offer from both perspectives. They had faced the direct impacts of climate change and had established innovative methods of addressing the associated problems. In the case of the Ponca Nation and the Amazonian natives, both groups are actively opposing resource extraction in their sacred ancestral lands. Women in Colombia are reclaiming land for traditional agricultural practices after years of protests allowed them to begin saving seeds again. Women in the DRC are creating carbon negative local economies by planting trees. By organizing their communities and utilizing traditional and institutional knowledge, they are developing robust, local solutions to climate change.

Nevertheless, a Paris agreement may not address these groups’ needs or their suggestions. There are currently four binding sections of the agreement that reference gender equality or the rights of indigenous people, and two of those references are bracketed. This means that the rights of indigenous people and women may not be adequately addressed in two important parts of the agreement (purpose and finance). Hopefully, this panel discussion, along with the other events associated with Gender Day, will encourage the negotiators to avoid this absurd result.


Celebrating Gender Day at COP21

Today is Gender Day at COP21. In celebration, the Women and Gender Constituency of the UNFCCC recognized the winners of the Gender Just Climate Solutions competition. These winners were celebrated for their great work combating climate change in a “gender-just” manner.

Photo Source: Island Eco

Photo Source: Island Eco

Island Eco from the Marshall Islands won the Technical Climate Solution Award for its work in training young women how to install solar photovoltaic DC refrigeration. Under this project, young rural women learn the electrical and mechanical skills needed to assemble, deliver, and install solar powered lights, refrigerators, and freezers in the Marshall Islands.

Next, the Non-Technical Climate Solution Award was presented to Gender CC – Women for Climate Justice for its efforts to raise awareness on gender integration in climate change adaptation and resiliency building activities in Southern Africa. Gender CC’s project connects women leaders, government officials, and NGOs to local women farmers in order to provide awareness training and capacity building skills concerning the installation of biogas digesters, PVC solar units, and water harvesting tanks.

csm_GenderCC_South_Africa_Workshop_solar_651ba88acb

Photo Source: GenderCC

The final award was presented to Tulele Peisa of Papua New Guinea for its local relocation efforts, that are being led by the Carteret Islanders who face imminent extinction due to climate change impacts and increased numbers of extreme weather events on their home island. This project prepares and provides support to three communities on Bougainville in order to ensure there is adequate land, infrastructure, and economic opportunities for the Carteret Islanders when they choose to voluntarily relocate. The purpose of this project is to ensure that the Carteret culture and society continues to exist even after their home island becomes unlivable.

Ursula 2

Ursula Rakova was called upon by the Carteret Elders to lead Tulle Peisa. She accepted the award on behalf of Tulle Peisa. Photo Source: THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Thin Lei Win

Overall, the Gender Just Climate Solution awards highlighted amazing groups led by inspiring women who are all working to ensure that climate change decision making provides equal access for both women and men to effectively participate and address local concerns caused by the effects of a changing climate.


Side (event) . . .

Side events can more than occupy one’s time at a COP.  Presented by a range of actors — academics, activists, businesses, government agencies — they can range in content and quality.  Thus I was fortunate that the few I attended at COP19, given my focus on tracking the ADP negotiations, were fascinating and informative.

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Joana Abrego of the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental, at right.

On the Saturday mid-COP, a day-long conference on human rights and climate chance organized by the Yale University Governments and Environmental Markets Initiative, UNITAR, and the law faculty of the University of Warsaw (that Heather covered well) sought to bring together activists and academics “to
examine how substantive and procedural rights can be used to support, design, and implement effective and equitable solutions to address climate change.”  The third session of the day addressed “human rights, safeguards, and climate mechanisms.”  Dr. Constance McDermott of the University of Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests & Environmental Change Institute provided an overview of forest program safeguards, noting that while the context for the COP19 discussion is REDD+, that these safeguards are rooted in financial institutions like the World Bank.  Joana Abrego of the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental encouraged academics to research the actual implementation of public participation requirements of CDM and REDD+ programs, not just their theoretical constructs.  She described conditions in Panama, where 33% of the territory is protected area, 76% is inhabited by indigenous peoples, and more bird species exist than in U.S. and Canada combined.  She spoke of Panama’s interest in hosting CDM projects, almost all hydropower projects.  With 19 registered projects and 48 in the pipeline, required community engagement and participation have varied significantly.  Abrego described one proposed CDM project, Barro Blanco, which indigenous people fought because of the effect on their river but was nonetheless approved for CDM registration, and Bonyic, another dam project within indigenous peoples’ territory that was rejected by the CDM.  Given this uneven human rights track record, she underscored the need for both research and activism on developing clean energy while protecting IP rights.

Allie Silverman '12 of CIEL.

Allie Silverman ’12 of CIEL.

Allie Silverman of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) focused on safeguards within the REDD+ program of the UNFCCC.  She began by acknowledging that these safeguards, which are procedural and substantive in nature, can be seen by different beholders as either a market-based way to reduce emissions by protecting forests and communities or an attack on indigineous communities, given their traditional place outside international markets.  While CIEL doesn’t take a pro or con position on REDD+ safeguards, it does see the risks of the relatively minimal safeguards, especially as they are put into play on the ground. Allie, VLS’12, who is one of my amazing former students, described CIEL’s rights-based approach to REDD+ project development, implementation, and ongoing monitoring (harkening back to Abrego’s point) and specific projects to extend its reach.  For example, she previewed a web tool (currently in beta form, undergoing peer review) that will provide access to a variety of legal instruments for countries considering REDD projects (e.g. those on self-determination, right to participate, ILO 169, information and consent), intended to help lawyers and legal activitists do their work more effectively.  CIEL is also creating a community guide that builds on the more technical legal information in the web tool to strengthen work with civil society groups like indigenous peoples groups.

In sum, an incredibly exciting side event session, where I learned about one slice of international climate change law as applied and studied from both the ground up and the top down.

And had the joy of watching a former student show her passion for her work post VLS.  Lex pro urbe et orbe.  Law for the community and the world.


More on the High Level Panel Event on the Land Use Sector and Forests

This post adds a bit more detail to Chris Knowles’ earlier post. The President of the Conference of Parties convened a “High-level panel event on the land use sector and forests” on Monday 18 November at COP19 . The President himself was in attendance, but his representative opened the meeting emphasizing the importance of the land use sector in both sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.

“It is clear we need to continue to include the land use in future agreements,” a representative read on behalf of the President. “This week we have the opportunity to have an open dialog on the land sector. We can send a strong signal that the land sector is important to all parties of the conference… The outcomes of this meeting will be shared with the COP President and ADP co-chairs.”

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Co-chairing the meeting were the Minister of Environment of Finland and the Special Envoy for Climate Change in Indonesia. It was made clear that the point of the meeting was not to interfere with ongoing negotiations on other tracks (such as the REDD+ draft decision language that was recommended by SBSTA to COP for consideration), but rather to share ideas.  It appeared to be a boundary-less discussion of all three distinct land-use issues before the COP in Warsaw.

“Humankind is dependent on productive land resources,” the delegate from Finland explained. “Without the ability of trees and other vegetation, we would have already missed out ability to meet our 2° goal. This sector is too significant to be ignored.”

The Indonesian co-chair emphasized the importance of rural livelihoods to the economies and sustainability of many nations and protecting the rights of forest-dwelling and indigenous peoples.

What are we talking about?
Many countries stated that REDD+ is an important mechanism (Mozambique, Slovenia, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Uganda, Brazil, and Gabon). There were nuances in the statements made regarding mechanisms for the land use sector in the future. Many emphasized the need for a REDD+ agreement with an established measurement, reporting, and verification system in the upcoming 2015 agreement, recommending that it be incorporated in the ADP negotiations (Namibia, Mexico, Ireland, Norway, and France).

Russia, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, talked about a “post-2020 new agreement”. In some ways, you might think that they are saying the same thing; the agreement to be made in 2015 is expected to go into effect in 2020. However, the United States’ statement gives you more of an impression of “kicking the can down the road”: “Formal negotiations on land sector should start after the framework of the 2015 agreement is clear.” This seems ominous.
This group of countries, all part of “The Umbrella Group”, also all mentioned the need to include all parties, or “include new parties”, a nod to the post-Durban agenda of moving away from the Annex I / developed vs non-Annex I / developing country split which has caused such strife with the Kyoto Protocol, as China, India, and other major economies were not considered “developed” at the time. The U.S., Canada, and Australia also all mentioned that the focus should be on man-made (“anthropogenic”) changes in land use. I suspect this is due to the large forest fires that the US and Australia are prone to, and the large quantity of permafrost in Canada which, when it melts, will emit huge amounts of methane, which has 34x the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Quite a few common themes emerged from the statements given by the various countries regarding any new land sector mechanism:
  • The need for technical and financial support, and calling on Annex I countries to meet their commitments in this realm (Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador, Slovenia, Norway)
  • Simplicity (USA, Russia, Canada, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Slovenia, Japan)
  • Flexibility (USA, Norway, Japan, and Gabon)

Themes that reflected some of the wisdom from the Global Landscapes Conference included:

  • Include both mitigation and adaptation; land sector projects have a strong synergy with both (Philippines, Portugal, Lithuania, Bolivia, Ireland, Austria, Gabon)
  • Take a holistic approach (Lithuania, Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, New Zealand, Austria)
  • Use local methods, connect the grassroots to national policies, support for Traditional Ecological Knowledge for adaptation and mitigation (Philippines, Brazil, Kenya, Namibia)

Indonesia, Bolivia, Ecuador and the Philippines all spoke to the need to protect indigenous rights. Indonesia in particular sees REDD+ as an opportunity to benefit indigenous peoples. Canada spoke of “aboriginal involvement” but stopped short of mentioning rights or protecting indigenous lands.

Some very unique statements included Belarus’s emphasis that soils, and wetland/peatland rewetting, needed to be included; Sweden’s desire to link the land sector with energy sector, particularly in terms of biofuels; New Zealand and Ireland’s concerns that inclusion of agriculture not be detrimental to their agriculture-based economies; and Bolivia’s criticism of market-based approaches as “further commodification of Mother Earth”. More on this later.