Logistics Logistics Logistics! Highlighting Technology Needs Assessment for Developing Countries

As the Paris AgTNA-logo_rgbreement parties continue to meet and deliberate legal provisions, supporting organizations put in place tools that help developing countries meet their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). A non-governmental organization is one of the amazing things about the Paris Agreement, COP, or climate change in general. Citizens from all over the world don’t need to wait for government action and can operate independently. NGOs can hit the ground running, enacting change, and are sometimes more effective than governments who need to navigate foreign affairs carefully. What is even more impressive about NGOs is their ability to adapt. Like any successful story, you need to fail. It was through this process that led the UN development program (UNDP) in creating the Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) tool for developing countries.

TNA streamlines the process of determining appropriate technologies to supply developing counties to combat climate change. Choosing the right technology is an important issue because it gradually builds the capacity of the developing country. Sometimes we are too quick to solve a problem and look to the most efficient solution. However, the answer may be too complicated for the developing country to maintain, once the experts have left. The TNA address this problem. The TNA is a three-step process that conducts a feasibility study and selects the appropriate environmental controls.

Step one is a holistic background study that looks to multiple sectors including gender. The first step helps prioritize available technologies that can be applied. Step two conducts a feasibility study or barrier analysis of each technology. Since developing countries circumstances are different, experts must carefully examine the technique. The third step is called the technology action plan and supports “the implementation of the pritorized technology.” The level of ambition, timelines, schedules, and education are carefully implemented and contributes to reaching the developing country’s NDC.

Moreover, the TNA tool is so effective that, successful application of the analysis enhances the opportunity to obtain funding to construct the project. So, to the organizations that help make pragmatic steps that help lay down the right tools, keep up the good work.


BURs: One Small Decision Leads to Surprising Results!

The Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) is a hot topic at COP24. At the conclusion of COP24 is the deadline for all parties to put their heads together, develop, and finalize provisions for the modalities, procedures and guidelines (MPG) of the ETF. The MPGs might supersede and replace the current transparency framework called measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV). Completion of the MPGs marks a significant milestone for the Paris Agreement. Anticipation to see the final provisions and roll out of the MPGs has already caused ripple effects when it comes to reporting.

The UNFCCC cannot help but celebrate the ongoing progress in transparency. The UNFCCC is observing the fruits of all party’s efforts, despite some resistancbur1_552e, through increase rates of party participation in submitting annual reports, specifically Biennial Update Reports (BURs). The BUR was the brain child of PA parties committed to climate change at COP17 in 2012. BURs are reports submitted by non-Annex I parties. BURs generally contain updates to GHG inventories, mitigation actions, status, needs and support. BURs should be submitted every two years at the time of the first submittal. Least developed country parties (LDC) have the flexibility to submit their first BUR at their discretion. The BURs are purely collaborative and peer-reviewed by international consultation and analysis (ICA). The ICA is made up of teams of experts that consist of PA parties.

Although BURs on their face may not appear to be an exciting process, parties’ implementation, feedback and lessons learned have exciting benefits. At COP24, the UNFCCC hosted a side event which showed the progress of BURs and featured case studies from Brazil and China.

As of today, the UNFCC has received a total of 66 BUR reports. Recent submissions from Brazil and China help serve as ideal case studies for other non-Annex I parties.

When Brazil started preparing its BUR report, little did it know that the BUR would significantly enhance government workflow and increase environmental awareness. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the BUR report and quickly learned the logistical nightmare and resources needed to complete the report. Brazil’s BUR report took about a year to complete. However, after the report was submitted, Brazil conducted a lessons learned exercise and found surprising results. Brazil learned that preparation of the BUR improved communication and exchange between ministries. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) engaged with energy and agriculture agencies, which were unfamiliar with the UNFCCC and the BUR. The MOFA encouraged these officials to participate in BUR workshops and in turn the agencies spurred investigation and internal discussion adopting environmental initiatives in their respective agencies.

China’s BUR had similar benefits compared to Brazil. Lessons learned after China’s first BUR submission revealed adoption of procedures that heightened internal quality assurance and control. Additionally, China started building a national system to archive environmental and climate change data. Even more impressive, China pushed past its reluctant disposition and started sharing emission factor data and best practices with the ICA. China is in progress in submitting its second BUR report and is excited to see the differences from its first report.

The BURs play a key role in helping developing countries establish environmental reporting procedures. BURs can also have the indirect effect of facilitating government cohesion between agencies and pushing countries down a greener path.


A stumbling block at COP 23 – Finance

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

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

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

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

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

 


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


Small Island Developing States Fishing for Adaptation Solutions

Coral aquaculture in FijiFor Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Fiji, climate change adaptation requires immediate action. As my colleague Val analyzed previously, fish stocks are depleted and international tensions are rising as each nation attempts to protect the fishing economy it still maintains. When the Ocean Conference met in June of 2017, participants recognized the crucial role oceans play as a climate regulator and the impact the changing environment would have on food and nutrition. This will be particularly impactful on SIDS as fisheries fade; those nations now cast for ideas in alternative food options. Some SIDS have hooked on aquaculture as an adaptive strategy.

The average consumption of seafood in the world is roughly 20 kg/capita/year with 70% of SIDS exceeding that global average. That, with the rising ocean temperatures, the migration of fish out of their previously habitable areas and the unsustainable fishing practices, creates a massive deficit in global fish markets when measured against demand. This mismatch creates the perfect atmosphere for aquaculture development.

Biota-Palau-Hatchery-1In 2015, the total aquaculture production of SIDS was 71,893 tons, with Cuba manning the helm with around 30,000 tons. Overall, most nations produced less than 100 tons of aquaculture and the diversity of SIDS creates a particular problem with the implementation of any “one-size-fits-all” program. Branching off of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)’s FAO program, Palau, Nauru, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) formed the Micronesian Association for Sustainable Aquaculture (MASA) in November of 2015. MASA’s goal is to facilitate region specific cooperative programs and assistance in order to meet demand and reduce market reliance on fish.

Implementation of these adaptation techniques is an issue that runs through COP 23 and is recognized also by the Oceans Conference. The Oceans Conference emphasized the need for sustainable development goals (SDG14), and a Blue Economy to support and finance ocean initiatives. It specifically mentioned the strengthening of sustainable economies with reference to aquaculture within their action plan. Based on that action plan, the Seychelles raised roughly $40 million towards their SDG14 and their INDC places a heavy emphasis on sustainable fisheries and adaptation to ocean climate change. This funding will have a substantial impact on their ocean economy. But funding is challenging to acquire. With the Green Climate Fund (GCF) increasing fund accessibility for least developed countries (LDC) for adaptation plans, this could present an opportunity for many nations who have already implemented or are in the process of implementing aquaculture plans to acquire necessary funding. While the GCF does not specifically address aquaculture as an adaptation strategy, several nations, including SIDS like Vanuatu and Tuvalu, have already included in their GCF proposals aquaculture adaptation strategies.

With the current momentum aquaculture dSustainable-Aquaculture.adapt.1190.1evelopment has gained in SIDS, COP 23 has the unique advantage for aquaculture and sustainable fishing measures with Fiji at its helm. While the focus of the Paris Agreement was the mitigation of effects to reduce the overall rise in temperature, adaptation still remains a strong focus for the countries that are feeling the most significant of those effects. Aquaculture has worked its way into the economies of many nations and will hopefully further alleviate the burden that climate change is having on SIDS.


LDCs – Concern, yet hope, entering Week 2 of COP22

Courtesy www.afd/frAt the end of the first week, many were expressing concern that Marrakech’s purported COP of Action wasn’t measuring up for the world’s most vulnerable countries. Yesterday morning, Least Developed Countries (LDC) Chair, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, identified troubles on key issues of ambition, adaptation / loss & damage, and climate finance. In particular, he noted that:Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 3.37.17 PM

  • The Paris Agreement rulebook development is being stymied and strong action on pre2020 commitments is not materializing.
  • Adaptation needs of the most vulnerable, exploding as a result of inadequate mitigation by developed countries for decades, are not being addressed in a balanced manner, with even the adaptation registry being complicated. And, foot dragging on other seemingly simple decisions, such as the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), is eroding trust and confidence that the global community will concretely respond to the very real and devastating losses and damages increasingly suffered by poor countries on the front lines of climate change impacts.
  • Developed countries have been blocking the Paris-mandated inclusion of the Adaptation Fund in the Paris Agreement rulebook, and the developed country recent “roadmap” to reach the promised $100 billion/year by 2020 lacks credibility – – unfortunate circumstances in the face of developing countries’ low-carbon climate resilient development needs now estimated to collectively exceed $4 trillion.

Work did continue yesterday, while heads of state and ministers arrived for the high-level segment. By the end of the day, among some positive developments were two improved draft decisions on the WIM (here and here). (More on these to come.) Additionally, the Green Climate Fund expedited grants for Liberia’s and Nepal’s National Adaptation Plans. Climate finance remains a hot topic on this week’s COP22 agenda, in particular, the upcoming High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance; so, Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 3.09.30 PMhope remains for new and encouraging news on that front. (Check back with us on this, too!)

 

Photo credits: Action Time courtesy www.afd/fr; Informal negotiations courtesy iisd enb


UN University Announces Nepal Loss & Damage Case Study

http://www.circleofblue.org/2014/world/nepal-landslide-hydropower/

Yesterday, the United Nations University announced a case study on loss and damage (L&D) that it conducted in Nepal following the 2014 landslide. Overall, the landslides had a devastating effect on the community at large, blocking a highway, causing power outages, and killing more than 150 people; however, this study focused less on the overall effects and more on the individual community members’ coping mechanisms for the L&D caused before and after the landslide. The increased focus on lesser-known, community-level techniques is a great opportunity for governments and international groups to learn about smaller-scale L&D solutions.

The panel, moderated by David Hewitt from UN Univeristy, included two presenters from UN University, Dr. Kees van der Geest and Dr. Robert Oaks, as well as Raju Pandit Chetri, who works for Nepal’s Climate Change Council. To begin the announcement, Dr. Geest presented on the study and emphasized that the goal of the study was to show the effects of L&D on the ground. In the study, researchers gathered evidence on what types of measures the landslide victims implemented before the landslide to prevent L&D as well as what the victims did after the landslide to restore their lives. Overall, the study found that the victims employed more reactionary efforts to clean up after the L&D but that more could be done to prevent and reduce L&D but these efforts lack “people-centered strategies.” Dr. Geest ended his presentation on the study by emphasizing that many people implement measures on the ground to address L&D but that these measures are not widely discussed. Perhaps this study can help shift the focus to these on-the-ground measures and bring them to the forefront as viable L&D mechanisms.

Following Dr. Geest’s description of the study, Chetri spoke about the study’s impact on Nepal. He first explained how there are limited scientific studies available in Nepal that help demonstrate the country’s need to go beyond adaptation measures to address L&D and this study helps to fill this void. Chetri also emphasized that events like this are likely to increase with changing and unpredictable weather patterns in the face of climate change, which makes studies like this more important in order to show countries like Nepal how to react to these types of events in the future. In the question and answer portion of the conference, the moderator asked Chetri about the link between academic studies like this case study and on the ground projects. Chetri explained that negotiations on L&D often seem abstract but that these studies demonstrate in a tangible way that L&D is happening now—not just in the future. Additionally, he explained that these studies direct governments on what types of policies and programs to put in place in order to reduce on-the-ground effects, further underscoring the study’s importance to on-the-ground application of L&D mechanisms.

The final presenter, Dr. Oaks, ended the announcement by discussing the cultural L&D climate change can cause. While admitting that cultural L&D is difficult to quantify, he underscored its importance to communities, and in some instances whole countries that may be displaced due to the effects of climate change. This further emphasizes the importance of L&D studies like this one, which could educate those working on L&D, helping them understand the individual community members’ views on displacement and ensuring that “migration with dignity” remains an option.

The views and feelings of individual community members are just as important as theoretical discussions about national or international approaches to L&D to develop comprehensive strategies to address L&D. Too often, L&D focuses on large-scale, national, or international solutions to L&D, but the real impact of L&D is felt on an individual basis in small communities across the world. This case study refocuses L&D research around these communities.


How “well below 2°C” flew well-below the radar

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 10.09.47 PMOn December 12, when the Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus, it contained bold new language on the long-term global temperature goal. Article 2 reads:

“Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels…” (Article 2.1(a))

But, from where did this language come?

All through Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 3.59.10 PMthe ADP’s final year of negotiations, from Lima to Geneva to Bonn and back to Bonn, it never appeared in the successive drafts. The “well below 2°C” finally emerged in brackets at the last negotiating session before COP21, on the final day of ADP2-11.Photo-SBs June2015-Bonn

The likely source? Something called the structured expert dialogue (SED).

The story begins back at COP16 in 2010, when Parties agreed to reduce emissions so that global temperature would not exceed 2°C above pre-industrial levels. They also agreed to periodically review this goal to determine whether it was sufficient to meet the UNFCCC’s objective, and whether the Parties were achieving it. Importantly, the Parties decided at COP16 to consider strengthening the 2°C goal, “including in relation to a global average temperature rise of 1.5°C.”

This mandated review happened between June 2013 and February 2015 at a Joint SBSTA/SBI meeting. It was supported by a structured expert dialogue (SED) to “ensure the scientific integrity of the review through a focused exchange of views, information and ideas.” The SED involved more than 70 experts and Parties over 4 sessions. The group released its final report last May for all UNFCCC Parties to consider it at the 42nd session of the subsidiary bodies in June.

Two of the SED’s key messages were:

  • “The world is not on track to achieve the long-term global goal, but successful mitigation policies are known and must be scaled up urgently.” (Message 8)
  • “While science on the 1.5°C warming limit is less robust [making it difficult to compare differences between 2°C and 1.5°C], efforts should be made to push the defence line as low as possible.” (Message 10)

Message 10 also suggested that Parties consider a precautionary path: “aiming for limiting global warming as far below 2°C as possible, reaffirming the notion of a defence line or even a buffer zone keeping warming well below 2°C.”

While not offering the exact language on 1.5°C found in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, the SED report clearly articulates climate change impacts already being experienced, limits to adaptation, and certain and non-linear increases in those impacts expected between 1.5 and 2°C.1.5DegC

Both IISD’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) and the Third World Network (TWN) reported strong differences at the June UNFCCC meeting about what action Parties should take on the Review and SED report. AOSIS, the LDCs and others pushed for sending a draft decision to COP21 for a new long-term global temperature goal of “limiting warming to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” Saudi Arabia and China were both firmly against changing the long-term goal, and sought language simply acknowledging and appreciating the work/report. Though most Parties supported crafting a substantive conclusion and decision, the lack of consensus on content meant postponement to the SB43 (December 1-4) meeting in Paris. With Saudi Arabia and China (joined by Oman) continuing to block action at SB43, the COP Presidency was ultimately called on to shepherd its direct consideration by the COP.

On the ADP front, the Review and SED report found no apparent foothold in June. By Paris, though, its “well below 2°C” was in the draft and part of the hot debate on long-term temperature goal. The LDCs, AOSIS, the Africa Group and the 40+ country-strong Climate Vulnerable Forum (on which we’ve reported), fought hard for the goal to reference only 1.5°C. The “High Ambition Coalition” (on which we reported here), which included the EU and the U.S., offered strong support. The Saudis, backed by India and China, and unchallenged by the rest of OPEC, firmly blocked it, along with any reference to the SED report. The final compromise language was, in the end, a big step toward acknowledging the climate change dangers already present and the peril posed by a 2°C change.

COP21 did close with a decision (10/CP.21 para 4) that referenced the Review, “took note of the work of the structured expert dialogue,” and offered appreciation for those who participated in it. It also stated the new long-term temperature goal utilized in the Paris Agreement’s Article 2.1(a). “Well below 2°C” is well beyond what could have been.images


Realities of Hope: 1.5-2C Global Temperature Rise is within Striking Distance—But INDC Pledges are not Enough

CAT_thermometer_151001_300dpiSince the COP21 Opening Ceremony, various Parties have expressed a priority of curbing global temperature rise to below 2C. Many Parties, particularly LDCs and notably French President Hollande, advocate for a more ambitious 1.5C temperature increase. While the Opening Ceremony was full of hopeful statements—UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, for example, described COP21 as a “beacon of hope for the world, lighting the way toward the betterment of humanity”—it is unclear whether the Parties will actually agree to maintaining the 2C increase, and even then what the cost will be for a less ambitious mitigation effort.

Leading up to COP21, 184 countries submitted 154 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These pledges account for around 94% of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2010. Yet, some sources say these pledges would be insufficient to limit warning to 2C or below. Instead, the INDCs might allow a 2.7—3.5C increase above pre-industrial levels.

The consequences of these varying temperature ranges appear to be quite devastating. Even the 2C benchmark typically considered a “safe” increase may be on the cusp of “dangerous” and “extremely” dangerous. The International Cryosphere Climate Initiative reports, “Reacting with ‘too little, too late’ may lock in the gradual but unavoidable transformation of our Earth…in a terrible legacy that may last a thousand years or more.”

Most world leaders promote a temperature limit of 1.5C. Manuel Augusto, current speaker for the LDC negotiation group and the Secretary of State for External Relations of Angola, advocates limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C.

FullSizeRender 5In Monday’s Global Environment Fund side event, former Irish president Mary Robinson discussed how various Parties up to that point had discussed climate injustice and the importance of a “people centered” approach to the Paris Package. Robinson explained that a global 2C increase actually means 4C in parts of Africa, and that 1.5C is an important part of a “people centered” agreement.

Also on Monday, 30 nations consisting of middle income, least developed and small island developing states issued a declaration expressing their desire for “full decarbonization of the world economy, 100% renewable energy by 2050, and zero emissions by mid-century in order to keep the world on track for below 1.5C warming.”

Scientists confirm that “limiting temperature rise by 1.5C is feasible;” however, “an increase of international efforts to curb greenhouse gases is imperative to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius target achievable.” Thus, with science and political backing, it would not be impossible for Parties to agree to a 1.5C temperature increase target.

 

 


Individually Survivors, Together a Force – World’s Vulnerable Take Action at COP21

photo-19Today, at the Third High-Level Meeting of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), government leaders representing over 40 countries that are the most vulnerable to impacts from climate change adopted a historic joint declaration, the Manila-Paris Declaration. The Declaration, and its associated three-year Road Map, calls for a more ambitious long-term temperature goal of 1.5˚C, zero emissions by mid-century, and 100% renewable energy decarbonization by 2050.

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At the meeting, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, acknowledged this important action but raised concerns that CVF was not making a coordinated effort to push for an ambitious Paris agreement. Outgoing chair of the CVF, Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, also called for collective action stating, “individually, we are already survivors; collectively, we are a force towards a fairer, more climate-proactive world.”


Lighting the Way for LDCs

green-plant-in-the-light-bulbIn the COP21 opening ceremonies this morning, President Obama spoke of the need to turn international progress on climate action into “an enduring framework for human progress.” Later, the Global Environment Facility hosted a session today called “Investing in Resilience—Responding to the Adaptation Needs of the Most Vulnerable.” The event concerned various countries’ participation with the Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF), goals for the future, and means of continuing support for urgent and immediate needs. Eleven developed countries pledged almost $250 million to support Least Developed Country (LDC) adaptation efforts through the LDCF. Several LDCs also spoke about their unique vulnerabilities to climate change and their specific adaptation needs.

Strikingly, in Paris, the City of Light, a delegate from Benin discussed a project in his country called a “Light for All” which will ensure every house has electricity. He elaborated on the importance of energy—“the end all and be all of development”—and of the need for international support for electrification and other energy necessary for development. Ethiopia also discussed its need of funding for energy. When asked whether LDCs voices were being heard at the COP, Manuel Augusto, current speaker for the LDC negotiation group and the Secretary of State for External Relations of Angola, said that the pledges made during the session were evidence that their voices are being heard, but not enough.

Providing LDCs the support they need to reach their adaptation and sustainable development goals is a way to form an enduring framework for human progress. Hopefully developed countries will leave on the light for LDCs to reach these goals.


COP21 Begins in 24 Hours: Will a Paris Agreement [Decrease] [Solve] [Do Nothing On] Climate Change?

imagesIf all politics are local, but greenhouse gases find their way into the atmosphere’s international space, how can the global community act collectively on climate change? In 1992, the solution was to adopt an international treaty. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) declared climate change a “common concern of mankind,” and committed 166 countries to tackling it. Most UNFCCC parties were developing countries, who had contributed relatively few emissions given their pre-industrial poverty but were nonetheless already experiencing the irreversible, negative effects of climate change. Under the convention’s principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities” (CBDRRC), developed countries and top greenhouse gas emitters like the European Union and the United States agreed to take the lead.

Yet, progress has been slow. In 2007, this leadership took the form of the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, which placed clear greenhouse gas emission limits on developed countries while imposing none on developing countries. When the United States refused to ratify, its emissions, along with those of rapidly industrializing developing countries like China, India, and Brazil, escaped international regulation. Consequently, when negotiations for continuing the protocol beyond its first 2008-2012 period faltered at COP15 in Copenhagen, a new approach to international limits on greenhouse gas emissions began to CO2take shape. It gained momentum at the two subsequent conferences of parties (COPs) held in Cancun and Durban. Now, almost six years on, there is emerging agreement that all parties—developed and developing countries—should make individual, international climate change mitigation pledges determined by each party’s national government.

At COP21 in December, the current 196 UNFCCC parties will decide if they can sign on to this new paradigm of international climate change regulation. The Durban Mandate requires the parties to “develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” by the end of 2015. In Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2015, the parties will have their last opportunity to shape the international climate change law that will take the place of the Kyoto Protocol when it ends in 2020.

copDuring four negotiation sessions this year, the parties drafted a “Paris Package” that consists of a core legal agreement based on a system of nationally determined contributions and several COP decisions addressing implementation and political issues. The current 31-page draft agreement outlines how parties’ individual contributions will be internationally measured, reviewed, and verified. These pledges no longer focus solely on mitigation. Consistent with appeals from the developing world, the draft agreement pays almost equal attention to adaptation and finance actions. Likewise, it sets out conditions for transparent international reporting. Under it, parties take responsibility for determining whether their national efforts collectively keep global temperature rise below the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recommended upper limit of 2 degrees Celsius.

This new system of national pledges that are internationally made and scrutinized for sufficiency had a World Resources Institutetrial run this year. By Oct. 1, 2015, 147 parties had submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), covering approximately 86 percent of total global emissions. While each INDC derives from national priorities, overall they tend to include substantive contributions on mitigation, adaptation, and finance, as well as important process pledges on reporting and verification, technology transfer, and capacity building. Developed countries have pledged absolute mitigation targets and resources for vulnerable developing countries. Higher-income developing countries like Brazil, China, and Mexico have made concrete greenhouse gas mitigation pledges. Other developing countries have described their mitigation and adaptation efforts and goals, but made them conditional on receiving financial assistance. Transparency in this pledging process has been prioritized: INDCs are publicly available at the UNFCCC website and have been reviewed closely by the UNFCCC secretariat, non-governmental organization (NGOs), and the press.

CAT_thermometer_20141207That’s the good news. The bad news is that, at least in the short term, these intended contributions do not add up to keeping atmospheric warming below the 2-degree Celsius goal. A Nov. 1, 2015, UNFCCC report concluded that while the INDC pledges—if fulfilled—would slow down the global rate of greenhouse gas emissions, they will not maintain the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. Likewise NGOs like Climate Action Tracker (CAT) and Climate Interactive reach the same conclusion. CAT calculates that achieving the unconditional INDC pledges would still likely lead to a 2.7-degree Celsius increase. Climate Interactive’s math adds up to a predicted 3.5-degree Celsius increase.

So how could COP21’s Paris Package address this shortfall and result in a new international agreement that leads parties to bend the global emissions curve to a 2-degree Celsius or lower pathway?

  • First, it would use these INDCs as a starting point only and include provisions in the new agreement that require all parties to increase their contributions in regular, transparent cycles. In this way, COP21 serves as “a way station in this fight, not a terminus,” as Bill McKibben recently wrote.
  • Second, it would emphasize the need for all parties to adapt to changes already locked in by historical emissions, and recognize the permanent loss and damage experienced by the most vulnerable developing countries.
  • Third, to achieve these first two, it would show agreement on the amount and kind of financing available for developing countries to achieve their pledges. COP15’s promise of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation activities is still on the table. A recent OECD report indicates that climate finance reached $62 billion in 2014. But many note that mobilizing private finance is not the same as pledging public funds, and call for developed country governments to do more.
  • Fourth, it would include a COP decision that ramps up the INDC pledges before the new agreement takes effect in 2020. From now until then, non-state actors like cities, states, and provinces, as well as businesses and consumer groups, have focused their subnational powers on renewable energy and energy efficiency actions intended to narrow the emissions gap.
  • Fifth, it would reflect a new understanding of CBDRRC. While this core principle no longer translates into developing countries getting a bye on greenhouse gas emissions limits, it also does not exempt developed countries from their historical responsibility for climate change and their capacity to provide finance and technology for low- or no-carbon development. The deep tension over how to fairly bring all parties into a common framework that recognizes different starting points permeates the draft text through heavily [bracketed] language.

The UNFCCC requires consensus to lift these brackets. The negotiations thus far have produced little of it. Instead, despite its fractured international politics, the G77+China has flexed its negotiation muscle IMG_0920through disciplined coordination of member countries that otherwise align with the diverse agendas of the Africa Group, Arab Group, and Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs). AOSIS, which represents low-lying countries whose very existence is threatened by sea level rise, works with the least developed countries group (LDCs) to press for strong adaptation and loss and damage provisions. The E.U. and U.S. are committed to market mechanisms for achieving mitigation reductions and private climate financing along with government contributions. Two negotiating groups, the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG) and AILAC, seek to find common ground. The EIG is the only group that includes both developed and developing countries. AILAC’s members are middle-income Central and South American countries that are growing rapidly yet can still reorient toward low-carbon pathways. But these national negotiators can go only so far: While they are masters of the technical details and crafting precise legal language, it appears that the true power to compromise resides in their national capitals.

Leading up to COP21, weekly meetings of heads of state and their environmental, foreign affairs, and finance ministers have taken place. In this way, local politics are actively engaged on the international problem of climate change. All parties preparing for Paris have said clearly what they want to avoid—no repeat of COP15, no “ghosts of Copenhagen” haunting COP21. It will be a day-by-day proposition with some bumpy rides along the way. Follow the journey here till its finish!

 


Loss and Damage – In or Out?

thThe evolving fate of loss and damage (L&D) and the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) we have been covering has been less visible during this COP than the larger ADP effort to lay the groundwork for an agreement in Paris next year. However, the absence of loss and damage in the draft decision on ADP published early this morning is among the core issues many developing countries have identified as preventing them from agreeing to the document. It remains unclear whether or not it is among the “deal breaker” points for several negotiation groups, including the Least Developed Countries, Small Island States and the Africa Group.

While we wait for Parties to reach enough agreement to close the COP 20 today, we can share some insights from a side event earlier this week that considered whether anchoring adaptation and L&D in the Paris agreement is desirable or not, and different approaches for doing so.

Panelists included negotiators Pa Ousman Jarju (The Gambia, for LDCs), Mr. Gottfriedvon Gemmingen (Germany for the EU) and Mr. Antonio CanasCalderon (El Salvador of the LMDC), along with Koko Warner (UN University) and Sabina Minninger (Bread for the World). Overall, there was significant difference between the approach of the EU and that of the LDCs, with the former focused exclusively on a risk management approach and an insistence that L&D is a part of adaptation. Of the panel, only the EU representative was opposed to anchoring adaptation and loss and damage in the Paris agreement.

Mr. Jarju, in representing the LDC position, insisted that anchoring adaptation and the WIM in the Paris agreement in equal parity with mitigation is essential because it would allow for the necessary holistic approach warranted by the inherent linkages between the three. The LDCs also support a global adaptation goal, and a financial facility able to provide swift, agile and sufficient financing for addressing losses and damages.

In his remarks, Mr. von Gemmingen suggested there were some points of convergence with the LDCs’ positions, but in acknowledging the real risks of loss and damage, he maintained that the ways to address it are through adaptation and risk management. Mr. von Gemmingen’s posited several points arguing against anchoring adaptation or the WIM in the Paris agreement:

  • Article 2 is a mitigation objective, although adaptation aspects are included and can be dealt with by mitigation.
  • The UNFCCC does not need to reinvent the wheel, and should have only a strong analytic role.
  • It is not self evident that a new instrument would be more effective than already existing instruments and model processes dealing with certain aspects of risk.
  • The work of the WIM will continue for a longer period than the new agreement.
  • Loss and damage has been dealt with under the COP, and continues to be dealt with there with all existing institutions and approaches because it belongs among the more general considerations.

IMG_0816For Ms. Warner, the crux of the question is priorities. She pointedly stated that L&D is programmed into our future because of past choices; that we need to deal with it; and that if we don’t deal with it in the Paris agreement, it will happen and we won’t be prepared, creating serious disruption to sustainable development. She also contended that the UNFCCC needs to send the signal, and that WIM must be in the Paris agreement in order to send that signal – that is the UNFCCC’s responsibility. With this issue, in Ms. Warner’s estimation a high political priority, she emphasized that whether L&D is large or small depends on the decisions here.

As we wait to see if consensus will be reached on the ADP draft decision nearly a full day beyond the planned closing of COP 20, these side event insights help in understanding the thorn this issue poses in the draft ADP decision.

IMG_0832

One final note is that despite the fact that L&D can be found in the “Elements for a draft negotiating text” referenced in the draft decision Annex, the multiple options for how it might be addressed range from deeply anchored to not included at all. If countries clearly doomed to loss and damage can’t get it into the COP 20 ADP decision, they will very likely have a hard road ensuring its survival in the Paris agreement negotiating text.


“Hit the ground running.”

downloadWith this statement the Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Ms. Hela Cheikhrouhou, reported on the current status of the fund. The interactive session held on Thursday at COP 20 provided a brief overview of the latest GCF decisions, and laid out the expected deliverables for next year.  Offering an optimistic perspective, Ms. Hela affirmed that grants are scheduled to start being distributed next year in the hope that approved mitigation and adaptation projects can be presented at COP 21.  But for the GCF to be able to do so, the interested countries will have to do their homework and develop functioning institutions to tackle climate finance flow. From GCF’s part, Ms. Hela explained that procedure rules will be kept simple to allow “less process, more access.” 

This seems to be the ideal approach; climate funds bureaucracy has been one of the main obstacles for these funds to effectively reach vulnerable countries  – least developed, small island, and African countries.  But is this a fair procedure?  Many in the session raised concerns related to the hurry in approving projects for Paris 2015, and how this simplified, speed process will once again negatively impact countries that are more vulnerable to climate change impacts.  

climatefinancingsign_0The imbalance between least developed countries and larger developing countries has been seen through the years, and is present in several of the mechanisms adopted under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.  The most critical example is the clean development mechanisms (CDM). During the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, countries like China, Brazil, and India were responsible for hosting the majority of CDM approved projects. In the financing context, this gap is based on vulnerable countries’ lack of institutional capacity to properly enable climate finance flow.   

The bottom line is that less process is ideal, and it will lead to more access.  But without the right rules in place, it will not provide access to those countries that might be the highest in need. The readiness process offered by the GCF, while promising, will make difficult for these countries to take advantage of the fund resources if greater support for capacity building is not provided on time.  A lot of work will have to be done, but 2015 “hit the ground running” approach will, once again, leave the most vulnerable countries behind – the opposite direction of GCF’s goal.


Least Developed Country Fund: Meeting the Threshold Criteria of “Least Developed Country”

The Parties here in Lima have been discussing the Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF), which provides funding only to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Due in part to its specificity, these sessions have not garnered as much publicity as many of the others. Of course the ADP sessions, as they are the prep work for the hoped for agreement to come out of Paris next year, are main attraction here, but LDC specific interests hold a different position than other more narrow topics due to the position of the LDCs themselves. The LDCF as a specific topic within LDC issues, has an even tighter invested audience. However, for many of the LDCs, the LDCF is a contentious and important issue for debate.

In yesterday’s meeting certain parties (not only LDCs) brought up criticisms of the LDCF. These include Bangladesh’s insistence that constraints for funding under the LDCF be removed as they are demonstrations of funding countries mistrust of the LDCs; Bolivia’s comment, on behalf of the G77+China, that adaptation financing in general is in a crisis in this convention; and that the LDCF offers only a very small fraction of the necessities for LDC countries, both in terms of the dearth of money currently available as well as the narrow prescribed use of these funds. But as Bhutan stated, the LDCs need strong financial assistance in climate change adaptation. And Liberia specifically stated that the LDCF has been very useful there.

What exactly is the LDCF? The LDCF is one of the funds established under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) (the other is the GCF). The parties established the LDCF to support Least Developed Countries (LDCs) prepare and implement national adaptation programmes of action (called NAPAs in UN acronym speech).  The LDCF is still being adapted, and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) recently published recommendations for the LDCF (the recommendation was largely based on an LDC submission). This recommendation and party submissions are currently under discussion.

human asset index

But what exactly is a “Least Developed Country”? An important question as the first caveat to receiving LDCF funds is that the receiving country must be an LDC. There are 48 LDCs that form a negotiating group for the UNFCCC. Nepal, in its statement on behalf of the LDCs at the Opening Plenary on Monday, described the LDCs as “the 48 poorest and most vulnerable countries which contribute least to the problem, yet suffer the most.” The UN has formed specific criteria for what constitutes an LDC, and the LDC listing applies UN wide, not only for the UNFCCC. For inclusion in the LDC list, a country must meet the following criteria: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/cdp/ldc/ldc_criteria.shtml (1) per capita gross national income under a certain threshold (in the 2015 review this threshold will be $1,035), (2) meeting the human assets index threshold and 2014-0110-CDP(3) meeting the economic vulnerability index. Additionally, the country must be recommended by the UN Committee for Development (who reviews the LDC list every three years), then endorsed by the Economic and Social Council, and approved by the UN General Assembly. Finally, its population cannot exceed 75 million. This multi-variable criteria has been emended over time and likely will continue to adjust as parties demand. Graduation off the LDC list uses a different assessment to ensure graduation only happens if development can be sustained.

Meeting the requirement of “Least Developed Country” is only the first bare-bones step for LDCF support. After that, the process becomes more complicated, and may still be in flux. For more links on the LDCs under the UNFCCC, see the Least Developed Countries Portal page.