The Room Where it Happens: The Indispensable Role of the Observer

_104735890_dui0ypwwoai5suoAs TIME Magazine recognizes its 2018 Person of the Year, observers, reporters, and advocates of the truth find themselves lauded among activists. The Guardians and the War on Truth were recognized as the Person of The Year for “taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and speaking out.” These Guardians are being praised for their ability to hold our public officials accountable and to bring to them to the task at hand.

Similar to The Guardians, UNFCCC representatives of observer organizations hold sovereign Parties accountable for their actions. They remind Parties of their task at hand—creating international IMG_9729_0environmental policy on climate change. UNFCCC observers can do this by releasing sassy newsletters, publishing revealing emissions reports, and advocating for and commenting on text released by the Parties. As independent actors — with fewer political repercussions than Parties themselves — NGOs interact in spaces and ways that Parties cannot. Where Parties are constrained by politic mannerisms, NGOs can act bombastically, like casual vandalism,*  and subtly, like “liaising with the UNFCCC Secretariat on behalf of the business community.”

Baby-Groot-750x500UNFCCC observers act in between the spaces of international politics, diplomacy, and decision making. Their role in the negotiations of transparency, adaptation, and finance are indispensable because there is no force quite like them. So as discussions of global stock take move forward and rumblings of excluding observer organizations rise, Parties, civil society, and the people** need to defend these staunch Guardians of the Green.

 

*This is in reference to a situation where some observers were de-badged or stopped by police when entering Poland.

**This is in reference to David Attenborough’s “People’s Seat,” which encouraged civil society to be able to encourage world leaders to do more for climate action.

 


Climate Change and Health Unite!

COP24 SREver since the first IPCC assessment report in 1990, the international community has known of the health dangers that climate change imposes on humans. From increasing rates and ranges of water borne and vector borne diseases, frequencies of natural disasters, and exposure to climate pollutants, people have been suffering from the immediate effects of climate change. However, the UNFCCC has been quiet on this issue. Despite acknowledging the “deleterious effects . . . on health health and welfare” from the adverse effects of climate change in Article 1 of the UNFCCC, the UNFCCC has yet to create substantial progress in addressing the issue. Moreover, UNFCCC Article 4.1(f) mandates the parties to conduct impact assessments with a view to minimize the adverse effects of climate change on the public health. Focusing primarily on mitigation efforts, the UNFCCC has been set on completing long-term goals of decreasing carbon emissions to stop the global temperature average from increasing to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, this narrow sight forward has left resources dry for efforts to adapt to the adverse health effects from climate change. According to statistics, only 15 percent of INDCs submitted included health and only 0.5 percent of funds disbursed by the Global Environmental Facility, the Adaptation Fund, the Pilot Programme for Climate and Resilience, the MDG Achievement Fund, and the Green Climate Fund went to health projects. That is, until today. Air Pollution

On December 5, 2018, a side event sponsored by the UNFCCC and WHO revealed a special report by WHO: COP24 Special Report Health & Climate Change. During COP23, the Fijian Prime Minister Bainimarama called for WHO to develop a report on health and climate change to be delivered at COP24. At this event, a panel consisting of members from UNFCCC, WHO, WMO, Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC), Health Care Without Harm, and International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) delivered the report.

AOSIS Chief Negotiator, Amjad Abdulla, held opening remarks, reminding the audience that the adverse effects of climate change is already upon us. There is a dire need to build facilities that can withstand the dangers of climate change. If countries are not resilient, then they will succumb to the devastating effects of climate change. The air pollution problem that kills 7 million people a year must be resolved. The UNFCCC has pushed for a transition into a low-carbon economy. However, Mr. Abdulla stressed that the transition cannot be just for a low-carbon economy, but also for an air pollutant free economy. According to Dr. Kumar, a surgeon from New Delhi, hazardous air pollutants from fossil fuel emissions must be stopped or humanity will become the fossils that we burn. However, there are also implications to switching to a renewable economy. According to Elena Manaenkova, the WMO Secretary General, the connection between air quality and climate change is complicated. Sometimes, solutions that promote air quality is detrimental to the efforts to address climate and vice versa. Therefore, there is a need to carefully strategize every solution to ensure there is synergy to promote both air quality and lowering carbon emissions.

With the information provided by WHO about health and climate change, there are hopes that the UNFCCC changes the way it has advocated for health and climate change. The report provided nine recommendations which COP may welcome to provide a safe, prosperous journey to a low carbon world.

Recommendations


Early Warning to COP

Aftermath HD

Climate change is causing an increase in natural disasters while vulnerable countries lack the proper infrastructure to counter them. To tackle this issue, vulnerable countries have been working on implementing early warning systems (EWS). In addition to saving lives, EWS provide reliable risk information which allows sound investments into a country’s infrastructure. However, these vulnerable countries often lack the capacity to install EWS and require cooperation from the international community to implement them.

IAftermath Bridgendonesia’s recent struggle with its EWS exemplifies the lack of capacity building. On September 28, 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake created a series of tsunamis that devastated the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Over 1,200 people were killed and over 61,000 displaced. A network of 22 buoys connected to seafloor sensors float off Indonesia’s coast, intended to warn the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics of tsunami activity. This high-tech EWS was installed after the 2004 tsunami that killed nearly 150,000 people. However, the detection buoys were defective, leaving thousands of people helpless in the wake of the disaster. The agency did issue a tsunami warning, but lifted the warning after 34 minutes because  the tsunami detection system did . According to Indonesia, the EWS has been malfunctioning since 2012 because it did not have the funding to repair or perform routine maintenance on EWS.

PaluSulawesi

The UN has stressed the importance of implementing EWS since the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2005. However, the UNFCCC did not address early warning systems until COP16 created the Cancun Adaptation Framework in 2010. Nonetheless, the talks were important to build momentum to have EWS explicitly included into the Paris Agreement (PA) under Article 7(7)(c). This provision reads that Parties should strengthen their cooperation on enhancing action on adaptation by “strengthening scientific knowledge on climate, including research, systematic observation of the climate system and early warning systems, in a manner that informs climate services and supports decision-making.”

The inclusion of EWS in the PA–a binding treaty–is crucial in helping vulnerable countries develop early warning systems to reduce the impacts of disasters. According to the WMO, 54% of surface stations and 71% of atmospheric weather stations emit no data. To address this issue, decision 1/CP.20 invited Parties to consider including an adaptation plan in their INDCs, and a majority of the Parties defined EWS as a priority for adaptation.

COP24 is especially important for the implementation of EWS because this COP will finalize the implementation rules for the PA. With the fifth anniversary of Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) being held in Poland, loss and damage will likely be a prioritized negotiation which relies heavily on EWS. The 2018 Report of the Excom of WIM recommends cooperation to support preparedness through EWS — a hopeful sign for aiding vulnerable countries to maintain functional EWS and prevent another incident like Indonesia’s from happening again.


Make a Birthday Wish for the Warsaw International Mechanism

COP 24 marks five years since the birth of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage at COP19 in Warsaw. What can we expect to see when the Mechanism comes home to Poland for its five-year anniversary this December in Katowice? Hopefully more than the same. A review of the WIM Executive Committee’s most recent meeting shows how the Mechanism’s core functions shape its current focus.

On October 15, 2018, the Committee released its annual report covering October 2017–September 2018. The report highlights how the Committee’s work during this period achieved the WIM’s three central functions:

  1. Enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset impacts . . .
  2. Strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders.
  3. Enhancing action and support, including finance, technology, and capacity-building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.

This year, the Committee undertook efforts to move forward on finance, technology, and capacity-building for addressing loss and damage. The report specifically notes that the Committee’s work “has progressed toward the enhancement of cooperation and facilitation” in the WIM’s key substantive areas: (1) slow onset events (SOE), (2) non-economic losses (NEL), (3) comprehensive risk management approaches (CRM), (4) human mobility, and (5) action and support.

In March 2018, the Committee established three expert groups, one each on SOE, NEL, and CRM. The Committee also established a roster of experts to identify experts to fulfill these groups’ activities per the Committee’s five-year rolling workplan. Under this workplan, the Committee works within five cross-cutting workstreams in preparation for priority activites come 2019–2021; workstream A deals with SOE, B with NEL, and C with CRM.

Below is an overview of information on experts registered in the roster as of September 10, 2018. Without doubt, this roster brings together a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and resources to address loss and damage.

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In May, the Committee convened over 200 experts for the Suva dialogue (named in Fiji’s honor at COP23). This dialogue explored mobilizing and securing expertise and enhancing support—particularly finance, technology, and capacity-building—for addressing loss and damage, especially from extreme weather and slow-onset events. Based on information from these experts and other sources, the Committee enumerated 24 recommendations in its annual report. Still, these many recommendations differ little from ones past.

Not surprising that many complain about the Committee’s focus on process above all else. Specifically, critics lament how long it has taken to tackle the substance of SOE and NEL instead of only DRM. Indeed, whether the Committee is finally picking up speed here is the question of the day. After perusing the report, it becomes easier to understand why many remain dissatisfied with the Committee’s efforts.

For one, vulnerable people and countries facing climate change’s worst impacts desperately need finance. A recent report showed that poor people and countries pay the majority of loss and damage costs. For example, only 23% of the loss and damage costs from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Dominica one year ago, came from finance.

Perhaps parties will take the chance to review and potentially reset the WIM at COP24 by issuing stronger recommendations to tackle the displacement and finance issues that continue to plague the world’s most vulnerable.


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

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

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

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

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

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


React Slow, Lose More

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

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

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

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


Financing Loss and Damage from Climate Change

Loss and Damage (L&D) encompasses both sudden and slow onset events and is an incredibly important issue to developing countries at COP23. Although the economic costs of slow onset events have yet to materialize, sudden onset events have proved deadly and costly for developing countries. It is estimated that hurricanes wipe out 1% of the Caribbean’s GDP each year. From Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the devastation has been so extensive on islands such as Barbuda and Dominica that many people cannot return or have lost their homes. This displacement adds to countries’ L&D from climate change.

Financing for L&D has overshadowed COP23’s discussions around the slow but steady work of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss & Damage (WIM) Executive Committee. According to Julie-Anne Richards with the Climate Justice Program, the WIM has a “clear mandate” to enhance Action and Support for loss and damage but as yet, the WIM has largely focused on financial instruments, like insurance, rather than finance mobilization. Richards posits that while insurance mechanisms for sudden onset events may assist developing countries in addressing L&D, insurance mechanisms simply cannot address slow onset events (SOEs).

Causes-and-Effects-of-DesertificationDavid Simmons of Willis Towers Watson risk management company explains that the insurance industry currently focuses on short-term risk – the only type of insurance that deals with long-term, inevitable risk is life insurance. However, for this reason, Simmons argues that insurance could be reconfigured to address SOEs. Julie-Anne Richards, on the other hand, argues that other instruments such as funds or levies are more appropriate ways to finance SOEs. An example of a fund working on an SOE is the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund, which pools capital from the public and private sector to finance projects that both prevent land degradation and support revitalization of degraded land. The UN Convention on Combating Desertification estimates that 12 million hectares of land are degraded each year, which is around a third of Germany’s land area. This adds to the bank of 2 billion hectares of already degraded land, which is around the size of the South American continent. Desertification, soil degradation, and the loss of ecosystem services that comes from degraded land are all considered slow onset L&D.

Julie-Anne Richards and the Climate Justice Program are currently working on a new form of finance for L&D – the “Carbon Levy Project.” A tax would be placed on the extraction of fossil fuels, which would then be distributed based on the level of development of the country. If the fossil fuel is extracted by a developing country, the money from the tax would be kept for use domestically. However, if the tax is collected from a developed country, a large percentage of the funds would be placed into a global L&D Fund managed by the WIM.

There is general agreement that L&D needs to be addressed and that this will take money. However, there is divergence on how to finance L&D. From insurance mechanisms and global funds to more innovative approaches, there is momentum behind this issue.


The Rising Need to Address Climate-Induced Displacement

Fiji’s role as a developing island state and President of the COP brings Loss and Damage (L&D) into sharper focus at COP23. At negotiations thus far, differences have emerged between developing and developed countries. Developing countries generally want the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM), established at COP19, to have a broader scope, increased capacity, and more international cooperation on addressing L&D. Developed countries, on the other hand, are satisfied with the work of WIM and requested that WIM be given a chance to carry out its three functions: enhancing knowledge around comprehensive risk management of L&D; strengthening cooperation between relevant stakeholders; and enhancing action and support, including finance, for addressing L&D.

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 3.11.19 PML&D is an especially important issue to developing countries and one noneconomic form of L&D is human displacement by climate change. On average, sudden onset disasters (i.e. extreme weather) displace around 25 million people per year and slow onset events will displace many more. Moreover, people in low and lower-middle income countries are five times more likely to be displaced than people in high-income countries. Mandated by the COP21 Paris Decision, the Task Force on Displacement was created under WIM to recommend ways to address, avert, and minimize displacement. These recommendations will be delivered to the Parties at COP24 in 2018.

The many extreme weather events that have affected communities worldwide in 2017 frame the current conversation on climate change-induced displacement. This conversation requires discussions on many questions including: what to call environmental migrants (the term “climate refugee” as largely been rejected); how can countries prepare for inevitable displacement; and, what rights and resources will displaced peoples have?

At the side event “Uprooted by Climate Change: Responding to the Growing Risk of Displacement,” His Excellency Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati, expressed his concern for the future of Kiribati. He explained that Kiribati will inevitably be destroyed by climate change, despite mitigation efforts, either by extreme storms or eventual sea level rise. His call is to prepare these future climate migrants through training and education programs so they can easily be assimilated into a new country. He called this strategy “Migration with Dignity.” The former President does not like the term refugee – in this case, people would have choice and agency in how they move.

Today’s side events on displacement highlighted the swath of agencies working on this issue including the UN Refugee Agency, UN Migration Agency, the Platform on Disaster Displacement, and even the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Meteorological Society, among many others. Collectively, speakers from these agencies highlighted the need to put protection of people at the center of displacement discussions, especially concerning legal rights, and that internal displacement will continue to strain governments. Forced relocation was emphasized as a last resort for communities.

In the words of His Excellency Anote Tong, “What do we do for whom it’s too late” and displacement from climate change is inevitable? COP23 has continued the discussion on displacement yet, much more needs to be done to ensure that when people relocate, they can call a new place home.


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.


Are Human Rights Lost and Damaged?

Haiti after Hurricane Matthew

Haiti after Hurricane Matthew

Loss and Damage (L&D) includes the permanent loss of land, culture, and human life and will escalate existing tensions over increasingly scarce resources. This tension will ultimately incite conflict in many parts of the world. In some places, the loss of habitable land is forcing individuals and families to leave their country, threatening their sovereignty, and some countries are entirely submerged as a result of increasing sea levels. Since human rights include the right to life and the right to health, some have wondered why these aspects of climate change are not considered a violation of human rights.

One reason could stem from traditional human rights violations. Typically, human rights violations must be obviously traceable to an entity. An article in the Bangladesh Chronicle observes that extreme weather events cannot violate human rights through volcanic eruptions, mudslides, or events outside human control. As L&D is defined as the impacts of climate change that people are unable to adapt to, there might be an argument that the consequences are outside human control. Certainly, this is the case for L&D up to a point.

However, the risk of L&D is exacerbated through current inaction. By countries not adopting aggressive mitigation targets, they are not only increasing the already widespread need for adaptation, but they are worsening the situation by exponentially raising the risk posed by more frequent extreme weather events and more extensive slow onset events.  Therefore, there is a direct connection between lackadaisical mitigation reductions and increased risk of L&D. This trend, when coupled with scientific advances that can determine the impact of a specific country’s emission contributions on another’s climate, could provide vulnerable countries with an avenue to seek compensation through the international courts of justice, or some other court with requisite jurisdiction.

Still, in order to bring a claim, the claim must be valid. This is where one of the major criticisms of the Paris Agreement might work toward concerned parties’ advantage. Throughout the negotiation of the Paris Agreement, mentioning human rights in the substantive body of the text remained contentious. Ultimately, the concept was relegated to the preamble and isolated from any significant application to the implementation of the Paris Agreement requirements. Also, under decision 1/CP.21 para 51, the Parties agreed that Article 8 of the Paris Agreement dealing with L&D does not provide a basis for liability or compensation. Theoretically, since human rights are not mentioned in Article 8, a human rights violation resulting from widespread indifference to climate action leading to increased L&D might provide relevant parties with enough of a legal basis to establish liability. The Paris Agreement does not explicitly exempt human rights violation claims founded on L&D. The Paris Agreement and following decisions only prevent L&D grievances rooted within the operative text of Article 8. The specific language states that L&D does not “provide a basis for compensation or liability,” but does not preclude liability founded in human rights. Therefore the Paris Agreement only prevents parties from declaring entitlement to compensation from developed countries based on the mere fact that L&D will occur. It does not preclude liability imposed through claims not covered in the Paris Agreement like human rights violations.

Albeit seemingly outlandish, challenging the unambitious mitigation offers from developed countries with human rights violation claims might prove to be a form of viable motivation so as to adequately protect the most vulnerable countries to climate change. In this narrow window of opportunity, the international community should not wait to mitigate. When that window closes, they can only hope for the best and provide compensation.


Developing Innovation

Cyclone Aftermath

Cyclone Nargis Aftermath

With the increasing risks of loss and damage (L&D) associated with the impacts of climate change, all nations are facing unprecedented complications in providing for the protection of their citizens. This burden of meeting this challenge is especially felt by those countries with less access to the variety of resources necessary to adequately innovate unilaterally. These developing countries lack the finances, information, and collaboration to successfully adapt and therefore reduce the amount of loss and damage suffered by their citizens. In the face of various types of weather and climate events, developing nations have to entertain multi-faceted approaches. While some have similar themes, they often differ in some key areas.

At an official COP22 side event, government ministers, private sector representatives, and other interest parties gathered to discuss these approaches. The first to speak was Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of SDPR in Pakistan. He set the mood by describing their inadequate responses to climate change. Pakistan, and now other nations as well, experience a cycle of intense floods and droughts that have been exacerbated by climate change. Local communities are not provided with enough resources to adapt to one extreme by the time the other has set it. This instability is intolerable, and compounds the already devastating impacts. Dr. Suleri stated that because of the unstable climate, Pakistan is experiencing a brain drain which further reduces their capacity to innovate. The other represented countries’ perspectives prove that Pakistan’s is far from unique, but the remedy is far from clear.

The dialogue centered around disagreements on innovation. The representative from Kenya, Kennedy Mbeva believes the risk posed through L&D requires a three-pronged innovation paradigm shift: technology innovation, policy innovation, and institutional innovation. As for the first, Mr. Mbeva focused on lack of access to technology and the redundancy in inventing existing renewable energy sources. Also, Kenya does not have the access to the financial and human capital necessary to promote such invention in the first place. The international community needs to create a platform for sharing as these innovations usually come from outside developing countries. As for policy innovation, Mr. Mbeva recognized the hostile environment many developing nations pose to outside investment. Tying this in with the third prong, he suggested reducing the risk to private and public institutions through proactive government policy founded in corroborated evidence. This evidence would provide investors security in their returns, and would hopefully encourage outside contributions through the private sector and public funds.

The Director General of TERI in India, Dr. Ajay Mathur simply focused on the expense incurred at the individual level by being a climate-progressive consumer. He stressed the need to create companies that can appreciate the long-term returns on renewable and sustainable innovations, like LED lightbulbs, that the average consumer would immediately write off as beyond extravagant. Through economies of scale, those businesses can receive short-term benefits that will only increase in the long-run. Once solutions are affordable and make economic sense to the private sector, then adaptation and L&D risk reduction follow. However, this approach does not incorporate the blatant urgency reflected in the expedited ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Dr. Edward Cameron

Dr. Edward Cameron, Managing Director of BSR

As the sole representative from a developed country, Dr. Edward Cameron of the U.S., Managing Director of BSR, closed the meeting with some concerns, recognizing that issues of innovation — those mentioned above as well as cultural innovation — do not incorporate the complexity of international investment. The expedited ratification sent a message to investors emphasizing the importance of climate resiliency. Still, direct investment will only occur if the private sector is confident in the countries rule of law and its ability to provide a favorable return on investment. As for public funds like the Green Climate Fund (GCF), not only is the capital dwarfed by the resilient climate market, but it does not address accessibility of finance to vulnerable minority communities, or those without access to information on finance and resource availability. Developing nations need to provide some sense of reliability for returns and equal distribution so the funds are not wasted in this crucial window of opportunity.

 

 


Approving Decisions on a WIM

After many late night negotiations the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs), the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technological Advice (SBSTA), came to a surprising agreement on both issues related to the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts in their 45th sessions. The main agenda items related to Loss and Damage (L&D) for SBI45 and SBSTA45 were item 11 and 5 respectively, but since these items were originally to be considered by a joint session of the SBs, they resulted in the same draft conclusions proposed by the Chair of the SBI, Tomasz Chruszczow, and the Chair of the SBSTA, Carlos Fuller.

Chair of the SBSTA, Carlos Fuller

Chair of the SBSTA, Carlos Fuller

The first issue established the indicative framework for the WIM’s five-year rolling workplan to include a strategic work stream to guide the WIM in enhancing action and support through finance, technology, and capacity building. This step is crucial to understand L&D and provide the COP with a range of strategic activities as it goes beyond the initial 20-year workplan. This decision also extends an input invitation to, not just parties, but also “relevant organizations.” However, this decision alone falls short of the SB’s directive. In decision 2/CP.19, the COP called for a review of the WIM at COP22. This aspect incited contentious debate among the parties. Delegations disagreed as to the terms of reference to be used during the WIM review. Through the dedicated leadership of the co-facilitators, Alf Willis from South Africa and Beth Lavender of Canada, the parties eventually reached a decision on the draft conclusion to be recommended to COP22. If the COP accepts the draft, the WIM will be periodically reviewed no more than five years apart with the next review to be in 2019. The terms of reference for each review will be determined no later than six months before the review.


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


Proving Loss and Damage

 

Myanmar After Cyclone Komen

Myanmar After Cyclone Komen.

During an official COP22 side event entitled “Quantitative Scientific Evidence for Loss and Damage,” researchers from the Center for International Climate and Energy Research – Oslo  (CICERO) and University of Oxford, among others, presented deductive methodologies capable of apportioning country-specific anthropogenic contributions “responsible” for other nation’s loss and damage (while science can track contributions between climate change indicators and increases in extreme weather events, there is no link between contribution and responsibility). Theoretically, science can now determine how the emissions of the EU increased the likelihood of heat waves in Argentina. Since this is only a contribution analysis, it cannot prove liability.

This type of modeling is a recent development. Dr. Otto from the University of Oxford, and Dr. Fuglestvedt of CICERO are two of the pioneers. Dr. Otto recognized the lack of purely anthropogenic climate change impacts on humans in the latest report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and filled the gap by discovering the true impact of anthropogenic climate change without nature’s cyclical contributions through multiple simulations. However, since climate change science is such an involved discipline, the limitations quickly revealed themselves. Dr. Fuglestvedt, while recognizing the importance of this new method, is cognizant of the political and ethical dilemmas.

These studies are defined by their parameters. Depending on the chosen start date for emissions data, or the included climate change indicators, or which part of the supply chain the researchers focus on, the national contribution attributed to another’s loss and damage is highly variable. From a basic CO2 emissions study to an all-factor inclusive study, the contribution of Annex I countries changes from 68% to 46%. To maintain objectivity in these studies, the researchers simply recommend that all reports include the entire spectrum of results, providing policy makers with the necessary data to implement appropriate action.


A Story of Non-Economic Loss & Damage

http://loss-and-damage.net/The easiest way to approach loss and damage (L&D) in the face of climate change is to throw money at the problem, because presumably, everything has a price. But most people in who experience the actual L&D from climate change know that this is not the case. There are some losses that cannot be quantified.

Earlier today, COP22 featured a side event on L&D, where the theme throughout was non-economic or intangible loss. It is much easier to develop a fund to help hurricane victims rebuild their homes or to help a family or community relocate because their home is threatened by sea-level rise. But this fund isn’t a catch-all. There are infinite losses and damages that cannot be quantified, such as loss of culture, a sense of community, identify, youth, family, life, burial grounds, and many others.

Two of the presentations on the panel touched on a unique topic within non-economic L&D. Dr. Naomi Joy Godden presented on inequality in non-economic L&D. In her presentation, she touched on how gender issues intersect with loss of livelihood. One case study she highlighted was in Australia, where droughts have caused farmers to lose their crops and their livelihood. In addition to the tangible, quantifiable loss of crops and livelihood, they also lost their sense of identify, which is closely tied to their jobs as farmers. This loss of identity is unquantifiable and is likely experienced elsewhere in the world in the context of L&D.

The second presentation focused on the specific losses and damages felt by youth in informal settlements in Cape Town, South Africa. Phellecitus Montana and Harriet Thew from the University of Leeds presented the results of the unique losses and damages felt by the youth in these settlements, such as loss of identity, lack of institutional trust in the government, and loss of the ability to play. These types of L&D are not often discussed but are important to consider when researching potential solutions for L&D.

Both presentations demonstrate that economic compensation and financial support for L&D, while important, isn’t enough. Non-economic L&D is also an important factor to consider when researching solutions for L&D. The WIM also recognizes the importance of non-economic L&D moving forward under the Paris Agreement. Under its framework five-year workplan in the Executive Committee’s (Excom’s) 2016 Report, non-economic L&D is listed as the second strategic workstream. When the WIM takes up this work in 2017, studies such as the ones presented on in this side event will be vital to the Excom’s research and work in this area moving forward.