EU: Matching the walk and talk

Climate Policy JournalFor the EU’s climate change leadership to succeed, it must understand how its policies have performed to curb the EU carbon footprint to date.  This new article in Climate Policy analyzes the structure of the EU’s carbon footprint, as well as its drivers.  Importantly, it uses consumption-based carbon accounting rather than the usual territorial approach, to more fully understand how developed countries (and their policies) affect GHG emissions.  In this way, the portions of carbon footprint due to domestic and international trade drivers are made more clear and permit policy development apt for each set of circumstances.

The article’s key takeaways:

  • The EU has reduced its overall carbon footprint by 8% since 2007, primarily due to more efficient technology.  but at a slower rate than production-based emissions, and rarely faster than GDP growth.
  • Emissions associated with imported goods comprise one-third of the EU carbon footprint, which “grew strongly” until 2008 and have stabilized since then.
  • Consumption growth has had a much greater impact on the EU carbon footprint than the offshoring of production.
  • Trade, as reflected in both imports and exports, is important for the EU manufacturing sector, reflecting increased trade intensity related to specialization, not “wholesale ‘de-industrialisation’”.
  • At least two major sources of imported GHGs – mining and agriculture – are largely unavoidable results of European consumption patterns because they cannot not realistically occur within the EU.

Bipolar on Climate Change at COP24

Choose one word to describe the results of COP24 and the state of climate change today. Bipolar … dramatically bipolar. We find ourselves torn between despair and hope, between optimiScreen Shot 2018-12-17 at 2.08.08 PMsm and realism, between real progress and a Paris rulebook with no rules. Though Polish officials declared success, really the Paris rulebook that came from COP24 is an agreement to disagree and try again later.

The good news is that after weeks of marathon, overnight negotiating sessions the parties came to a 133 page agreement reflecting years of work since the Paris Agreement. What the agreement does do is affirm the Paris Agreement and allow parties to move forward. What it purports to do, but really does not do, is establish the framework, the rulebook as it is called. Yes, there is progress in the agreement, but to call it the rulebook it was supposed to be – that just stretches too far.

The World Resources Institute identified four key elements needed for a Paris Agreement rulebook: 1) common timeframes; 2) reporting and accounting methodologies; 3) transitioning to the new transparency framework; and 4) effective peer review processes. Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 2.26.14 PMOn common timeframes the agreement states that they agree there should be common time frames, they should discuss it in June 2019, and then approved by the COP with even a reference to what year it should be approved by deleted from the final text.   The development of a registry that would hold all the NDCs is critical to transparency and access by the public which helps hold Parties accountable. Here again the agreement agrees to have the UNFCCC work on a prototype, but it is subject to confirmation at the COP in November 2019 – another indicator that there were a couple of issues, particularly regarding a search function, that the parties could not agree on. Parties could not agree on the features each NDC should have and pushed consideration of further guidance out until 2024. The Parties did agree (per the Paris Agreement) that they would submit the NDCs based on common information in Annex I and be held accountable via common information in Annex II. However, they could not agree on how “target” should be defined and so the final text simply states – “general description of the target.” Still these Annex’s do call for the information required to at least have a skeleton framework for transparency.

The real big failure at COP24 was a complete breakdown on Article 6. All of the work on cooperative approaches and Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes, (see my earlier blog posts here and here) the work that enables the investment by developed countries into developing countries that is needed to accelerate progress, all of these sections were tabled until next year. They will use the progress in negotiations as a starting point, but without some agreement we cannot begin to create global markets that investors will trust enough to invest in.

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 2.22.10 PMFundamentally, they agreed – thus moving the Paris Agreement forward – to disagree – thus hampering acceleration and progress. As the Assistant Secretary General Elliot Harris quoted Vermont’s Bill McKibben: “If we don’t win very quickly in climate change, then we will never win. … Winning slowly is the same as losing.”

Despair and Hope: Throughout the week there was an endless stream of somber information regarding the reality we are facing.   The new UN Emissions Gap Report indicates the gap between what is being done and what is needed has grown significantly while countries fail to perform to their commitments. Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 2.19.57 PMFrom estimates that climate change will drive 140 million people to move within a little over 50 years as projected in the World Bank Group Report to entire countries and cultures being obliterated in the Marshall Islands. From the Unites States government report of a 10% impact on the economy double that of the recent great recession that will exacerbate environmental, social and economic inequalities – to the sad reality that we most likely cannot save our coral reefs and arctic ice is disintegrating at a faster pace that scientists had ever predicted.     AND YET, we must have hope to move forward – we cannot be crippled by despair. Climate change action is also predicted to yield direct economic gains of $26 trillion according to the New Climate Economy Report.Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 2.17.19 PM

Frankly that is the world we face now. One where we must simultaneously face the extreme consequences of our apparent failure while maintaining hope that if EVERY ONE OF US does our part we might, just might, avoid catastrophic failure.

“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” Everyday we will face and experience despair, and every day we must be bipolar and choose hope.


Koronivia Joint Work Programme News Feed

One week after the draft conclusions for the the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) were submitted, and the subsidiary bodies concluded their independent negotiations, representatives from Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and France addressed the media about the work done and conclusions made at the completion of KJWA’s work at COP24.

The panel had a lukewarm response to the outcome of the first “Road Map” workshop since the 4/CP.23 mandate.  The representative from Rwanda was very disappointed about the lack of “welcome” for the IPCC 1.5 Report, which he said is a joke to African countries in particular, who are living the harsh realities of climate change now.  Mr. Bassey of Nigeria emphasized the role of small scale farmers moving forward in response to our changing climate.  Agriculture that works with local knowledge, without the extensive chemical inputs commonly associated with industrial agriculture – farming that “can be done on the streets” – is how we need to move forward with farming our fields and feeding our families.

Modalities and procedures for the implementation of the KJWA were the focus of these joint SBI/SBSTA meetings.  But South Africa’s representative noted that developing Parties, particularly the Africa Group, felt that little support for implementation came to fruition, with finance remaining as the primary roadblock moving forward.  Panelists believe guidelines need to reflect a just socioeconomic basis for food security: adaptation, absolute emissions reductions, ecological integrity, and gender responsiveness.

The session concluded with a question posed by an audience member who, like myself, was unable to attend much of last week’s negotiations – “how can other organizations such as Latin American groups participate in the SBI/SBSTA joint meetings next year?”

The French panelist who promoted France’s sustainable Agroecology initiatives responded by emphasizing engagement in the KJWA workshops via the Submissions Portal.  Participation by all parts of the agricultural community, not just Parties, is key.  Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 1.59.02 PMWe need to ask questions, offer solutions, and promote an inclusive, equitable, just future for those feeling the drastic effects of climate change already.  As the Nigerian representative concluded, “we have the wisdom, we have the knowledge. We need to share it.”  Lots of experience from the global South remains to be shared by the farmer-scientists who have the tools and must feed the way!


Feminist Electrification is about Health Care!

The United Nations Climate Action Awards were announced on December 11Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 10.58.13 PM at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24). One of the 15 Momentum for Change awards went to EarthSpark International for their work on energy poverty. Globally energy poverty is understood as a lack of access to modern energy services.  As I discuss in my October 14 blog, over three billion people rely on wood, charcoal, or dung for cooking resulting in more than 4 million deaths per year from household air pollution. Electrification IS about health.

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 10.48.11 PMEarthSpark recognizes this crisis and also the disproportionate affect on women in rural areas. Women tend to be the ones that travel hours and hours per day collecting fuel. They also tend to be the ones tending and breathing these smoky fires for cooking. The EarthSpark winning project has a gender lens they refer to as “feminist electrification.” The projects range from small-scale clean energy projects such as solar lanterns and efficient cooktops to their current project creating 80 community scale microgrids in Haiti to bring electrification to these rural communities. These types of projects help address many of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

There are still 1.2 billion people without access to electricity. 1.2 billion people Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 10.58.27 PMthat can’t refrigerate food, cook on a stove, run a light to read by, or charge a phone to communicate (yes most rural communication is by cell phone). We have an opportunity to leverage today’s technology to bring smart infrastructure to these communities while we equalize gender opportunity.  Let’s build it right the first time!


Act NOW with the LONG view in mind.

Every report and every session at COP24 has emphasized that we need to do more – faster – sooner – NOW.  Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 1.18.46 AM There is also a real emphasis on the importance of long term planning – of looking to at least 2050.   Long term planning matters in climate change policy for three primary reasons.

First, a long-term strategy can inform short-term actions. For example, if a developing country understands and incorporates into its strategy electrification for its rural residents through renewables, then it can effectively bypass investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.   Developing countries still need to grow to meet the needs of their residents – but the paradigm shift must move from expanding to grow to intensifying to grow. Long-term investments in energy and water infrastructure must be done with this long-term strategy. But the developed world needs to assist the developing world in identifying what the future looks like so they can leap frog.

Second, a long-term strategy can help bring people together around a common vision because it goes beyond the immediate economic consequence to sectors or individuals. There are tradeoffs, people and industries that are impacted by the transition we must make. The more time we have, the easier it is to forge consensus about how we get there and do so justly and equitably. Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 1.19.11 AMPeople may disagree on tomorrow – but it is easier to agree in the long term. Long-term visions can also provide certainty for the private sector accelerating investment.

Third, building off the previous two, is the ability to create the more ambitious trajectory we need to save our planet. To be ambitious we must build the political support from the ground up. To be ambitious we must provide enough certainty to motivate investors to invest in the development of new technology and the projects that will build our future. To be ambitious we must not only understand where we need to go, but develop the strategies on how to get there.

For more information on long-term strategy, go to the World Resources Institute website for a collection of expert perspectives, case studies, and working papers.

 


Our Talanoa: Recognizing a Common Thread

Few things are as complex as the myriad relationships that exist between the countries of the world. Like unruly children, they’ve fought, made peace, gotten bored, and hit each other again when mom wasn’t looking. Putting them in a room together, even when they’re negotiating for something mutually beneficial, can be a hotbed of tension. The Talanoa Dialogue ensures each is heard, IMG-7730preventing conflict with one simple rule: no blaming others, and no criticisms.

Talanoa” is a Fijian word used to describe an inclusive, participatory, and transparent dialogue that focuses on sharing experiences through story-telling in order to build empathy among participants. During the process, parties build trust and advance knowledge in a way that fosters stability. The dialogue was undertaken pursuant to decision 1/CP.21 and slated for 2018; its goal was to take stock of progress towards the long term goals of the Paris Agreement and inform the preparation on nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

cr=w_1200,h_750,a_ccThe dialogue focuses the parties on three questions: “Where are we? Where do we go? How do we get there?” To answer these questions, there was a Preparatory Phase and a Political Phase. The Preparatory Phase began in January, 2018 and will conclude at the COP. Its primary goal is to build a strong scientific base for the Political Phase, which, in turn, will take stock of the collective efforts of the Parties to reach their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Once in the Political Phase, Parties engage in Ministerial Talanoas of 12-13 participants. Each is facilitated by Ministers from the Pacific Region or from Poland. These break-out sessions revolve around storytelling and discussion based on guiding questions. These sessions gave delegates the chance to speak unabashedly about their country’s unique circumstances and about their goals for the future. They promise an opportunity to be honest with partner states about what the climate regime and the goals of the Paris Agreement mean for your people.

If the Parties are warring siblings, the Talanoas are the peace that comes with age and understanding. Once removed from their adversarial positions at the negotiation table, the only realization left to them is that we’re stuck with each other, for better or worse.


Voluntary Cooperation (ITMOs) the Unknown Monster

An important item under negotiation at COP24 is the concept of voluntary cooperation in mitigation. Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 3.08.55 AMThis item is of huge importance as developing countries need funding and financing to engage in low-carbon development and adaptation but they don’t have mandatory mitigation targets. Developed countries are the ones with the economic resources but they also need ways to meet their mitigation targets. This is where the cooperation comes in: a developed country finances a project in a developing country and gets credit for some of the mitigation toward meeting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).   These are called Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes or ITMOs. But what are the rules around when and how these transfers can occur and how they are accounted for? Transparency, accurate accounting and avoiding fraud are essential to creating a system of integrity. (See my previous blog on blockchain for part of the potential solution.)

Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement is intended to provide some direction but it does so by leaving discretion to the Parties by saying that the framework should be consistent with guidance adopted by the COP. It does however specify that the framework needs to provide guidance to ensure that double counting is avoided. Michael Mehling of MIT released a report recently as part of the Harvard Project on Climate AgreementsGoverning Cooperative Approaches under the Paris Agreement. A concern identified by Michael Mehling is that this system could create a perverse incentive for developing countries to have low NDCs so that they can sell their ITMOs. Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 3.09.35 AMBecause NDCs are by definition nationally determined this cannot be addressed directly. However, the report stresses that the parties should be careful not to over-regulate with restrictions as it may limit participation and increase transaction costs. Mehling stated that lacking ambition in NDCs cannot be compensated for with restrictions on the cooperative approach. “Whatever its final shape, the governance framework for Article 6.2 should avoid being too weak or too restrictive, as either outcome would diminish the very benefits that prompted introduction of compliance flexibility in the first place.” (Mehling from Summary Doc.)

The advantage to voluntary cooperation through ITMOs is that it effectively creates a market mechanism, it provides ways to achieve mitigation at a lower cost and should facilitate an overall increase in ambition. However, Juan Pedro Sira, a negotiator on this issue at COP24, said that when the concept was developed in Paris they didn’t know the kind of monster they were creating.

The key is that simple rules are created that are transparent and robust in terms of environmental integrity by addressing ambition, agility, and transparency.   This will help create predictability benefitting developing countries that want to create projects ready for this process and private investors that want to invest. The sense is that this issue is very complicated but extremely important to the success of increasing ambition sufficient to avoid our pending disaster.


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


Is There a Future For KJWA?

47086760_495482350942639_1883073697342816256_nThe Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) workshop met for an informal consultation to discuss lingering concerns. What was expected to bring answers and resolutions instead turned into a match between two proposals. This interruption left Parties frustrated, asking for an informal informal consultation on Friday.

The floor opened for Parties to discuss how to move forward from the Monday workshop. Immediately,  Parties began raising their flags to speak. We were in for whirlwind discussion!

Argentina took the mic first, speaking on behalf of G77 and China. The Parties have been working on substantive conclusions under Koronivia. The draft conclusion text includes points on creating a map of work done by the constituted bodies (CBs) and inviting the bodies to discussions. G77 is interested in inviting CBs to be involved with the KWJA roadmap and asking that KWJA have guidelines for the next workshops. This proposal was initially endorsed by several Parties until Kenya chimed in.

Kenya holds firm that the secretariat should work with CBs and other bodies under the Convention to create a timeline of what these bodies are doing based on the five workshop outcomes and the outcomes of Koronivia. Transparency is necessary going forward and Kenya is eager to move onward with Koronivia.

Just when the discussion picked up pace, New Zealand (NZ) proposed a workshop on a topic that has yet to be discussed at COP24. NZ didn’t think the workshop on Monday went far enough in the discussion because it did not provide a conclusion on modalities and gaps. Therefore, NZ proposed a workshop for KJWA to move the conversation of agriculture forward by organizing a workshop on livestock.

Kenya vocalized its opinion on this proposal by saying “the topic of livestock ighg-1s not supposed to be addressed till mid-2020, but now NZ is trying to bring the topic to 2019.” Its concern stemmed from timing and how it would affect the current Koronivia roadmap. Norway shared a similar view that the work under KJWA should be complementary to the existing roadmap. Nevertheless, it found the proposal to strengthen the roadmap by addressing issues in more depth.

New Zealand countered criticisms by saying “it wants the proposal to support and complement the roadmap and the issues facing agriculture are worth the extra look and time. This would be a technical deep dive that can only foster, not harm, the discussion.”

The European Union (EU) wasn’t buying it. “If the NZ workshop on livestock is additional to the roadmap, then more time will be needed to discuss this proposal.” It stressed that there is simply not enough time to discuss this since the topic of livestock is already supposed to be discussed at SB 50. That time should be adequate. Therefore, the EU is not opposed to moving to an informal informal consultation.

I remain fairly optimistic about KJWA going forward. The Parties undoubtedly feel the pressure of moving forward and want to find a resolution. They are asking all the right questions, but remain frustrated without answers. Parties are working through informal informal meetings to finalize a conclusion. I forecast that they will reach a text, but not without obstacles.


What does “progress” mean during informal consultations?

Progress appears to have a different meaning between developed and developing countries. At the end of today’s APA Agenda Item 4 meeting on Article 7, paragraphs 10 and 11, of the Paris Agreement, one developed country Party suggested that more time should be allotted for issues not fully discussed in the meeting. This Party stated that extra allotted time is needed because no progress has been made on text agreement. A developing country Party chimed in disagreeing about progress made today and yesterday. So what does progress mean?

While the developing countries struggle with the late informal informal meeting times, their preparation shows at every meeting. Unfortunately, as an Observer, I cannot attend the informal informal consultations. It appears there was some negotiation and consensus in the informal informal last night because I did not catch an agreement on textual language during the Tuesday informal consultation. Between today and yesterday, the APA meetings have discussed around ten paragraphs. Three paragraphs have already been agreed upon and will be published in the final draft due by the end of the week. This is where the progress argument diverges.

On its face, agreement on three out of ten paragraphs does not seem like a lot of progress. This is the stance of the developed country. With three days left to produce a final text, this is definitely not the progress the developed country wanted because there are still many paragraphs to discuss. The developed country is concerned because there are some paragraphs from the last two sessions that have not been discussed in length. Parties have not presented text proposals in front of the facilitators and all Parties. This Party stressed the need to streamline paragraphs in order to reach the deadline at the end of the week. This was not surprising because the Party has been proposing streamlining for the last sessions.

On the other hand, three out of ten paragraphs over the course of two sessions, is an incredible amount of progress from the developing country’s perspective. Especially because these negotiations have been taking place over the course of almost three years. From this lens, producing a text in three days is possible. This can be achieved with the amount of time that the cofacilitators have been able to reserve for informal informals. Even though the developing countries lack resources with experts in this area, most understand how important adaptation has become. Thus, many of these countries are providing input about this text.

Where does this leave the definition of progress? In limbo. There is no concrete answer to this question. What each country needs addressed in each paragraph determines how they view progress. This conclusion is not surprising given the nature of UNFCCC negotiation sessions.


Answering Tough Questions on Agriculture

Koronivia

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) met for a second session on Monday and anticipates an informal meeting tomorrow. The second session offered few answers to questions posed in the first session but highlighted country and organization experiences implementing work related to agriculture and climate change with the help of constituted bodies. Countries found the examples helpful but still lacked the clarity to move forward under the KJWA.

Zambia, in collaboration with the constituted body LEG, integrated agriculture into its National Adaptation Plan (NAP-Ag) project. LEG supports partners under a country-driven process to identify and integrate climate adaptation measures for agricultural sectors into national planning and budgeting processes.

Information on the Adaptation Fund can be viewed in my colleague, Amanda’s blog. The questions asked by the EU included how to link the services to the farmers and what the timeline looked like. It was answered with “ the timeline depends on the context in each country. They first identify user needs and tailor to those needs. Then, identify how the system works, what is missing to understand the market, the best way to deliver the information, and how to fund it.” “It takes around 2 years.”

Climate Technology Centre and Network Advisory Board (CTCN) Technical Assistance in Viet Nam provided assistance in bio-waste minimization and valorization for low carbon production in the rice sector, particularly in south-east Asia. Thailand asked, “how would you link this with the national programs as this is a local one?” Kenya stressed, “who is funding this project?” Which was answered with, “funding by donor countries and the GCF to be distributed by priority.”

Food and Myanmar-Philippines-to-work-together-on-agricultural-developmentAgriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations provided examples of work with the Technology Mechanism: TEC and CTCN, CGE, LEG, and SCF. Questions Kenya included “when you look at the five workshops and with FAO being specialized body, how do you see the FAO helping countries to implement those outcomes and the current workshops in Koronivia? Think beyond 2020. What is the synergy? The answer included “supporting a country through GEF and refocusing climate change through the GCF.” “Also, working with a country with their problems and taking a realistic approach.” The second portion of this session focused on “looking ahead” and asked the questions talked about in Amanda’s blog.

  • Tunisa, on behalf of the African group, stressed that meeting with the constituted bodies to discuss how to integrate implementation of the outcomes of the five workshops would help address these questions.
  • The EU said “first, institutionalize involvement of the constituted bodies with KJWA and invite them to the workshops to keep the communication going.”
  • Brazil added “There is so much synergy and work KJWA can share.” “The Parties can strength the linkages to become available to them so KJWA can move forward.”
  • Uruguay, in line with Brazil spoke about how it is key to establish a two-way road between Koronivia and the constituted bodies. Strong communication is essential.
  • Kenya continued “ these are useful inputs, but curious why GCF did not present. (Amanda’s blog covers this top) The question of what to do with the outcomes of the five workshops and the five workshops under Koronivia was not addressed.

The presentations and discussions barely scratched the surface of questions asked. These lingering concerns most likely will be addressed at the informal session on Wednesday.


Adaptation in NDCs: To Include or Not To Include, That is the Question.

You could definitely feel the awkwardness in the conference room during the APA 1-7 agenda item #3 negotiations.This agenda item addresses the mitigation section of the 1/CP.21 decision (where we got the Paris Agreement). What caused such tension? Well, the parties have different positions on what to do with adaptation in NDCs, but were hesitant to speak about it during the session. The draft text for this negotiation issue briefly mentions suggested language for mandatory adaptation commitments within NDCs. But the history of international climate change negotiations hasn’t given much guidance on the issue.

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The UNFCCC first mentioned adaptation, but only to build climate change resilience in least developed countries. The Kyoto Protocol essentially ignored adaptation, and favored very stringent mitigation commitments for Annex I countries (a designation, assigned for the UNFCCC, for a party who could provide financial support to other countries). After over a decade of focusing solely on mitigation, the parties at COP21 decided to develop a new agreement with balanced representation of both adaptation and mitigation. As you can imagine, old habits are hard to break. And that was quite apparent in today’s session.

The developed countries tried their best to eliminate adaptation discussions from today’s informal consultations. The general statement in their interventions basically said that talks about adaptation were inappropriate at this session because it was being discussed elsewhere. If a party did decide to speak more on adaptation, the next typical response would reference the history of mitigation priority in previous COP decisions. The history of previous commitments shows an obvious pattern for making mitigation the priority for achieving UNFCCC climate goals. And although COP21 wanted to balance adaptation and mitigation, subsequent decisions did not reflect that goal. Instead, past guidance on NDCs has emphasized mitigation more than adaptation. Furthermore, the language of Article 4 (National Commitments) of the Paris Agreement (the treaty that created the concept of NDCs) outlines the general commitments of the parties without leaving any room for anything adaptation related.

Alternatively, the developing countries–primarily the African countries–(briefly) noted in their inventions the importance of including adaptation into NDCs. Though this issue has its own agenda item, some developing countries expressed their concerns about discussing adaptation at this session. Looking at the language of the Paris Agreement, Article 3 (NDCs) is ambiguous enough to include adaptation into the NDCs. Also, Article 7 (Adaptation) paragraph 11 lists NDCs as a document that may include adaptation communications. The purpose of the Paris Agreement itself is to increase adaptation consideration into climate change action. With such an open door, why not require adaptation commitments within the NDCs?

Negotiations are successful when parties talk through their differences to reach an acceptable compromise. Though today was just an informal consultation, it foreshadowed a rather frustrating next few days. With the constant dismissal of adaptation in this negotiation, it’ll be interesting to see how the advocates for adaptation will respond to the lack of dialogue at the table. Parties won’t be able to ignore the oversized elephant in the room for much longer.


Can the SBI/SBSTA/AC Board receive their requested final drafts by the end of the week?

After a slow start to COP yesterday, today’s meetings were in full swing. This morning the SBI/SBSTA/AC held informal consultations on the report of the Adaptation Committee (AC). The informal meeting covered matters referred to in paragraphs 41, 42, and 45 of decision 1/CP.21, the Paris Agreement. This was the first informal consultation for SBI/SBSTA today. To begin the consultation, the co-facilitator announced that the Board of SBI/SBSTA/AC have strongly urged co-facilitators to reach final drafts for all proposed texts.

A contentious tone from one of the groups started the meeting. Being a group developing countries, the proposed language received at the informal informal did not work for them. This group even called the proposed language from a developed country a backslide from a previous textual proposal in October. The originally proposed language can be found in the APA-SBSTA-SBI.2018.Informal.Add.3 informal document Addendum 3 (Addendum 3) available on the UNFCCC website. At the beginning of the meeting, the two paragraphs at issue were 9 and 13 of Addendum 3.

Paragraph 9 was proposed as a way to strike balance between adaptation and mitigation. Paragraph 13 “encourages Parties to make available sufficient resources.” In order to understand the contention between these paragraphs, look to Articles 9.1 and 9.2 in the Paris Agreement. Article 9.1 states that “developed countries shall provide financial resources….” Article 9.2 encourages other Parties to provide voluntarily. With these two subsections in mind, here is where the separation of views in language come forth.

There was a clear divide in stances between developed countries and undeveloped countries. Developed countries stated over and over that the 9.2 language should be included in paragraph 13 of Addendum 3. Meaning that developed countries should be encouraged to “make available sufficient resources for the successful and timely implementation” of adaptation related work. On the other hand, developing countries proposed that they do not want to change Paris Agreement language and that Article 9.2 is directly related to Article 9.1. Therefore, other Parties are encouraged. This discussion was then sidetracked to discuss another paragraph. The Co-Facilitator proposed that Parties meet in an informal informal later in the evening.

The next paragraph discussed was paragraph 35. This paragraph language was significantly less contentious. One large group of developed countries was willing to work with the large group of developing countries on option 1 in paragraph 35. However, the developed countries group wanted to combine options 1 and 2. The developing countries group expressed concerns about option 1’s effectiveness if option 1 and 2 were somehow combined. Option 2 is fairly duplicative based on Adaptation Committee’s language. There was no formal agreement because of the back and forth in proposals.

The meeting ended 15 minutes early, which is unusual for informal consultations. In the leftover 15 meetings, the Parties gathered in a corner of the room to begin discussions on drafting text. This was exciting to see because it gave a glimpse on what probably happens in informal informal consultations. There was an informal informal scheduled for tonight for Parties to negotiate on the text. There will be multiple informal informals in the late hours of COP because a final decision needs to be made. The Board is pushing hard for final decisions by the end of the week. After today’s meetings, it seems optimistic that a final decision will be produced and consensus reached by the end of Saturday. But there is still four more days and plenty of time for informal informals.


A New Mitigation and Adaptation Tool: Low Emission Development

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Today is the first day of COP24! Technical experts and policymakers come from around the world with one goal in mind – progress. Progress in building solutions that give us that extra step toward a solution to climate change. There is no one solution, and discussions occur at multiple fronts over a range of topics.

The decision in COP21 started a shift toward low emission development (LED), which seeks to fundamentally change human behavior as well as industry practices to seek ways to minimize emissions. LED utilizes both mitigation and adaptation strategies. LEDs are also flexible where they can integrate with other planning tools and strategies. Successful execution of LED varies by country but has been widely known to depend on three factors: participation, prioritization, and implementation. Now at COP24, the LED project is bearing fruit. Tunisia successfully implemented LED and now serves as a case study for other counties to benchmark from.

One reason why Tunisia was so successful in adopting LED was that it simultaneously campaigned for public participation, petitioned to political powers, and targeted the youth. Early involvement of stakeholders is key to gain LED traction. LED is best approached by lobbying. Tunisia hosted workshops for the public and designed activities for children to learn the value of conservation. Tunisia’s approach propelled LED to the point where Tunisia added language combating climate change into its constitution!

The second factor requires careful prioritization and scheduling. LED is data heavy and inputs vary significantly depending on the country conditions and available resources. For some developing countries, LED may not be cost effective to implement. However, case studies like the success in Tunisia help strengthen viable LED strategies. Over time, as the LED strategy matures, LED becomes scalable and ultimately lowers the costs in its implementation.

The final and most difficult factor is implementing the LED. Implementing the LED can be messy because it requires careful coordination of multiple stages. The best way to overcome obstacles from implementation is to maintain good record keeping practices and concurrently build the institutional framework creating LED laws and regulations. Establishing the institutional framework helps build trust and hold the parties accountable. This cross-government work is critical to support LEDs.

Moreover, LED is attractive because it works synergistically with any economy. LEDs focuses on national priorities for sustainable development and simultaneously serves as a road map that spurs economic development by driving the economy in minimizing waste and pollution. LEDs are known to guide diversification of an economy.

Finally, LEDs is a pathway for funding and capacity needs. Since LEDs apply both mitigation and adaptation tools, LEDs can benefit stakeholders and prepare the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) that help qualify for the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). LEDs can be eligible for numerous financial sources such as the World Bank ESMAP, US Country Studies program, and “fast start” funding under the UNFCCC.

Tunisia has already implemented the LED strategy in February 2018. Ukraine, Guyana, Indonesia, Mexico, and the UK have already adopted LED strategies, and more parties are following suit.


Adaptation and GCF at the Koronivia Workshop

Today was our delegation’s first day at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. The experience was a whirlwind. We all were figuring out where to go for meetings, identifying who was speaking for each Party, and how to best soak in all the activities of COP. We attended sessions in our area of expertise, and sometimes those sessions overlapped areas of expertise. The Koronivia Workshop was such a program with an overlap between adaptation and agriculture.

The Koronivia workshop was split into sessions: morning and afternoon. Both sessions included adaption and financing discussions. Presenters offered a PowerPoint about projects in their respective countries. The agenda can be found here.

At the end of the afternoon session, countries and NGOs were able to contribute to an open discussion. The Co-Facilitators opened the floor to discuss three questions about the constituted bodies (CBs), useful modalities to implement outcomes from the workshops, and future topics that may arise from the outcomes. Suggestions from the countries were helpful and constructive, but there was no decision made on how to proceed. Check the blog tomorrow for more specific answers given to the above questions from our ag expert, Liz.

One concerning question was raised about the role of the GCF. A GCF representative was present; however, GCF did not give a formal presentation because the workshop was focused on Parties and CBs. The GCF is not a CB, so its role in Koronivia is not mandatory. But the GCF representative stated that many projects currently funded by the GCF are agriculture focused and expressed that the GCF will continue to fund similar programs. GCF addressed concerns about their funding process. GCF guided all Parties to provide more information about their projects to develop tailor-made funding efforts. GCF can, and will, support climate resilient agriculture. Each country needs to request to funding in order for funds to be dispersed to their project.

The workshop concluded with the announcement that there will be an informal consultation on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at noon to discuss some issues that were not addressed during this workshop. For information on the first session, and an overview of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, please see this blog post.