Civil Society keeps the heat on for climate ambition

UNFCCC PlenaryScene COP21As countries seek to arrive at a mutually acceptable text for the Paris Outcome this week, there is a lot of focus on ambition to reduce emissions, and on financial support to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. In fact, these are among the key high-level political issues that must be resolved. It is hoped that tomorrow’s new draft text from minsters will bring some clarity on these issues.

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Civil society has been working hard to help move the needle in favor of stronger ambition and greater equity through action leading up to and at this COP.

 

As we reported earlier (here and here), among its contributions to the conversation is a recent report by a powerhouse group of NGOs in climate change work – Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs. INDCs are countries’ intended nationally determined contributions, statements of planned actions for mitigation (and, in some cases, adaptation) covering the next 10 or 15 years, that they voluntarily submitted prior to COP21, in keeping with COP Decision 1/CP.19 in 2013 and 1/CP.20 in 2014. (See our last week’s and previous posts related to INDCs)FairShars-CSO EquityReview of INDCs Rpt Cover

With negotiations on “level of ambition” in a seemingly precarious state, we thought it helpful to reiterate the stark reality of the shortcoming of the INDCs. These pledges represent wide-ranging levels of commitment that together, according to UNEP and others, won’t achieve the emissions reductions essential for a habitable planet. There is, in fact, a deeply alarming gap. The Fair Shares report is not alone in stating that, “even if all countries meet their INDC commitments, the world is likely to warm by a devastating 3°C or more.”

The report’s assessment is based on the maximum carbon we can have in the atmosphere to provide the world “a minimal chance of keeping warming below 1.5°C and a 66% chance of keeping it below 2°C.” Its INDC analysis utilizes 2 parameters: 1) historical responsibility (based on the cumulative emissions of a country); and 2) capacity (based on national income “over what is needed to provide basic living standards”) – with these given equal weight in the calculation. The methodology appropriately accounts for “a breadth of perspectives” related to income and time benchmark complexities.

CSO FairSharesRPT Fig9Key findings for the 10 countries covered in the report are that Russia is not contributing at all to its fair share, and that Japan, the U.S., and the EU are all falling short at levels of just 10%, 20%, and slightly more than 20% of their fair shares, respectively. Conversely, the mitigation pledges of most developing countries “exceed or broadly meet their fair share,” even though the pledges of many of those are conditional.

Enter climate finance! Notably, the “fair shares” of many of the wealthy countries are beyond what they can achieve domestically. To ‘balance the books,’ so to speak, developed countries could ramp up actions to meet their own fair share, and make clear commitments to aid developing countries in achieving theirs.

It will take scaled-up and fair cooperation among countries to address the inequitable distribution across countries’ emission reduction pledges and close the emissions reduction gap. It is uncertain if COP21 Parties will achieve this.

Thankfully, civil society is keeping the pressure on.


Are State INDC Mitigation Pledges Strong Enough?

 

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Today at COP21, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) hosted a joint presentation on the 2015 UNEP Emissions Gap Report. This sixth Emissions Gap Report was published in November 2015. The report assesses country mitigation commitments based off their submitted INDCs. Then it compares the resulting emission levels for 2030 with what scientific studies require in order for the world to be on track to stay within the maximum global temperature increase goal of 2°C. Many of the report’s authors attended the presentation and the official presenters of the report included:

Mr. Steiner explained that based on current INDCs, GHG emissions would decrease 25% by 2030. While this reduction shows progress, it is still not sufficient to achieve the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 2°C by 2100. As the INDCs stand today, accounting for both conditional and unconditional mitigation pledges, the COP is 50% of the way to achieving a GHG reduction of 42 GtCO2e, the amount needed to stay within 2°C. The fact that current INDCs are halfway to their reduction goals indicates that significant further mitigation efforts are required. Mr. Steiner stressed that the Parties have not run out of time to reach their goal, but the longer they wait the less cost-effective and more difficult it becomes to successfully achieve these mitigation goals. Mitigation action over the next four years, or during the pre-2020 timeframe, is material to staying within the 2°C threshold. With each passing year, the risk of inequity grows exponentially between developed countries and countries most vulnerable to climate change; this inequity is unacceptable because many vulnerable State Parties are already paying a higher price as they suffer more and more extreme weather events caused by climate change.

The UNFCCC Director of Strategy, Mr. Thorgeirsson, furthered the discussion on INDCs with three interesting, and mostly optimistic, reflections. First, he explained that the 2°C and 1.5°C temperature goals, which are often called long-term goals, are not necessarily at odds with one another. According to Mr. Thorgeirsson, the 2°C limit would serve as “a guardrail or defense line,” meaning that at bare minimum Parties’ mitigation efforts would limit the global temperature increase to 2°C, but this guardrail would be supplemented with the aspirational goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C. Ultimately, Mr. Thorgersson believes the two temperature goals should converge to create a joint narrative.

In his second reflective thought, Mr. Thorgeirsson encouraged the audience to not be disheartened by the submitted INDCs because the mitigation commitments in these documents reflect current realities based on current technologies and political situations. Therefore as technologies and political situations evolve so will mitigation pledges.

Lastly, Mr. Thorgersoon declared that answering the question of whether the Parties are on the right track in their mitigation efforts is an impossible question to address. States across the globe are in the process of transitioning from a fossil-fuel economy to economies based on different assumptions. These new types of economies contain many unknown factors that make it difficult to definitively know the effect of the Party’s mitigation pledges.

Ms. Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist for UNEP, was the final presenter of the 2015 UNEP Emissions Gap Report. In her presentation, Ms. McGlade explained that the UNEP report has been released in various stages in order to capture and present more accurate carbon emissions data as more Parties submit their INDCs to the UNFCCC. This drafting difficulty is an on-going dilemma. Ms. McGlade explained that over 40 INDCs have been submitted since the latest stage of the UNEP report was released. She then assured the crowd that after COP21 concluded she and her team would resume updating their study to reflect the new mitigation pledges.

Ms. McGlade concluded the presentation with a final call to action, explaining that under the current INDC mitigation pledges there is a 66% chance of the global temperature increasing 3-4°C by 2100. A temperature increase of 3-4°C would result in catastrophic effects, but with focus and action the 1.5-2°C goals can still be reached. The COP21 process has revealed an unprecedented level of engagement in addressing climate change as an international issue. This engagement is a promising indicator that the Parties’ are committed to successfully fulfilling their long-term mitigation goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5-2°C.


REDD+ Recap

At COP 20, SBSTA made no progress on the Warsaw REDD+ framework on safeguards.  Philippines, Sudan, the EU, Bolivia and the US spoke in favor of developing further guidance on safeguards. The Africa Group said that further guidance is not needed, but that additional review of REDD+ in coming years should evaluate that question. Panama, on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, said that now is the time for the implementation of REDD+, not to develop further guidelines.

Also this week, the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature convened in Lima on December 5 and 6th. Cases ranged from fracking in Bolivia, mining in Ecuador, the BP Gulf Oil spill to… REDD+. Parties presenting their case against REDD+ alleged that the program is inherently flawed, as it is a commodification of nature. Further, Ninawa Kaxinawá, president of the Huni Kui people in Acre, Brazil claimed that REDD+ violates ILO 169, as the program has relentlessly failed to engage indigenous people in the decision-making process.

Ninawa Kaxinawá, President of the Huni Kui

Cassandra Smithie, a translator and interpreter, and Ivonne Yanez of Oilwatch presented evidence that REDD+ results in land-grabbing in the global south, by developed countries, who wish to offset their pollution. In other words, REDD+ allows companies to continue business as usual at the (further) expense of indigenous people elsewhere.

There is clear dissonance when one juxtaposes the lack of progress at COP 20 to the testimony presented at this weekend’s tribunal as well as evidence presented by CIFOR and others at the COP. It is clear that the integration of public participation principles is essential in order for REDD+ to offer non-carbon benefits, and indeed for it to accomplish its goal of curbing both deforestation and emissions. The principles of free, prior and informed consent must be integrated into the REDD+ framework under SBSTA. Now that the first monetary goal for the Green Climate Fund has been met, REDD+ projects are already lining up around the block for funding. The question remains whether safeguards and methodological guidelines will be put in place at Paris to ensure that projects are ethical and effective.


Celebreality: How a public figure can use their fan base to spread awareness about climate change.

On September 24, the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change initiative teamed with UNEP Goodwill Ambassador and actor Ian Somerhalder to produce a documentary on climate change. Momentum for Change illuminates activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future.

Christiana Figueres blogged about the release of the documentary. Her message was retweeted 59 times ath2nd users selected it as a favorite 36 times. In comparison, Ian Somerhalder’s own tweet was retweeted over 3,000 times and added as a favorite by more than 5,000 twitter users. This discrepancy is likely due to the lopsided number of followers Figueres and Somerhalder have, 43,700 and 5,410,000 respectively.

Does it matter who the information comes from as long as Momentum for Change’s message is being spread? By choosing Ian Somerhalder as the narrator, Momentum for Change increased their documentaries exposure exponentially. More people will now see this important video than if a non- celebrity narrated the film.

Celebritie220px-An_Inconvenient_Truth_Film_Posters use their status as public figures to spread awareness about many causes, including climate change. Many celebrities deeply care about climate change issues and make strategic career choices to educate their fans on these important issues. In 2006, Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about global warming was documented in An Inconvenient Truth. The film went on to win several awards including the Academy Award for Best Documentary and the HUMANITAS prize by making significant contribution to the human family by communicating values, forming consciences and motivating human behavior. The film ultimately grossed US$50 million worldwide.

Leonardo DiCaprio, award winning actor and UN Messenger of Peace in the field of climate change, spokfa10ae_ee68fa8f12cb49619925e151d71aa563.png_srz_p_198_198_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srze at the UN Climate March in September. He stated that clean air and a livable climate are “inalienable human rights” and that we can either make history by changing our actions or be vilified by the consequences. DiCaprio pledged US$7million  towards ocean conservation projects and his foundation is supporting the Green World Rising film series focusing on solutions to the climate crisis.

Celebrities can utilize their financial resources and public appeal to further the goals of the UNFCCC by educating their fans about climate change and actions that can be taken to limit it.