IPCC special report leaves the world in dire straits

In response to an invitation from the Parties of the Paris Agreement (PA), and pursuant to the Article 2 efforts to limit temperature increases well below 2°C, the IPCC prepared a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), released Monday, 8 October, 2018.

Climate scientists sounded the alarm yet again, painting a dire picture of the future without immediate and drastic mitigation and adaptation measures worldwide.  High confidence statements made by the panel include:

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  • Human activities have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels
  • Current global warming trends reach at least 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052
  • Staying below the 1.5°C threshold will require a 45% reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net-zero by 2050
  • Pathways to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot will require removal of an additional 100-1000 GtCO2

Pathways of current nationally stated mitigation ambitions submitted under the PA will not limit global warming to 1.5°C.  Current pathways put us on target for 3°C by 2100, with continued warming afterwards.

The ENB Report summarizing SR15 was able to shine a light on the good that can come from responses to this special report (not to mention upholding the ambition intended with the PA).  SR15 shows that most of the 1.5°C pathways to avoid overshoot also help to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in critical areas like human health or energy access. Ambitious emission reductions can also prevent meeting critical ecosystem thresholds, such as the projected loss of 70-90% of warmer water coral reefs associated with 2°C.

Groups like the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are intensifying their adaptive scientific support through a “fully-integrated, ‘seamless’ Earth-system approach to weather, climate, and water domains,” says Professor Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist of the WMO.  This “seamless” approach allows leading climate scientists to use their advanced data assimilation and observation capabilities to deliver knowledge in support of human adaptations to regional environmental changes.  By addressing extreme climate and weather events through a holistic Earth-system approach, predictive tools will help enhance early warning systems and promote well being by giving the global community a greater chance to adapt to the inevitable hazardous events related to climate change.

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Success ultimately depends on international cooperation, which will hopefully be encouraged by the IPCC’s grim report and the looming PA Global Stocktake (GST) in 2023.  In the wake of devastating hurricanes, typhoons, and the SR15, it’s hard to ignore both the climate and leading climate scientists urging us to take deliberate, collective action to help create a more equitable and livable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

In Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 20 decides to convene a “facilitative dialogue” among the Parties in 2018, to take stock in relation to progress towards the long-term goal referred to in Article 4 of the PA.  Later renamed the Talanoa Dialogue, these talks have set preparations into motion and are helping Parties gear up for the formal GST, with the aim of answering three key questions: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How will we get there?

Discussion about the implications of SR15 will be held at COP24, where round table discussions in the political phase of the dialogue will address the question, “how do we get there?”

It won’t be by continuing business as usual.

 


Lets get on the same page

Capacity Building Initiative on TransparencyThe Paris Agreement, ratified by 170 Parties, at last count, has a clear goal for the world: Hold the rise in average global temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. While the goal is clear, the solutions are complex and challenging. This is especially true for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). LDCs lack the capacity and technical expertise to tackle these problems.  The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognized the disparity between developed and LDCs in article 4.9 and implemented mechanisms to assist LDCs build capacity.

One of the recent mechanisms to be implemented as a part of the Paris Agreement is the Capacity Building Initiative on Transparency (CBIT). The goal of this initiative is to “strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of developing countries to meet the enhanced transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement.” In this context, transparency is more than access to information; it also refers to accuracy and standardization. Transparency allows all Parties to measure and compare the collective progress made by each country’s pledged climate change actions.

CBIT calls for transparency on two fronts: the first is transparency of actions and the second is transparency of support:

  • Transparency of actions is completed through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as called for by the convention in Article 4.1(f). Simply, NDCs are a set of measures taken by a country to limit GHG emissions. But this task is a more complex process than it seems. In order to meet the requirements of the PA Article 13.5, NDCs need to be backed by scientific data that can be Measured, Reviewed, and Verified (MRV). LDCs need to develop expertise in the methodologies used for collecting data. As an example, the first NDC submitted by Papua New Guinea (PNG) presented data with “considerable uncertainty”. To address that gap, PNG received financial assistance through CBIT to hire the expertise needed to collect the data needed to MRV its pledged actions. As the NDCs are evaluated collectively, they are compared to the ultimate goal of the PA. In turn, as delegates meet annually, they can evaluate climate change actions against the goal more effectively.
  • The PA in Article 13.6 requires “transparency of support.” The PA tasked the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with administering fund distribution. In order to facilitate that, the GEF publishes a report that details the support given under the CBIT fund. In its recent report of early November, 2017, $17,389,995 in CBIT funds was distributed to fourteen countries for transparency capacity building. This report also lists funding from other sources, including almost $19 million in co-financing for these projects.

In terms of spending on climate change actions, the CBIT fund doesn’t readily draw attention. However, it is an important part of combating climate change. By providing these practical measures, in addition to the climate change policies, the COP and its entities provide more holistic solutions. CBIT can be seen as one brick in giant wall of solution options. I would like to think of it as a corner stone that supports this wall far beyond its size would indicate.


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.


Blue Carbon: A Solution

Coastal ecosystems such as tidal salt marshes, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests, are “blue carbon ecosystems” because they act as carbon sinks. Blue ecosystems have the ability to sequester copious amountsmangrove-forest-1 of carbon. However, if they are destroyed, they increase GHG emissions. Scientists estimate approximately 1.02 billion tons of carbon dioxide is emitted per year by degraded coastal ecosystems. In addition, these ecosystems support coastal water quality, fisheries, provide recreational activities, support the tourism economy, and protect against extreme weather events.

Under the Paris Agreement countries must submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and National Determined Contributions (NDCs). In these, parties include information on the scope and impact of their mitigation and adaptation programs. Blue carbon 5054ee8189f79.imageecosystems are included in 28 countries’ NDCs for mitigation and in 59 countries’ adaptation strategies. While these numbers are growing, there is enormous potential benefit to incorporating blue ecosystems into NDCs. The blue carbon ecosystems are a significant part of countries’ NDCs as they act as a carbon sink, contribute to coastline protection, and food security. If coastal wetlands loss was halted by 50%, the equivalent would offset the emissions of Spain.

There are two main ways to address effective management of blue ecosystems to achieve this goal. The first is avoiding coastal wetland conversion by creating protected areas. Countries can also restore coastal wetlands. In order to facilitate these activities, multiple blue carbon institutions have been founded. The Blue Carbon Initiative works to restore and pr107397_webomote sustainable use of coastal and marine blue ecosystems by partnering governments, research institutions, NGOs, and local communities. The International Partnership for Blue Carbon works at building awareness, exchanging knowledge, and accelerating practical action. In addition the Nature Conservancy’s Blue Carbon program is also invested in this issue. The Nature Conservancy has been building a scientific foundation for conservation, identifying demonstration sites where wetlands can be conserved, and leveraging policy and financial mechanisms to ensure action.

Overall, blue carbon presents an area of great potential impacts upon GHG emissions. While the UNFCCC does not yet recognize “blue carbon,” it has been increasingly used in countries’ mitigation and adaptation strategies. With increased action being taken by international organizations, it is likely that blue carbon will play a significant role in lowering carbon emissions in the future. 


Engagement of Nonparty Stakeholders at COP23

Bula.zone_COP22 in Morocco was the first COP to stress public participation of non-party stakeholders. This built off of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which emphasizes the inclusion of civil society. At COP23 this year, Fiji wants to continue this new practice of including civil society in climate change discussions with a first-ever dialogue between the Parties and nonparties — the Talanoa Open Dialogue. In a COP23 side event titled Yardsticks for Success, speaker Jenny Jiva from the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholder governance in climate action. This sentiment was affirmed by Fiji Ambassador Deo Saran who emphasized the need for inclusivity in the COP, especially concerning marginalized voices and indigenous peoples. The event also highlighted the need to engage people in climate action; not only do people need to be able to see how the COP affects mitigation and adaptation efforts on the ground, but people should feel they have an effect on how climate action occurs. This emphasis on inclusivity should manifest in the Talanoa Open Dialogue on November 8, 2017, which is an open dialogue where Parties are encouraged to share stories and build trust. The inclusion of civil society in this event is indicative of the inclusive environment the Fiji Presidency is aiming to create.


From Talanoa to the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue

Captura de pantalla 2017-10-24 a las 10.23.12 a.m.The Paris Agreement requires Parties to submit new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020 and participate in a regular review of whether their individual actions contribute to the collective achievement of the Agreement’s aim of keeping the global rise in temperature to “well under” 2C degrees. Article 14 of the Agreement outlines this “global stocktake” procedure, but the first one does not take place until 2023. Given how quickly the Agreement entered into force just 11 months after its adoption in December, 2015, and that most Parties rely on NDCs formulated in 2014, waiting till the first global stocktake would result in an almost ten-year gap between when these mitigation and adaptation pledges were made and when they were assessed collectively for sufficiency. Fortunately, COP21 anticipated the need for a “first draft” stocktake and created the Facilitative Dialogue. At COP23, the Fijian presidency seeks to design this Dialogue that will take place in 2018.

At COP21, Parties agreed to have a Facilitative Dialogue  that will “take stock of the collective efforts in relation to the progress approaching the long-term temperature goal determined in Article 4.1. of the Agreement.” Furthermore, the Parties agreed that this stocktaking would “inform the preparation of the nationally determined contributions in accordance with the Article 4, paragraph 8, of the Agreement.”

Since the COP21 decision did not specify the design of the facilitative dialogue, COP23 is expected to determine what inputs should feed the stocktake, what its modalities should be, and what outputs the dialogue should produce. The Incoming President of COP23 underscored in a May 2017 speech how important this outcome is to Fiji: “To uphold and advance the Paris Agreement, ensure progress on the implementation guidelines and undertake consultations together with the Moroccan COP22 Presidency to design the process for the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018.”

The design proposal recently presented by Fiji and Morocco outlines core principles, three central questions, information to answer them, and a phased process. The Dialogue should be “constructive, facilitative and solutions oriented,” and not single out individual Parties. It should answer these questions: (1) where are we, (2) where do we want to go, and (3) how do we get there. To do this, it should use inputs from Parties and observers, like written material in blogs and reports, videos, or other formats, and gather it all on an online platform. The latest scientific information from the IPCC and UNFCCC reports on National Communications and Biennial Reports could also be inputs. Finally, the Dialogue should proceed in two phases, with a “preparatory” period starting at the May 2018 intersessional meeting and ending at the beginning of COP 24, and the “political phase” taking place at COP24. The first phase is intended to lay the groundwork for the second, when government ministers will focus on how to achieve more progress in the next round of NDCs.

Captura de pantalla 2017-10-24 a las 4.23.40 p.m.In addition to proposing this Facilitative Dialogue design, the Fiji Government offers a traditional process called Talanoa to help the parties agree on it. At a recent informal meeting of Heads of Delegation, Talanoa was described this way:“The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions, which are for the collective good. The process of Talanoa involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling.” 

The Talanoa process was employed in Fiji in 2000, when Fiji´s Parliament sought to build national unity and stability after having a hostage situation (described by the international media as a “civilian coup”) resulting from political differences between the government, ethnic leaders, and other parties. The first Talanoa was the most important one because, even though there was an atmosphere of fear and political tension, the participants–who were representatives from the diverse ethnic and religious communities, political parties and other government and military personnel– talked and listened to each other’s pain, resulting in an adjustment of people´s personal opinions and an integration of viewpoints. It was shown that the parties could sit down and talk to one another without the meeting getting out of hand, as anticipated by some leaders.”

Captura de pantalla 2017-10-24 a las 4.30.38 p.m.By using Talanoa to design the Facilitative Dialogue of 2018, the COP23 Presidency seeks to create an environment of “inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue.” Fiji hopes that Talanoa will allow Parties to hear one another’s concerns, especially for developed countries to listen to the needs, opinions and experiences of developing countries. If so, the process of the Facilitative Dialogue could give Parties the opportunity to build empathy by identifying climate action in areas that have not been covered by the NDCs, taking into account the differentiation between developed and developing countries. Talanoa could also help countries reiterate their collective commitment to make a wise decision for the collective good: new and more ambitious NDCs by 2020 to achieve the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.


Closing the UNFCCC Gender GAP?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reflections on a Week in Marrakech

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As our 787 banked right to begin our final descent into Casablanca I caught my first glimpse of the Moroccan landscape. It was greener than I expected. On the ground I was struck by the warmth of the weather and the people. At the airport I was given a free sim card and then met the host with whom Jonas and I were staying the first night. He told us about how Marrakech has developed over the years, his passion about how great the city is on full display. After dropping our stuff at the riad we began to explore the area, talking with street vendors and taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of this city. The pride of the Moroccan people was on display everywhere we went, clearly demonstrating how proud they were to host the UNFCCC COP for the second time. Giant red banners reading “ACT” lined the streets and reminded us that this COP is one of action and implementation.

At the COP, the negotiations went far smoother than I expected, with very few disagreements between the Parties in the meetings I attended. Of course much of this was due to the extensive bilaterals and informals that were going on in the background. We were not privy to these discussions, where I’m sure most of the fireworks and arguments were occurring. However, there were some disagreements during the final plenary, which had to break multiple times to help the Parties reach consensus. Bolivia and Brazil engaged in a back-and-forth about whether the adopted text was balanced enough, with the former refusing to support the language. During the breaks, China and a few other Parties worked with both sides to help all involved reach consensus. The COP President worked hard throughout the night to keep the mood light and encourage cooperation. He even had everyone in the room sing Happy Birthday to the Mali delegate before he had to rush off to catch a plane to Madagascar. The Parties ultimately reached consensus and concluded COP 22/CMP 12/CMA 1 around 1AM on Saturday.

The side events at COP 22 covered a wide variety of topics and all the ones I attended were rewarding. I had anticipated that some would fall flat but my expectations were exceeded. I was able to attend a few sessions held at various country’s pavilions, which exposed me to many different perspectives. Often these events had refreshments too; -an immense boost during the long days. While some ran a little late, almost all had an opportunity for questions at the end. I think the best part of the side events was the Q&A sessions that followed each because the speakers were less constrained than during their presentations. Many of the speakers stayed after the sessions were over and answered questions one-on-one. A couple of times, when I didn’t have to run off to another session, I was lucky enough to speak with a few of them.

The most rewarding part of our COP experience was working with our service-learning partners to help them better understand the process and participate in the negotiations. Like most LDCs, our partners struggle to procure the resources needed for sufficient staff to attend all the meetings and negotiations that impact their interests. During our briefings we presented on the negotiations and a few relevant side events we attended and then answered any questions that our partners had. After the more formal presentations we broke off into one-on-one conversations and were really able to dig into the issues. It felt great to see how our work was helping them. Despite everything going on at home and around the world the COP was uplifting and inspiring. The progress set in motion in Paris cannot be stopped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Numbers “Crunch” – Trump & The UNFCCC

Number-crunchingLike most every other institution around the globe, for a while now, the UNFCCC has been called on to do more with less. This is clearly reflected in the Executive Secretary’s recent budget presentations that report contributions to UNFCCC trust funds have declined significantly for at least the last 5 years. In fact, 2016 contributions are just 43% of the 2012 level. And all the while, the COP has added new tasks, including, most recently, the raft of work associated with the 2015 Paris Agreement.reduce-boost-graph SmallbizTrends

At a COP22 informal session on November 11, Espinosa shared that the Secretariat, with its mandated zero-growth budget, will be unable to fully deliver on its current mandates. So, all countries are being called on to meet their full commitments and to increase their voluntary contributions.

It just so happens that the U.S. is a big piece of this budget picture, contributing (as of October 21) more than 20% of the total $30.3 mill* in 2016 receipts for the 3 non-Kyoto Protocol related funds. These include the Trust Fund for the Core Budget (with country-specific contribution levels based on UN-determined proportions) and two voluntary funds: Trust Fund for Supplementary Activities and Trust Fund for Participation in the UNFCCC Process (the latter to help developing country Parties attend COPs and other meetings).

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 11.50.06 PMAnd, of course, there is the ongoing U.S. climate funding via appropriations from Congress, development finance, and export credit, which totaled $2.6 billion in 2015. That was before $500 million was transmitted to the Green Climate Fund earlier this year in partial fulfillment of the $3 billion U.S. promise (that constitutes 30% of that fund’s total pledges). All of it adds up to a very big number in the climate finance world.

Then, on November 8, from stage right: enter President-elect Trump.

While the potential impact on the climate regime is about more than money (check out our Monday story), the finance implications are indeed great. Considering Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges, the Republican Party’s platform position, and the Transition Team’s recent statements, when it comes to climate funding, those calculators only subtract.

Many negotiators and high-level ministers attending COP22 from around the world have been cautioning against hasty speculation on U.S. policy post-January 20, 2017. Behind the scenes, however, and certainly within the Secretariat, the number crunching has doubtless turned to nail biting.

 

* Based on 11/17/16 EUR-USD exchange rate

(Image credits: Calculator = seocopywriting.com; Diverging costs/revenue= smallbiztrends.com; Scissors & currency= neatoday.org)


Bridging the Gap between NDC Commitments and NDC Implementation

During this morning’s Joint High Level Segment, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Cooper Pershing delivered the U.S. National Statement. Addressing the combined meeting of the COP22/CMP12/CMA1, Pershing said, “With the policies already in place, the United States is well-positioned to meet its Paris Agreement targets” and that through current market trends, “the transition to clean energy is inevitable.” These are reassuring words to those wondering if the U.S. can bridge the gap between its Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) and its policies.

Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Lord Nicholas Stern echoed these sentiments today at a COP 22 Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment event presenting the institute’s latest COP study. Lord Stern, Grantham Institute Chair and member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, emphasized the importance of federal structure, stating, “The best way for Parties to implement NDCs is to create supporting policies regionally and locally through cities, states, and provinces.” Pledges are only as good as their implementation. Governments will need to continue to translate words into action through understanding, informed by research, science and policy.  Policy is the bridge. Parties now need the courage to cross it.


Can Trump Trump the Paris Agreement?

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“How do you see the future of the Paris Agreement without, possibly, you?”

On Thursday, Venezuela posed this question to the U.S. delegation during the facilitative dialogue for enhanced action and support. The U.S. delegate spoke about how a Trump presidency may impact international efforts to combat climate change. South Africa asked the U.S. a follow-up question, giving the delegate some additional speaking time to elaborate. While acknowledging he could not speak to the intentions of the new administration, the delegate pointed out that the global effort is strong, as evidenced by the rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement. His candid and articulate responses drew applause from those in attendance, but is he right?

The Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016, less than a year after it was crafted at COP 21. The Agreement provides Parties with more flexibility than previous international climate agreements. The Parties agreed to adopt a bottom-up approach in which all Parties pledge contributions to the global effort. This approach resulted in 190 climate plans based in national priorities and interests.  Even if the U.S. reneges on its contribution, the other parties are still committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change. The status of the U.S. in the Paris Agreement has nothing to do with China and India’s need to clean up their cities and protect the health of their citizens.

During his campaign, Mr. Trump promised to withdraw U.S. support for the Paris Agreement if elected. He believes that the Agreement gives foreign governments control over how much energy the U.S. uses. This understanding is inaccurate, as the Agreement does nothing to impose limits on energy use. There are no top-down limitations.

To withdraw from the Agreement the U.S. would need to meet the obligations in Article 28. No party may withdraw from the Agreement until three years after it enters into force. Additionally, the withdrawal only takes effect one year after the date of receipt by the Depositary of the notification of withdrawal. However, withdrawal from the UNFCCC, which takes effect a year after written notification of withdrawal is received, constitutes withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Thus, the U.S. withdrawal could be effective as early as January 2018.

The election of Donald Trump does not guarantee that all is lost when it comes to the global effort to combat climate change. Many participants at COP 22 have said that it is now up to the rest of the world to lead the charge and redouble their efforts. Others remain hopeful that Trump will change his tune now that he no longer has to cozy up to the oil industry. However, the U.S.’s action could establish a bad precedent going forward and may encourage other Parties to withdraw their support. Dana Fisher, director of the Program for Society and the Environment at the University of Maryland, said “[t]he Paris Agreement and any U.S. leadership in international climate progress is dead.” But is he right?

Only time will tell.


NDCs Public Registry – Pandora’s Box – Who would’ve thought?

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Today, at the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) second informal meeting related to the development of modalities and procedures for the operation and use of a Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) public registry referred to in Article 4, paragraph 12, of the Paris Agreement (PA), the discussion took an interesting turn of events when the Co-Facilitators, Ms. Madeleine Diouf (Senegal) and Ms. Traude Wollansky (Austria), presented the Parties a draft on the possible elements for draft conclusions regarding this agenda item.

By conducting negotiations under this agenda item, the SBI is complying with its mandate proposed at COP21. Also, at COP21 the UNFCCC Secretariat was requested to make available an NDCs interim registry, in the first half of 2016, pending until the modalities and procedures regarding a final public registry are adopted by the CMA.

At the SBI’s first informal meeting, held on Tuesday, Parties expressed their views on the agenda item, especially emphasizing that there is a difference to be struck and understood by the Parties between the SBI and Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) agendas. The APA is currently holding informal meetings on NDCs features, information and accounting. The Parties stated that while the APA will discuss the NDCs from a more political and substantive manner, the SBI should limit its discussion and draft conclusions/decisions on the technical issues raised by the utilization of the NDCs Public Registry. Most Parties agreed on Tuesday that the NDCs Public Registry should be accessible, user-friendly, contain a record for each Party’s NDCs, including historical records and keeping track of any amendments made by the Parties to their NDCs. Also, some Parties were in favor of continuing and building upon the work that has already been done with the NDCs interim registry. The Co-Facilitators even stated at the beginning of the first informal meeting that after the first meeting is over they will start drafting conclusions and bring them at the second informal meeting for Parties consideration.

At the second informal meeting, some Parties were surprised by the Co-Facilitators action to draft and present the respective draft to the Parties. Further, some Parties considered the Co-Facilitators expectation that Parties will start discussion on the draft as highly inappropriate, especially when not all Parties have expressed their views on the agenda item. The strongest voice in this regard was China’s, that took the floor more than five times, talking on behalf of the LMDC. He vehemently called for the suspension of the informal discussion until an outcome is reached on the APA’s NDCs agenda item. Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia echoed China’s statement, considering the Co-Facilitators decision to present a draft on the possible elements as premature. Tuvalu discussed China’s point, stating that from a procedural point of view the Co-Facilitators have acted correctly and within their mandate and the Parties have to discuss the draft conclusions. Also, Tuvalu did not understand China’s point on why the SBI should wait for the APA to complete its work on the NDCs agenda item. Canada was torned on the subject, as although recognizing the Co-facilitators authority to propose the draft conclusions it also sympathized with China’s position, as the ADP discussions are very delicate.

The Parties frustration and fear with this agenda item comes from the slow motion of ongoing discussion and statements at the APA’s informal meeting on NDCs features, information and accounting. After three APA’s informal meetings, the Parties were able to reach consensus on few items such as: the principal characteristic of the NDCs is their national character and this should be included as a feature; the features are rooted in the PA; and the work under this agenda item should respect the PA.

Confusion and slow actions are reigning over the negotiation sessions of the APA and the SBI with respect to NDCs. We can only wait and see what the next days of COP22 have in store for these agenda items.

 


Filling the Gap: A Bangladeshi Climate Fund for Loss & Damage

 http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop22/enbots/7nov.html

Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis

On the opening day of COP22, Practical Action and Lund University organized the first side event on loss and damage (L&D), titled Loss and Damage Perspectives and Options. At the event, presenters focused on the typologies, risks, and community-level effects of L&D. A theme during the discussion was that L&D was a difficult concept to define, because it means many different things to many different communities. Some communities are facing new issues that have never come up before while other communities are facing the same issues repeatedly but with increasing severity. Despite the different effects that L&D can create, one constant remains: a lack of financial mechanisms to deal with the full range of L&D issues.

Following these discussions, Saleemul Huq, Director at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, spoke about Bangladesh’s Climate Change Trust (BCCT). During his presentation, Huq spoke about how the trust functions, explaining that funds are allocated to the trust each year and that only two-thirds of those funds get distributed every year. The remaining one-third is saved in the trust for emergency purposes; however, the committee that administers the trust has yet to define what would constitute an emergency, so those funds accumulate in the fund each year. Recently, Bangladesh decided to use the remaining funds in the BCCT to create a national mechanism for L&D—making strides toward filling the aforementioned financial gap. Huq mentioned that Bangladesh is planning to announce the proposed action during the COP next week, in the hopes that others may learn from their initiative or want to contribute to their valiant effort.


The Paris Agreement’s Debut: Priorities at CMA1

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 7.59.17 AMOn October 5, 2016, the Paris Agreement passed the threshold required to go into force on November 4, 2016. Over 55 Parties to the Convention have submitted their instruments of ratification, accounting for over 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1) will occur in Marrakech in conjunction with COP22/CMP12. What will be the priority at CMA1? Currently, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website lists no CMA1 agenda documents. However, the Secretariat’s Progress Tracker of relevant requests from the Paris Agreement and Decision 1/CP.21 provides a good predictor of CMA1’s focus.

The Progress Tracker indicates renewed discussion of Article 6’s market-based mechanisms at CMA1, as Paris Agreement Parties redouble their efforts to establish the system to achieve their pledged contributions. Article 6  provides the starting point for market-based mechanisms. Interestingly, nowhere does Article 6’s language actually use the term market-based mechanisms. Instead, Article 6.1 refers to “voluntary cooperation” when implementing NDCs with Article 6.2’s “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” [ITMOs] and “robust accounting.” Roughly translated, Article 6’s voluntary cooperation works through a carbon trading, market-based mechanism, using ITMOs.

Recent meetings of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific Technology and Advice (SBSTA44) also point to Article 6 priorities during CMA1. At the May 2016 SBSTA44 meeting, Parties emphasized the Paris Agreement’s changed context, in that all Parties have NDCs. Now, with most Parties planning to consider some form of market mechanism to reach their mitigation pledges, they remain divided on how best to proceed. For example, Parties maintain varying views about whether Article 6’s scope should include REDD+.  Given these unresolved concerns, SBSTA44 agreed to continue Article 6 work in Marrakech and invited submissions on the Parties’ varying Article 6 views for discussion at SBSTA45.

Accordingly, over a hundred countries submitted their Article 6 statements, fueling continued Article 6 debate during CMA1.  Some countries’ submissions came as part of a broad range of major negotiation groups; submissions from the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), Forestry Commission of Central Africa (COMIFAC), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), European Union (EU), and Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) addressed an equally broad range of priorities. Prevalent themes involved differences between developed and developing countries’ priorities, concerns regarding transparency in accounting, and the need for clarity in Decision 1/CP.21 § 36 language addressing emissions “corresponding adjustments.”

Additionally, multiple side events scheduled during the Marrakech meeting demonstrate strong support from civil society and the research community for Parties to clarify and implement Article 6. Organizations like the Green Climate Fund, Institute for Environmental Global Strategies, International Carbon Action Partnership and country representatives from around the world will present at these sessions.

Based on the Progress Tracker, SB44 discussions and submissions, and side event interest, Article 6 issues will not only appear on the SBSTA45 agenda. They will also likely play a major role at the inaugural CMA1 meeting, as the Paris Agreement enters into force on the world stage.


Financial instruments ignite SCF Forum on L&D risk

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 12.19.31 PM Some sparks flew and some eyes got opened at the 2016 Forum of the UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance (SCF), held in Manila last week. The Forum’s exploration of financial instruments for addressing the risks of loss and damage was at the request of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and Damage (L&D) in service of Action Area 7 of its 2-year workplan. (For some past posts on the WIM, including on this significant SCF-WIM linking, see here.)

The Forum drew nearly 150 representatives of governments, financial institutions, civil society and the private sector. The webcast (which covered much of the meeting) along with informative tweeting (#scfmanila) from a number of participating institutions and individuals offered remote observers some interesting insight. But first a little context/framing:


Addressing L&D – Basically, addressing L&D involves: 1) avoiding it, and 2) meeting it when it is unavoidable. L&D can be avoided primarily through mitigation and adaptation. In addition, reducing the risks of L&D (e.g., through early warning systems and disaster GITEWSconcept14001preparedness plans) can help prevent it. Unavoidable L&D can be minimized through certain types of risk management (sharing, savings/credit, insurance instruments, catastrophe bonds). Because L&D still occurs, even if it is minimized, responses to it rely on disaster response and management and climate services.

WIM workplan Action Area 7 – A close reading of Action Area 7 reveals one goal, one objective (how the goal is to be accomplished) and one strategy/action (how the objective is to be met):

  • Goal = facilitate finance in L&D situations;
  • Objective = “encourage comprehensive risk management;” and
  • Strategy = “diffus[e] information related to financial instruments and tools that address the risks of [climate-induced] loss and damage…”

Action Area 7, through encouraging risk management, tends to both avoiding L&D and minimizing unavoidable L&D. As for the SCF Forum, it fit within Action Area 7’s strategy of diffusing information, by covering risk pooling and transfer, catastrophe risk insurance and bonds, contingency finance, social protection schemes, and other instruments.

Cat bond transaction structure (rms.com, 2012)

Cat bond transaction structure (rms.com, 2012)

Throughout the event, however, it was clear that some participants were focused on the goal, while others (predominantly the insurance experts) were focused on the objective and/or strategy. The resulting friction illustrated the philosophical and political tensions that continue to fester in the climate regime in the absence of financial support to directly address loss and damage. The workplan, after all, is devoted essentially to compiling, diffusing and leveraging information. (We wrote about the Paris Agreement/Decision role in this evolving issue in our COP21 Documentation Project.)

The Forum did enhance understanding both of the gaps and opportunities with existing financial instruments, as well as the barriers that must be addressed to reach the most vulnerable with any versions of current and emerging risk instruments. (See the Forum page for presentations and the WIM Financial Instruments page for a well-organized host of relevant resources.)

Among the conclusions was that both cross-sectoral collaborations and integration of approaches are vital to deal with the risks of L&D. Importantly, two significant areas of concern remained unaddressed:

  1. The absence of actionable approaches for addressing slow-onset processes nclimate2016-i1from the insurance industry and related market players. Not surprising, given that there are generally no dramatic moments of humanitarian focus and no money to be made.
  2. The absence of financial instruments and tools to address non-economic losses. Without a means to monetize, the financial sector has yet to be effectively engaged toward this cost.

We will be tuning into the WIM Executive Committee’s 4th meeting later this month to learn its response to the Forum and more.