Global Goal on Adaptation: work has begun

The next in our series of posts on SB44/APA1adaptation mosaic

Work on the Paris Agreement’s (PA) global goal on adaptation was launched by the Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) and Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) in Bonn in May. We reported earlier on the global goal here and here.

The APA, SBTA and SBI agendas contained three items directly addressing elements of the PA’s Article 7 (Adaptation) and Article 9 (Finance) in support of this important qualitative goal:

  1. Further guidance in relation to the adaptation communication referred to in Art. 7.10 and 7.11 (APA)
  2. Development of modalities and procedures for the operation and use of a public registry referred to in Art. 7.12 (SBI)
  3. Modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilized through public interventions in accordance with Art. 9.7 (SBSTA)

Consideration of these occurred in contact groups and informal consultations, supplemented by bi-lateral meetings.Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 2.34.09 PM

There was also work on capacity building, technology development and transfer, and transparency of action and support under the PA, all of which relate to adaptation planning, financing, implementation, and reporting. Beyond that, the SBs addressed existing Convention components and programmes that will ultimately serve the global goal on adaptation, including national adaptation plans and the Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. Capping it off during week 2 was the Technical Expert Meeting on “enhancing the implementation of adaptation action.”

While this was a robust intersessional for action related to the global goal on adaptation, it was not all smooth sailing. (See our upcoming coverage on items #2 and #3 above.) For instance, further guidance on adaptation communications (item #1 above) was added to the APA agenda during week 1 following objections from G-77/China that the original provisional agenda did not follow the PA and its implementing decision. Additionally, spirited discussions on this item in open-ended informal consultations honed in on what adaptation communicatiohom1ns are intended to achieve, and the nature and scope of the guidance for those that should be developed. Developing countries asserted the need for flexibility in communications (highlighting differentiation), while most countries supported at least some common minimal communications parameters in order to achieve the critical linkages with the transparency and stocktaking components of the PA. It was a good first step, even with historic geo-political lines still visible.

The conclusion adopted on this agenda item calls for Parties to submit their views on adaptation communications by September 30, in order for the APA Co-Chairs to prepare for further work at the resumed first meeting during COP22 in Marrakesh in November. We will be watching those submittals and the next meeting, given that adaptation communications bear significantly on the success of the Paris Agreement.


Counting On Big Bucks for Adaptation – More News from SB44

Time to Adapt - ClockFinancing Adaptation was a big topic in Bonn at SB44 last month (see our SB44/APA1 overview here), and rightly so, with the newly released UN Environment Program (UNEP) 2016 Adaptation Finance Gap Report. The report states that current international public finance flows for adaptation are only one-third to one-half the amount needed right now. Additionally, the roughly $22.5 billion in 2014 adaptation finance flows to developing countries will need to be 6-13 times that in 2030, or $135-$292 billion, and 12-22 times that by 2050. That’s $270 billion to nearly half a trillion per year.

In Bonn, we witnessed the launch by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) of its process to develop an accounting framework for climate finance under the Paris Agreement (per Decision 1/CP.21), a long-sought goal of developing countries. Other UNFCCC institutions and the secretariat held adaptation finance workshops and updates related to various COP directives. And, side events extended the dialogue, providing attendees insight into the principles of and country experiences with fossil fuel subsidy reform and fuel levies to fund adaptation activities, as well as the critical and growing role of private finance for adaptation programs and projects.newsletter_article_photo_1

Among the UNFCCC events was the second of two (one each in 2015 and 2016) in-session half-day workshops on pre-2020 long-term finance, held in accordance with 5/CP.20. Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, opened the workshop – one of her last activities before stepping down from her celebrated 6-year post on July 6. There were presentations, panel discussions, and breakouts covering topics ranging from enhancing the understanding of adaptation finance and the role it plays in meeting developing country needs, to scaling up and enhancing the transparency of that finance. (Presentation slides and audio can be found here.)

Three of the key needs identified in the workshop represented adaptation financing themes that reverberated throughout the Bonn meetings:

  • Scaling up of availability of funds – The UNEP Adaptation Finance Gap starkly underscored this need and buttressed arguments for fossil fuel subsidy reform and fuel levy policies to support adaptation finance.
  • A clear definition on adaptation finance to move tracking forward – Though not the most contentious negotiation point in the SBSTA’s agenda item 12 on developing modalities for climate finance accounting (referred to above), the informal consultations were marked by developing countries’ objection to using an un-vetted definition of climate finance (sourced from the 2014 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows Report of the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF)). We may see this issue come up again in Parties’ and observer organizations’ submittals of their views on the development of modalities (due by August 29) and in the in-session workshop now planned for SBSTA 45 (Nov. 2016). (Watch for our fuller coverage coming soon on the Bonn negotiations regarding “modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilized through public interventions” under Article 9.7 of the Paris Agreement.)
  • Private sector engagement – This major thread, building on the focus leading up to and at COP21 (see here and here), grew steadily across SB44/APA1, and we expect it’s continued weaving into approaches to address climate change across the board – in mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. Many are hanging their hopes for sufficient adaptation finance on this sector.

Climate-change-adaptation.2jpgIt remains unclear, as yet, how the fast growing requirement for adaptation finance will be met, especially given how far behind current needs the flows already are. We are looking forward to the SCF’s 2016 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows, along with a number of adaptation finance events leading up to COP22 to help shed some light on the range and reach of the pathways. Many working on this critical issue are well aware that the price of inadequate adaptation is the tragedy of loss and damage.


Adaptation Economics Reveal Insufficient Adaptation Activities

When national and local economies are faced with calculating potential climate-impacted losses, decision-makers face difficult financial-planning decisions.

6355818699_492128f721_oNature Climate Change published a study comparing adaptation responses between global megacities based on spending measures. The study found that cities varied their adaptation spendings between £15 million and £1600 million. Developed cities allocate most of their adaptation funds to energy and water, developing countries to health and agriculture.

Overall, the study concluded developing cities’ wealth, and not the amount of vulnerable individuals, drive adaptation spending. Thus, “current adaptation activities are insufficient in major population centers in developing and emerging economies.”

 


No Red Lines, But a Green Light for Adaptation and Loss and Damage

At this morning’s Comité de Paris meeting, COP President Laurent Fabius channeled Nelson Mandela, saying: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” At tonight’s COP meeting, Parties adopted the Paris Agreement in a historical and long-awaited moment. While past Agreement drafts have been full of brackets, options, and red line changes, these notations are notably absent from the final Paris Agreement.

Source: Takepart

Source: Takepart

With a green light (and ceremonial strike of a green gavel) for the Paris Agreement, it is worth taking a moment to pause and look at the final Agreement language in light of what came before it. Article 7 on Adaptation starts with a paragraph on the global goal on Adaptation. In the beginning of this week, it was unclear whether this goal for Adaptation would ensure Adaptation in the context of the global temperature goal. The final Agreement established the Adaptation response in the context of the temperature limit increase. This ensures that the global goal on Adaptation is grounded in a quantitative, and not only a qualitative, target. In the final Paris Agreement, this language was strengthened by adding that an Adaptation response must be “adequate.”

Paragraph 4 focuses on Adaptation needs and Adaptation in conjunction with Mitigation. The paragraph describes how greater levels of Mitigation can reduce the need for Adaptation effort. In the December 9th and 10th versions of the Agreement, this paragraph closed by referencing “that greater rates and magnitude of climate change increase the likelihood of exceeding adaptation limits.” This phrase referenced L&D from the permanent and irreversible impacts of climate change. It also acknowledged that Adaptation, Mitigation, and L&D are closely interlinked, and that attending to all of them is important. However, this phrase on L&D did not make it into the final Agreement text. This change is part of the larger uncertainty that has surrounded the issue of L&D.

In the beginning of this week, the fate of L&D in the Agreement was very uncertain. One text option briefly recognized the issue of L&D, with a footnote that the text could end up elsewhere in the Agreement — likely in the article on Adaptation and not as its own article. Adaptation and L&D are separate issues that require different approaches, and therefore the final Agreement’s inclusion of a distinct Article on L&D is an accomplishment for the Paris Agreement. The December 10th draft Agreement separated the intention on L&D from the implementation mechanism, the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D (WIM). Importantly, the final Paris Agreement bridged this disconnect and integrated these issues, saying that “Parties should enhance understanding, action and support, including through the [WIM].” The duration of this mechanism will play an important role in ensuring the resilience of countries who face climate change impacts in the future.

After the adoption of the Paris Agreement, South Africa channeled Nelson Mandela again, in a statement that reflects today’s achievements and the many challenges that lie ahead in addressing climate change:

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.


Losing Loss and Damage? Or Will the Paris Agreement Adapt?

Last night marked the 4th meeting of the Comité de Paris, a group of ministerial leaders that carries out informal consultations “to make progress and facilitate compromise on the draft Paris Outcome and package of decisions transmitted to the COP by ADP.” At a meeting earlier in the day, COP President Laurent Fabius reported on the status of Adaptation and Loss and Damage (L&D) in the new Paris agreement.

Source: L'Express

Source: L’Express

Fabius explained that through informal consultations, Parties have almost concluded on the major issue of Adaptation to climate change impacts, which will enable focus on L&D. However, at the start of last night’s meeting, Fabius commented that he still had no updates from Parties on L&D in the agreement. The responses that followed suggest that negotiations are far from complete on Article 4 on Adaptation and Article 5 on L&D.

After the COP President’s opening remarks at last night’s meeting, 60 countries and groups shared their positions on the newest draft agreement text. Comments included a landslide outcry across developing countries and negotiating groups for increasing the ambition for Adaptation, and giving clear attention to L&D. Many developing countries and negotiating groups also said it was essential to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.

Source: GCCA

Source: GCCA

South Africa, on behalf of the G-77 and China, pointed out that their group’s key proposals on Adaptation don’t appear in new text. They said that they trust that Parties will be able to engage further on Adaptation for developing countries. On L&D, the group acknowledged that there will be further consultation to advance on the issue. The current draft text has two options for Article 5 on L&D. First, to include it in its own Article, Article 5. The second option would be to incorporate it in Article 4 with the Adaptation provisions. South Africa, on behalf of the G-77 and China, stated that there should be a separate article on L&D, which must be clearly bounded by the principles of the Convention, particularly the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDRRC) that addresses permanent impacts of climate change. Many countries echoed South Africa on behalf of the G-77 and China’s position in subsequent remarks, including as described in yesterday’s ENB report, the G-77 and China, with Vietnam, Haiti, and Timor Leste, among others, emphasized the need for a distinct article on L&D.

Guatemala, on behalf of AILAC, agreed that Parties must continue to make progress in a bridging proposal for L&D, and said that in moving toward the final phase of negotiations, there is a need to catalyze actions in the area of Adaptation and the need to include a registry for adaptation actions. The most recent version of the draft text dropped the bracketed reference to a registry for adaptation communications that was included in the previous version. Chile echoed these sentiments, supporting AILAC’s proposal for Adaptation, including a registry for nationally determined priorities that would act as catalyst for short-term climate adaptation actions.

The coming hours and days will shed more light on the status of Adaptation and L&D in the Paris agreement.


A Call for Deforestation-Free Agriculture

What do cattle, soy, and palm oil have in common? These are all products associated with commodity-linked deforestation. Between 2000 and 2012, expansion of commercial agriculture and timber plantations caused the destruction of more than 50 million hectares of tropical forests. The UNFCCC website states: “Roughly a third of recent tropical deforestation and associated carbon emissions (3.9 Mha and 1.7 GtCO2) can be attributed to the production of beef, soy, palm oil and timber alone.”

Forests play an important role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, agricultural expansion is a major driver of deforestation and forest degradation. In today’s side event on deforestation-free agriculture, panelists discussed the importance of halting deforestation and reducing emissions in commodity supply chains. A panelist from the Rainforest Alliance pointed out the lack of attention to sustainable, deforestation-free sourcing: “Currently, there is no existing large-scale framework to verify that products, processes, or producers do not contribute to the loss of natural forest.” Today’s panel highlighted several important considerations in developing and implementing such a system.

One of the main themes from today’s event focused on traceability. A 2015 report co-authored by a panelist from SNV points to the importance of traceability in halting supply chains that cause deforestation. Voluntary certifications are one way to communicate to consumers how sustainable products are. Currently, many existing certification schemes currently lack traceability systems to identify deforestation-free supply chains. A transparent traceability system is essential to make it clear where end-products originate from.

Source: NWF

Source: NWF

A second theme focused on engaging producers. The Rainforest Alliance’s 2015 position paper on this issue discusses the important of engaging producers as allies. Speakers highlighted the importance of working with front-runner companies to eliminate deforestation from commodity trade. Nathalie Walker from the National Wildlife Federation described a successful example of engaging producers and converting sustainable pledges into action. A National Wildlife Federation study published in Science explained how Brazil’s soy moratorium, a voluntary pledge from large soy companies not to clear Amazon forest for soy, halted deforestation more effectively than government policy alone. The lead author explained: “Prior to the Soy Moratorium, about 30% of soy planted in the Amazon was directly replacing forests, but under the current protections, it has fallen to less than 1%.”

A third theme centered on increasing public and private sector collaboration. Speakers highlighted the critical importance of governments having a vision for green growth and supporting sustainable production through policies and plans, and through establishing or expanding incentives. Similarly, companies should encourage deforestation-free initiatives, voluntary standards, and certification. The issues of traceability, engaging producers, and increasing public-private sector collaboration are all important components of supporting the transition to deforestation-free agriculture. Companies and national governments are increasingly taking a step in the right direction and making public commitments to deforestation-free products.


What’s next and who makes it happen at COP21?

COP21 Comite de Paris

At COP21 on Saturday, December 5, the ADP transmitted the draft Paris Outcome (the Agreement, as we’ve called it all year) and its accompanying Decision to the COP. The text still contains many bracketed phrases (choices to be made), and there are key outstanding issues, such as on long-term goal, the timing of review of pledges, the provision of support to developing countries, loss and damage, and principles of equity and differentiation. (Be sure to see our posts from Week 1 for more details).

In its first action, the COP established the Comité de Paris (the Paris Committee), chaired by COP21 President, Laurent Fabius, to conduct informal consultations to facilitate achieving agreement by mid-week. These “informals” will cover thematic areas, and thus help to tackle cross cutting issue concerns such as differentiation, ambition, and adaptation/loss&damage. These launched on Sunday, and resumed today with closed meetings, along with bi-lateral meetings arranged by co-facilitators of each issue area to pursue compromise.

We will get a sense of the potential for progress at the Committee’s first Plenary tonight, where facilitators will share today’s outcomes by articulating their “assessment[s] of the possible concepts for solutions.”

The agreed upon facilitators, ministers from member Parties, are being paired for these consultations, and have received guidance from the COP President. Their mandate is clear: “Bridge differences with a focus on issues that require solutions to enable a timely and successful conclusion of the Paris Outcome.” And each duo has been given its “key issues.”

Stay tuned!


Will some be left behind? The significance of climate finance

amanjumpsove For countries on the front lines of climate change, access, availability, and urgency of funding needs are significant. As an example, rising sea levels in Senegal and Gambia have already impacted agricultural production. Saltwater intrusion into agriculturally productive lands has reduced food production. Further, warming temperatures and resulting increased length of seasons have heightened health risks associated with vector borne diseases. The impoverished state of these countries does not position them to to enter world markets to offset domestic deficiencies through imports. The conditions they face cannot be attributed to a random occurrence, though. Instead the plight of Senegal and Gambia and many other least developed countries (LDCs), as well as small island developing states (SIDS), and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) is one of significant challenges.

In spite of not being large emitters, the effects of climate change are disproportionately high for these countries; unlike developed countries, these countries have made negligible contributions to the increased speed of climate change, as presently observed. They are the poor, vulnerable, low-emitter nations that are negotiating for the right for climate finance from the developed world. However, funding for mitigation and adaptation projects has been limited. Recent commitments for funding, though on the surface robust to the casual observer, have not inspired confidence across all LDCs, SIDS, or LLDCs.

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On Monday, the starting day of COP21, eleven developed countries made commitments to the Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF). Total pledges to the LDCF totaled $248 million. The sum was an auspicious signal, a numeric gesture in parallel with the phrase “no one left behind.” However, at a side event on the same day of the announcement, LDCs commented on the difficulty of accessing funding, the rigorous nature of the application process, and the limited appearance of urgency from funding bodies. Two days later, on Wednesday, at another side venue, other LDCs commented on the difficulty of access to funding and the need to develop national climate finance strategies. Cambodia noted that the prospects of international financing are good but the modes of financing remain uncertain and the process is slow. The Gambia noted that demand for LDCF resources exceed the funds available for approved projects.

Some observers have voiced that funding is perceived by the developed world as financial aid when it should be viewed as the promotion of the common good. A communal perception could foster access and availability of funding provided from developed countries to developing countries in a more expeditious manner.

Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, noted in her remarks in Monday, following the LDCF funding announcement, that climate change is a global problem, stating, “Climate change is a problem for all.” She went on to advocate, “The agreement itself needs to be people-centered. The needs of LDCs need to be heard.” At the close of the third negotiating day, it was not clear whether the needs of LDCs were being considered under no one left behind.

In the remaining twenty-four hours of the first phase of COP21, discussion will continue with respect to language that would expedite funding. Additionally, the amount of aggregate funding available to developing countries from 2020 onward remains outstanding. In a few more days the group work of COP21 will set the trajectory for climate finance as the world sets its course to recalibrate its relationship with the planet. The decision will be significant and will send a strong signal with respect to the balance of developing country needs and developed country committment.


Research: Current institutions inadequate to address climate migration. Will Paris deliver?

Sea Level Rise PMIt is becoming increasingly common knowledge that citizens of island countries are already experiencing climate change impacts such as sea level rise, drought, salt water intrusion, cyclones and more. Earlier yesterday, the New York Times illustrated that well, with an in-depth look at the disappearing Marshall Islands. According to a new study being conducted by the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) across 3 Pacific Island nations (neighbors of the Marshall Islands), these impacts have begun to drive migration as an adaptation strategy, which in turn is revealing serious and complex issues about mobility.

It is not yet clear whether such information might influence the Paris Agreement. As of 8:00 am Paris time today, Article 5. in the draft Agreement addressing Loss and Damage, and containing a provision to create a climate change displacement coordination facility, remained an option on the table.

It would behoove the climate policy community to pay attention to this unprecedented new research that is seeking to understand current and future scenarios for people vulnerable to climate change displacement impacts. The ultimate goal is to “improve the capacity of Pacific Island countries to better plan and manage the impacts of climate change on migration.” And yesterday at COP21, the project director, Dr. Koko Warner, Senior Expert at UNU EHS, presented her team’s findings to date.

KokoWarner_Dec2 2015 COP21 PMThe study, funded by EuropeAid, has involved more than 6,000 surveys of nearly 900 households in Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Nauru, utilizing local citizens who received training in the survey method. These surveys have made clear that movement is no longer just because of economics or persecution, and that both mobility and adapting in place are constrained by multiple factors. Those surveyed have serious concerns about leaving and staying.

Climate change was independently and specifically cited as a reason for migration by 23% of migrants in Kiribati and 8% in Tuvalu, without it being introduced in the questions. And, significant numbers of households surveyed (>70% in Kiribati and >35% in Nauru) indicated they would likely choose migration, if droughts, sea level rise, and floods worsen. Yet, many Pacific Islanders face visa issues, and education and financial constraints that prevent them from using migration as a way to manage climate change risks. Nor has internal migration, which is far easier and less expensive than international movement, served as a durable solution for climate change. In Kiribati, many residents of the outer atolls have moved to the capital island, only to experience overcrowding, high unemployment, and limited fresh water, without reduced vulnerability to climate change. For Pacific Islanders seeking to or forced by economics to adapt in place, the toolbox is still pretty empty – insufficient weather data, incident early warning systems, and fresh water protection strategies, among other issues.UNU EHS Factsheet_Warnerresearch PM

The larger, more fundamental issue being revealed is that even though managed migration could increase the capacity to adapt, the concept is absent from current legal and institutional frameworks. Conventional 20th century tools used for mobility are not workable for 21st century climate migrants. For Warner, “the lesson is how unprepared we are and how ill equipped our current … arrangements are” for this increasing challenge.

Warner’s work could well begin to erode the credibility of some policymakers who insist that existing institutions can be employed to face this challenge, and may make inroads toward keeping the loss and damage Article and its climate change displacement coordination facility in the Paris Agreement. We are watching closely.


No Climate Justice without Gender Justice

Today at COP21, a focus for at least one of the meetings was how to achieve transformative solutions for both climate and gender justice. The meeting emphasized gender and economic disparities in developing countries and the fact that climate change does not affect men and women on the same level.

222For much of the developing world, climate change is a fact of life. It is difficult to find climate deniers in these areas. In poor, rural areas in Nepal, climate change is already affecting day-to-day life and has become an “issue of survival” according to panelist Alina Saba.There the melting glaciers are making traditional subsistence living almost impossible. Specifically, in these developing parts of the world it is the women who are most vulnerable to climate change while also being the ones most excluded from decision making and most expendable to a world “focused on maximizing profits and consumption.” In much of the world indigenous women are at the front lines of climate change, where they are in charge of producing and gathering food without being able to contribute to decision making processes.

Despite the difficulties facing women in many developing countries, when they are given a seat at the decision-making table women tend to incite real change. For example in Bangladesh salinity and sea level rise has made it nearly impossible for women to grow traditional crops. There, women were at the forefront of an initiative to begin hanging vegetable gardens throughout the country to battle these climate change impacts. The success of this project is evidence that when women are able to come together as an agent for solutions they can help build local movements to tackle large-scale problems.

However, the gender disparities at the climate change forefront are not limited only to those women in rural areas. In cities, where low-carbon lifestyles are more accessible, the increasing complexity of urban systems are also connected with increasing inequalities- including gender inequalities. According to Gotelind Alber of Women for Climate Justice, female-headed households tend to be some of the poorest in urban areas. Additionally, even amongst homes headed by both men and women, there tend to be disparities within the household. Financial inequality is not always homogenous within a household. Often women tend to be worse off with less financial stability and more day-to-day duties. Thus mitigation and adaptation planning in urban areas will require integration of all sectors, and must include gender issues.

The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC), a stakeholder group of the United Nations Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.18.44 PMFramework Convention on Climate Change, works to ensure that women’s voices and rights are embedded in all aspects of the UNFCCC framework and that gender equality and women’s rights are at the center of discussions. At the meeting, Kate Lappin of WGC, discussed climate change issues in a world that devalues women’s unpaid work. She specifically focused on the programs that attempt to redistribute work and build an energy democracy.

The idea behind an energy democracy is that it rejects the idea of net zero emissions on the premise that developed countries have historically contributed too much to global emissions. For example, the United States emits 176 times more carbon per capita than Nepal. Lappin suggests replacing a net zero emissions goal with goals that require zero emissions for developed countries while still requiring them to fulfill their financing obligations to developing countries.

Moving forward, city planning and climate negotiations should include equal participation of women at all levels. Further, negotiations and decisions must lead to modified policies to have a gender responsive climate policy. When women are included in the decision making process, effective change is delivered.


Animal Adaptation to Climate Change: Looking Through the Lens of the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly

Climate change affects animals. This is not a new revelation. The first IPCC Assessment Report, released in 1990, discusses how climate change negatively impacts polar bears. But the conversation on animals and climate change often neglects the stories of how animals survive by adapting to climate changed conditions.

Many species adapt by broadening their diets and changing other behaviors, such as migrating patterns, mating habits, and hibernation lengths. For example, the National Wildlife Federation reports that the Quino checkerspot butterfly was disappearing in the late 1990’s. The butterfly was dying because hot weather in California was causing its host plant to dry out before any caterpillars could enter adulthood.

This endangered subspecies was considered a “goner,” but then the Quino did something surprising. Surrounded by desert, the butterfly could not migrate butterflynorth to wetter terrain. Instead, it moved to higher ground. The Quino population resettled at a higher elevation and most importantly, adapted to using a new host plant. This adaptation is exciting because it indicates what one scientist calls “a genetic revolution.”

Moving to a new host plant isn’t as easy as it sounds. The butterfly genes governing its search image and its natural instinct to lay eggs on a particular plant have to change. This one genetic change can create a domino effect on the genetic make-up of the Quino. For instance, the butterfly might have to alter the number of eggs it lays because of the new host plant’s capacity to nourish young caterpillars. In turn, the young caterpillars might need to develop new enzymes in order to eat the new host plant.

If the decision to move to a higher elevation is able to change what type of enzymes the next generation of Quino produces, the capacity for animal adaptation to climate change is immense. This past summer, researchers discovered polar bears have started eating dolphins. As northern seas become ice free, dolphins are migrating farther north, which in turn provides starving polar bears a new source of food.

Animal adaptation to climate change will not stop global warming, but it does illustrate why the UNFCCC is making an effort to enable the human animal to adjust to a climate-changed world. In order to mitigate climate change, humans must be able to adapt to the changes already occurring. The new agreement draft text shows that Parties are trying to balance mitigation and adaptation efforts in their commitments to address climate change concerns.

 


Enough is enough.

13 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) walked out of the CoP today in protest of the lack of action (according to them) taking place at the CoP. The 13 NGOs include: Aksyan Klima Pilipinas, ActionAid, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Constryendo Puentes, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Ibon International, International Trade Union Confederation, LDC Watch, Oxfam International, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, Peoples’ Movement on Climate Change, and WWF. Read their statement here.


Local Partnerships for City Adaptation

 

On December 3rd, NOAA sponsored a side event to discuss lessons learned from air quality monitoring in Mexico City and LA over the last 20 years.  The event began with a technical explanation by NOAA of how climate forcing agents and air quality producing pollutants are often the same. The spokesperson from NOAA suggested that reducing emissions for air quality can help climate change mitigation opportunities to create a “win win” situation.  Continue reading


Most Vulnerable Nations Call for Financing Reforms

After a somewhat sleepy day yesterday, the discussions at COP15 are picking up in passion and intensity.  In this morning’s Plenary I (a meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation or SBI), one of the main topics was the status of the Global Environment Facility, i.e., one of the most important mechanisms for financing climate-related projects in the developing world.  A representative from the GEF (pronounced “Jeff”), which is implemented by the World Bank, recited a litany of successes, touted the billions of dollars spent to date on climate-related projects, and identified the many tons of CO2 emissions reduced or avoided.  He also acknowledged the need for reforms in the GEF and outlined a number of key reforms that are already underway.  In response, delegates from numerous developing countries commended the managers of the GEF for their efforts at reform.  However, many of these delegates, particularly those from the least developed countries (known as “LDCs”) such as Sudan, Nicaragua, Benin, Iraq, Antiga & Barbuda, passionately and firmly called for more fundamental and extensive reforms.  Continue reading