How “well below 2°C” flew well-below the radar

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 10.09.47 PMOn December 12, when the Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus, it contained bold new language on the long-term global temperature goal. Article 2 reads:

“Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels…” (Article 2.1(a))

But, from where did this language come?

All through Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 3.59.10 PMthe ADP’s final year of negotiations, from Lima to Geneva to Bonn and back to Bonn, it never appeared in the successive drafts. The “well below 2°C” finally emerged in brackets at the last negotiating session before COP21, on the final day of ADP2-11.Photo-SBs June2015-Bonn

The likely source? Something called the structured expert dialogue (SED).

The story begins back at COP16 in 2010, when Parties agreed to reduce emissions so that global temperature would not exceed 2°C above pre-industrial levels. They also agreed to periodically review this goal to determine whether it was sufficient to meet the UNFCCC’s objective, and whether the Parties were achieving it. Importantly, the Parties decided at COP16 to consider strengthening the 2°C goal, “including in relation to a global average temperature rise of 1.5°C.”

This mandated review happened between June 2013 and February 2015 at a Joint SBSTA/SBI meeting. It was supported by a structured expert dialogue (SED) to “ensure the scientific integrity of the review through a focused exchange of views, information and ideas.” The SED involved more than 70 experts and Parties over 4 sessions. The group released its final report last May for all UNFCCC Parties to consider it at the 42nd session of the subsidiary bodies in June.

Two of the SED’s key messages were:

  • “The world is not on track to achieve the long-term global goal, but successful mitigation policies are known and must be scaled up urgently.” (Message 8)
  • “While science on the 1.5°C warming limit is less robust [making it difficult to compare differences between 2°C and 1.5°C], efforts should be made to push the defence line as low as possible.” (Message 10)

Message 10 also suggested that Parties consider a precautionary path: “aiming for limiting global warming as far below 2°C as possible, reaffirming the notion of a defence line or even a buffer zone keeping warming well below 2°C.”

While not offering the exact language on 1.5°C found in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, the SED report clearly articulates climate change impacts already being experienced, limits to adaptation, and certain and non-linear increases in those impacts expected between 1.5 and 2°C.1.5DegC

Both IISD’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) and the Third World Network (TWN) reported strong differences at the June UNFCCC meeting about what action Parties should take on the Review and SED report. AOSIS, the LDCs and others pushed for sending a draft decision to COP21 for a new long-term global temperature goal of “limiting warming to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” Saudi Arabia and China were both firmly against changing the long-term goal, and sought language simply acknowledging and appreciating the work/report. Though most Parties supported crafting a substantive conclusion and decision, the lack of consensus on content meant postponement to the SB43 (December 1-4) meeting in Paris. With Saudi Arabia and China (joined by Oman) continuing to block action at SB43, the COP Presidency was ultimately called on to shepherd its direct consideration by the COP.

On the ADP front, the Review and SED report found no apparent foothold in June. By Paris, though, its “well below 2°C” was in the draft and part of the hot debate on long-term temperature goal. The LDCs, AOSIS, the Africa Group and the 40+ country-strong Climate Vulnerable Forum (on which we’ve reported), fought hard for the goal to reference only 1.5°C. The “High Ambition Coalition” (on which we reported here), which included the EU and the U.S., offered strong support. The Saudis, backed by India and China, and unchallenged by the rest of OPEC, firmly blocked it, along with any reference to the SED report. The final compromise language was, in the end, a big step toward acknowledging the climate change dangers already present and the peril posed by a 2°C change.

COP21 did close with a decision (10/CP.21 para 4) that referenced the Review, “took note of the work of the structured expert dialogue,” and offered appreciation for those who participated in it. It also stated the new long-term temperature goal utilized in the Paris Agreement’s Article 2.1(a). “Well below 2°C” is well beyond what could have been.images


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!


UNFCCC Negotiations – Coordinating the Dance

NegCourtesy of Creative Commons (Bobbi Vie)otiations are an elaborate dance. Negotiators must coordinate the actions of many partners. Make a misstep and the coordination is lost. What could be an elaborate dance degrades into a chaotic scramble.

 

On Friday afternoon, the COP21 negotiations demonstrated how difficult they can be to coordinate. After a week of work in spin-off groups and informal informals, the negotiation focus returned to the ADP contact group. What resulted was a classic example of what happens without a coordination plan.

 

The Co-Chair Ahmed Djoghlaf started the afternoon session by jumping into the process and asking Parties in they had any issues with Article 2 and Article 2bis. Without waiting for the negotiators to catch up, he quickly accepted the Articles as presented and moved onto Article 3.

 

What erupted next was a 2 hour long discussion of the process of negotiating. Over and over again, Parties voiced their opposition to the plan and the Co-Chair’s tactics.  Over and over again, Parties used the precious remaining negotiation time to debate how to proceed with a review of the negotiating text.

 

The Co-Chair saw the end goal that he wanted. To get a slimmed down text to the COP. His choice of process was not the right choice. His steps were out of order. UNFCCC negotiations are a party-driven process where consensus decides the pathway. The Co-Chair chose to lead instead of coordinate.

 

The Parties took a break, regrouped, and returned with a new proposal for coordinating Party input.  Malaysia, the European Union, the United States, and Norway, brought forward a Party-driven sequence for commenting on the proposed negotiating text. A pattern emerged. The Co-Chair reverted back to managing the order and sequence of Party comments. The Parties focused on identifying the key elements that they wanted in the text and making suggestions on what text could be inserted or should be deleted. Each Party suggestion was to be recorded but not debated.

 

While the first two hours of the negotiation bogged down with discussions of procedure, the second two hours took on a pattern of Party submissions detailing desired key elements. Party after Party presented their key elements. Some Parties submitted no proposals; some Parties made multiple proposals; some Parties made minor proposals; some Parties made extensive proposals. At the end of the meeting, all of the proposals were recorded to be assembled into a reflective note.

 

The day started off as a chaotic scramble before evolving into a coordinated pattern of Party submissions. What looked like a lost day ended up with the ADP taking a few more steps towards completing its work.

 

 


Understanding the Complex Organized Chaos of UNFCCC Negotiations

FractalA fractal is a never-ending mathematical pattern that is self-similar across different scales. Every time you look closer, you see another layer.

 

The UNFCCC negotiations have a similar pattern. Every time you look closer, you see another layer. The news reports coming out of Paris are using a confusing array of terms: ADP contact groups, spin-off groups, and informal informals. What looks like a bewildering arrangement of groups has a structure and purpose as countries move towards a final agreement on a post-2020 climate regime.

 

COP 21 negotiations take place in layers. Each layer reduces the number of participants and increases the intimacy. The negotiations start at the ADP, the body tasked with producing the negotiating text for Draft Agreement and a Draft Decision that will be presented to the Conference of the Parties on Saturday December 6. The COP will then be responsible for finalizing the climate agreement.

 

The ADP process has 196 Party participants and it is shepherded by two Co-Chairs who oversee the ADP contact group. The ADP contact group serves as the organizational heart of the negotiation process. The ADP contact group has spent three years of painstaking negotiations trying to build consensus on the shape, scope, and content of a post-2020 climate agreement.

 

With only a few days left to find a consensus, the Co-Chairs are using more focused discussion to spur movement from the Parties. The Co-Chairs are creating spin-off groups to discuss specific portions of the Draft Agreement and Draft Text. Spin-off groups discuss specific Articles and related portions of the Decision text. The spin-off groups are lead by a facilitator selected from the Party delegates. The facilitators are tasked with focusing the discussion and seeking areas of common agreement. The spin-off groups break their work load into clusters or themes. The clusters are made up of related paragraphs and sections. For example, the Article 9 spin-off group has created five clusters that will be discussed individually on topics such as Principles and the post-Paris Work Programme.

 

When spin-off groups bog down on a discussion of a specific portion of the text, the facilitators are creating a smaller discussion group known as an informal informal. The informal informals bring together interested parties from the spin-off group to draft text that can resolve the dispute.

 

While the negotiating proceedings get smaller and more focused, the reporting structure works in the opposite direction. Informal informals report their work back to the spin-off group. The spin-off groups can accept the work done by the informal informal. If the spin-off group accepts the new text, then they report their work back to the ADP contact group.

 

The reporting structure ensures transparency and equality between the Parties. The ADP process has 196 Parties with vastly different capacities. Developing countries can staff and participate in all of the spin-off groups. Least developed countries can struggle to cover all of the meetings and follow the discussion. Requiring the spin-off groups to report back to the ADP contact group ensures that information is presented in an open and transparent forum.

 

As you peer into the ADP negotiation process, the layers reveal themselves. What looks confusing has a purpose and a goal. What appears chaotic has a structure. What appears disorganized has a plan. Move the world closer to a post-2020 climate agreement. Make sure that Week 2 of COP 21 can complete the task set out three years ago.


Loss and Damage – Hot Topic for Climate Negotiations

UNFCCC ADP2-10.CreativeCommons.SmallThrough multiple meetings this year, the ADP (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform) is seeking to craft a viable negotiating text for a new, legally binding and long-lasting international climate change accord for consideration at the 21st meeting of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties meeting (COP21), being held in Paris in December. By all accounts, there was far less progress than hoped for at ADP2-10, held in Bonn, Germany from Aug. 31-Sept. 4. Climate Action Network (CAN) International characterized it as “incremental.” The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) noted the unresolved “deep differences” on the Paris package elements, structure, and approaches to crosscutting issues. And, ActionAid, calling the progress “fragile,” concluded that the week’s work shortchanged poorer countries on key issues.

One of those key issues was Loss and Damage (L&D). (For a refresher on L&D within the UNFCCC, please see our coverage over the last two years.) L&D has become an exceedingly hot button issue for the poorest and most vulnerable countries, given what they are already facing, and even more so, what’s ahead.TyphoonDamage-CreativeCommons.Small

The 3,253 hydrometeorological (weather, climate and water) hazards reported around the globe between 2005 and 2014 caused more than 283,000 deaths and more than $980 million in economic losses. According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, nearly 3.4 million people were affected by drought between mid-2014 and mid-2015, with Haiti and Honduras topping the list; the heat waves in India and Pakistan led to 3,700 deaths in the first half of 2015; and, storms and floods in Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Malawi and Bangladesh impacted a reported 2 million citizens over that same period.

Support to address these losses has been and continues to be insufficient, and the need for far more help is widely predicted. This situation, combined with the glaringly inadequate global mitigation of GHGs to date, creates an urgency that developed countries are no longer able to ignore in the climate negotiations.

Discussions on L&D did deepen during ADP2-10, primarily focusing on institutional arrangements and technical support, crystallizing as the week went on around a nagging sticking point – will L&D be substantively addressed in the core agreement (developing countries’ position), or not (most developed countries’ position)? Specifically, the G77+China and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) called for “[p]lacing a loss and damage mechanism with a climate displacement coordination facility in the [core] agreement,” to replace the Warsaw International Mechanism for L&D (WIM) after 2020. Developed countries pushed back, not wanting to grant L&D such prominent status from which the spectre of compensation could more credibly arise. The Sept. 4 Working Document from the ADP2-10 break-outs on Adaptation and Loss and Damage gives a summary.

Our VLS delegation head, Tracy Bach, reported that continued brainstorming and strategizing yielded a discussion proposal from the U.S. and several other developed countries on the final day. It suggested making the WIM permanent through a COP decision and having it serve the new agreement after 2020. In this way, L&D would be kept from a place in the core agreement, even as it is recognized.

This proposal may pave the way for compromise on location of institutional arrangements. However, the issues of current and long-term sustainable funding for L&D and for any institutional arrangements will likely continue to haunt the road to Paris.SeaLevelRise

Photo credits:

1) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/38709469@N08/8699594602″>Dais</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

2) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/27825503@N04/10962769056″>Destroyed</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

3) <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/65162298@N07/6029132512″>Ethiopische nomadevrouw met haar dochter</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0.(license),/a>

4) Bing images


China: Cause for Despair? Or Cause for Hope?

China FlagAs the nations of the world wrapped up last week’s ADP negotiations on the key elements of the 2015 Paris agreement, many observers remained focused on China.  Simply put, the actions that China takes (or doesn’t take) in the next decade or so could very well determine whether humanity can successfully avoid a full-blown climate catastrophe.  Even though China is still considered a developing country under the UNFCCC, the world, and China’s position in it, has changed dramatically in the more than two decades since that treaty was negotiated.  China has been the world’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions since 2006, it consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and its energy demand is expected to double by 2030.  According to an excellent recent Rolling Stone article on US-China climate discussions, China now emits 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, which is expected to increase to over 15 billion tons by 2030.  The article quotes Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, expressing his opinion that if this increase happens, the world’s chances of avoiding catastrophic climate disturbance are “virtually zero.”

As such, some may become discouraged by China’s insistence that “developed” countries bear responsibility for mitigating climate change based on their historical emissions.  For example, with regard to ADP workstream 2, the ENB’s summary of ADP2-6 noted that a Conference Room Paper submitted by China on behalf of the LMDC’s called for “unconditional commitments by Annex I parties to reduce emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.” With regard to workstream 1, the closing statement submitted by the G77+China expressed concern that the ADP Co-Chairs’ draft text on information on INDC’s in the context of the 2015 agreement lacks “central elements” such as the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.  In short, China has shown resistance to international pressure to commit to curbing its greenhouse gas emissions based on its belief that the current climate crisis is largely the industrialized West’s fault.  Its position: Developing nations such as China should not have to bear the burden of solving a problem they didn’t create.  While there is a lot of truth to this argument, it seems to fall short of the reality of the climate challenges the world faces today and into the future.

Nevertheless, China’s recent actions indicate that China’s leaders take the threats associated with climate change seriously and are doing something about it.  For one thing, China’s leaders fully recognize that the environmental degradation caused by its breakneck economic growth over the last several decades, most of which was supported by the burning of coal, is not sustainable.  This heavy reliance on coal has resulted in untold amounts of damage to the country’s air, surface and groundwater, and soils.  Public health has taken a heavy hit as well – a report published last year found that outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010.  Accordingly, earlier this year Premier Li Keqiang announced a “war on pollution.”  Among other things, this war will consist of shutting down outdated small coal-fired power plants and industrial plants, reforms in energy pricing to boost renewables, and increases in government spending on measures to address water and soil degradation.  China is outperforming the United Stateswind_power_464 on renewable energy, which now makes up about 20% of China’s energy mix.  China produces more wind and solar power than any other country on the planet, and in 2013 over 50% of new generation was renewable.  There are also indications that China’s coal use may peak as early as this year.

China is also a step ahead of the United States with regards to regulating carbon emissions.  It has introduced pilot cap-and-trade programs in five cities and two provinces that are designed to be replicated and implemented at the national level sometime between 2016 and 2020.  According to a recent study by Resources for the Future, these pilot programs increase the coverage of global emissions by carbon markets from less than 8% to more than 11%.  While the study notes that the pilot cap-and-trade programs are not perfect and could use some improvements, they nevertheless indicate that addressing climate change is in fact high on China’s list of priorities.

China is therefore, somewhat paradoxically, the source of both hope and despair when it comes to confronting the challenges presented by climate change.  It will certainly be very interesting to see how this paradox plays out in the upcoming climate negotiations on Lima and in Paris.


COP 19 still going… we’re still in extra time: penalty-shoot out or a nil-nil draw?

The UNFCCC COP 19 is still going and going, much like the Energizer bunny or a cricket match. At this point in the game, the negotiations have produced two draft text on ADP (Agenda item 3) and long-term finance (LTF), but an updated draft on loss and damage remains in the locker room with some ailment (UPDATE: the coach, COP 19 president Mr. Marcin Korolec just said a new draft text on loss and damage will be available for selection!). However, the clock approaches 120 minutes. Will the negotiations end in a nil-nil draw, go to penalty kicks or will the COP19 Presidency manage to score a goal, in the name of a package deal. Will Christiana Figures draw a red card or blow the final whistle on the UNFCCC negotiations?

cop_19-6

Poland’s National Stadium has hosted a number of international football (soccer) matches.

So, why am I using sports terms and analogies? The COP 19 is being held in Poland’s National Stadium (Stadio Narodowy), which is the home of the Polish national soccer team. Throughout the two weeks, the delegations have used sports analogies to describe or encourage a resolution to the COP negotiations.

The Guardian Eco blog captured some of the best sports analogies spoken by delegates at the COP/CMP:

Donald Tusk, prime minister of Poland: 

“The match is won by the team. In order to win, players have to collaborate.” 

Christiana Figueres, UN’s top climate official:

“There are no two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”  

Ed Davey, chairing a meeting and calling a new speaker to the podium:

“Peter is now warming up on the touchline.”

And an extended riff from Rachel Kyte of the World Bank:

“The UK’s football teams are sometimes accused of punting the ball down the field in the hope someone tall will pick it up. [In the climate talks] we should play tiki-taka [the preferred elegant, passing style of World Cup champions Spain]. This should be the World Cup of climate change.”

To which Davey responded:

“The World Bank is trying to take over FIFA.”

And finally, a startling admission from the US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern. Seated in the EU’s main meeting room, which sports the football jerseys of all the member states across one wall (the UK is represented by a Team GB shirt from the Olympics, rather than the national sides), he could not resist commenting that his three soccer-mad sons would love it. But as for Stern himself: “I’m a fan of the Spanish team.”

The Spanish National Team's Pique gets a red card. Not very tiki-taka.

The Spanish National Team’s Pique gets a red card. Not very tiki-taka.

Who doesn’t love the Spanish National Team and their tiki-taka style of fútbol, where they pass-pass-pass-pass the ball, holding possession for the majority of the game, perhaps score a goal or two and win a World Cup? In this spirit, winning teams have to deliver results and play as a team. Selfish actions only hurt the collective, especially if one person (or negotiator) has the opportunity to score points (such as political points), yet drags the shot wide of the net. As the Spanish National team will find out (or has already found out), the successful tiki-taka style will lose its cutting edge, its invincibility, as other teams figure out their weaknesses. Teams have to evolve and change strategies in order to be successful. The same tactics will not always win.

As State Parties to the COP19 enter into extra time, the 120 minute marks looms. They are furiously negotiation resolutions on the final three issues on ADP, LTF and loss and damage to produce some kind of Warsaw package. Hopefully, the late nights and long days will not be in vain. The President’s Stocktaking has finished and the ADP talks has resumed. The UNFCCC process has to evolve and not rely on zero-sum-game tactics to get results. Yes, tiki-taka is a pretty way to play football/fútbol/soccer, but these players still get red cards and they lose matches. In other words, no player is immune from the rules of the game. Sometimes long-ball tactics win the game. The trophy here, at the UNFCCC, is not a shiny gold object but is a healthy planet.

I cannot speak to the physical state of the negotiators, but I hoped they stretched before embarking on this marathon. I think I tweaked my hamstring (metaphorically speaking) as I hobbled back to the venue this morning. In other words, I admire the stamina of these negotiators who are working around the clock to produce some kind of results. The planet and future generations depend on COP 19 finding the back of the net.


COP 19 is the never-ending story… ADP, Loss and Damage and Finance still unresolved

The clock has passed 1:30 am and the COP is still going… Negotiators and the High Level Ministers are still hard at work tweaking draft texts for the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), Finance, and Loss and Damage, respectively.The UNFCCC COP19/CMP was supposed to end on November 22nd, ideally with much pomp and circumstance, glasses of champagne, and a new climate agreement probably with some catchy name (the Warsaw Miracle?).

Where's the Finance? #WTF

Where’s the Finance? #WTFThe COP19, however, still has several issues to resolve before closing. Negotiators, civil society observers and COP 19 personnel are patiently waiting in the various meeting rooms, hallways, and the plenaries for the latest resolutions on ADP, Finance, and Loss and Damage.

The COP19, however, still has several issues to resolve before closing. Negotiators, civil society observers and COP 19 personnel are patiently waiting in the various meeting rooms, hallways, and the plenaries for the latest resolutions on ADP, Finance, and Loss and Damage.

This afternoon, COP 19 President Mr. Marcin Korolec held a closing Plenary session to officially end several agenda items under the COP, CMP, SBI and SBSTA tracks. At about 9 pm, the president suspended the closing plenary to give the negotiators more time to resolve the bracketed and crossed out lines of text for the remaining three issue areas. The co-chairs from South Africa and Sweden lead the informals on Loss and Damage produced a draft text around 13:50, but the negotiations transitioned to bilateral meetings and then onwards to the High-Level Ministerial consultations. The majority of these meetings take place behind closed doors, with the exception of ADP that has let limited NGO observers into the meeting.

IMG_0808Throughout the day and into the evening, the Loss and Damage negotiators discussed the options of creating an international arrangement, a work programme or an international mechanism to address the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries. Based on the latest draft text, loss and damage might become an international mechanism under the UNFCCC, supported by SBSTA and SBI, which would be a huge plus for developing countries. This means that the developing countries might have traded on another issue, such as ambition or the timeline to report emissions in the ADP.

“The developing nations are looking for a new institution with legal and executive powers that would compensate people for loss and damage caused by extreme weather events, exacerbated by global warming. Richer countries want it to be dealt with within the existing institutions…We’re trying now to bridge those two and really see if there can be a two-step approach starting with co-ordinating the already existing framework and seeing how we can enhance that in a second phase but that needs to be captured in a decision,” said Mr Nafo [Seyni Nafo from Mali, the spokesman for the Africa Group of countries].”

Into the night, the loss and damage consultations focused on footnote 2 of the draft text, which references “Section II: enhanced action on adaptation.” More specifically, the “Warsaw Mechanism” to address loss and damage, in paragraph 1, states that the COP19 “establishes the Warsaw mechanism to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change (hereinafter referred to as the Warsaw mechanism), consistent with paragraph 14 of decision 1/CP.16…” In turn, paragraph 14 of the Cancun Agreements refers to common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and then several sub-paragraphs referencing enhanced adaptation.

The United State's seat in the Plenary remains empty due to late-night/early morning consultations.

The United State’s seat in the Plenary remains empty due to late-night/early morning consultations.

The CBDR principle causes some political divisions between developed and developing countries. In particular, developed countries, such as the United States, do not want Loss and Damage to become a “blame and liability mechanism” and make developed countries financially and legally liable for the damage caused by historical carbon emissions. Loss and damage is supposed to help the victims of the adverse impacts of climate change in developing countries, not just financially but also address non-economic losses.

For COP 19 to be a success, all parties will have to make convergences on loss and damage, ADP, and climate finance. Without some sense of obligation to work together for the common good, these climate talks will fail. Loss and damage will be the norm, not the exception, because the other avenues will fail to provide the pathways for a sustainable and equitable future. Let’s hope that COP 19 (Warsaw Communique?) does not become the next Copenhagen Agreement…


Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

“The only people with the power to actually change anything are the local elected officials.”
– the Environmental Minister of Ghent, Belgium

No matter what happens in the international climate change negotiations, there is one thing everyone can agree on: the impacts of climate change, and the actions taken to address it, will ultimately happen on a local level.

This was recognized by the United Nations during the first-ever “Cities Day” on Thursday (full title: “COP Presidency Cities and Sub-national Dialogue of the Cities Day”), which would have been a real milestone if not for what Christiana Figueres called “the elephant in the room”: the delegates negotiating the ADP had cut the provisions that many in the room had worked so hard to get in.

“I know you were delighted to see the original text [proposed] by the chairs… and know you must be disappointed by the version this morning,” the Executive Secretary stated.

It’s been a bit of a ride this week for organizations like ICLEI, and C40, groups representing coalitions of cities or mayors working on climate change. They’re more or less in the same role as the rest of the ENGOs hanging around the COP, as cities cannot be Parties to the UNFCCC. Although I do hope that a mayor would have a little bit more luck getting a meeting with a negotiator.  Regardless, they are in the same place as everyone else right now; waiting to see what final product the ADP negotiators’ late-night last-day quarterbacking will produce.

Nantes Declaration of Mayors and Subnational Leaders on Climate Change (Sept. 2013, adopted by 50 cities and over 20 regional or intergovernmental coalitions of local governments), the ADP hosted a workshop on Thursday, November 14.  The ADP workshop on pre-2020 ambition: urbanization and the role of governments in facilitating climate action in cities directly informed the draft text that was on the negotiating table as of Monday this week.

Monday’s draft included a vague “activities to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation actions”, and a sub-national forum to be held in conjunction with the next ADP session in June 2014.

4(f) Welcoming and encouraging activities to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation actions, including through cooperative initiatives, at the national and multilateral levels and by subnational and local governments and non-State actors;

5(b) The organization of a forum to identify key priority areas for collaborative work on mitigation and adaptation at the sub-national level, to be convened in conjunction with the session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action that is held concurrently with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies (June 2014);

In Thursday morning’s draft, that language disappears, replaced by a plan for a new –something- to facilitate sharing of best practices by cities in order to enhance mitigation ambition, under an entirely new number. The ADP negotiators have a funny way of saying “Happy Cities Day”.

7. Resolves to enhance mitigation ambition, as a matter of urgency and guided by the principles of the Convention, by accelerating the full implementation of the decisions constituting the agreed outcome pursuant to decision 1/CP.13 (Bali Action Plan)1 and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol2 and by launching the [X] to ensure the highest possible mitigation efforts under the Convention by:

As of Friday morning, the text looked much better. ICLEI President David Cadman encouraged people in the morning Cities Day events to talk to negotiators to get the original language back in, and seems to have succeeded. Cities and subnational governments are included in plans for technical meetings in conjunction with the next ADP session in June; the sub-national forum to be held in conjunction with the next ADP session in June 2014 returns (4d); and facilitation of exchange of info between cities included.  What it means practically is more meetings and reports and business as usual for the UNFCCC, but it may mean more resources for the people actually doing the work on the ground in the future.

4. The ADP requested the secretariat to conduct the following activities in order to implement decision -/CP.195:

(b) In relation to paragraph 4 of that decision, enhance the visibility on the UNFCCC website of quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets, quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments and nationally appropriate mitigation actions;

                      (i) Organize, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs of the ADP, technical expert meetings at the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential, including those identified in the technical paper “Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition”,6 with the participation of Parties, cities and other subnational authorities, civil society and the private sector;

(d)In relation to paragraph 5(b) of that decision, convene, during the session of the ADP to be held in conjunction with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies, a forum to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation.

5. Decides to accelerate activities under the workplan on enhancing mitigation ambition in accordance with decision 1/CP.17, paragraphs 7 and 8, by

(b) Facilitating the sharing among Parties of experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in identifying and implementing opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, with a view to promoting the exchange of information and voluntary cooperation;

The Final Conclusion
Late on Saturday afternoon, COP19 adopted a final text on ADP.

“Facilitating the sharing among Parties” seems to have hit the cutting room floor, but it appears that cities will in fact have a place at the expert meetings and the forum during the next ADP meeting

4. The ADP requested the secretariat to conduct the following activities in order to implement decision -/CP.19:3

(c) In relation to paragraph 5(a) of that decision:

(i) Organize, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs of the ADP, technical expert meetings at the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential, taking note of those identified in the technical paper “Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition”,4 with the participation of Parties, civil society, the private sector and cities and other subnational authorities, where appropriate;

(d) In relation to paragraph 5(b) of that decision, convene, during the session of the ADP to be held in conjunction with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies, a forum to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation.