Human Mobility in the Face of Climate Change

http://coastalbangladesh.com/english/65#.WCVz8_krJEYHuman mobility in the face of climate change is an issue that is closely linked to Loss and Damage (L&D). Under Article 8 of the Paris Agreement, L&D includes extreme weather events as well as slow-onset events. Both extreme weather and slow-onset events could necessitate human mobility or displacement, whether it be rising sea levels displacing coastal communities and entire islands or increasing hurricane and tsunami threats that cause communities to move inland.

In the face of these threats, the COP has taken action. At the end of COP21, decision 1/CP.21 requested that the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for L&D create a task force on displacement “to develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.” Since the COP issued this decision last December, the Executive Committee (Excom) of the WIM has published its 2016 Report to give an update on its progress over the last year, including information on the displacement task force. In the report, the Excom stated that it initiated the task force at its latest meeting and requested that the task force deliver its findings on displacement by COP24.

Keeping in line with this increasing focus on human mobility and displacement due to climate change, Thursday featured three side events on this topic. The first event discussed human mobility in the context of organizations and frameworks outside of the UNFCCC and in some instances, how those organizations and frameworks intersect with mechanisms under the UNFCCC. For example, Dina Ionesco with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) discussed a technical meeting and workshop on human mobility that occurred recently in Casablanca, Morocco, with the WIM in order to discuss capacity building, and action and implementation under the WIM. The WIM continues the call for expert advice from UN organizations and other expert bodies on the topic as part of action area six in its initial two-year workplan, further emphasizing the importance of human mobility and displacement under the WIM.

Another side event focused on the impact and importance of human mobility and displacement in especially vulnerable countries with a focus on a rights-based approach to displacement. This side event featured speakers from APMDD, COAST Trust, LDC Watch, and Friends of the Earth Africa and included discussions on what types of terminology is appropriate—migration or displacement—when discussing human mobility and climate change. Terminology in the context is important because they have set definitions in international law and these definitions don’t always conform with the context under which some human mobility occurs.

The final event from yesterday focused on cultural and heritage losses associated with human mobility and displacement. This event grounded the discussion in the noneconomic loss felt by many communities who voluntarily migrate or who are forced to leave their home behind in the face of repeated natural disasters or rising sea levels. Noneconomic losses are often overlooked when discussing human mobility because it’s difficult to assess these losses when conducting a cost-benefit analysis on whether to uproot communities. However, determining noneconomic losses, like loss of culture, are important to ensure any voluntary migrations are successful. The impacts are real and felt by all of the community members who are forced to leave their homes and sometimes livelihoods behind. Attending to and understanding these communities’ cultural wellbeing in addition to their physical wellbeing is a vital part of the conversation when discussing human mobility and displacement. With the new task force on displacement under the WIM, the above concerns should be taken into account in order to ensure the success of the program in understanding the full range of issues associated with human mobility and displacement due to climate change.


Getting serious about 1.5°C

ap_611245925978_wide-0d885fdde8a9b22d1501efec383f5eb03654796c-s900-c85As we reported earlier, the historic Paris Agreement of December 2015 established a long-term temperature goal to keep global temperature increase “well below 2°C” and to undertake efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C, “recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

The COP21 decision adopting the Agreement included an invitation to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) “to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.”Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.44.05 PM

The impacts on lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems is likely be quite different between a 2°C and a 1.5°C increase. And, while scientists have been characterizing the former for some time, too few studies have focused on a 1.5°C hotter world. So, this report will be very critical for policymakers.

The IPCC accepted the COP’s invitation in April and established an 11-member Steering Committee for the Special Report from among its top officials. A scoping meeting of more than 80 experts nominated from around the world was held in Geneva last week (August 15-18) to draft a Scoping Paper “describing the objectives and an annotated outline of the Special Report as well as the process and timeline for its preparation.” Carbon Brief, in reporting occgraph1n the meeting, characterized part of the message from Dr. Hoesung Lee, IPCC Chair, to the gathered experts this way: “[T]he report will need to spell out what’s to be gained by limiting warming to 1.5°C, as well as the practical steps needed to get there within sustainability and poverty eradication goals.”

Outcomes of the 1.5°C Special Report scoping meeting will be presented to the IPCC’s 44th Session in October, and once the report structure is approved, “a call for authors” for each chapter will go out.

It has become clear for many, though, that limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C is pretty much impossible at this point. In fact, based on IPCC carbon budget data (originally crunched in 2015) and assuming current levels of CO2 emissions, Carbon Brief concludes that there is a 66% chance we’ll reach that 1.5°C increase in just 5 years.carboncountdown

This IPCC report certainly won’t come too soon!


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


Nations in ‘Glass Houses’: The Rules of Transparency

glass houseWhile not as publicly flashy as the issue of ambition, transparency received a good deal of attention during the negotiations that brought us to the Final Agreement in Paris on Saturday. Parties had to come to a consensus about how exposed their internal policies and actions would be to scrutiny. This is a key point, each Party is a sovereign nation yet they are subjected to evaluation by an outside group. The Transparency framework therefore must be implemented in “a facilitative, non-intrusive, and non-punitive manner respectful of national sovereignty.” (Art. 13.1) Essentially, they have moved into “glass houses”. Equality in Transparency requirements attempts to prevent stone throwing.

 

Why is transparency so important? Parties need to be able to see what each other is doing in order to build confidence and trust in the system (Art. 13.1). The framework for Transparency is constructed around both actions and support, therefore affecting all other sections of the Final Agreement. Transparency requirements apply to Parties’ mitigation efforts, adaptation projects and policies, technology transfers, capacity-building, and financial support. Parties are more likely to act in furthering their efforts in mitigation and implementing their NDC plans if they can clearly see that others are doing so as well. Further, developed country Parties, other Parties in a position to do so, and private investors are more likely to provide resources to the developing countries Parties if they can account for the monetary flows and technology transfer.

 

Of course, the cross-cutting issue of differentiation plays a large role in Transparency as well. During the negotiations, recognition that some Parties would have different capacities to assess and then report progress towards full implementation of the Agreement was a sticking point. Ultimately, the “older” system of “Common But Differentiated Responsibility” or “CBDR” was replaced in the Transparency section with “flexibility” considering the respective capacities of the Parties (Art. 13.2).  This is more akin to a sliding scale of ability rather than the older systems of bifurcation. There remains special consideration for LDCs and SIDS in the establishment of the transparency framework (Art. 13.3).

Each Party will report on emissions and removals according to methodologies accepted by the IPCC, information relating to the Party’s NDC, and climate change impacts (Art. 13.7). These wipe cleanreports are to be submitted biennially, with an exception for LDCs and SIDS. The technical expert review of the information submitted will undergo a facilitative, multilateral consideration of their progress. For developing Parties, this review shall include assistance in identifying capacity-building needs (Art. 13.11). Support for the implementation of this and all other requirements of this Article shall be provided on a continuing basis. (Art. 13.14 and 13.15).

Living in a “glass house” requires that Parties keep to their promises made in Paris and that they help others with their housekeeping to clear the view of activities and support. A cleaner world will be our reward.

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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.


The Power of One Word

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Photo Source: International Partnership on Mitigation & MRV

In international legal commitments all the power is in the verbs. And in the most recent (and perhaps final) version of the Paris Agreement, the verbs used in Art. 4 on Mitigation strengthen the actions required by developed country Parties.

Article 4.4 is on the differentiated mitigation efforts required by all Parties to the Agreement. The text released this afternoon declares that, “[d]eveloped country Parties shall continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets.” Conversely, the requirement for developing country Parties is that they “should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”

Even after a quick read, the power and effect of the verb “shall” compared to “should” or “are encouraged to” is instantly obvious. The language of “shall” is stronger; we’ve known this since biblical times. The commandment was “thou shalt not kill,” not thou should not kill, or thou is encouraged not to kill. Shall is an obligation, a command. Should is just an expectation.

Under the current Paris Agreement, developed country Parties have a positive obligation to lead on economy-wide GHG emission reductions. On the other hand, developing countries have no GHG emission reduction obligations under Art.4.4. Instead, developing country Parties are expected, or perhaps have a moral duty, to enhance their mitigation efforts. A statement supporting developing countries to voluntarily choose to try and move towards economy-wide GHG emission reductions furthers the expectation that they will enhance their mitigation efforts.

While differentiation between developed and developing Parties may seem intuitive, the “shall” “should” dichotomy is quite new in Art. 4.4. In the draft version distributed two days ago, on December 10, 2015, all the verbs were “should.”

The text read: “Developed country Parties should continue to take the lead. Each Party that has previously communicated absolute economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets should continue to do so, and all Parties should aim to do so in light of different national circumstances and stages of development.”

Photo Source: ThinkProgress

Photo Source: ThinkProgress

This previous version of the text was a conglomeration of expectations, and all Parties were expected to be doing something to mitigate GHG emissions. But, no Parties were actually obligated to perform certain actions. As negotiations have progressed over the past two days it is clear that a hierarchy of actions has developed, and this hierarchy ensures that all Parties know what the Paris Agreement requires of them. Under this hierarchy:

WHO:                                     WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO:

  1. Developed Parties          Must lead on economy-wide GHG emission reduction targets
  2. Developing Parties         Expected to enhance their mitigation efforts
  3. Developing Parties         Economy-wide GHG emission reduction targets encouraged

As the final text is considered by the Parties tonight, it will be important to note whether this hierarchy of mitigation actions is preserved with “shall” and “should” or if we return to a list of “should” expectations as contained in the earlier version of the text.

***UPDATE: During the final meeting of the Comité de Paris the term “shall” was changed back to “should.” Therefore, developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. The power of one word changed this obligation back into an expectation. The COP Presidency explained that the use of “shall” was a technical, unintended error and that the term “should” was meant to be used in the Agreement.


The new “High Ambition” Force Awakens in Paris

de brumA new group has been announced during the Paris Climate Talks – the High Ambition Coalition. It is not a formal negotiation group like the G77+ China or the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Rather it represents a block of countries with a common position – recognition of the need for a target of less than 1.5℃.  Apparently, it has been gathering strength for the past six months during secret discussions.

During the press briefing to an unusually packed room on Friday, December 11th at 4:00 pm Paris time, the founder of the group, the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister Tony de Brum, announced that Brazil has just joined. Later that evening Australia announced its acceptance into the group.  austrailia jjoins

The composition of the group of more than 100 countries is a mixed bag of other Parties as well. There are LDCs, SIDS, accompanied by the United States, the EU, and Canada.

During the press briefing, Minister de Brum made it clear that this was a serious group that did not take their commitments lightly. If the countries are to tackle climate change, high ambition coupled with political will are necessary. Simply stated, this is the pathway to survival.  Any country that wished to join must demonstrate dedication to that goal. He further expressed displeasure at some Parties that wished to “gut the text” with a minimalist approach to the Agreement. When asked why China and India were not members, Minister de Brum answered that while they welcomed new Parties to broaden their reach, they would not sacrifice this core belief that high ambition was required in the Paris Agreement. In a later press Conference, the Chinese deputy foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, dismissed the Coalition stating: “We heard of this so-called ambitious coalition only since a few days ago, of course it has had a high in profile in the media, but we haven’t seen they have really acted for ambitious emissions commitments, so this is kind of performance by some members” .

Further, they underscore that the Agreement must be durable and legally binding with rigorous review every five years. This may be the reason that India is so reluctant to join as it has stood by its position for review every ten years. The member Parties agree that they cannot go home without the ambition that they are fighting for; they are determined for its inclusion in the Paris Agreement. During a Press Conference on Monday, December 9th, Secretary Kerry announced the United States’ participation in the Coalition stating : “Addressing climate change will require a fundamental change in the way that we decide to power our planet. And our aim can be nothing less than a steady transformation of a global economy.”  Minister de Brum called for decarbonization as well, this is not just about a temperature target. Clearly, to reach this goal, the framework for transparency will be critical ; “so everybody knows what we are all doing”. Finance, one of the hot button topics, is also critical to the success of a high ambition goal; the 100 billion pledged will need to be actually delivered. Other mechanisms for securing future finance flows, technology transfer and capacity-building must be included in the text for developing Parties for full implementation of their mitigation and adaptation plans. The German Environmental Minister, Barbara Hendricks, further noted that what was needed was a “fair and modern system of differentiation”, one in which every Party contributes to emissions reductions “as much as they can.” After all, she concluded, the Paris Agreement “is more than just a piece of paper.”

 


The Sustainable Development Mechanism AKA The New Carbon Market Mechanism

 

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Photo Source: IBNLive

The Sustainable Development Mechanism is a new mitigation mechanism established in Art. 3 ter of the draft Paris Agreement. The purpose of this mechanism is to “promote the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions [in developing country Parties] while fostering sustainable development….” In order to achieve its goals, the mechanism provides incentives for successfully mitigating GHG emissions. Under this mechanism, Parties that contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions in a host country Party can benefit from their mitigation activities by using the resulting emission reductions to fulfill their own mitigation ambition requirements.

Overall, the structure of the Sustainable Development Mechanism closely resembles the Clean Development Mechanism, which is the carbon market mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon markets and offsets were created under Art. 6 of the Kyoto Protocol, which states that “…any Party included in Annex I may transfer to, or acquire from, any other such Party emission reduction units resulting from projects aimed at reducing anthropogenic emissions by sources or enhancing anthropogenic removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in any sector of the economy….” Additionally, the Clean Development Mechanism was established under Art. 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, which provides a process for handling all of the carbon credits created under Art. 6.

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Photo Source: YaleNews

Ultimately, the major difference between the new Sustainable Development Mechanism from the Clean Development Mechanism is that carbon markets will no longer be limited to developed country Parties. Instead, all Parties will be able to participate in this mechanism. Expanding the scope of a carbon market mechanism to allow all types of Parties to participate in transferring mitigation GHG reductions is unprecedented. We don’t know how all Parties will use this mechanism or how successfully it will address sustainable development issues. Therefore, a  s a successful Paris Outcome appears to be on the horizon, this new carbon market mechanism is one more aspect of the Agreement that will be worth watching develop.

 

 


The weaving of the Paris Outcome

dovecot-studios-weavingThe unfolding Paris Outcome is a web of complexities, in both the package and the process. In the package itself, there are cross cutting issues; there are a myriad of details; and there are interlocking linkages among Articles and Decision sections that make multiple circles back to each other. It can be a dizzying endeavor to really grasp it all. And there are plenty of threads under a lot of tension.

The process, too, is multi-layered and multi-faceted. We’ve done the in-depth reporting here and here on its various parts, and how it all spins together, and shared a description of this week’s ministerial level action.

After last night’s Party and negotiating group comments on the December 9 draft text, the ministerial-led informal consultations were shifted into open-ended indaba-type consultations (a South-African consensus building approach), on the three key political issues: Differentiation, Support and Ambition. Alongside those consultations were open-ended informal ones on Loss and Damage, Cooperative approaches and mechanisms, Forests, and the Preamble. At this point, we are waiting for a December 10 draft that compiles the work of those early morning negotiations.

For those nervous about getting lost in the web of it all, a short, simple construction of where we are now comes to us today compliments of seasoned South African delegate, Alf Wills:

Reaching a Paris Outcome requires that 3 interrelated levels be addressed:

1) Those High level political issues = Differentiation (how to fairly account for differing levels of development, capacity, and financial resources between Parties for determining responsibilities), Support (how much, from whom, to whom, for what purpose), and Ambition (how much in emissions reduction, toward what goal, and when)

2) Medium level issues = including cycles (for reporting/reviewing/increasing ambition and support), non-market mechanisms, and adaptation

3) Technical issues related to the rules.

According to Mr. Wills, the ministers must solve the top level issues before they can unlock the medium level issues, which will then inform the technical issues. Other negotiators seemed to agree.

Certainly, Mr. Wills construction is a bit simplistic. Among other things, it doesn’t locate loss and damage. Still, it offers a short-hand way to think about the unfolding process, so it doesn’t unravel in your brain.


Will it Be a REDD+ Letter Day for Our Forests?

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Yesterday, the Parties received a “clean” version of the draft Paris Agreement, and at 8PM the Parties convened to share their first impressions on this draft Agreement. One hot topic repeatedly discussed was the status of our forests. Many Parties are advocating that the Paris Agreement establish a mechanism that incentivizes the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and promotes the conservation and sustainable management of forests and enhances forest carbon stocks in developing countries, while also enhancing the non-carbon benefits (REDD+). Currently, a formal REDD+ mechanism is missing from the draft text, and many Parties are not happy.

In the ADP 2-12 Draft Paris Agreement, Article 3 bis established a formal mechanism on REDD+, but this mechanism was removed from the most recent draft Agreement. Instead, Article 3 bis in the most recent Draft Agreement simply encourages the Parties to conserve and enhance forests, and encourages them to incentive REDD+ actions without ever directly referencing the REDD+ acronym. The language of encouragement has received a variety of reactions from the Parties and from interested NGOs.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Forest Trends, National Wildlife Federation, and The Nature Conservancy all issued a joint statement on Article 3 bis in the latest draft, saying:

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Photo Source: Shields Energy Services

“This new text includes a specific provision that   would send a strong political signal to support better protections for forests in developing countries and encourage developed nations to provide the financial incentives to do so.”

Additionally, the joint statement declared:

“The new draft of the Paris Agreement makes it clear that countries can increase their ambition to address climate change by using the approach of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), as an enduring tool for reducing emissions and incentivizing countries to scale up their efforts to protect forests.”

While these NGOs support the language used in the most recent Article 3 bis, many developing country Parties raised objections over the language during the Comité de Paris meeting last night.

Panama, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, explained that the Paris Agreement needs to demonstrate a collective, serious implementation of REDD+ through reinsertion of a REDD+ mechanism in Article 3 bis. Furthermore, Panama argued that no valid reason has been provided by other Parties explaining why a formal REDD+ mechanism cannot be launched in the agreement here in Paris. As a result, Panama submitted an edited version of the draft Agreement reinserting the formal REDD+ mechanism into the text to the COP Presidency. Panama closed its comments saying there must be a formal REDD+ mechanism in the Paris Agreement if the agreement is
going to truly be ambitious.

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Photo Source: Coalition for Rainforest Nations

Many developing countries supported Panama’s position on REDD+. These countries include: the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Tanzania, and many others commonly associated with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. As Parties continue to meet and develop the draft Paris Agreement today and tomorrow it will be important to watch Article 3 bis to note if the language promoting REDD+ remains voluntary expressed through the term “encouragement” or becomes a formalized mechanism under the UNFCCC expressed in the terms “establishing a REDD+ mechanism.” In the end, this debate over language will determine the level of commitment the Parties agree to concerning the protection of forests under the UNFCCC.

 

 

 


Subnational leaders leading the way

logo_tagline1Under 2 MoU”  – no it’s not Prince’s latest song, it is the initiative of subnational leaders (Mayors and Governors)  committing to limit emissions below 2 metric tons per capita by 2050 which is the amount of reductions needed to limit global warming to less than 2°C. This initiative, supercharged by the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown of California, has grown to include 65 jurisdictions from 20 countries spanning 5 continents. The commitments collectively represent “more than $17.9 trillion in GDP and 588 million people. If the signatories represented a single country, it would be the largest economy in the world by GDP, surpassing the United States.” These subnational efforts can have a real and positive effect to galvanize action at COP 21. They hope to influence other leaders and national governments to follow their lead. Governor Inslee of Washington State proudly declared at the Conference: “Let me say that we rebel against the term ‘subnationals’, we think we are supernationals… we are leading the charge with super work here.”

And that work will need to continue after Paris. These subnational leaders are the ones implementing the many of the efforts to be undertaken in the Agreement. Subnational reductions represent 50% of the potential emission mitigation. These leaders are the ones in charge of directing transformative change in our daily lives in the sectors of transportation, air quality, land use, and building codes.

It was no coincidence that the panelists at the COP 21 press briefing were from the North American Pacific Coast. As Governor Inslee noted: “The West coast lives on innovation – it’s our stock and trade”. He, along with Governor Brown, Mayor Schaaf of Oakland, CA, Mayor Robertson of Vancouver and Mayor Pollak of Montreal, emphasized that Developed Country Parties must act on climate change now or it will cost trillions to fix it in the future. The world needs to stretch to reach the climate goal and local governments can push and provide example for 100% renewables and innovative ways to decrease emissions as a whole. A creative economy will find these solutions.

Green Jobs Now

While some jobs in the “old” economy will be lost, there are new opportunities in the green economy to benefit global health. A green economy creates jobs. The proof lies in the example from British Columbia which put a tax on carbon in 2008. Carbon-intensive industries were able to take a staged approach and given relief as they proceeded to become green. The benefits have been seen over multiple years with emissions reductions and an increase in the economy despite the global financial crisis. The tax is revenue-neutral; it is returned in the form of tax reduction. Therefore, this is an economic stimulus! The transition to clean energy has stimulated the economy of Oakland where the Rising Sun Energy Center is training people coming out of prison and high school graduates to do energy audits and provide skills in installing solar panels and other construction work associated with green energy.

However, it is not only the developed global north who are implementing these initiatives. The second group of panelists was composed of leaders from forest-rich developing countries. The panel included; Governor Ayada of Cross River State, Nigeria; Governor Gambini of Ucayali, Peru; Governor Sandoval-Diaz of Jalisco, Mexico; and Governor Melo de Oliveira of Amazonas, Brazil. These countries must find finds ways to promote green jobs to supply their poor citizens with sustainable development and be provided with sufficient support to preserve their resources. They need to find the balance between providing a livelihood to their people and preserving the wealth of their forests. Creatively, Nigeria has seen growth in green economy. They have provided jobs for their youth as the “green police” who discourage the cutting trees and plant new ones to absorb CO2. Not only is this a means of conservation, it also combats desertification. Peru has been able to reclaim approximately 1 million hectares of degraded areas for re-forestation. Amazonas, home to millions of acres of the “lungs of the world”, is also home to both acai and camu-camu  fruits which are used commercially. Investment in Amazonas’ biodiversity makes it ripe for new sustainable development.lungs

Sustainability is key; developed countries must recognize that their forests represent the wealth of these developing areas. Engagement in a critical dialogue with regard to aid is necessary to ensure the health of the land and all the peoples of the world. As these panelists demonstrate, innovative efforts at the subnational level can lead the world to a transformative economy that keeps the environment safe.

 

 


Fracking: COP21 as “the scoreboard, not the game”

Panel for Side Event on Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground: the International Movement to Ban Fracking

Panel for Today’s Side Event on Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground: the International Movement to Ban Fracking

“If you’re looking for good way to heat up the earth fast, poke holes in the earth and let methane pour out.” This is how Bill McKibben of 350.org described hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at today’s side event on the international movement to ban fracking. Sandra Steingraber of EcoWatch pointed out how both methane and CO2 have to be considered in the fight against climate change. The side event’s moderator asked McKibben how to use what is going on at COP21 to put pressure on the United States and other countries to get a better outcome on fracking. McKibben said that COP21 is “the scoreboard, not the game. The main thing to do is come out of here ready to take on the next set of fights and next set of activism.”

In September, the Center for Biological Diversity released a report on fracking in the United States entitled “Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground.” The report addresses the president’s authority to stop new leasing of federally managed and publicly owned fossil fuels from extraction, start withdrawing lands and oceans from availability, and keep carbon reserves in the ground. Panelists focused on fracking in California, mentioning the Los Angeles Times article on California farmers using water recycled from oil fields to irrigate crops. The article highlights concerns about toxins in the recycled water contaminating crops. At the conclusion of the side event, panelists urged participants to reach out to elected officials regarding the impact of fracking on climate, water, air, food, and public health.


Update on progress toward a Paris Outcome

Entrance to Le Bourget UN climate Conference COP21; UNFCCC COP21 flickrThe second stocktaking of the Comité de Paris was held yesterday afternoon for facilitators to report on consultations and bilateral meetings they had held with Parties during the day. The purpose of these meetings was to identify areas of convergence on key elements for the Paris Outcome.

Highlights: Terms heard repeatedly throughout the stocktaking were “progress,” “flexibility,” and “constructive engagement.” The following list provides a few report highlights, and illustrates the breadth of issues that will be part of the Paris Outcome:

  • Support: finance, technology, and capacity building – Parties made headway on capacity building and convergence on all of Article 7. Technology development and transfer, and its related decisions.
  • Differentiation- Divergence remains (this is a key political issue that pervades the entire text.)
  • Ambition, including long-term goals and periodic review – Discussions are continuing on the possible 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, and 2 possible framings have been articulated for the global mitigation goal.
  • Acceleration of pre-2020 action – No convergence is yet being achieved.
  • Adaptation and loss & damage – Compromise is emerging on a global goal, links between adaptation and mitigation, and adaptation efforts/actions. Loss and damage remains a sticking point, with some Parties insisting on clear protection against liability and compensation.
  • Facilitating implementation and compliance – Ideas are forthcoming on essential elements, though whether and how differentiation will be referenced remains a key topic.
  • Cooperative approaches and mechanisms – Mixed results, with uncertainty on whether provisions of, for instance, integrity and avoiding double counting will be included.

The informal consultation groups on the Preamble, Forests, and Response Measures were just launched yesterday, so had no report outs.

Next Steps: Evening consultations were held, with a midnight deadline for co-facilitators to submit recommendations to the COP Presidency based on Party input. A “clean” version of the text will be released today at 1pm. A reconvening of the Comité de Paris at 5pm today to receive Parties’ first reactions to the “clean text.”

More to come!


Civil Society keeps the heat on for climate ambition

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

Reuters-BerlinClimateMarchNov27

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thankfully, civil society is keeping the pressure on.


Celebrating Gender Day at COP21

Today is Gender Day at COP21. In celebration, the Women and Gender Constituency of the UNFCCC recognized the winners of the Gender Just Climate Solutions competition. These winners were celebrated for their great work combating climate change in a “gender-just” manner.

Photo Source: Island Eco

Photo Source: Island Eco

Island Eco from the Marshall Islands won the Technical Climate Solution Award for its work in training young women how to install solar photovoltaic DC refrigeration. Under this project, young rural women learn the electrical and mechanical skills needed to assemble, deliver, and install solar powered lights, refrigerators, and freezers in the Marshall Islands.

Next, the Non-Technical Climate Solution Award was presented to Gender CC – Women for Climate Justice for its efforts to raise awareness on gender integration in climate change adaptation and resiliency building activities in Southern Africa. Gender CC’s project connects women leaders, government officials, and NGOs to local women farmers in order to provide awareness training and capacity building skills concerning the installation of biogas digesters, PVC solar units, and water harvesting tanks.

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Photo Source: GenderCC

The final award was presented to Tulele Peisa of Papua New Guinea for its local relocation efforts, that are being led by the Carteret Islanders who face imminent extinction due to climate change impacts and increased numbers of extreme weather events on their home island. This project prepares and provides support to three communities on Bougainville in order to ensure there is adequate land, infrastructure, and economic opportunities for the Carteret Islanders when they choose to voluntarily relocate. The purpose of this project is to ensure that the Carteret culture and society continues to exist even after their home island becomes unlivable.

Ursula 2

Ursula Rakova was called upon by the Carteret Elders to lead Tulle Peisa. She accepted the award on behalf of Tulle Peisa. Photo Source: THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Thin Lei Win

Overall, the Gender Just Climate Solution awards highlighted amazing groups led by inspiring women who are all working to ensure that climate change decision making provides equal access for both women and men to effectively participate and address local concerns caused by the effects of a changing climate.