Loss and damage at SB44 – Whither the WIM?

101803802-495496305.530x298While, as we posted last week, loss and damage (L&D) was not on the agendas of the Subsidiary Bodies or the APA at the UNFCCC intersessional meetings held in Bonn, May 16-26, some attention was paid to this important issue.

Four side events covered varying aspects of L&D policy and action, both inside and outside the UNFCCC. These included climate migration, climate litigation, non-economic losses (we posted on this last week), and existing disaster risk management tools. (Links to event presentations can be found at the SB44/APA1 side event site.)

In addition, the Presidencies of COP21 and COP22 held a meeting for observer delegations to provide input on Article 8.4Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 5.11.27 PM of the Paris Agreement and action areas of the 2-year workplan of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) Executive Committee (Excom). (As we reported earlier, the workplan is scheduled to be completed for review at COP22.) Among those presenting were: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Climate Action Network (CAN) International, the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative, a range of NGO constituency groups, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum.

Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, and one of the (Least Developed Countries) LDCs’ top advisors,Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 5.13.02 PM suggested that the purpose of this event was “to gauge the level of interest amongst parties and observers.” Given the throng of attendees and the passion with which many statements were delivered, it is clear that interest and engagement levels are high.

And, there is good reason – this is a highly political subject. According to presenters at the side events, developing countries are increasingly experiencing much worse L&D and sooner than expected from drought, heat waves, major storms, sea level rise, and salt-water intrusion. Climate-induced migration is gaining wider acknowledgement and attention. At the same time, L&D has essentially achieved recognition as a separate pillar of the climate regime through Article 8 of the Paris Agreement. Yet, the Paris decision included a clause preventing Article 8 from serving as “a basis for any liability or compensation;” on top of which, no specific reference to financing to address L&D is present in either the Agreement or the decision.

Concern is great, and the primary message is that the WIM should ramp up its engagement with the robust sphere of non-state actors and resources to both address current actual losses and damage and establish equitable, aggressive policies and strategies to avoid future L&D. Hotbeds of engagement exist for all of its current workplan action areas. (The 2-year workplan can be found here.) Dr. Huq considers migration and finance as “the two most critical,” and recommends fast-tracking those.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.50.21 PMThe urgency is mounting ahead of COP22. Among the questions we’ll be following, as the Excom holds its final 2016 meeting in September, is whether the 20-person body will seek an extension or try to meet the review deadline. Among its tasks is to “[d]evelop a five-year rolling workplan for consideration at COP22 building on the results of this two-year workplan…”

Will the Excom fail to deliver? Will a delay lose the political momentum of COP22? Neither those suffering now, nor those at current risk can afford that.


Loss and Damage in Bonn (sort of)

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 7.23.56 AMThe 44th meeting of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies (SBs) and the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), held in Bonn, Germany, May 16-26, were full of action. Our delegation report-back started earlier this week, here and here. Key work areas receiving consideration included, for example: preparation for the implementation of the Paris Agreement; adaptation planning and action (and the Adaptation Fund); capacity building in developing countries; gender and climate policy; and market and non-market mechanisms to incentivize mitigation action.

Yet, Loss and damage (L&D), what many consider the third pillar of the climate regime, 131206_loss_and_damagegot little attention in Bonn. A few observers noted they expected more than two posters and one side event on the work of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM), given the upcoming COP22 review of progress on the WIM Executive Committee (Excom) 2-year (2015-2016) workplan, and L&D now being the subject of a separate article in the Paris Agreement. Some also expressed confusion about a special event for observer delegation input on “issues related to the Warsaw International Mechanism in the lead up to and beyond COP22,” convened by the COP21 and COP22 Presidencies on May 24 (we’ll speak to this in an upcoming post).

The reason for the limited attention is that the WIM, created at COP19 to address L&D, functions under and reports to the COP independently, rather than being part of the work of the SBSTA and SBI. Additionally, though Article 8 of the Paris Agreement is devoted to the WIM, the Paris decision gave no additional instructions to the Excom for 2016 that might have tied it to the SB44. The Excom is heavily engaged in its 2-year workplan (2015-2016) through 3 meetings in 2016 (January, April, September). You can follow the work, including calls for submissions via the Excom meetings site.

The WIM L&D side event, Shining the light on non-economic losses: challenges, risks and lessons learned for addressing them, was well-crafted and well-attended. (The robust presentation can be accessed from the Side Event list, by scrolling down to the May 18 event and clicking on the “Presentations” link.) Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 7.20.03 AMNon-economic losses, the focus of Action Area 4 of the 2-year workplan, are losses for which a monetary value cannot be readily assigned, for which there is no market price. As defined by the UNFCCC technical paper, these are losses of “life, health, displacement and human mobility, territory, cultural heritage, indigenous/local knowledge, biodiversity and ecosystem services.” These can be, of course, the greatest and worst losses of all. The side event’s key objectives were to:

  • Raise awareness and understanding of the nature and extent of non-economic losses;
  • Put a spotlight on some of the challenges and risks that non-economic losses pose to developing countries;
  • Highlight some of the lessons learned associated with addressing non-economic losses, including how to integrate measures to reduce the risk of non-economic losses in comprehensive approaches to address loss and damage.

An upcoming post on L&D from Bonn will cover the special event for observer input on the WIM, and a couple of exciting unofficial side events addressing the limits to adaptation and progress on climate litigation. Also stay tuned for more info on the WIM Excom.


SCF, Meet Loss and Damage

financeThe Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) on Loss and damage (L&D) is going on a somewhat surprising date this year with the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF). The job of the SCF is to assist the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in conducting its climate finance functions. The job of the WIM is to enhance action and support to address loss and damage in developing countries particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts. (We’ve covered the WIM and L&D extensively, e.g., here, here and here.)

The reason this ‘date’ is interesting is that nowhere in any COP decisions is the SCF directly instructed to engage the issue of L&D or pursue a close relationship with the WIM. Climate finance language is strictly aimed at mitigation, adaptation, and building capacity and enabling environments for those. Yet, sometime in mid-2016, the SCF will hold its annual Forum Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 7.38.12 PMdesigned to advance communication and information exchange as well as linkages. And, this forum’s topic will be: “Financial instruments that address the risks of loss and damage.”

It is true that, at COP19, Parties asked the SCF to “further enhance its linkages with the Subsidiary Body for Implementation and the thematic bodies of the Convention.” It is also true that, at COP21, Parties decided to endorse the SCF’s 2016-2017 workplan, which included this year’s Forum. But the guardian may not realize what seriousness (mischief?) might come of this liaison between two of its wards.

The WIM’s Executive Committee actually made the first move at SCF’s 11th meeting in October 2015, requesting the ‘date’ based on an aspect of its 2-year workplan approved by COP20. And, while the WIM might not have looked like the SCF’s type, there apparently was enough chemistry for a quick “Yes.” Earlier this month, at the SCF’s 12th meeting, the 20 Committee members reviewed input from multiple stakeholders and got the plans rolling.Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 7.33.26 PM

What makes this kind of engagement between the SCF and the WIM important, is that, even though the Paris Agreement includes a distinct article on L&D (quite a significant outcome), it contains no provision for financing efforts to address this critical climate change issue. Thus, the SCF giving its attention to L&D could be extremely influential.

One clear way this can happen beyond the exposure and focus of the forum, is through the 2016 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows (BA), on which the SCF began work during its 12th meeting. The BA is a comprehensive compilation used to support the COP’s climate finance responsibilities. Not surprisingly, L&D received no attention in the 2014 edition. ba_titleIt most certainly will in the 2016 BA, with the Forum’s attention to this substantive issue.

Where Parties take it from there will tell a lot about the prospects for these two. Will the SCF and WIM really bond? Will they decide to go steady? Might there be a real future for L&D under the climate finance wing of the climate regime? Some are undoubtedly dreaming of wedded bliss!Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.13.32 PM


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.


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!


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.


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

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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>

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4) Bing images


Will it be the Warsaw Miracle? ADP and long-term finance adopted at COP 19, just loss and damage to go.

Early this afternoon, the ADP adopted draft text after a lengthy “huddle” to decide on 2(b) and 2 (c). Cuba and Bolivia made reservations as they thought the new text did not go far enough under Article 4 of the UNFCCC. In the COP19/CMP9 session, the COP President Marcin Korolec adopted the new ADP text. He almost even smiled! Then, the President moved onto a few other agenda items (check UNFCCC website for new documents). One of them was the third contentious issue over the past few days: long-term finance (#WTF). Amazingly, the President called for the adoption of the long-term finance text. It actually happened.

COP19/CMP9 Plenary begins to discuss Loss & Damage

COP19/CMP9 Plenary begins to discuss Loss & Damage

Then, the President moved onto Agenda item 3(b), Loss and Damage (L&D, not LDM). I make this distinction, because the wording of the L15 draft text houses the “Warsaw international mechanism” on L&D “under” the adaptation pillar of the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAF) (see para 1). Thus, the current text does not establish L&D as its own separate mechanism (LDM), like the Clean Development Mechanism.

Mr. Yeb Saño makes remarks on loss and damage.

Mr. Yeb Saño makes remarks on loss and damage.

Fiji, on behalf of G77+China, strongly objected to the use of the word “under,” which was supported by the United States. It was a matter of semantics that created the furor in the Plenary room. Then, the Philippines’s Mr. Yep Saño made opening remarks, supporting Fiji’s position. He pleaded that negotiators needed to “think outside of the box” to find solutions and that “loss and damage is beyond adaptation.” He urged that developing countries need help to deal with a problem caused by developing countries’ historical carbon emissions. Adaptation is not enough, Mr. Saño pleaded, and that loss and damage needed to be its own mechanism.

The negotiation blocks of AOSIS, G77+China and others asked the COP President for a huddle. The President permitted a 15 minute huddle. A huge group of High-Level negotiators, including USA’s Mr. Todd Stern, immediately began discussing the word “under.” The huddle centered around Mr. Stern as he talked about the USA’s position on L&D.

IMG_0869IMG_0864IMG_0871IMG_0861

 

Over 30 minutes later, the huddle finally concluded. The COP President announced that the Parties had reached a consensus, but did not elaborate for another 10 minutes. The Plenary patiently waited to hear what the “consensus” embodied. When the COP/CMP session resumed, Mr. Korolec announced that the consensus centered on the word “under,” meaning the L&D would remain under the Cancun Adaptation Framework. However, he explained that this current L&D arrangement would be reviewed at COP22 in 2016, per paragraph 15. Additionally, the Parties presented three amendments to the text in the preambular text, paragraph 1 and paragraph 15. Before the adoption of the text, Mr. Yeb Saño made a reservation on the record that the 2016 review should reconsider the institutional location of the Warsaw international mechanism on loss and damage (aka as a separate international mechanism under the UNFCCC).

Will update more later – my computer’s battery is out of power!


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…


Strengthening the Environmental Governance, Climate Change, and Human Rights Dialogue in the UNFCCC Process

Part of the excitement of attending a COP is attending cutting-edge side events and workshops. This past Saturday, I spent my first day at the UNFCCC COP 19 attending the workshop “Rights, Governance and Climate Change,” jointly organized Yale University’s Governance and Environmental Markets Initiative (GEM) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in collaboration with the University of Warsaw’s Faculty of Law and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) This workshop brought together policy makers, scholars, practitioners and stakeholder from diverse fields and countries.  The main focus of the workshop was to examine substantive and procedural rights in environmental governance, particularly for the climate change regime, and how they can enhance and support equitable solutions in environmental governance. In particular, the workshop aimed to provide outcomes to further innovative research in the climate change, rights, and governance fields.

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Background to the Climate Change and Human Rights Nexus

Over the past few years, the international and human rights community has recognized the linkage between human rights and climate change (UN document). In 2007, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) called on the international community to recognize the connections between climate change and human rights implications in the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, known as the Malé Declaration. The international community responded. The UNFCCC COP16/CMP 6 in Cancun, Mexico and the United Nations Human Rights Council affirmed the linkages between key human rights, such as the right to adequate housing, and adverse climate change impacts on these substantive rights. Furthermore, the international environmental field has recognized procedural rights— the right to participation, access to justice and access to information— in the UNFCCC (Doha Work Programme Art. 6) and the 1992 Rio Declaration and the Rio +20 document. The international community wants to further strengthen these substantive and procedural rights in the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development and in the UNFCCC regime.

Rights-Based Language in the UNFCCC

Climate change mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage programs have and will impact human rights in numerous ways, in programs like the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), REDD + , loss and damage and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). imgresThe workshop examined topics on linkages between human Rights and climate Change; the potential of human rights and legal mobilization for addressing climate change; human rights, safeguards, and climate change; procedural rights initiatives at the global and regional level: creating linkages; and opportunities for further linkages and moving the climate change and rights-based regime forward, particularly for the post-2015 regime.

Utilizing Litigation to further the Climate Change Agenda

One of the most intriguing discussions of the day centered on using rights-based, legal methods to bring about action on climate change. This talk, given by Dr. Lisa Vanhala, analyzed legal mobilization and the use of substantive or procedural rights in climate change mitigation. She conducted a survey of climate change litigation across the common law developed countries of Australia, UK, Canada, US as well as international litigation. While international cases have mostly been symbolic rather than holding any entity or country liable for climate change harms, Dr. Vanhala found that domestic litigations were most successful when they have a combination of two instances: the suit was based on a constitutional provision or a statute, that the civil society organization bringing the suit had adequate resources, and the legal opportunity structure enabled the suit to progress through standing, third-party intervenor, legal aid, or timeliness, to name a few examples.

Understanding the elements of a successful or unsuccessful climate change litigation is very useful for pushing the climate change agenda, especially in countries like the US where the political climate remains hostile to most federal-level climate change measures. In the U.S., the most noted case, Massachusetts v. EPA, still presents the key to climate change litigation. This lawsuit surpassed the procedural barriers of standing and justiciability. Importantly, the case established that the EPA does not have the discretion to not ignore “endangerment finding,” that carbon dioxide is a harmful pollutant, as defined in the Clean Air Act, because it endangers public health or welfareus-climate-change-300x225While this case had no human rights implications, Mass v. EPA demonstrated how climate change ligation can succeed in the U.S. Potentially, the case highlights the avenues to further legal action to spur the US to change practices, perhaps using a rights-based based on the right to health or the right to life? That would be a good topic for a thesis! However, it should be noted, that litigation is only one tool in the toolshed to combat climate change. In the meantime, climate change lawsuits remain the exception, not the norm. One of the main questions, however, is whether a country can mobilize human rights and climate change without resorting to litigation? That question remains unresolved for now, perhaps until some sort of international treaty arises or rights-based language gains more traction in the UNFCCC texts.


Full video and transcript of Naderev “Yeb” Saño’s plea to UNFCCC #COP19: “It’s time to stop this madness.”

“Loss and damage is a reality across the world.” Mr. Saño

http://vimeo.com/79117298

Link to full transcript of his speech: “It’s time to stop this madness” – Philippines plea at UN climate talks – See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2013/11/11/its-time-to-stop-this-madness-philippines-plea-at-un-climate-talks/#sthash.Vf9RKwgG.dpuf:

Mr. President, I have the honor to speak on behalf of the resilient people of the Republic of the Philippines.

At the onset, allow me to fully associate my delegation with the statement made by the distinguished Ambassador of the Republic of Fiji, on behalf of G77 and China as well as the statement made by Nicaragua on behalf of the Like-Minded Developing Countries.

First and foremost, the people of the Philippines, and our delegation here for the United Nations Climate Change Convention’s 19th Conference of the Parties here in Warsaw, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your expression of sympathy to my country in the face of this national difficulty.

In the midst of this tragedy, the delegation of the Philippines is comforted by the warm hospitality of Poland, with your people offering us warm smiles everywhere we go. Hotel staff and people on the streets, volunteers and personnel within the National Stadium have warmly offered us kind words of sympathy. So, thank you Poland.

The arrangements you have made for this COP is also most excellent and we highly appreciate the tremendous effort you have put into the preparations for this important gathering.

We also thank all of you, friends and colleagues in this hall and from all corners of the world as you stand beside us in this difficult time. I thank all countries and governments who have extended your solidarity and for offering assistance to the Philippines. I thank the youth present here and the billions of young people around the world who stand steadfast behind my delegation and who are watching us shape their future. I thank civil society, both who are working on the ground as we race against time in the hardest hit areas, and those who are here in Warsaw prodding us to have a sense of urgency and ambition. We are deeply moved by this manifestation of human solidarity. This outpouring of support proves to us that as a human race, we can unite; that as a species, we care.

It was barely 11 months ago in Doha when my delegation appealed to the world… to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face… as then we confronted a catastrophic storm that resulted in the costliest disaster in Philippine history. Less than a year hence, we cannot imagine that a disaster much bigger would come. With an apparent cruel twist of fate, my country is being tested by this hellstorm called Super Typhoon Haiyan, which has been described by experts as the strongest typhoon that has ever made landfall in the course of recorded human history. It was so strong that if there was a Category 6, it would have fallen squarely in that box. Up to this hour, we remain uncertain as to the full extent of the devastation, as information trickles in in an agonizingly slow manner because electricity lines and communication lines have been cut off and may take a while before these are restored. The initial assessment show that Haiyan left a wake of massive devastation that is unprecedented, unthinkable and horrific, affecting 2/3 of the Philippines, with about half a million people now rendered homeless, and with scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of a tsunami, with a vast wasteland of mud and debris and dead bodies. According to satellite estimates, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also estimated that Haiyan achieved a minimum pressure between around 860 mbar (hPa; 25.34 inHg) and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated Haiyan to have attained one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h (195 mph) and gusts up to 378 km/h (235 mph) making it the strongest typhoon in modern recorded history. Despite the massive efforts that my country had exerted in preparing for the onslaught of this monster of a storm, it was just a force too powerful and even as a nation familiar with storms, Super Typhoon Haiyan was nothing we have ever experienced before, or perhaps nothing that any country has every experienced before.

The picture in the aftermath is ever so slowly coming into clearer focus. The devastation is colossal. And as if this is not enough, another storm is brewing again in the warm waters of the western Pacific. I shudder at the thought of another typhoon hitting the same places where people have not yet even managed to begin standing up.

To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.

The science has given us a picture that has become much more in focus. The IPCC report on climate change and extreme events underscored the risks associated with changes in the patterns as well as frequency of extreme weather events. Science tells us that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.

This will have profound implications on many of our communities, especially who struggle against the twin challenges of the development crisis and the climate change crisis. Typhoons such as Yolanda (Haiyan) and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action. Warsaw must deliver on enhancing ambition and should muster the political will to address climate change.

In Doha, we asked “If not us then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” (borrowed from Philippine student leader Ditto Sarmiento during Martial Law). It may have fell on deaf ears. But here in Warsaw, we may very well ask these same forthright questions. “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here in Warsaw, where?”

What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness.

We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw.

It is the 19th COP, but we might as well stop counting, because my country refuses to accept that a COP30 or a COP40 will be needed to solve climate change. And because it seems that despite the significant gains we have had since the UNFCCC was born, 20 years hence we continue to fail in fulfilling the ultimate objective of the Convention.  Now, we find ourselves in a situation where we have to ask ourselves – can we ever attain the objective set out in Article 2 – which is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system? By failing to meet the objective the Convention, we may have ratified the doom of vulnerable countries.

And if we have failed to meet the objective of the Convention, we have to confront the issue of loss and damage. Loss and damage from climate change is a reality today across the world. Developed country emissions reductions targets are dangerously low and must be raised immediately, but even if they were in line with the demand of reducing 40-50% below 1990 levels, we would still have locked-in climate change and would still need to address the issue of loss and damage.

We find ourselves at a critical juncture and the situation is such that even the most ambitious emissions reductions by developed countries, who should have been taking the lead in combatting climate change in the past 2 decades, will not be enough to avert the crisis. It is now too late, too late to talk about the world being able to rely on Annex I countries to solve the climate crisis. We have entered a new era that demands global solidarity in order to fight climate change and ensure that pursuit of sustainable human development remains at the fore of the global community’s efforts. This is why means of implementation for developing countries is ever more crucial.

It was the Secretary general of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro, 1992, Maurice Strong who said that “History reminds us that what is not possible today, may be inevitable tomorrow.”

We cannot sit and stay helpless staring at this international climate stalemate. It is now time to take action. We need an emergency climate pathway.

I speak for my delegation. But more than that, I speak for the countless people who will no longer be able to speak for themselves after perishing from the storm. I also speak for those who have been orphaned by this tragedy. I also speak for the people now racing against time to save survivors and alleviate the suffering of the people affected by the disaster.

We can take drastic action now to ensure that we prevent a future where super typhoons are a way of life. Because we refuse, as a nation, to accept a future where super typhoons like Haiyan become a fact of life. We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, having to count our dead, become a way of life. We simply refuse to.

We must stop calling events like these as natural disasters. It is not natural when people continue to struggle to eradicate poverty and pursue development and gets battered by the onslaught of a monster storm now considered as the strongest storm ever to hit land. It is not natural when science already tells us that global warming will induce more intense storms. It is not natural when the human species has already profoundly changed the climate.

Disasters are never natural. They are the intersection of factors other than physical. They are the accumulation of the constant breach of economic, social, and environmental thresholds. Most of the time disasters is a result of inequity and the poorest people of the world are at greatest risk because of their vulnerability and decades of maldevelopment, which I must assert is connected to the kind of pursuit of economic growth that dominates the world; the same kind of pursuit of so-called economic growth and unsustainable consumption that has altered the climate system.

Now, if you will allow me, to speak on a more personal note.

Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in my family’s hometown and the devastation is staggering. I struggle to find words even for the images that we see from the news coverage. I struggle to find words to describe how I feel about the losses and damages we have suffered from this cataclysm.

Up to this hour, I agonize while waiting for word as to the fate of my very own relatives. What gives me renewed strength and great relief was when my brother succeeded in communicating with us that he has survived the onslaught. In the last two days, he has been gathering bodies of the dead with his own two hands. He is hungry and weary as food supplies find it difficult to arrive in the hardest hit areas.

We call on this COP to pursue work until the most meaningful outcome is in sight. Until concrete pledges have been made to ensure mobilization of resources for the Green Climate Fund. Until the promise of the establishment of a loss and damage mechanism has been fulfilled; until there is assurance on finance for adaptation; until concrete pathways for reaching the committed 100 billion dollars have been made; until we see real ambition on stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. We must put the money where our mouths are.

This process under the UNFCCC has been called many names. It has been called a farce. It has been called an annual carbon-intensive gathering of useless frequent flyers. It has been called many names. But it has also been called the Project to save the planet. It has been called “saving tomorrow today”. We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now. Right here, in the middle of this football field.

I call on you to lead us. And let Poland be forever known as the place we truly cared to stop this madness. Can humanity rise to the occasion? I still believe we can.

Update

During his speech, Sano added an unscripted pledge to fast during the conference, until meaningful progress had been made. He said:

“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”

– See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2013/11/11/its-time-to-stop-this-madness-philippines-plea-at-un-climate-talks/#sthash.Vf9RKwgG.dpuf


COP’ing it Part Deux: Tracking #COP19 & Loss and Damage

Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 18th session in Doha, Qatar, as a student representative of Vermont Law School. It was my first COP and I learned so much “on the job” that cannot be taught in the classroom. I tracked mostly adaptation issues, including the National Adaptation Plans, CDM Appeals Process and “loss and damage.”

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No longer a COP rookie, this year, I am excited to be returning to COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland as a civil society observer. I’ve never been to Poland before, so I am looking forward to meeting new people, enjoying Polish culture, and eating delicious Polish food. On the word side of things, I will continue tracking these same issues. My main focus this year will be tracking “loss and damage,” this work program will deal with many problems associated with climate change, including human rights, climate justice, migration and displacement, and economic harm.

Despite UNFCCC efforts to mitigate carbon emissions, the earth’s temperatures are likely to overtake the internationally-recognized danger threshold of 2 degrees Celsius average increase in temperature, according to the IPCC AR5 Report.  Climate change has already begun to disrupt and destroy livelihoods, particularly in developing countries. The climate disruption socio-economic effects include adverse impacts to health, economic growth, water supplies, agriculture and food security, national security, and climate-forced displacement and migration. In other words, climate change will have “widespread and consequential” impacts. Even the USA is taking notice, as President Obama recently issued an Executive Order to step up US Government’s involvement in climate preparedness and resilience, including food security in America.

A memorable event from COP 18 in Doha was the impassioned plea by lead Philippines negotiator and Commisioner of Philippines Climate Change Commission, Nadarev “Yep” Saño, for Parties, particularly developed countries, to take action on climate change because it is already happening as evidenced by Typhoon Bopha and Hurricane Sandy. Mr. Saño said, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

This year the Philippines has also experienced hearbreak, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded to hit land, just steamrolled through the heart of the Philippines, leaving loss, damage, death and destruction in its wake. Thus, what will happen as States and communities fail to adapt and mitigate to climate change?

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Image by REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The international community is not so sure on how to proceed, but they are making steady progress. As the negotiations for COP 18 concluded, the final outcome document, called the Doha Climate Gateway, established the new workstream on loss and damage, with the possibility of developing a new legal mechanism. However, what exactly does “loss and damage” mean? The international community has not decided. Practitioners, such as Dr. Koko Warner from the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, advocate that “loss and damage” programs will have to operate in conjunction with adaption.

In past UNFCCC COPs and meetings, State Parties and observers, international organizations and civil society groups realized that the lack of ambition of parties to mitigate climate change would only increase climate disruption and adverse impacts to climate change. Thus, the need to address adaptation arose, as decided in the Bali Action Plan. However, mitigation and adaptation only tell a part of the climate change story. At some point, States and communities will not be able to adapt to climate change.

In Harm’s Way (IPCC SREX)

So far, the Parties to COP18 decided to consider “approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, as part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework (decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 25-29). The Parties to the UNFCCC agreed that the Convention will have “the important and fundamental role to enable coherent and synergistic approaches.” These “adverse impacts,” defined in the Cancun Agreements decision 1/CP.16, are slow onset events that include sea level rise, increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, glacial retreat and related impacts, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification.

Discussions on loss and damage will be focused around three thematic areas: TA1: “Assessing the risk of loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change and current knowledge on the same;” TA 2 “A range of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset events, taking into consideration experiences at all levels;” and TA3 “The role of the Convention in enhancing implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.” Within these thematic areas, negotiators will have to determine a variety of other means on how to deal with adverse impacts to climate change, including risk and disaster management from slow onset and extreme weather events. Additionally, any legal mechanism will have to decide on what are the concepts of “loss,” “damage,” as well as “economic” and “non-economic” losses. Non-ecoomic losses could include issues relating to the rights to culture, right to livelihood, right to identity, right to property, etc. Part of the mechanism will contain financial compensation, which would possibly include climate risk insurance.

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(RTCC via Flickr/Greenpeace Southeast Asia)

At COP19, the international community will have to work together to create a legal mechanism to address loss and damage caused by the adverse impacts caused by climate change. This platform will have to address climate adaptation planning, as well as disaster risk and management (DRR) and human rights in the climate change “loss and damage” context. Whether or not the COP19 outcome decision contains a legal mechanism on loss and damage, the international community will still have to help the most vulnerable communities deal with climate-induced disruption adversely affecting their lives. Importantly, any mechanism on “loss and damage” should include a rights-based approach in order to guarantee the fundamental legal protections.

Please follow me on Twitter at @HeatherCroshaw for real-time updates and comments at #COP19.