What story will COP21 tell?

UNClimateChangeNewsroomHdrEverywhere you turn at COP21 there are exciting stories – stories of unprecedented financing partnerships to ramp up renewable energy technologies; stories of global knowledge exchanges on successful strategies for adapting to climate impacts; stories of cities leading breakthrough initiatives in energy efficiency; and more.

Behind the scenes, though, in rooms open only to official country delegates, there are negotiations (now at the ministerial level) on a draft text of the Paris Outcome that still has many issues, even at this late date. The results will impact every single person on the planet, and it could be a very sad story. In fact, according to Stuart Scott, host of Climate Matters, a video series covering COP21, “[i]f you’re paying attention to what’s going on here, you can’t talk about the negotiations as an honest effort.”

Scott’s guests today offered a piece of that sad story already unfolding- the one of vulnerable individuals, communities and nations suffering heartbreaking impacts of climate change right now all around the world. His focus was the Pacific Islands.

Kiribati King TideTo the backdrop of powerful images, Tinaai Teaua of Kiribati and Maina Talia of Tuvalu both spoke of the physical and emotional losses they’ve experienced and witnessed in the face of king tides, cyclones and water shortages. Teaua described how the king tides wipe out homes, how coastal erosion is destroying the tree fruit crops on which her people depend, and how people are scared. They don’t want to leave home. “Without our land, we are nothing. Our land is our identity.” T Teaua of Kiribati

Talia’s home of Tuvalu is a group of 8 islands with no land at more than 2 meters above sea level. Climate change is forcing many to relocate; nearly 5,000 have already moved to New Zealand. He echoed Teaua’s words.

Another guest, Maria Tiimon Chi-Fang of the NGO Pacific Calling Partnership articulated the climate justice reality permeating the room: “It is not just about moving people to a safer place. It is very unjust for developed countries to keep doing what is so wrong, to keep jeopardizing the lives of our people.”

“The youth look into my eyes, saying ‘Why must we move?’ This is where we were born. Our ancestors are buried here.”

The message Kiribati’s Teaua has been taking to the delegates is clear: “You are not immune, no matter where you live. If you save me and my future, you save the world.”

Now that’s the story we need.Tuvalu_-_Funafuti_-_Beach


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.


LULUCF (Lu-Lu-C-F) Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry: what will COP 16 do about unaccounted emissions from logging?

During the first commitment period of the KP, countries are only required to voluntarily account for emissions from logging. This means that countries can determine their own baselines, including the use of a baselines based on future instead of historical data. There are several options on the table to decide how to account for forest management during the second commitment period.

(1)      Tuvalu proposed text to use the first commitment period as a mandatory historical baseline.

(2)      The Africa Group proposed a compromise text which combines historical baselines with projected baselines.

(3)      Developed countries propose a continuation of voluntary accounting.  Continue reading


Half Way

With the first week of the COP 15 coming to an end, a draft proposal is finally on the table, although it leaves many of the details still “to be determined.”  http://unfccc.int/files/kyoto_protocol/application/pdf/draftcoretext.pdf

During negotiations this morning, Tuvalu made another impassioned plea for the world to realize that its very survival depends on a binding and effective  agreement.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuG5vR3HJDU]

Negotiations this afternoon went back and forth as the parties are still divided about whether or not to abandon the Kyoto Protocol  in favor of a totally new agreement.   

Continue reading


Negotiations Breakdown?

COP 15 President Connie Hedegaard

COP15 President Connie Hedegaard about to start 3pm meeting after suspension of the plenary re-opening the session

The morning started out with a flurry of activity.  After some discussion about the logo and how certain parties felt it represented the end of Kyoto, the COP plenary commenced with the Tuvalu delegation proposing a contact group to review its protocol, which was proposed and tabled six months ago.  As proposed, the Tuvalu protocol is a legally binding agreement meant to complement Kyoto through amendments, as well as the creation of a new protocol entitled the Copenhagen Protocol.  In no uncertain terms, Tuvalu stated it was here to “seal the deal” and wanted nothing less than a legally binding document.

In response to the request for a contact group, many of the AOSIS countries expressed great enthusiasm noting they are the states most impacted by the effects of climate change.  As Cape Verde stated, “we will be the first to diasappear…in this climate crisis.”  Other countries strongly opposed the creation of a contact group, most notably, China, India, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.  The opposition was clear in expressing their feeling that the parties’ focus should not be on new texts.   The United States was unsurprisingly quiet.  Most alarmingly, however, countries within the G77 that had formerly been aligned were clearly divided.  Continue reading