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.

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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.

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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.


Are State INDC Mitigation Pledges Strong Enough?

 

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Today at COP21, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) hosted a joint presentation on the 2015 UNEP Emissions Gap Report. This sixth Emissions Gap Report was published in November 2015. The report assesses country mitigation commitments based off their submitted INDCs. Then it compares the resulting emission levels for 2030 with what scientific studies require in order for the world to be on track to stay within the maximum global temperature increase goal of 2°C. Many of the report’s authors attended the presentation and the official presenters of the report included:

Mr. Steiner explained that based on current INDCs, GHG emissions would decrease 25% by 2030. While this reduction shows progress, it is still not sufficient to achieve the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 2°C by 2100. As the INDCs stand today, accounting for both conditional and unconditional mitigation pledges, the COP is 50% of the way to achieving a GHG reduction of 42 GtCO2e, the amount needed to stay within 2°C. The fact that current INDCs are halfway to their reduction goals indicates that significant further mitigation efforts are required. Mr. Steiner stressed that the Parties have not run out of time to reach their goal, but the longer they wait the less cost-effective and more difficult it becomes to successfully achieve these mitigation goals. Mitigation action over the next four years, or during the pre-2020 timeframe, is material to staying within the 2°C threshold. With each passing year, the risk of inequity grows exponentially between developed countries and countries most vulnerable to climate change; this inequity is unacceptable because many vulnerable State Parties are already paying a higher price as they suffer more and more extreme weather events caused by climate change.

The UNFCCC Director of Strategy, Mr. Thorgeirsson, furthered the discussion on INDCs with three interesting, and mostly optimistic, reflections. First, he explained that the 2°C and 1.5°C temperature goals, which are often called long-term goals, are not necessarily at odds with one another. According to Mr. Thorgeirsson, the 2°C limit would serve as “a guardrail or defense line,” meaning that at bare minimum Parties’ mitigation efforts would limit the global temperature increase to 2°C, but this guardrail would be supplemented with the aspirational goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C. Ultimately, Mr. Thorgersson believes the two temperature goals should converge to create a joint narrative.

In his second reflective thought, Mr. Thorgeirsson encouraged the audience to not be disheartened by the submitted INDCs because the mitigation commitments in these documents reflect current realities based on current technologies and political situations. Therefore as technologies and political situations evolve so will mitigation pledges.

Lastly, Mr. Thorgersoon declared that answering the question of whether the Parties are on the right track in their mitigation efforts is an impossible question to address. States across the globe are in the process of transitioning from a fossil-fuel economy to economies based on different assumptions. These new types of economies contain many unknown factors that make it difficult to definitively know the effect of the Party’s mitigation pledges.

Ms. Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist for UNEP, was the final presenter of the 2015 UNEP Emissions Gap Report. In her presentation, Ms. McGlade explained that the UNEP report has been released in various stages in order to capture and present more accurate carbon emissions data as more Parties submit their INDCs to the UNFCCC. This drafting difficulty is an on-going dilemma. Ms. McGlade explained that over 40 INDCs have been submitted since the latest stage of the UNEP report was released. She then assured the crowd that after COP21 concluded she and her team would resume updating their study to reflect the new mitigation pledges.

Ms. McGlade concluded the presentation with a final call to action, explaining that under the current INDC mitigation pledges there is a 66% chance of the global temperature increasing 3-4°C by 2100. A temperature increase of 3-4°C would result in catastrophic effects, but with focus and action the 1.5-2°C goals can still be reached. The COP21 process has revealed an unprecedented level of engagement in addressing climate change as an international issue. This engagement is a promising indicator that the Parties’ are committed to successfully fulfilling their long-term mitigation goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5-2°C.


The Secret Weapon Against Climate Change? Family Planning

2_evidencebased_programming_2Family Planning may be the most cost-effective weapon against climate change. At least according to a new report from the University of California, San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. According to the report, family planning could provide between 16 and 29 percent of the needed greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Additionally, last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognized for the first time the benefits of family planning for impacting climate change. The IPCC report recognized the importance of family planning in areas with a high vulnerability to climate change, including the Sahel region of Africa, as well as in rich countries like the United States. Increasing access to family planning not only helps reduce human suffering, especially in extremely vulnerable areas, but also decreases overall consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

PopulationToday the world population is over 7 billion, a number that is relatively recent in the history of human civilization. Between 1900 and 2000 the world population increased from 1.5 to 6.1 billion. That is, in just 100 years the population increased three times more than it had during the entire history of human kind. The effects of this astounding increase in human beings on the environment is staggering. Increasing populations threaten the survival of plant and animal species around the world, reduce air quality, increase energy demands, effect groundwater and soil health, reduce forests, expand deserts, and increase waste. And these effects will only get worse, as the United Nations predicts that the world population will reach 9.6 billion people by 2050.

According to the report from the Bixby Center, family planning programs are dollar-for-dollar the most effective way to avoid some of the worst impacts from climate change. There are currently 222 million women in the world with an unmet need for modern family planning methods. To meet this demand for family planning it will take $9.4 billion a year, an increase from current family planning spending by about $5.3 billion a year. Despite this high dollar value, family planning spending is still a relatively cheap option. According to the report, “For every $7 spent of family planning, carbon emissions would be reduced more than [one metric ton]… the same emissions reductions from low-carbon energy production technologies would cost at least $32.”

MTI5NTI2Mzc5NzgyOTE2MTA2Despite the cost-effectiveness, family planning still remains a contentious issue. But things may be looking up. As part of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) countries must consider their population size and its potential growth in order to envision how per capita emissions may change in the future. The new UNFCCC synthesis report of INDCs takes into account different population growth scenarios for the next fifteen years, and suggests that some governments may not be using the best population data for calculating business as usual emissions scenarios. Additionally, in the report some governments state that population density and growth within their countries remains a constraint on their ability to adapt to climate change.

What this means is that family planning is necessary. Not only is it necessary on a human level (family planning is one of the best ways to improve education and quality of life for women around the globe), it remains one of the most effective tools at our disposal for combatting climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Religion & Climate Change: How the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change Affects COP Negotiations

“Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger [of] ending life as we know it on our planet.” Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

Islamic Declaration Photo

On August, 18th, 2015, a group of Muslim scholars, leaders, scientists, and clergy members made a call to action in the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change at the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul. This call to action urged the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims and all nations across the globe to actively combat climate change by phasing out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and by committing to a 100% renewable energy strategy. The declaration specifically calls upon the Conference of Parties (COP) to “bring their discussions to an equitable and binding conclusion” at the December 2015, meeting of the Parties in Paris.

The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change is part of a movement by many faiths and denominations who are all calling on governments to take action at COP21 in Paris. In June, Pope Francis released an encyclical letter declaring climate change a moral issue that must be addressed. Additionally, over 300 rabbis released a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis calling for vigorous action to prevent worsening climate disruption. With over 84% of the world’s population religiously affiliated global support by faith groups for effective climate action has the potential to reach large audiences.

In response to the Islamic Declaration, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said:

A clean energy, sustainable future for everyone ultimately rests on a fundamental shift in the understanding of how we value the environment and each other. Islam’s teachings, which emphasize the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher’s role as an appointed guide to correct behavior, provide guidance to take the right action on climate change.

Global responses to the Islamic Declaration have been overwhelmingly positive. For example, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, welcomed the declaration “with great joy, and in a spirit of solidarity.” He pledged that the Catholic Church would work with the declaration’s authors to protect their common earthly home. Additionally, NGO’s such as the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund have commended the declaration as a positive display of climate leadership.

So far the actual effect of the Islamic Declaration is unclear. While the majority of country Parties with high Muslim populations have filed INDCs, the quality of pledges has greatly varied. For example, Climate Action Tracker rated Morocco’s INDC as sufficient based on the country’s target reduction goals. A sufficient rating is encouraging because it means that Morocco’s targets are ambitious and that Morocco is pledging to its “fair share” of global efforts to keep warming below 2°C.  Conversely, Climate Action Tracker rated both Turkey’s INDC and Indonesia’s INDC as inadequate.

Even though INDC’s for Muslim countries do not definitively support the Islamic Declaration, many news sources still view the declaration as a step in the right direction because it “turns up the heat” for government officials by signaling an ongoing shift in the zeitgeist, or spirit of our time. In the words of Bill McKibben, “[t]he real effect of documents like these, though, is less immediate policy shifts than a change in the emotional climate. Most of us identify with one or several groups—Islam or Christendom, our alma mater or our union. As these begin to emphasize an issue, it becomes easier to make it part of our mental furniture.”


Economic growth and climate change

Each generation inherits a world that was created out of beliefs contemporary and relevant to a certain time. These beliefs affect prevailing values, values, which become embedded within the framework of decision-making. Often times, these values are based on beliefs that may no longer be understood, known or even correct. Nonetheless, they are transferred from one generation to the next and modified by another generation’s cumulative addition. From this perspective, a lack of understanding of the beliefs that comprise the framework of society can eventually be problematic. And this is evident in the present period.

Let’s take a step back to the 1930’s when Simon Kuznets developed a method for assessing the production capacity of an economy. The method, which earned him the Nobel Prize in Economics, provided the foundation for the calculation of the gross domestic product. By definition gross domestic product or GDP is the sum of all goods and services produced within a country’s national borders during a specific time period; everything from desks to diapers can be included.

Since the 1940s, GDP has become a simple assessment tool of economic capacity between countries and over time within the same country. However as Kuznets warned, though the indicator is useful for determining production capacity, it is limited as a metric to evaluate the state of an economy’s inhabitants. GDP as a single aggregated value cannot assess quality of life and it cannot provide insight on the distribution of wealth.

In spite of the statements of Kuznets and other economists of the time and over time, GDP has arguably become the single metric of not only domestic economic progress but also global economic progress. As the indicator of progress it is the targeted metric of economic policy. GDP is tracked and targeted by government and central bank policy makers with the intent to increase its value over consecutive periods.

There are four components to GDP, consumption spending, investment spending –investment on production capacity, government spending and net exports—spending by foreigners for US goods relative to US spending on foreign goods. In the United States the single largest component of GDP, comprising in excess of 65% of GDP, is consumption. As a result, our economy is targeted to consumption, from increasing employment, to low interest rates, to the built-in obsolescence of the goods we purchase.

Given that GDP was established and gained global traction over 70 years ago, our value for consumption has been inherited and modified over a few generations. We have been taught that we have insatiable appetites to consume and have perpetuated the consumption cycle, to maintain the era of consumerism. But this may be the problem.

Over time, through globalization, commercialization and the increasing busyness of life, consumers have become increasingly distanced from the production process of the good they are consuming. Consumers are no longer knowledgeable about the impact that their consumption demand has on the degradation, exploitation and depletion of planetary resources. Instead what consumers are aware of is price.

Fundamentally, consumers have focused on market price and have delegated the inclusion of value parameters including environmental and social costs to producers, but producers are incentivized to minimize cost and maximize return, a seemingly divergent incentive.

In most cases, market prices do not reflect the cost of a good. Lets look at a t-shirt manufactured in a developing country for sale in a developed market. The price of the t-shirt reflects only a portion of its true cost because it neglects social and environmental costs. The price neglects the costs of the exploited wage paid to the textile worker: the social cost resulting from his missing health care and the health and quality of life impact of the non-living wage. Though it does likely include transportation expense, it does not include the carbon footprint or the waste cost related to the landfilling or alternative disposal of the garment. In net, the cost of the consumption is only partially borne by the purchaser; other societies and the environment subsidize the price.

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Consider the market price for the air we breath, there is no price, it is free and we need air to live. But, in spite of it being essential for life, it is a costless component of the production process; waste has been released into the air we breathe for years. If there had been a cost for disposal, or even better, a social value that prevented the release of air borne waste, the pollution that has collected in our atmosphere for the past three hundred years would have been significantly less. As simple as it may sound, consumers could have promoted the welfare of the atmosphere through their collective demand that air quality be preserved. How money is spent sends a very strong signal to producers of what will sell.

Both consumer awareness and economy-wide alignment are requisite to promote sustainable economic outcomes. This is, for example, evident in viewing the relationship between economic growth and carbon emissions over the past few hundred years. The energy consumption rates required to promote production and thereby foster consumption have enabled the speed of climate change activity being witnessed today. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is correlated to GDP growth; but so are degradation and exploitation of the environment.

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COP21 will offer the needed international platform to evaluate the basis of climate change activity, which arguably is related to how we measure and drive economic growth. The inclusion of sustainable economic development within the Paris Package provides an opportunity for the inclusion of quality of life and ecosystem balance in the defining of economic growth. These elements essentially recognize that how we measure quality of life is fundamental to the economic outcomes we create. From this perspective COP21 could be the catalyst to move beyond GDP to determine a constructed international standard for economic progress. Ultimately, the goals of the UNFCCC to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system” may be better aligned with a measure such as gross national happiness, the better life index or a similar parameter. Further, the long term impact of COP21 may be dependent on explicitly promoting such a value shift.


COP21: Threat to Public Policy?

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Schengen Area

The European Union recently celebrated 30 years of the border-free Schengen Area, a crucial pillar of the European Single Market. Schengen cooperation guards the fundamental right of 400 million E.U. citizens to cross internal borders without being subjected to cumbersome border checks. This guarantee also applies to many non-EU nationals, cross-border commuters, and tourists. With COP21 fast-approaching the city of Paris, the Schengen Area is struggling to find a balance between freedom of movement and security.

The refugee crisis in Europe has been the worst crisis since World War II. A record number of individuals are seeking asylum within the E.U. A U.N. refugee agency reported that 218,394 people crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe this October, which is close to the number from the entire year of 2014. The refugee crisis is challenging the notion of free movement of people across borders. Pressure is mounting to close the E.U.’s open borders along the migrant trail. The recent flood of refugees has overwhelmed countries outside of the E.U., which have been receiving limited support from Member States. European leaders are demanding a restoration of border control, and are questioning the concept of the Schengen area. Have citizens of the E.U. been taking Schengen and the right to move freely for granted?

cop3The French government will reintroduce border controls for the month surrounding COP21, beginning on November 13th and ending on December 13th, two days after the COP21 is scheduled to end. According to Article 23 of the Schengen Borders Code, this measure is taken “where there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security.” The possibility that any open zone of the Schengen area will be suspended “is impending dangerously over the core principle of free movement and is a further blow to the European integration.”

For this month, no one—including E.U. citizens—will be able to move freely across French borders. French officials published a document via the E.U. Council which states France’s plan to reintroduce controls at the borders of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, the Swiss Confederation, Italy and Spain “on the occasion of COP 21.Le Monde published that “since the Borders Code came into force in 2006, each time border controls have been reintroduced, it has been for the purpose of preventing terrorism and crime, and for security purposes related to the hosting of international meetings or sports events.”

Close-up page of passport with Schengen visa

passport with Schengen visa

It’s not only the refugee crisis that is persuading France to close its borders. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chair of COP21, Laurent Fabius, says that 80 Heads of State and foreign officials will appear at the Conference. He fears violence by protesters and green activists. The Ministry has created a special procedure for accredited participants of COP21, particularly those that require a visa to enter France.

It seems that the civil society mobilizing for COP21 is being targeted; “embassies are requesting various documents including invitations from us and proof of the applicant’s ability to pay for transport, among other requests,” says a spokesperson for Coalition Climat 21. Mouhad Gasmi is the voice against shale gas in Alegeria. He filed a visa application on October 21st, invitation to COP21 in hand. The consulate of France in Algeria gave him an appointment for one month after COP21. Climate 21 further states, “the government is choosing who they want to take part in the official summit.”

The public is “unconvinced of the French government’s claim that it is willing to include them, in all their diversity, in the COP process.” Do France and other E.U. Member States need to sacrifice freedom for safety and peace?


The significance of defined consensus

Given the defined divide in country specific stakeholders concerns, along with the lens of personal circumstances and beliefs, that promotes a heterogeneity of perspective among COP21 participants, the ultimate success in Paris may rely on the establishment of an agreeable definition of consensus.

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In the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the word “consensus” is used three times, once in Article 7(k) and twice in Article 15. In the first use, consensus is not defined but rather provides the defining boundary for the adoption of “rules of procedure and any financial rules,” as these relate to the establishment of the Conference of Parties. In Article 15 paragraph 3, consensus is referenced as the basis of implementing amendments to the Convention; however, again it is not explicitly defined. Instead, the proportion that constitutes consensus can be inferred as being greater than 75%, based on the parameters provided for action in the absence of noted consensus.

If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no agreement reached, the amendment shall as a last resort be adopted by a three-fourths majority vote of the Parties present and voting at the meeting. The adopted amendment shall be communicated by the secretariat to the Depositary, who shall circulate it to all Parties for their acceptance. (Article 15, paragraph 3)

As noted by Jesse Vogel, specific to the UNFCCC and the Convention, consensus “does not mean complete unanimity. Often it is defined in the negative – the absence of ‘stated objection,’ or of ‘express opposition,’ leaving wiggle room when it comes to defining just what explicit objection looks like. And sometimes, “consensus” can be declared despite the express objection of some.” The lack of clarity of defining what constitutes consensus has been a point of concern for many observers and participants.

La Viña and Guiao comment, “There is, after all, a profound difference between having the agreement of all Parties, and hearing no objections from any of them.” The latter aspect is not necessarily consistent with consensus and in review of prior COP meetings is attributed by some to purposely-deafened ears.

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At COP21, the common values of stakeholders will do much to promote a singular foundation for discussion. However, the inclusion, acknowledgement, acceptance, and ultimately overt compromise related to the differences between the national interests represented by meeting participants will be the defining elements of the legacy of the meetings, and the implementation of consensus will play a significant role.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Global leaders respond to 400,000 climate wake up calls

After 400,000 people marched on Sunday, NYC was again the stage of another climate change event: the United Nations Climate Summit 2014. Aimed to move forward the climate change negotiations and achieve an agreement at COP 21 in Paris, the UN Climate Summit gathered over 100 Heads of State and 800 leaders from business, finance and civil society. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed in his opening statement that “we are not here to talk, we are here to make history.” He challenged global leaders to propose climate actions on five fronts: emission reductions, mobilizing money and markets, pricing carbon, strengthening resilience, and mobilizing new coalitions.

While many of the leaders reiterated previous commitments – e.g. the need to limit global warming to 2o Celsius from pre-industrial level –  some of them announced new commitments that showed a real effort to advance climate change negotiations. Several countries –  developed, developing, and least developed countries – pledged to increase their GHG emission reduction goals beyond 2020 and increase the use of clean energy: the European Union committed to reduce 40% of its emission from 1990 levels by 2030; Ethiopia and Sweden stated their goals to become zero net emissions by 2025 and 2050, respectively; Republic of Korea announced that it will launch  the first Asian Emission Trade Scheme in 2015; Nicaragua committed to generate 90% of its electricity through renewables by 2020; and Tuvalu announced its goals to use 100% clean energy by 2020, just to name a few.

China, the biggest GHG emitter (28% of global CO2 emissions in 2013), announced goals to reduce its GHG emissions for the first time: 40 to 45% from 2005 levels by 2020. China also offered to provide $6 million for the United Nations’ efforts to boost South-South cooperation to address global warming. These announcements come as an initial break through to the developed versus developing country debate, which has been the biggest challenge in climate change negotiations. The shift in the tone of the Chinese government, which recognized its international obligation to tackle climate change as responsible major country, could force key emitter countries, such as United States and India, to participate in post-Kyoto commitments.

Another announced effort was the New York Declaration on Forests. The Declaration, the first of its kind, sets a non-legally binding timeline to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020 and to end it completely by 2030, while restoring 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands. These efforts combined would result in a cut between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon pollution every year. 32 governments, including Indonesia and Colombia (but surprisingly not my own country of Brazil), signed the Declaration, as did 20 subnational governments, 30 of the world’s biggest companies (e.g. Asia Pulp and Paper, Nestle, and Unilever), and more than 50 civil and indigenous organizations.

And last, but not least, poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a Marshallese citizen, provided a moving speech that brought some world leaders to tears. She gave the face, the voice, and the perspective of those experiencing climate change impacts today – the ones that world leaders hope to address by the end of 2015 in the new mitigation and adaptation agreement.

  Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Civil Society Representative from the Marshall Islands, is greeted on stage by her husband and her baby after speaking during the Climate Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York

 

 

 


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?

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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.


Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


More Drama in Poland – UNFCCC COP 19 President Marcin Korolec fired as Poland’s Minister of the Environment

To add some more drama to the COP 19, news broke today that the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, fired UNFCCC COP 19 President Marcin Korolec from his day job as Poland’s Minister of the Environment. Prime Minister Tusk, in his second term, is reshuffling his cabinet, also firing the Finance Minister from his Cabinet and those heading sports, education, science and administration. The new Minister for the Environment, Maciej Grabowski, was formerly at the Finance Ministry. President Bronislaw Komorowski is expected to approve the cabinet shake-up.

urlPrime Minister Tusk dismissed Korolec for his role in the environment ministry’s foot-dragging on keenly anticipated regulations for exploration of shale-gas and other fossil fuels. The Polish government lost investments in the shale gas sector due to the delayed legal reforms. The Polish government wants to improve energy security through exploiting Poland’s shale gas and coal resources. However, the legislature has not approved the necessary legislation. Currently, Poland’s electricity system is 90% coal generated and the coal-miners union remains strong.

Despite the government shake-up, Korolec will continue his role as UNFCCC COP 19 president. As a reassurance, Prime Minister Tusk issued a statement supporting Korolec’s role as COP president. The change of the guard in the environment ministry is bad timing by the Polish government, as it comes during the UNFCCC negotiations. Additionally, Poland has already held a pro-coal summit this past week and permitted a pro-coal demonstration by a coal miner’s union outside the UNFCCC venue. They fear that they will lose their jobs. However, jobs in the coal-mining industry have fallen by 75% over the past 20 years. Thus, COP 19 highlights Poland at the crossroads- one side wants to be a part of the EU and the international community to find ambition to combat climate change (and reduce carbon emissions) while the other wants to continue business as usual to support a dying industry and support a carbon-intensive industry. The timing of the World Coal Association meeting and the firing of Korolec, the environment minister, undermines the purpose of Poland hosting the UNFCCC COP 19, as they are supposed to lead the way to an agreement on climate change, not undermine one through hypocrisy.

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Polish Coal Miners Union Protest UNFCCC COP 19

  Continue reading


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