Lucy – Investigating driving factors of energy structure change for achieving future energy market designs

Hello! I am Lucy Xinyu Zhu, a first-year student at Yale-NUS College from Shanghai. Having done extensive policy research for my debate tournaments on carbon pricing and multilateral binding mechanisms in addition to leading the operations of a community recycling initiative for 3 years, I want to make sense of how countries translate ambitions into achievements. At COP24, I will be tracking pathways for transitioning into cleaner energy by witnessing first-hand negotiations, attending relevant side events, and hopefully visiting a Polish coal mine to learn about their strategy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

I plan to investigate pathways to decarbonization and energy structure change of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa) because they are responsible for ~42% of global carbon dioxide emissions and are regional leaders in economic development and renewable energy adoption. Since COP24 is a major progress checkpoint for the Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Contributions, I will follow BRICS negotiators and organizations whenever possible to observe their concerns regarding energy transition from fossil fuel to renewables. By the end of this LAB, I hope to understand 1) why are BRICS energy sources the way they are now (aka what was wrong with the pre-COP24 status quo) and 2) what has been done at COP24 to overcome these issues?

Besides tracking institutional change and conference actions by BRICS, there are additional things I will be watching out for

  • Leadership (or lack of leadership) by BRICS countries – is there critical engagement with issues that seem distant to themselves, instilling positivity into goal-setting and trust, taking up extra responsibility (eg. transportation sector emissions, more ambitious) etc
  • Interactions involving BRICS countries in negotiations – what issues are they concerned about and how strong is the language in their speeches?
  • Strategies for renovating current non-renewable energy generator infrastructure – what to do with the coal mines which become replaced by renewables?
  • Additional de-carbonization efforts unrelated to energy  such as carbon capture and storage, financing technology research and development, etc.
  • Responses to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) milestones achieved at the Bangkok Climate Change Conference (SBSTA 48-2, SBI 48-2, APA 1-6)
  • Talanoa Dialogue on energy
  • Prospective carbon emissions trading and pricing schemes

I will be doing the following

  • Getting state and non-state perspectives on energy transition by BRICS and organizations (all of BRICS have pavilions with side events!)
  • Observing negotiations and speeches by the BRICS countries
  • Checking out the renewable energy and negative carbon emissions technology developed by non-BRICS countries
  • Stay updated about the progress of the Rulebook and conference transparency
  • Periodical recaps of key messages delivered by negotiators and event hosts
  • Deciphering what’s at stake for BRICS engagement with energy transition

It’s going to be a thrilling week as I try to keep up with the climate actions and events. Can’t wait to experience the intensity of the conference with the Yale-NUS delegation!

Finally, a shameless plug for @ynccop and @_lucyzhu_ on Instagram for brief updates every day.

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Jamie: Navigating the Negotiations – Will the map match the terrain?

Hello world! My name is Jamie Lee, and I am a senior at Yale-NUS College, doing a double degree in law and environmental studies. I am curious about how we can evolve existing legal regimes to consider environmental justice as a core tenet of public and private law. It is extremely exciting to get a front-row seat to the negotiations that will entrench the enhanced transparency framework under Article 13 of the Paris Agreement. This is truly a momentous year for international environmental law, and I am so excited to be part of the action!

Fisher and Ury’s seminal book of Getting to Yes [1] and its fundamental rules of ‘interest-based bargaining’, ‘interests, not positions’ and ‘inventing options for mutual gain’ has become the standard of negotiation. I was introduced to this book in a Negotiation class taught at NUS Law [2],  and we were taught to put the Seven Elements of interest-based negotiation [3] into practice. It was a eureka moment when I realized the Seven Elements framework could be utilized to tackle the global ‘super-wicked’ problem of climate change. [4] We have seen in past COP conferences that the power dynamics between the global North and South resulted in positional bargaining and unfavorable terms. Now that we recognize the urgency to lay down a binding transparency framework, I believe that all stakeholders must move away from competitive negotiation tactics and foster a culture of collaborative negotiation at the COPs.

My project hopes to test the feasibility of using the Seven Elements as the principal strategy in multilateral climate negotiations. I will seek out high-level negotiators who are involved in the drafting of the transparency agreement, because I know they will be looking to fulfill their national interests in the midst of generating feasible options. While I acknowledge that I will not be privy to the closed-door discussions happening throughout the conference, it would still be engaging to attend plenary sessions to see how the nations’ official positions reveal their interests. I predict that a bulk of my time would be spent with non-state representatives from NGOs and academic institutions because they would be more involved in fringe events. If they are communicating with state representatives, it would be worthwhile to note the power dynamics in their interactions. My goal is to collect anecdotal evidence of collaborative and interest-based negotiation used throughout the COP, to make a case to convince negotiating parties and lobbyists to adopt these approaches! If I could draw the link between effective negotiation strategies and outcomes of the transparency agreement, there could be a more compelling case for collaboration when time is running out.

An omnibus international climate change agreement is only as effective as its accountability and enforcement. Many people will have high hopes for concrete and legally binding mechanisms within the reporting framework. It will be a difficult task for negotiators to juggle the interests of who they represent along with the overarching interest to reach a fruitful agreement. This is a once in a lifetime experience to observe live negotiations, where the energy and tensions are hyper-charged in ways we would never understand through reading the news. As a youth observer, I really hope to find role models who champion the interests of current and future generations in the ultimate battle against climate change. The people I meet on this unforgettable trip will inspire me to be a masterful climate negotiator for Singapore and the Southeast Asian region!


[1] Roger Fisher, William L Ury, and Bruce Patton, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In (Penguin, 2011).

[2] I would like to thank Professor Joel Lee Tye Beng and Marcus Lim Tao Shien for opening my mind to the realm of negotiation. They are a major reason why I became keen to attend COP24!

[3] The Seven Elements of interest-based negotiation are comprised of relationships, interests, options, standards of legitimacy, alternatives and commitments.

[4] “Super wicked” problems comprise of four key features: time is running out; those who cause the problem also seek to provide a solution; the central authority needed to address it is weak or non-existent; and, partly as a result, policy responses discount the future irrationally. See Kelly Levin et al., “Overcoming the Tragedy of Super Wicked Problems: Constraining Our Future Selves to Ameliorate Global Climate Change,” Policy Sciences 45, no. 2 (2012).

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Zhi Yi: Identifying and understanding the ways in which oceans are mentioned in climate change policy

As an Environmental Studies major and a diver concerned about the state of our oceans, climate change is naturally an issue of interest to me. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions are altering marine ecosystems towards states that has not been observed for millions of years, with risk of irreversible changes to these ecosystems[1]. However, it is only recently that the oceans have received more significant attention in climate negotiations, with much further action still necessary. My goal for this conference is to investigate how oceans are being included (or omitted) from countries’ adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Before the conference itself, I intend to do some research and look into the literature to first better understand countries’ current initiatives and efforts. Gallo et al.’s (2017)[2] analysis of the inclusion of marine ecosystems in countries’ NDCs will prove to be useful here and will help direct me to further research that has been done in this field. I have also reached out to Dr. Webster from Dartmouth College who specializes in marine policy and will hopefully be able to meet her while in Katowice. I intend to come up with a list of questions which I can then use to engage policymakers/researchers working in these areas. The Ocean Pathway Partnership[3] was also successfully launched in COP23 by the co-chairs, Fiji and Sweden. Following up on this partnership, the Pacific and Koronivia Pavilion will be hosted in COP24, with a line-up of side events[4] slated to happen in Katowice. I plan to attend these events and of course take notes on what has been done and what is being done by countries that are part of this Partnership. I also will keep a lookout for relevant plenaries including coastal states (especially Fiji, and other states in AOSIS) and take notes from there. I will of course try to engage policymakers/researchers that have been doing research in this area to find out more. Finally, I have also volunteered to interview Mr Ong Tze Huang from the National Climate Change Secretariat and intend to ask specific questions about Singapore’s inclusion of marine ecosystem in its NDCs (currently Singapore includes marine-related adaptation in its NDC, but not mitigation).

One key actionable of the Ocean Pathway is to develop a strategy for increasing the role of ocean considerations in the UNFCCC process. This includes creating a more “ocean-friendly” Paris rulebook which would better consider the impacts of climate change on the oceans. Furthermore, achieving the ambition of the Paris Agreement (to keep warming 1.5 or well below 2 degrees) would not be possible without a functioning ocean. The oceans thus present both a challenge (in terms of adaptation) and an opportunity (in terms of mitigation) to the Paris Agreement.

Through this conference, I hope to have a better understanding of how the oceans are being represented in the UNFCCC process. The oceans have only just started to gain more attention at the climate conferences, and I am keen to find out more about upcoming initiatives that will better incorporate the oceans into negotiations. Since this is also such a new field, I also hope to be able to identify knowledge gaps, and potentially pursue one of these gaps as a capstone project. Finally, the conference also presents an opportunity for me to meet others working on similar topics, and I hope to be able to connect with them to expand my professional network and explore possible future collaborations.

[1] O. Hoegh-Guldberg and J. F. Bruno, “The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystems,” Science 328, no. 5985 (June 18, 2010): 1523–28, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1189930.

[2] Natalya D. Gallo, David G. Victor, and Lisa A. Levin, “Ocean Commitments under the Paris Agreement,” Nature Climate Change 7, no. 11 (2017): 833–38, https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3422.

[3] https://cop23.com.fj/the-ocean-pathway/

[4] https://cop23.com.fj/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Programme-Pacific-and-Koronivia-Pavilion-Schedule-2.pdf

Food Security at COP24

COP24 is taking place in Katowice, Poland, from 3 Dec 2018 to 14 Dec 2018. I will be attending the conference as an observer for the first week. As a student attending the Conference of Parties (COP) for the first time, I will bring you through the COP with a focus on the topic of food security. I ask the research question:

How do state and non-state actors play a role in enhancing food security?

At the conference, I will be attending events related to food and agriculture!

The first side event that I will attend is “A Farmers’ Driven Climate Agenda – the Climate Change Agricultural Alliance” on Wednesday. At this event, I intend to speak to farmers as well as food-related NGO representatives, with the intention of answering the following questions:

  1. What are the challenges that the agriculture sector faces as a result of climate change?
  2. What do you think is the responsibility of the government in helping farmers to mitigate the upcoming challenges with regard to climate change?
  3. What are your strategies, as a farmer/food-related organization, to reduce the impact of climate change on agriculture?

I will also be speaking to government representatives about strategies that they will be taking in order to ensure sustainable food supply in the long run, as well as strategies or actions to reduce the impact of climate change on agricultural production.

Another side event that I will be attending is “How do we get there? The role of agriculture, energy and systemic change to meet the Paris Agreement” on Thursday. This event seeks to “explore ways in which agriculture, energy and broader changes at societal level would allow us to reach the Paris Long Term Goal without relying on geoengineering and negative emissions technologies.” The Paris Agreement aims to limit the increase in global temperature to “well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels”, and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C. At this event, I intend to speak to representatives from civil society organizations. I will be asking them about the challenges that they are facing in ensuring food supply and food security. I also intend to speak to academic representatives to find out about the impact of climate change on agricultural production, as well as what they think the role of government should be, in attempting to meet the Paris Agreement.

At the conference, I will also be focusing on food security in two countries: Singapore and Malaysia. I aim to speak to country leaders from Singapore and Malaysia with regards to the governments’ specific strategies in ensuring household food security. Singapore is a country that is largely reliant on import of food, thus it is essential for Singapore to strategize its sources of food supply. For Malaysia, as it largely depends on palm oil as its cash crops, I intend to find out more about the impact of climate change on palm oil production, as well as strategies that Malaysia is taking in order to reduce the impact of palm oil on climate change. In order to hear from various perspectives, I will also be speaking to environmental NGO representatives about the challenges that Malaysia is facing in order to ensure sustainable palm oil production.

All in all, on a broader scheme I intend to find out from specific government leaders about what they hope to achieve through this conference in negotiating with different leaders.

I will also be picking up event schedules by at the Malaysia and Singapore country pavilions, and will keep everyone updated! 🙂

 

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SANGAM: HOW DO HIMALAYAN STATES APPROACH THE ISSUES OF CLIMATE CHANGE?

I am Sangam Paudel, a sophomore and a prospective environmental studies student at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. Having grown up in Nepal, always within the sight of the Himalayas, I am interested in learning how the countries of the Himalayan region (‘Himalayan states’) tackle the growing threat of climate change.

Vulnerable communities, often those with very little carbon emissions, risk suffering the brunt of climate change. This is especially true for the Himalayan region, which is susceptible to a large number of climate-change aggravated hazards. The increased magnitude of these impacts, coupled with the weak economic strength, means that these countries need to seek financial support for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

As such, the results of COP24 will be of vital importance to these states. During the conference, I will be closely following the activities of these Himalayan states, with a special focus on Nepal, to understand their priorities and their corresponding methods of negotiation. Based on Nepal’s preparation for the COP and the prime minister’s address at the climate vulnerable forum, Nepal’s priorities seem to center around the theme of climate justice. In his address to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, Prime Minister KP Oli mentioned that easier access to climate fund and affordable technology would be key to climate action in developing countries, such as Nepal. A further elaboration on the specific nature of the aforementioned fund and technology will likely be observed in the COP. Furthermore, lead by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari (previously the Minister of Population and Environment), Nepal will probably present facts about their carbon emissions, their efforts at mitigation and adaptation, and the huge risks they face, to appeal their case.

Thus, during the conference, I will mainly be observing the following issues:

  • Climate Funds for developing nations: The Paris agreement included the commitment of developed countries to mobilize funds to aid the efforts of developing countries. Given that access to climate funds is a priority for Nepal as well, I plan to observe the specific issues of fund disbursement to the Himalayan states. Related side-events and information from high-level negotiations (likely obtainable through social media) may be important in this aspect.
  • Role of non-governmental actors and community-level organizations in building adaptive capacity in the region
  • Formation of coalitions between the different parties involved

To prepare for the conference, I have been closely following the preparations made by Nepal by going through the presentations organized by the ministry. I have also been in contact with officials attending the conference, and I have had positive feedback regarding the possibility of meeting some officials in Katowice. I am awaiting correspondence with other attendees, and I hope to have some insightful conversations in Katowice.

Further, I  am attending numerous side events, including “Water and Climate: How to Increase Engagement of Private Actors”, “Up-scaling Adaptation Actions in LDCs through Innovative Technology, Finance and Capacity Building”, “1.5 degrees from a community perspective”, “The powers of water – on the way to the sustainable use of nature’s driving force”,  “Transforming Energy Systems: Directing Finance Away from Fossil Fuels Towards Renewable Energy”, and “Battle for climate change will be won or lost in Asia and the Pacific.” All these events are either organized by or related to actors in the Himalayan region and involve a diverse range of topics. Also, these side events are organized by varied actors, including NGOs, community groups, government officials, and development banks. As such, I would be able to obtain diverse perspectives on climate change issues in the region. I would, however, be unable to attend 11th December’s event titled “International Mountain Day – Mountain adaptation: Vulnerable peaks and people”. The event is attended by high-level representatives from the mountainous region across the globe, and it promises to be an engaging inter-governmental discourse on mountain adaptation.

The learning possibilities from the conference seem abundant. For me, I hope to be more familiar with the plethora of actors and their approaches in undertaking the different aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Himalayan region. The climate fund seems to have a paramount importance, and observing the various processes involved in its disbursement will certainly aid my understanding of environmental politics.

 

Elwin: Climate Negotiations Leadership

My name is Elwin, and I’m a third year environmental studies major from Yale-NUS College in Singapore. I’m extremely excited and honored to get the chance to attend the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) in Katowice this year. I hope to use these blog posts as a way to share my reflections and learning points from my experience there.

The topic that I will be focusing on while I’m at COP24 is climate negotiations leadership. On June 1 2017, President Trump announced his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, even though the rules of the agreement mean that the earliest date that the U.S. can exit from the Paris Agreement is November 4, 2020 (far enough into the future that there is no guarantee that Trump will remain U.S. president by then). My curiosity in the future of climate negotiations leadership comes from how the U.S. has been seen as one of the leaders up until the 2017 announcement. Parker & Karlsson (2018) argue that U.S. leadership was key to the success of Paris – Obama went in with clear negotiation objectives that included having an agreement that required action from all major emitters, as well as bottom-up national pledges instead of the top-down structure of the Kyoto Protocol. This shaped the Paris Agreement as we know it today. Will Trump’s move create a leadership gap that will be filled by other nations, groups of nations, or other actors? Alternatively, does it demonstrate the flaws of the agreement, paving the way for other highly-polluting nations to shun prior responsibilities? COP24 is the deadline for the “Paris rulebook” – a set of implementing guidelines for Paris Agreement that may create ‘lock-in’ for future pathways of action. Hence, this is a crucial point where strong leadership would benefit our collective futures.

Most of the academic literature on climate negotiations leadership has focused either on European countries or the U.S. To make the most of my opportunity of being at the conference and having inside access to events and information, I will focus on two less-studied potential sources of leadership: (1) BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India & China) countries, and (2) non-state actors.

Earlier this year, BASIC countries released a joint statement where they expressed a “determination to complete and adopt the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP)” at COP24 – could this represent a form of leadership from developing countries? My area of academic specialization within my environmental studies major is environmental justice, and so I’m interested the implications of developing country leadership in climate negotiations – will international norms play a part in influencing cooperation and increased mitigation action from developed countries? However, I see two obstacles to this. Firstly, the BASIC countries statement also urges developed countries to honor prior commitments to reach US$100b per year in climate finance by 2020 – which the U.S. was a big contributor to. Secondly, I wonder what China’s direction will be in their commitments, given that former-President Obama and President Xi announced their climate action goals in a joint announcement in 2014.

Secondly, I also want to examine the potential for leadership by non-state actors. There will be a range of side events as well as talks at the Action Hub that focus on climate action. For instance, the We Are Still In initiative in the U.S. brings together a wide range of non-state actors in support of continued climate action leadership by the U.S. By attending side events, asking questions, talking to leading experts in their respective fields and doing my own research through journals and emerging news articles, I hope to get insight into these areas of interests that I wouldn’t be able to access without being there in Katowice.

Zac: Energy Systems in Asia and the World: Zero/Negative Emission Technology

 

Hey there, my name is Zac, I am an Environmental Studies major, specializing in climate change technological applications (e.g. zero/negative emission technology), Water & Waste Systems, Environmental policymaking and Resilience Systems Framework. I have a Diploma in Environmental & Water Technology aka Environmental Engineering, which is why the technical side of environmental studies interests me.

In the conference, I am hoping to be able to observe events such as the Global Climate Action, National Statements of the countries in South-East Asia, and all the side events and exhibitions that have to do with my area of interests. My area of interests in this COP-24 is the business of energy market in the Asia-Pacific region. Given that most of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region still runs primarily on fossil-fuel, I am interested to study how is it going to change and how are the countries going to achieve their Paris Agreement targets. At the same time, that does not mean that I will just be focusing on the Asia-Pacific region only and ignore the rest of the world, given that the world runs as a complex adaptive system of panarchy. I will also keep a lookout for events regarding China’s One belt One Road initiative to learn more about it since it affects a lot of countries in the world. Since I am also in Katowice, I will also be observing how Poland is going to progress in their energy systems, they are currently the 2nd highest coal user in the EU.

My methods are to visit all the main events that have relations to energy and countries statements, the side-events and exhibitions, interviewing Ong Tze Haung from the Singapore’s PM Office. I will also hope to visit Katowice’s coal-fired power plant to see if there is any technological advancement in improving efficiency or having a cleaner output by air filtration or wet scrubbing of the exhaust chimney, or anything they are doing to improve the air quality.

At the side events and exhibitions, I will be going to keep a lookout for Energy, National Determined Contributions, Paris Agreement, and Sustainable development, especially if they have something to do about the Asia region as well. For example, “People Power Now! Transforming our Energy System”, “Making climate action more transparent and ambitious: lessons learned from the NDCs”, “The role of agriculture, energy and systemic change to meet the Paris Agreement”.

At the interview with Ong Tze Haung, since he is working in the Singapore National Climate Change Secretariat, I will be asking questions about Singapore’s transition to renewable energy.

Qi Hang: Tracking China’s Role at COP24 and the Role of Businesses in Climate Action

I am Qi Hang, a senior majoring in Global Affairs, with a principal interest in the role and implication of a rising China in regional global governance issues, with interest in adjacent topics such as political economy, business impact and environmental risks and opportunities that China’s change brings. My capstone in particular, focuses on the economic risks of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and more importantly, looking at the idea of China’s image and incentive to spread positive influence. Previously, I have also worked on the sustainability and environmental aspects of the BRI, having published a couple of pieces on the shadow ecology of the BRI in exporting carbon to less developed countries.

I have two main research objectives for the COP24. During my stay in Katowice from 3rd to 7th December, I will focus on (i) observing the role that Chinese state will play in COP24, and (ii) the role of the private sector in driving change towards a low-carbon global economy, hopefully also with a focus on Chinese involvement.

On the first point of research, I will be working closely with Daniela Schulman from Yale College. While I initiate the research project in the first week, Dani will take over in the second. We plan to observe recurring language and themes in China’s national statement, plenary announcements and other state-level proclamations that we can gain access to. We plan look closely at China’s state-level involvement during COP24, and their role in pushing forward conversations, and whether they are taking on a stronger leadership role. Specifically, we are also interested in drawing comparisons between China’s commitment in domestic policies, and international policies regarding the BRI, measured by proxy using the language in China’s public declarations and statements. We would try to gain access to plenary sessions in between the side events to our greatest capabilities, and would actively look out for state-level declarations that are made available to the public, as well as informal conversations we hear during and between events. We would pay particular attention to the schedule of events organized by the Chinese delegation at the Chinese pavilion.

On the second point of research, while I focus on the role of private businesses in driving the development and adoption of sustainable technology, and pushing for greater profitability and thus economic co-benefits within existing sustainability frameworks, Dani will focus more on the role of NGOs and other civil society organizations (CSOs). We will still retain a focus on China within this research area, looking out for where Chinese non-state actors have a prominent and rising role to play. From the overview of the lineup of side events, it seems like there will be more China-centric side events focusing on the role of non-state actors during the week Dani is in Katowice. Nevertheless, I will still be able to get significant insight from side events from 3rd to 7th December. For example, “Innovative climate technologies and sustainable maritime transport for a climate resilient industry” on 5th December will likely involve conversations China’s BRI – the biggest infrastructure megaproject in recent history.

Ideally, we would like to publish daily blogs of around 500 words capturing in the insights gleaned each day. Some of the platforms we have considered range from professional ones such as China Dialogue and Eco-Business, to student-run online publications such as China Hands at Yale University. Should the plan to deliver real-time blog posts not work out, we aim to produce two longer weekly summaries from our time on the ground.

Annamarie: How can developed nations help secure water security in developing nations?

I’m Annamarie Martin, a third year Environmental Studies major from Yale-NUS College. My project for this conference will explore water security, and more specifically how developed nations can help promote water security in developing nations.
I currently plan on attending side conferences that tackle the issue of water security and scarcity from a variety of angles — how water can help achieve climate neutrality, the role that private sectors play, financing mechanisms.

My strategy would be to attend a good mix of conferences, either directly or tangentially related to my topic. There are 3 key conferences I plan to attend, amongst others:

1. Water and climate: how to increase engagement of private actors
a. This conference will be very useful to my exploration of water security solutions. I have been exploring and doing extensive research on Singapore’s position as a global Hydrohub. Due to its heavy investments in the development of niche water technology, Singapore should hold a lot of export potential in water technologies, especially to developing nations. This conference will thus inform me on the possible strategies and ways in which private actors and firms can boost water security around the region.

2. A tropical country response to climate change with integrated water resources management
a. This conference explores how Sri Lanka can adapt to climate change with proper water resource management. It would be interesting to gain an additional perspective to IWRM in a neighbouring tropical country, which can provide useful lessons that can be applied to Singapore as well.

3. Enhancing ocean and climate change observing in developing nations using Low-cost technologies and training
a. This conference will inform me on the possibilities and potential that exists for technology to be transferred to developing nations, given the common barrier of high financial costs of technology.

Apart from attending conferences, I will be visiting exhibit booths as well. These include “Why there is a need of international climate finance in view to meet the need of resilience infrastructure and water crisis for CVCs” as well as “Water-related adaptation and mitigation investments – information systems, institutions & governance, infrastructure – that build climate resilience of economies, livelihoods, and ecosystems through improved water security.” While at conferences I will mainly be listening in, taking notes and synthesising the different kinds of information received, I will use the exhibits to talk to people who have been involved in the research, and connect with others who have similar interests.

The Paris climate agreements made the enhancement of adaptive capacities and climate change resilience a global goal, which is a first — this is particularly relevant to water. Water is often the main medium in which climate change reflects its clearest and most direct impact on our livelihoods. In light of the recent IPCC report warning us of the effects of global temperature increase beyond 1.5 degrees celcius, it is especially relevant for this COP to address how communities plan on being resilient to potential effects that may arise from flooding, water quality changes, agricultural changes etc. I will be looking out for discussions and references made to this agreement on resilience, and whether resilience and adaptive concepts are being incorporated into water management strategies and water policy.

Jia Min: How are forest science knowledge products used and not used in policy discussions?

Let’s start off with a series of limericks, titled Funny thing about some scientists is.

Funny thing about some scientists is

that they think that all their analysis

is value-neutral

and unemotional,

and that they derive power from this.

 

One day inspiration hit me! I thought:

Your voice on my face would be well-sought.

So I gathered a team

to make reality my dream

Who’d have known all the trouble we brought?

 

The reason why governments are stubborn?

They’ve not enough knowledge to govern!

The more truth that I publish,

in their brains the less rubbish,

Science is all you need for a decision.

 

Imagine how much we can predict

if we made everyone a science addict!

We’d know when Earth ends,

or if we have Martian friends,

Who cares about humans in conflict?

I initially wrote the above for a poetry class but it wasn’t exactly good poetry because of the unambiguity of my stance, but I just thought it might make a good summary for my motivations going into COP24. I am Jia Min, a third-year Environmental Studies major with an interest in tropical forest conservation ecology. I love plants more than animals and searing sun more than gentle rain. I strongly believe that conservation ecology involves more than asking an ecological question with conservation consequences. Instead it is ecology that is specifically designed for conservation, with its ethical, political and social quandaries in mind. Many scientists, however, are concerned that such a philosophy robs them (and the science field) of their credibility, and thus seek not to be perceived as advocates. Yet scientists also struggle with being painfully aware of the scale of transformation needed to avert climate change’s worst effects (see here and here), and at least a few would agree that greater scientific consensus seems to have done little in comparison.

To gain some inspiration on coping with this conundrum and how exactly science and scientists can play a bigger role in forest policy, I hope to answer the question,

How are forest science knowledge products used and not used in policy discussions?”.

Examples of science knowledge products include databases on suitable areas for restoration that are based on surveys or some scientifically-determined threshold (e.g. the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology used in the New York Declaration on Forests), REDD+ guidelines based on calculations of the carbon storage potentials of different forest types, ages, and species, and of course science products in its more traditional form of scientific publications.

Sub-questions I may wish to interrogate include (Assume by science I mean forest-related science – related to afforestation, reforestation or deforestation (AFR)):

  • what types of science products are used in discussions of policy?
  • what narratives or actions is science used to legitimize?
  • how does science contribute to ambiguity or uncertainty as to the effectiveness of particular policies?

(This question is motivated by how there is still some uncertainty as to whether       forests serve as a net carbon source of sink (e.g. Nadine Unger’s “To save the planet         don’t plant trees” article and some of the associated debates (here) or more recently, University of Edinburgh’s suggestion that “Tropical forests may soon hinder, not help, climate change effort”)

During the conference I will be attending events listed on the REDD+ website, dropping by relevant booths (i.e. those explicitly related to forests or science), the SBSTA-IPCC special event, and for the rest of the time, the negotiations. I will probably be making observations using the sub-questions, taking note of what science knowledge products are referenced and highlighted, how often I hear things like ‘science-based policy’ and the examples that are given, and also what kinds of inputs are sought from scientists at the negotiations, if any, and why scientists choose to phrase things the way they do.

As a side project to understand how scientists see their role in the negotiations and the broader climate change policy circles, I will also be compiling a video of responses by scientists to the prompt, “In one sentence, what does science-based policy mean to you?” or a variation (e.g. what does it look like to you?), depending on trends that emerge when people respond.

If it emerges from the COP24 proceedings or these videos and short conversations with scientists that really my answer to my main question depends on scientists’ own perceptions of their roles, or that actually only scientists talk about science and few others do, I may also wish to study the responses by scientists to the call for inputs for the Talanoa Dialogue – specifically how scientists or science-based groups have responded.

Looking forward!