Category Archives: Uncategorized

Zac – Technology: it is there, but waiting for economics to move it forward

After being to multiple side events and pavilion events, I can see that we all know about the negative/zero/low emission technologies available that will be able to help us fight the battle with climate change. However, a lot of the countries continuously said that they want to change, but they are going to let the economy move it.

Indonesia – Quite a disappointment in SEA

I went to one of their pavilion talks about “The Future of Renewable Energy”, expecting that they have a plan prepared to move Indonesia forward to renewables. However, what I got from it, was pretty much nonsense, it felt like a very bad sales pitch. They started off the presentation boasting about Indonesia’s economy, giving 3 scenarios, saying Indonesia will be the 4th largest economy in the world by 2100 in the best case scenario and rank 9th in the worst case scenario.

Then in the 2nd presentation, they keep emphasizing that they need more investors to push for renewables, which from my viewpoint, if your economy is going to be doing so well, why can’t you help yourself in pushing for renewables. Additionally, when people were asking questions like “How do you plan to interest private investors?” They gave very standard but stupid answers like “1990 they have issued a law to permit private companies to develop renewable power plants.” That did not answer the question at all, the policy was implemented in 1990, 28 years has passed, that is still the way you are trying to get investors? Wow. Throughout the talk, Indonesia also kept blaming technology, waiting for technology to advance to be efficient and be cheaper.

Poland – Wants to transit, unable to due to $$$.

Poland, which is rank number 2 in coal production in Europe, seems to be trying to move towards renewables, however, the transition is not easy. After sitting in one of their pavilion talks, with Poland’s ministers, Poland’s industry people and EU ambassador, I can see their desire to switch to renewables. They are betting on 2 other energy sources, offshore wind farms (which they will have several huge projects at the Baltic sea) and nuclear power plants. At this moment, the coal companies in Poland spend their funds paying for the carbon tax, which leads to little funds for them to transit to renewable energy. One can view this as a negative feedback loop in energy transition. At the same time, I want to take what the companies with a pinch of salt because that may not be the case as well. The EU ambassador rebutted the companies, saying that the carbon price does not affect the EU last 10% of the low-income state, which Poland is considered as one. Overall, the companies are saying yes to transition, but they require funds and involvement in all the actors to come together to push for it.

 

I also sat in multiple talks about just energy transitions, nuclear talks (e.g.NICE program), water and energy systems talk, and NDCs. If you want to converse with me about them or my experience, Facebook (Zac Yeow) or telegram(@zacyeow) me.

Elwin: The Potential of Non-State Actors

The potential of non-state actors

From attending the events I mentioned in my previous post, I got the sense that I needed to look beyond national-level action. Therefore, I spent the rest of my time at COP24 attending events and talking to people to learn about non-state climate action. In this post, I will share some examples at different levels of what non-state climate leadership could look like.

I will begin with Prof Hsu’s research, which quantitatively illuminates just how much potential there is for non-state climate action. At the side event titled “Making climate action more transparent and ambitious: lessons learned from NDCs”, Prof Hsu presented how on the whole, countries are not sufficiently leveraging on the potential for non-state actors. In their NDCs, most Annex I countries did not mention non-state actors at all, while developing countries tended to only mention non-state actors in their NDCs when it came to adaptation (implying that they did not see non-state actors as having a potential to contribute to mitigation efforts). Her research also highlights in particular the potential of International Cooperative Initiatives (ICIs) in non-state climate action. ICIs are subnational actors that “adhere to rules and practices that seek to steer behaviour towards shared, public goals across borders”[1]. In addition to directly contribution to reducing emissions, ICIs contribute to mitigation by piloting innovations, spurring technological development and diffusion, and generate momentum for other actors.

International network at the city level

While talking to one of the WWF staff members at a “We Are Still In” press reception, I learned about C40 – a city-based initiative/ organization that targets two kinds of cities, megacities and innovator cities. Its purpose is to drive city-level action and data-driven goals through technical assistance, research and peer-to-peer exchange. C40 seems to have been successful thus far – 70% of C40 cities have accelerated climate action as a result of the C40 network[2]. C40 captures part of what I was initially looking for in my original conception of “climate leadership” – taking the successes of one group as a catalyst for further action.

State-level action

One of the speakers at a side-event titled “Just Transition for all” brought up New York Renews (NY Renews) as a prime example of subnational climate action leadership. NY Renews is a coalition of over 150 grassroots, state and national organizations, all working together with the aim of making New York State a leader in climate action via a full transition of New York’s power supply to renewable sources by 2050[3]. To achieve this, NY Renews has been working to push through the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act. However, despite having achieved bipartisan majority support, they were unable to pass the legislation in senate because it has been blocked by Senate Leader John Flanagan[4]. Nevertheless, it gives me a lot of hope to learn about the successes NY Renews has had in rallying wide political support from a diverse range of stakeholders in pushing for a Just Transition.

Community-level action

I also saw some promising examples of community-level climate action at COP24. For instance, at a side-event titled “Building ecological and community climate resilience: a working example from Atlantic Canada”, I was introduced to ACAP Saint John. ACAP Saint John is the name of the NGO involved in the first ground-up community watershed management initiative based in Saint John, Canada. It aims to build resilience through employing participatory processes with community, businesses, and social groups, with the NGO acting as the catalyst that convenes this process and builds capacity. I believe that there is a lot of potential for more of such participatory ecosystem management initiatives, because of how it creates buy-in from groups and brings together community over ecosystem protection.

One interesting facet about the ACAP Saint John project is that they are also working to build a set of resilience indicators to track their progress in ecosystem management. This is because in dealing with the wicked problem of climate change, it can sometimes be difficult to know when you’ve made progress. The larger goal in this effort is to create a framework that can be applied to other ecosystems to find site-relevant indicators for resilience. It also speaks towards the challenge Prof Hsu identified: only about 22% of ICIs have quantitative goals[5].

[1] Hsu, A.; Widerberg, O.; Weinfurter, A.; Chan, S.; Roelfsema, M.; Lütkehermöller, K. and Bakhtiari, F. (2018). Bridging the emissions gap – The role of non- state and subnational actors. In The Emissions Gap Report 2018. A UN Environment Synthesis Report. United Nations Environment Programme. Nairobi.

[2] https://www.c40.org/networks

[3] http://www.nyrenews.org/what-we-do

[4] http://www.nyrenews.org/news/2018/6/13/nys-senate-leadership-blocking-renewables-bill-with-majority-support

[5] Hsu et al. (2018). Bridging the emissions gap – The role of non- state and subnational actors.

Zhi Yi: The Oceans @ COP 24

The oceans at COP have come a long way. Dr Carol Turley, a marine scientist from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory who has been attending COP since 2009, remarked in a conversation that only 1 or 2 marine scientists were present at the 2009 COP, as compared to the numerous marine scientists that were present at the conference now. Events such as the Oceans Action Day also used to be offsite events that happened outside of the main conference, a stark difference from the current schedule where marine-related events featured almost every day, on top of an Oceans Action Day within COP 24 dedicated to including the oceans in the climate conference.

As a greater understanding of how oceans are affected by climate change and are also key in solving the climate crisis we face, the attention placed on the oceans at the climate conferences have grown. From more well understood impacts of climate change on the oceans such as warming of the oceans and ocean acidification to less understood and more recently discovered impacts such as deoxygenation, scientists are continually increasing our understanding of the linkages between climate change and the oceans. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is also in the midst of preparing a special report titled “The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate”[1].

Other than the science, many policymakers and practitioners have also been talking about including oceans in NDCs and also strengthening the inclusion of oceans within the negotiations process. In fact, there has even been talk about making the next COP the “Oceans COP”, with this process spearheaded by nations and states mostly from the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and particularly Fiji. This attention on oceans is not only warranted, but also much needed, given the large-scale impacts that climate change will have on the oceans. Not only that, fulfilling the goal of keeping warming well under 2 degrees Celsius as stated in the Paris Agreements is also unlikely without healthy oceans.

As oceans become increasingly included at the conferences, the importance and need for greater cooperation to better protect the health of our oceans has also been continually highlighted. In fact, many of the needed actions as highlighted by the Options Paper by the Friends of the Oceans initiative resulting from the meetings in Bangkok[2] are also necessary actions to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. This highlights not only the importance of keeping to the Paris Agreement for the oceans, but also the need for commitments from not just coastal countries or island states, but from everyone – including land-locked countries. It is only with commitments from everyone will we be able to preserve the health of our oceans.

So far, this has only been a cursory introduction to the role of the oceans and the inclusion of oceans at the climate conference. In the next blogpost, I will further unpack and analyse the ocean-related events that took place during COP 24, and also look at steps moving forward.

 

[1] See: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/srocc/

[2] See: https://cop23.com.fj/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Options-Paper-Friends-of-the-Ocean-Bangkok.pdf

Beatrice: The COP24 is still unsustainable

The COP24 is not sustainable and this shows how far away we are from actual climate action (both mitigation and adaptation), as well as the drastic measures that must be taken. My project focused on finding out whether the COP24 and people attending actually reflect the fight towards transitioning to sustainable development and lifestyles. The short answer is no. Neither the COP24 is carbon neutral, nor most delegates are living sustainably, although they might try really hard. In this blog post, I will just focus on the conference itself first.

Many articles already criticize how much CO2 emissions this conference is equivalent to, despite the UNFCCC’s statement that “the event is to be entirely climate neutral”. RT estimates that the summit will emit more CO2 than 8,200 U.S. homes do in a year. Even if some GHG emissions can be “offset”, and delegations were encouraged to purchase UN-certified offsets to compensate for their carbon footprint, the material waste created cannot be eliminated.

The food waste and litter for instance cannot simply be “offset”. I witnessed at the end of every day how trays still full of food were being thrown away. I asked the staff once where these trays were going and they answered with a disappointed smile “oh well, to the trash” and then offered if I wanted some of the food left.

With regards to the type of food offered, it is clear that the Polish diet is unfortunately quite unsustainable. Wednesday’s buffet at the Spodek arena confirmed this dietary hypothesis, with 11 out of 13 dishes being processed meat, sausages, and beef. In fact, a new analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity, Farm Forward and Brighter Green calculates that the meat-heavy menu at the COP24 could contribute to 4,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. Meat dishes generate average greenhouse gas emissions four times higher than the plant-based meals. But these facts did not stop the Polish Pavilion from giving out cultural delicacies like wild boar meat, red deer meat, lard and other meat-based tapas (not to mention the coal-soap exhibition which probably won them the Fossil of the Day award on the first day). Should we change our diets even if it is part of our culture or simply how we produce and consume things? The second option is obviously preferable.

Plastics and recyclables are also a big problem. All food locations and coffee stands offered plastic lids, plastic bottles, and even straws sometimes. The welcome package came with a reusable bottle, however, not many people seemed to use them which makes this initiative useless. The recycling guidelines for the colorful bins set out throughout the venues were not clear either, and whether we could put stained packaging in the paper bin or compost in the “other waste” bin was unspecified. By looking into these bins a couple of times, I realized that we don’t even know how to recycle properly. The waste management issue was mentioned in the UNFCCC’s website and stated that everything would be recycled according to the current Polish regulation, however Poland is well below the latest EU-27 average of 40% (25% recycled and 15% composted) of recycling rates, which means landfilling will mostly be the alternative and it’s in fact most common way of handling waste in Poland. The staff taking out the trash would sometimes mix all the color trash bags into a single black bag too.

The COP24 is a replica of our current flawed and unsustainable system and this also reflects how difficult the efforts of transition and mitigation will be. The way we are currently living is not eco-friendly and Debra Roberts, an IPCC Co-Chair from the Working Group II, highlighted 4 main systems that guide our lifestyles which have to change: 1) Energy 2) Cities 3) Land use and 4) Industry. All the aforementioned have the technological know-how, scientific backup, and simple alternatives for individuals necessary to start the transition. We just need the policies and governments to align, and invest in these solutions.

Nevertheless, not all was negative with the COP24, and we should acknowledge the efforts done to make the conference paperlight, virtual and so transparent and accessible, sustainable in terms of transportation around the city by using public buses, mostly plastic packaging-free (sandwiches, pastries and fruits were given), and reusable materials were also used for equipment and decoration of spaces offices and pavilions. The President of this year’s summit, Mr. Michal Kurtyka also stated in his opening speech on Monday that the fact that the venue for the COP24 was once a coal mine, shows that transitioning is possible.

Through my empirical research we cannot see all the measures taken behind the scenes to organize this COP and make it as sustainable as possible. Overall, I believe the COP is more a symbol of peaceful diplomacy and negotiation that takes place every year to show the solidarity between nation states and a will for change (although the will is not enough and things are not moving fast enough). If we evaluate the outcomes of the negotiations and their success over time, we might start to believe that bringing together more than 22,000 people for this event is not worth it. As it has been stressed over and over again by many parties, we cannot afford to waste more time with a business-as-usual approach. The IPCC clearly states that radical decisions and unprecedented measures must be implemented to avoid the catastrophic predictions if we reach 1.5 degrees. My next blog will report what I’ve learned with regards to how we can convince people to care and take action more efficiently. If we know what’s at stake why do we still not care enough? Why are politicians still talking about the costs of mitigating climate change and not the benefits of taking climate action? These paradoxes will also be addressed in my next blog.

Sources:

  • https://unfccc.int/news/making-cop24-sustainable
  • https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2018/climate-conference-menu-12-02-2018.php?from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0
  • https://earther.gizmodo.com/poland-literally-filled-an-international-climate-change-1830820392?fbclid=IwAR1bwks8Bd9xK22n_4T3V3yRNHeZs-VLmg3E7VyplU218yt9mHiPCMBjW7c
  • https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-07/coal-company-participation-at-climate-talks-defended/10592146

 

Xin Run @ Climate March COP24

 

The first week of COP24 seemed to have a slow progress on the Paris Agreement Rule book, with dynamics of power observed between developed and developing countries, as well as countries that are more vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Observing the negotiation sessions, it seems like country leaders often tend to prioritise the economic stability in their own countries. While transitioning away from fossil fuels is important and urgent, nations that are economically dependent on fossil fuels find it difficult to reduce their economic involvement in fossil fuels. At the same time, developing countries that are required to limit their greenhouse gas emissions tend to be requesting for more funds from developed countries.

While the country leaders were sitting in the meeting rooms having consultation and conversations about the Paris Agreement Rule book, thousands of protestors marched 3km in the city of Katowice. The march began at Plac Wolności, and passed by the Spodek and the MCK (ie, the venue for the COP24).

Out of curiosity and my interest in people’s movement, I participated in the protest.

This is the first time I participated in a protest like this. The climate march allowed the people to have their voices heard. It was touching to see thousands of people rallying along the streets for the same cause. After one week of engaging with the rich text of the Paris agreement rule book and sitting in the negotiation rooms listening to country leaders speak, it was a refreshing experience to be outdoors walking and shouting with groups of strangers. That even though we don’t know each other by name, deep down in our hearts, we know that we are marching for the same cause. We are marching for the climate, for our planet earth, for our future generations. The experience reminds me about what I’ve been fighting for, and allows me to make a statement about what I believe in.

Is there value in protesting and having people mobilization? Are protests impactful? Is this specific protest going to change whatever that is happening in the negotiation rooms? Yes, I believe so. The protest shows the strength of the people’s voice. It shows the country leaders that they have to be responsible for the demands of the people whom they are serving. Having thousands of people standing outside of the COP24 event site is definitely different from having them walking around the indoor buildings of Spodek and MCK attending negotiations and side events.

And to the country leaders, I hope you hear the people’s voices, not just from those who were protesting, but also from those who are back home working on the ground for the ones who suffer the impact of climate change. We cannot wait anymore, because winning slowly is equivalent to losing. I urge you to act now and to take ambitious actions at the COP24!

Jamie: Between Words and Silence – a first-time observer to COP negotiations

When I drafted my project, I was optimistic that I would see the negotiations play out by the seven elements of interest-based negotiation. After I attended my first informal consultation, it quickly became evident that the negotiations are not straightforward. The context of the COP places the negotiations to be worlds apart from the exercises I did with my classmates in my Negotiation classes. Eventually, I realized that language played a vastly important role in the negotiations and the drafted text. From there, I could finally peel back one of the many layers of multilateral climate negotiations. I also learned to adapt my thinking of the Seven Elements as I explored side events and meetings, looking to see how interests, relationship-building and options generated extended beyond the formal negotiation.

The Observer Affects the Experiment

On the first Monday of the COP, I found my way towards Zone B, seeking entry into the high-level opening plenary. The security personnel directed me to the overflow room instead, where I could only watch on the big screen while being plugged into a portable headset. I scouted my way around the vast area around the COP venue, and landed in Meeting Room 25 where I listened to a Working Group meeting on a past workshop.  I began to realize that the yellow “Observer” badge was limiting because doors only opened for pink “Party” badges.

Unlike other informal consultations in past COPs, most of the meetings were not ticketed but still confined by the space of the meeting rooms. Some sessions had all available desks taken up, and some observers were even sitting on the floor, typing frantically. Our access could be revoked as soon as one party suggested that the discussions ought to be conducted in an informal-informal (inf-inf) setting. That was what happened in my first APA Agenda 5 meeting following the Paris Agreement Article 13 developments.[1] As soon as one party suggested that they entered and informal-informal, all observers were ushered out. The first time I experienced being asked to leave, my disappointment of not being able to take notes for my project only added to the underwhelming feeling of being an observer. Melissa Low, my seasoned COP mentor who followed the transparency framework, helped me to manage my expectations. Looking on the bright side of things, closed door discussions give the parties a chance to be frank with each other and move discussions forward.

Language is Powerful

I attended a variety of APA[2], CMP[3], and SBSTA[4] meetings to see if there was a difference in the way they conducted their sessions, but they were all procedurally similar. Negotiations between parties and the Secretariat was fascinating. I was intrigued by the COP Secretariat and the co-facilitators’ responses to the organizational problems, where they sought the mandate from the parties yet remained firm with their deadlines. Many sessions had to run in parallel and parties expressed their discontent at spreading their delegations thin across all agenda items. It was pointed out that meetings were not able to start without sufficient quorum from the various negotiating blocs. It was even taken against members of the Secretariat that the second and third iterations had to be submitted by the first weekend of COP – parties felt that it was an impediment to fruitful discussions. Melissa later explained that it was because the final text had to be translated into the six official languages of the United Nations that hence put the COP under pressure to deliver.

The negotiation between member states was a lot harder to detect. To the untrained eye (and ears), I found it difficult to spot the Seven Elements in play. Since I understood some aspects of non-verbal communication through my classes on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)[5], I tried to pay attention to the expressions and mannerisms of individual negotiators. From my vantage point, they did not have a ‘tell’ in their body language. Most of the parties are seasoned diplomatic agents of their respective countries so they must have been trained to reveal as little as possible at the negotiating table. Even if I wanted to see how they interacted with each other away from the negotiating table, they were either huddled (in their negotiation blocs) or too busy running to another venue.

The formal language of the negotiations was also relatively new to me. When negotiators spoke, they followed the protocol of speaking in order of when members raised their placard. The verb choice at the start of every sentence could highlight the agreement or disagreement in the room. “Affirm”, “Welcome”, “Fully support” showed agreement, while disagreement was phrased in a way of saying “we are not comfortable” and only in extreme circumstances it is overtly said that they do not agree. Many claims for compromise and cooperation was said as pleasantries, “looking to discuss further” or parties would say they are “willing to work”. I wonder if it was for the benefit of fellow negotiators or the observers listening in on the conversation.

Adding, changing, or taking away a single word from the text was contentious, but I could empathize with my friends who felt that these were trivial matters. Even removing brackets meant finality, and many parties at the time of the negotiation of the second iteration, was still unprepared to accept. I tried to explain it from a legal perspective, highlighting that the draft text was like a contract that was meant to bind parties, and thus the construction of every clause was a substantial issue. It seemed like the options were quickly running out because the third iteration seemed far from complete.

By the time I left my final observation of an informal consultation on Saturday, the exhaustion and frustration were palpable. Up until this point, the negotiations generated options that moved one step forward but two steps back. However, I learned to look beyond the formalities of COP in order to play closer attention to how language is an instrument for dominance. If I ever get another chance to attend a COP, I would be savvier to pick up the nuances of conversations happening around the room. Words dominate more than the non-verbal cues, and it seems like a deliberate choice to follow procedure rather than to allow negotiations to descend into an informal talk-shop. I wonder if things would be different in Week 2? I will have to check up with my pals attending from the Environmental Law Students Association.

Conclusion? Manage my expectations

Being a fly on the wall inside COP negotiation rooms was harder than I realized. Especially as a youth observer, I felt I had a stake in the success of the Paris Agreement. These parties were negotiating my future, and I felt that I had a right to know. I am sure others share my frustration when getting shut out. Nevertheless, there are trade-offs to transparency even within the space and structure of the COP. National interests take precedence, even if these interests are primarily focused on economic development. I cannot to pretend to know the countries’ interests and positions merely through a negotiation. I also learned to appreciate that the COP is only one of many pieces in an ongoing process. I only get to see a sliver of the of the overall painting of such an omnibus agreement. It will take experience, like Melissa, to balance the need to be informed and the respect for the process of being a yellow badge.


[1] The enhanced transparency framework under Article 13 of the Paris Agreement (PA) is interesting because it sets the legally binding rules in reporting and accounting emissions for nationally determined contributions (NDCs). For more details, see https://www.iddri.org/en/publications-and-events/issue-brief/article-13-paris-agreement-reflecting-flexibility-enhanced

[2] Ad hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) meetings

[3] Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol

[4] Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice

[5] Neuro-linguistic programming was introduced in the Negotiation class I took with Professor Joel Lee. It suggests that there are non-verbal cues and patterns of behavior that allow us to process interactions in a subjective manner. See http://mediationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2013/04/14/ramblings-of-a-neuro-linguist-dealing-with-the-problem-of-perception/ and Prof Joel Lee’s other articles for an idea.

Tagged , ,

Elwin: Re-thinking Climate Leadership

The need for leadership

On Tuesday, I attended a high-level event on Global Climate Action titled “Embracing Inclusive Multilateralism”. At this event, UN Secretary-General António Guterres gave an opening speech that really highlighted to me the urgent need for leaders (broadly speaking) in climate action. Firstly, the commitments made by countries in their Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the Paris Agreement do not get us where we need to be to avoid catastrophic climate change: even if all countries achieve their initial NDCs, we are headed for a pathway with more than 3 degrees Celsius of expected warming. Worse still, most countries are not on-track to meet their short or long-term targets (2020 or 2050 respectively) in relation to their NDCs. What all this says is that we desperately need an acceleration of action to come from somewhere. When I initially thought up this project, I intended to focus on state actors as potential leaders, for example by coalitions of countries such as BASIC countries or the EU that would lead the way and create pressure on other countries to act via the Paris Agreement’s ratcheting-up mechanism. This kind of leadership would help overcome the barrier of countries not wanting to be an economic loser by moving first. However, through the many events I attended, I saw two distinct and familiar narratives surrounding responsibility being employed. This in my view poses a significant challenge to any state-level leadership in increasing action in the Paris Agreement.

Two different stories of responsibility

I managed to listen to Elina Bardram (representing the European Commission) speak on climate leadership at a side-event hosted at the EU Pavilion. The EU’s interpretation of responsibility (per the idea of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities [CBDR] of the Paris Agreement) can be summed up in this quote: “We can talk about who did what in the industrial revolution, but that’s not the world we live in today – many big polluters are no longer Annex I [in terms of the Kyoto Protocol].” In their view, even though they were the countries that benefitted the most from being heavy polluters early on from the industrial revolution, that does not matter much now because now some of the biggest polluters today (e.g. China and India) are developing (Annex II) countries. This line of reasoning is used by the EU to justify their weak Paris Agreement targets. For instance, Pascoe Sabido (Corporate Europe Observatory) pointed out that natural gas is a part of the EU’s core long-term strategy for 2050. Sabido critiques this because the methane emissions that come with natural gas extraction are much worse than using coal as a power source. Therefore, while the EU may at times suggest taking a leading role in things like technological development, they are not expected to lead the way in mitigation efforts because they see themselves as less responsible in the current day and age.

On the other hand, developing countries also employ an idea of responsibility to avoid taking mitigation action leadership. At a side-event titled “Towards a successful pre-2020 stocktake: addressing the action and support deficit”, JR Bhatt (representing the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) emphasized how developed countries have not fulfilled their promises, despite being disproportionately responsible for climate change. Here, he refers to promises in terms of both financial support (the target has been set at US$100b per year to support developing countries), and mitigation action from developed countries. Therefore, although the Paris Agreement’s mechanism is intended to improve on the Kyoto Protocol by moving past the bifurcation of “Annex I” and “Annex II” countries via the CBDR concept, this dichotomy is still very much alive and a major blockade to mitigation leadership by any state or groups of states. Most developing countries have goals in their NDCs that are contingent on financial support from developed states, despite how it will be challenging to achieve the US$100b climate finance target without the US’ participation. Furthermore, Pieter Pauw’s (Frankfurt School of Finance and Management) found in his research that the costs to implement all conditional NDCs may be too high to be covered by the US$100b pledge.

What I learned: We cannot look to where we traditionally have been for leadership in the climate regime

My main takeaway from COP24 is that we cannot continue to wait in hopes that nations will spontaneously spring into action and push the climate regime into an accelerated pace. National governments are ultimately accountable to smaller groups of people – individuals, groups, communities, organizations and businesses. We need to start thinking about how we can help accelerate action at these smaller scales as a driving force for national-level action. UNSG Guterres concurred with this idea in his opening speech to the high-level Global Climate Action event, “most of the most innovative solutions are done at the regional or local level.”

Furthermore, perhaps I have overestimated the potential of international pressure for increasing ambition in the Paris Agreement. Niklas Höhne (NewClimate Institute) found in his research that ambition is more dependent on factors within rather than external from the country. This includes factors such as the potential effects on the local economy, the costs and the country’s overall mitigation potential. This research suggests that we should focus on leadership on a more local rather than international scale.

Sangam Paudel: Finance seems to be Nepal’s Primary Concern

Nepal’s presence at the COP-24 was officially marked by President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s address to the UNFCCC on the 3rd of December. In line with my hypothesis in the previous post, the President began with issues of disproportionate impacts of climate change. The address painted a bleak picture of Nepal’s economy, her mountains, glacial lakes, river basins, and the impacts of disasters that have been aggravated by climate change; this appeal to the pathos of the audience linked well with the agenda of climate justice. In the president’s words, the Nepalese people felt “penalized for the mistakes [they] never made.” The address, then, proceeded to highlight the importance of climate finance for Nepal in the context of climate justice.

Throughout the week, I could observe that this issue of climate justice and climate finance was at the heart of Nepal’s concerns.

On Dec 4, an event was organized by Japan Water Forum (JWF) and Neighbour Organization Nepal (NEO-Nepal) titled, “Water and Climate: How to Increase Engagement of Private Actor.” The event would showcase the practices of various actors from financial institutions, private sector’s partnership, and NGOs in their respective water sectors. However, the speaker from the Nepali NGO NEO-Nepal was absent from the event. This was the organization’s second absence in 2 days, the first marked by a vacant booth labelled ‘NEO-Nepal’ in the exhibit area on the 3rd of December. Despite this absence, Nepalese observers in the audience made sure that Nepal’s concerns would be heard. Two questions/concerns (paraphrased) were put forward by Nepali observers:

  1. We (Nepal) have a challenge in communicating to the private sector the impact of climate change and the role they can play. How can we create awareness on the private sector so that they can listen and prioritize the issue?
  2. In developing countries like ours, the certification standards that are set by, say WTO policies, act as hindrances in trade and other economic activities. While certification may be a tool that aids sustainability issues, it seems to hamper economic benefits of poor communities.

To answer these concerns, the speakers pointed towards market mechanisms. Corporations will be obliged to listen, and act, when taxes and penalties that are brought forth by environmental regulations are imposed upon them. Thus, climate-friendly approaches are often economically beneficial in the long term, and this should assuage initial concerns about shifting to more sustainable economic activities.

Nepal’s concerns highlighted the financial burden that many actors in the developing world feel with regard to climate-friendly economic activities. The shift from business-as-usual to more climate-friendly methods requires an increase in climate finance flow. The UNFCCC’s ‘2018 Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows of the Standing Committee on Finance’ pointed to an encouraging trend of private actor engagement as much of the climate finance growth was observed to have been contributed by high level new private investment in climate goals. However, as UNFCCC executive secretary Patricia Espinosa pointed out, this scaling up on climate finance must be supported by an urgent scaling down of financing in high emission activities.

Nonetheless, climate finance seems to be growing, and for least developing countries like Nepal, this is a positive prospect. Financial support has been extremely important for LDCs to implement their national adaptation plans (NAPs) and national adaptation programmes of actions (NAPAs). This was highlighted in the UNFCCC Secretariat’s event that presented the works of the LDC Expert Group (LEG) in supporting the LDCs on adaptation, through assistance in accessing funding from the Global Climate Fund (GCF).

As such, it is no surprise that several stakeholders in Nepal have their own concerns regarding climate finance. The active engagement of the Nepalese audience members (mostly youth) with panelists during the side-events is surely a positive sign for future climate change action in Nepal.

In the next post, I will go in more depth on the up-scaling of adaptation actions in Nepal and the role played by financial actors. This role played by financial actors will raise a few questions from the stakeholders (meaning more questions from the concerned Nepalese observers), and I will seek to report the events as they unfold.

Lucy: Monday Observations

BRICS high level actions

  • There were no National Statements by BRICS countries.
  • Side events from all BRICS country pavilions start on Tuesday
  • Agendas of the side events can be found here

South Korea Pavilion event: National Strategic Project carbon upcycling R&D project

  • Presentation of South Korean technologies for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and measures for facilitating smart water grid project implementation in multiple cities, including overseas in Beni Municipality, Nepal
  • Raised ambition for decarbonization using innovative technology and social methods

Council on Energy, Environment, and Water CEEW: Living up to the Deal: Expectations from COP24

4 expectations were presented in their briefing

  • Science must guide collective action on the basis of equity
  • Paris Agreement Rulebook must support building capacity for transparency and ex ante reporting on climate finance
  • Access to finance more just, equitable and differentiated
  • Recognize actors, initiatives and institutions that can strengthen collective action

What should be delivered as a result of COP24?

  • Katowice Rulebook

What it is currently expected to deliver?

  • An insufficient bare skeleton of rules whose development will be dragged on into the next few years
  • Polish presidency themes* to achieve carbon neutrality:
    • Technology – development of climate-friendly modern solutions, such as electromobility;
    • Man – solidary and just transition of industrial regions;
    • Nature – achieving climate neutrality by absorbing CO2 by forests and land, or by water management.
    • *all of which were criticized as a distraction to transparency, loss and damage, and financing, the heated topics of this COP

What could bridge the gap between sub-optimal and ideal?

  • Countries should adopt distributed and diffused leadership for climate action and do a little more than expected instead of expecting one country to take responsibility for driving the efforts.

Establishing transparency and trust is key to adapting to the changed political and climate reality

  • The impact of transparency and transnational carbon market is getting 40% closer to emission reduction target for 1.5C compared to using primarily national carbon markets

At the 6th Workshop of the Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSV), I followed China’s first participation in such an event. Based on the questions raised by other parties, there were a few issues China seemed to highlight as areas of expertise:

  • Afforestation program and greening program to offset carbon emissions – which was also presented on at the first official side event at the Chinese pavilion
  • Pilot programs for carbon emissions trading
  • Development of and insights for greenhouse gas inventory
  • Measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) system development on the national, local, and enterprise level

China gave an impressive data-driven detailed presentation on the above topics and more. The enthusiasm from other parties in the Q&A period eventually led to China speaking overtime and being cut short by the chair/facilitator of the FSV. China definitely set a model for tackling this global challenge with vigor as they shared the breadth and intensity of climate action.

Tagged , ,

Beatrice: Do the COP24 and its attendees walk the talk in their sustainability efforts?

Hi! I’m Beatrice, currently a first year student at Yale-NUS College. I became really aware of the severity of global issues surrounding sustainability and climate change in march of this year, when I chaired for a Model United Nations conference. As a chair for the economic-social committee, I had to complete a research report and become somewhat “specialised” in the question of promoting the Sustainable Development Goals among the youth. I understood then that to meet the SDGs by 2030, there had to be a unified and global response from all actors, both state and non-state actors because all SDGs are interconnected and interdependent. This meant that both public and private sectors had to cooperate, governments had to adopt sustainability policies and set regulations, businesses and stakeholders had to limit their impacts on the environment, and common people like you and me had to be more conscious consumers and live more sustainably in order to reduce our global footprint. I decided to create an Instagram account (@Green_Eyed_Peaz) over the summer to do more research on how one could live more sustainably, offering tips to other conscious consumers and zero-waste fanatics, all while raising awareness. I could call myself a passionate environmentalist in the process of learning.

The COP24 will finalise the Paris Agreement by implementing the guidelines to turn this ambitious agreement into reality and push for the must needed climate action. The delegates and attendees from around the world are informed about what is at stake and what needs to be done. In fact, the IPCC report warned us that we are running out of time and should implement effective measures to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. So people that are aware of these problems must also know that each individual is part of the problem. How sustainable are the attendees’ lives and do they realize the impact they have? How sustainable is the conference in terms of energy, carbon neutrality, and food and resource waste? What example is this COP24 setting for the people watching?

As individuals, our consumerist lifestyle and daily demands contribute to climate change. The trio of largest greenhouse-gas-emitting categories are indeed electricity, transportation, and food and agriculture. Despite being aware of the facts, some are in denial, or think that taking small initiatives is useless. Refusing single-use plastics for example is a simple initiative that some environmentalists advocate for. However some still prefer what is easy and offers comfort, over what is right for the environment. I plan on investigating what sort of lifestyles the people who come to the conference have by interviewing a range of different people and observing the COP’s organisation. Are they walking the talk? Or are we all hypocritically talking about protecting the environment while (maybe unconsciously) contributing to its destruction through the way we live.

The question is, are we putting our ideals into practice? The fact that most of us traveled by plane to come to this COP24 is already ironic. The UN and these international conferences focus on global scale solutions to macro challenges, but the micro level of things should also be tackled. The side-events I will attend are focused on mitigation strategies. I will analyse what large-scale solutions are being proposed and whether or not the issue of individual behaviors is being brought up. Our current way of life is not sustainable and solely relies of fossil fuels. Experts have agreed that our living patterns and consumerist tendencies would have to radically change. But are we ready for that? How much of our comfort are we willing to give up? This is also what I will be asking people throughout the conference. I’m looking forward to fruitful discussions, eye-opening events, and of course hope that the COP’s outcomes will only be successful.