ENB “in the corridors” of ADP2-6

Here are ENB’s concluding observations on Day 2 of this week’s special session of the ADP: 

“After what many had qualified as a “slow start,” the second day of ADP 2-6 opened with a call to switch gears. As discussions on adaptation began, however, a stream of lengthy statements unfolded, and even the Co-Chairs’ initiative to allow mixed seating did little to speed up the pace.

ENB logoWhile delegates recognized that a constructive dialogue did take place, some lamented that a lot of time was lost in “repeating the obvious,” with accumulating delays in addressing items on the ADP’s busy agenda.

With negotiations sliding back to familiar patterns, many remarked that it was clear that more negotiating time would be needed to meet the April 2015 deadline announced by the Co-Chairs.

The contact group on ADP item 3 took the lion’s share of delegates’ attention, with the full-day TEM on CCUS attracting limited participation. Some delegates lamented that, while the TEM format is useful for awareness raising, it allows little time for in-depth discussions. Many noted however, that this was a golden opportunity to make an entry point for CCS in the 2015 agreement.”

Posted in ADP

“Let us stand up to the responsibility placed in our hands.”

kishanWith this statement, ADP Co-Chair Kishan Kumarsingh opened this week’s special session of the ad hoc negotiating body this morning.  Mandated by the COP17 decision taken in Durban, South Africa in 2011, the ADP must produce “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” that will take the place of the Kyoto Protocol after its second commitment period ends in 2020.  Starting almost 1.5 hours late (which meant that this writer’s 4am wake up in Ohio was unnecessary), the morning plenary meeting covered opening statements by the co-chair, incoming COP20 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres before moving into interventions by negotiating groups.  Webcasts in the 6 official UN languages had to stop at 1:30pm, already a half hour later than the translators planned, when the Russian and Saudi negotiators protested (in English) not being able to communicate in their national languages.  And so the morning session was carried over to the afternoon, and the start of the contact group listed on today’s daily programme will be pushed back.  In addition to watching the ADP negotiators via webcast, we observers can follow the discussions via live tweeting at the hash tag #ADP2014.  (NOTE:  The live tweeting is especially useful when sessions are not webcasted.)  As alway, CAN International provides its daily take on the negotiations, as does IISD via the Earth Negotiation Bulletin (ENB). This inaugural issue of the session’s ENB does a particularly fine job giving an overview of the ADP negotiations to date and of recent, related meetings outside the UNFCCC that provide important context.

adp in bonnExecutive Secretary Figueres reminded assembled negotiators of the run-up to this special meeting and how their actions this week would be viewed.  She described the UN Climate Summit in New York as  “never before” have 120 state heads come together on one day under one roof to make pledges. Given these public statements of commitment to the UNFCCC negotiations, Figueres admonished that “your heads of state have assured the world, now eyes turn to you, delegates, on your work this week.”   Despite the co-chair’s warnings that “sticking to positions is not negotiations” and about the “futility of stalling on positions,” several negotiating blocs have staked out familiar ground.  For example, the G77+China immediately underscored the need for the Loss and Damage Mechanism to take its place as a sixth element of the new agreement, standing separate from adaptation, while the Umbrella Group focused on the need for a more concise, streamlined document in Lima, with Workstream 2′s focus on pre-2020 ambition important but balanced with “intense” Workstream 1 talks about mitigation elements in the Paris agreement.   An array of documents prepared by the co-chairs and UNFCCC Secretariat staff may be found here.  State Party submission on point are linked here.

Stay tuned.  This week’s special ADP session runs through Saturday, October 25.  As VLS COP20 blogger whitneyb noted, “[w]ith increased virtual participation via social media, an active FaceBook page for UNFCCC and a plethora of citizen groups pushing climate change awareness, WE MAY ALL HAVE A VOICE and a front row seat (at least, in front of a laptop).”


Posted in ADP

Can social media offer a voice and a virtual seat at the climate change table?

It is estimated that one in four people worldwide use some form of social media. While this statistic may cause concern among some populations, should climate change advocates around the world rejoice in this? According to news about Instagram , the International Center of Photography  is working hard to bring climate change front and center for every social media user. This eight-year project aims to showcase beauty of untouched areas of the world and appeal to the senses of ‘what could be lost.’ Some of the photographs highlight climate catastrophes such as deforestation in Borneo and melting glacial fields. This is not, however, an overt cry for change.  The idea is to expose Instagram users to these images and spark conversation which would not happen when one walks solo through the ICP’s Midtown Manhattan gallery.  The onsite exhibition coordinator, Pauline Vermare, explains, “It’s not about art, it’s about changing the society.”

View of the junction of the Colorado and the Little Colorado from the Navajo territory. The Grand Canyon National Park begins after this junction. Click the image to enlarge. Copyright Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images

View of the junction of the Colorado and the Little Colorado from the Navajo territory. The Grand Canyon National Park begins after this junction.  This is one of the ICP images.
Click the image to enlarge. Copyright Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images

Using social media to raise climate change awareness is not novel: three years ago, Al Gore started “The Climate Reality Project,” created a FaceBook page and asked the public to commit to hosting view-parties for online climate change events. Today, this page has almost 321,000 ‘likes’ and still acts as a news source for climate-savvy FaceBookers. Others add climate change inspired ‘hashtags’ that cross social media boundaries from FaceBook to Twitter and Instagram. This was evident during People’s Climate march as over 400,000 participants gathered in the streets of New York City – most uploading photos with #peoplesclimatemarch.

While these social media campaigns may subconsciously expose us to issues or overtly alert us to climate news, do they really make a difference to the leaders on the road to Lima and Paris for upcoming UNFCCC and Kyoto negotiations? It seems as though, while a good way to stay informed, there is little evidence that party leaders actually take social media into account when devising negotiating plans. This doesn’t mean social media has no influence on policy; it may just mean that this is one channel for negotiators to monitor the thoughts of citizens and for constituencies to keep tabs on issues.  Since 2008, the UNFCCC secretariat and Information Services Coordinator have stated that virtual participation in convention sessions is a priority. Growing numbers of Convention delegates, lack of funding for some Parties/organizations to send delegates and a new host city each year make virtual participation a timely choice.  With increased virtual participation via social media, an active FaceBook page for UNFCCC and a plethora of citizen groups pushing climate change awareness, WE MAY ALL HAVE A VOICE and a front row seat (at least, in front of a laptop) at Paris COP21.  As for Lima, have confidence that the blogging, hashtagging and tweeting will keep the masses informed.

Legal enough?

In the run up to next week’s special meeting of the ADP, the United States is publicly setting out its negotiation agenda.


Todd Stern making an announcement at last year’s COP19/CMP9.

In a speech on Monday at Yale University, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern indicated the country’s position on the meaning of “legal” in the ADP’s mandate to produce “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” to take the place of the Kyoto Protocol after its second commitment period ends in 2020.

The Obama Administration is in a tough spot.  It wants to be a player in developing a 2015 agreement (popularly called the Paris agreement, for it is due to be opened for signature at COP21 in the City of Light).  It knows that this new agreement will contain legal elements.  It also knows that if the entire package takes the form of a treaty, it would have to bring it to the Senate for ratification — a highly unlikely proposition even if the Democrats maintain control after this fall’s midterm elections.

In his formal remarks, Stern pointed to New Zealand’s proposal for all countries to submit an emissions reduction schedule that would be legally binding and subject to mandatory accounting, reporting and review rules, but that stops short of taking the form of an internationally binding treaty.

Late night ADP negotiations in Warsaw.

Mexico and Singapore await their turns to speak at a late night session of the ADP in Warsaw.

As reported by Reuters, Stern commented that “some are sure to disapprove of the New Zealand idea, since the mitigation commitment itself is not legally binding, but we would counsel against that kind of orthodoxy.”   In the National Journal he argued that the flip side of this approach may be “increased ambition” in these nationally determined commitments: “Many countries, if forced to put forward legally binding commitments at the international level, are inevitably going to lowball their commitment out of fear—anxiety about what it means for their commitment to be internationally legally binding.”  Stern suggested at his Yale talk that countries might include description of the legally binding measures it will take domestically to meet its internationally stated goal, to reinforce the heft of its submission:  “it’s important for countries to make clear which specific policies will be used to meet their emissions targets.”

While this stance will indeed disappoint global partners in the UNFCCC’s ADP negotiations, officials inside the U.S. point out that it doesn’t weaken the country’s domestic approach to mitigating climate change.  Shaun Donovan, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said that the U.S. is aware that its own target will have a major impact on the outcome of a global deal.  “The more that we do, the more our ability to push other countries to make bold commitments as well, particularly China. It is something we are very focused on in terms of what targets we are able to get to.”  Stern also observed that the President’s Climate Action Plan and the EPA’s recent Clean Power Plan rulemaking “give us a level of credibility, and it give us a level of leverage that we have not had in the time I have been here.”


UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres at the bully pulpit.

Any points of common ground as we move from Bonn’s special ADP meeting next week to Lima’s COP20/CMP10 in December?

“We should agree on an angle of the [Paris] conference this year in Lima, Peru,” Stern opined to The Hill.  To that end, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations that given the lessons learned from COP15 in Copenhagen, she will push state parties gathered in Lima to have “cleanest possible draft text” available for governments by April 15, 2015.

2C or not 2C

Overheated Thermometer

A recent article in Nature has questioned whether 2°C of global warming (beyond pre-industrial levels) is the right limit for achieving the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) objective of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” With its publication, authors David G. Victor and Charles F. Kennel have returned the scientific and policy questions behind the 2°C limit to the climate change debate table with gusto.

First adopted within the EU in 1996 (EU Council, 1996, item no. 6), and formalized globally in COP15’s “Copenhagen Accord,” the 2°C limit, while not legally binding, has been the mantra for governmental and institutional climate change efforts since. According to Victor and Kennel, however, this limit is “wrongheaded” because it fails on both political and scientific terms. First, it is sufficiently divorced from emissions and energy use so that it is ineffective in driving serious mitigation. Second, it doesn’t adequately characterize the stress with which the climate system is contending due to human activities. Thus, the 2°C mantra provides governments and institutions with little policy guidance, while at the same time failing to ensure accountability. polar-532_1527216a

Even before comparison of the IPCC’s 3rd (2001) and 4th (2009) Assessment Reports on climate change impacts alarmed the world, scientists were questioning the 2°C limit. Well-known former NASA scientist, James Hansen, began sounding the alarm in 2008, warning that the consequences of 2°C warming would be “disastrous.” Last December, Hansen offered (with a host of collaborators) his latest treatise on the topic, indicating that the cumulative 1,000 GtC in the atmosphere implied by a 2°C limit (based on multiple models, including those reported in the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report) would actually generate “eventual warming of 3-4°C,” due to feedback loops. Even with 0.8°C warming, our planet is already experiencing climate extremes and other negative impacts.

Victor and Kennel acknowledge the attractiveness of the simplicity of the 2°C figure, but believe the global community is capable of conceptualizing and using a set of more accessible “vital signs” that can readily be translated into effective parameters for policy and action. In particular, they suggest atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and other GHGs as the best indicator of climate system health. They call for agreement on a global average GHG concentration goal on which “specific emissions and policy efforts” can be based. They also recommend tracking indices like ocean heat content and high-latitude temperature, both of which are currently measured. They base their recommendations on the success of the Millennium Development Goals and the Montreal Protocol, which they believe is due to the specific linking of goals to indicators that actually respond (within a few years) to human decision-making.

Many have criticized the Nature essay. Adam Vaughan, writing in the Guardian, reports a host of negative responses from scientists and international climate policy veterans, albeit not all totally damning. The climate activist community (ThinkProgress, Grist, and others) isn’t too happy, either. The timing of the article — less than 18 months before the deadline for the next international climate agreement, due to be inked in Paris — and it appearing in such a prominent journal have prompted the most anger. Many of these critics fear that doing away with the 2°C limit will let governments off the hook — exactly the result Victor and Kennel feel having the 2°C limit has done. (Victor’s rebuttal, available here, interestingly notes that many authors have articulated the need for multiple indicators.)

But do politicians feel that they’re “on the hook?” Current national energy policies have allowed a 34% increase in global GHG radiative forcing between 1990 and 2013, with atmospheric concentration of CO2 in 2013 exceeding the pre-industrial level (1750) by 142%. The World Meteorological Association’s September report of this data (see our September 9 blog posting on it) included the disturbing news that CO2 increase between 2012 and 2013 exceeded that of any single year since 1984.


With nearly universal agreement on the policy end (reduce anthropogenic emissions ASAP), but much disagreement over the policy driver (the line(s) in the sand beyond which there is no return), perhaps this catastrophe-based framing is poorly suited to policy-making. Victor and Kennel don’t suggest abandoning the 2°C limit today. Instead, they call for the UNFCCC to “chart a path” to designing a new set of indicators at that upcoming momentous Paris 2015 COP21 meeting.

2C or not 2C? We shall see.

The Importance of Public Participation and Governmental Oversight in REDD

Peru, the host nation for COP-20, is facing rapid deforestation. Due to pressures such as mining, logging and agriculture, Peru’s bio-diverse forests are shrinking fast. This is in spite of a comprehensive reform to forestry policy. The very safeguards that have been put in place to protect forests by the Peruvian government, are the same mechanisms being used to further exploit forests: permits and concessions are being violated and loopholes are being used to promote industry over conservation.

DeforestationGlobally, deforestation accounts for about 17% of greenhouse gas emissions. The UN Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is meant to address deforestation and forest degradation in least developed countries (where, as in Peru, natural resources are often rapidly depleted in the process of modernization).  56 Countries have joined the REDD Programme, 21 of which have active UNEP REDD projects. While the REDD Programme is designed to address deforestation and to combat climate change, it has been criticized for lacking effective oversight mechanisms and for leaving local peoples out of decision-making processes.

The principle that local peoples should have access to decision-making about their natural resources is articulated in the Bali Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. The Bali principles focus on  recognizing due process as a right within environmental matters. The right to free, prior and informed consent is emphasized. While REDD purports to be a programme that directly engages with local peoples, that is not always the case. For example, in Kenya, violent evictions are occurring to make forested areas REDD+-ready.


The extent to which communities are given access to information and participation in the REDD process will in turn affect which projects are chosen, how they are implemented and what project outcomes are for local peoples. Many LDCs lack sufficient governmental infrastructure, which may make monitoring REDD projects difficult. As UNEP acknowledges, governmental monitoring is essential to ensuring that REDD projects comply with international human rights principles. UNEP has identified transparency, respect for local peoples and full and effective participation as essential aspects of the REDD programme. Going forward it is crucial that advocacy groups monitor REDD projects closely to ensure these principles are followed.


Simulating success

duke simulationThe Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University will host the 5th Annual Inter-University Climate Change Negotiations Simulation over the October 24th-25th, 2014 weekend. The simulation’s design is based on the UNFCCC negotiations and focuses on the real-world politics as well as the policy debates at the core of the COP/CMP meetings. Student negotiators come from a variety of universities, represent one of the 196 UNFCCC state parties, and endeavor to craft the universal agreement (often called the Paris Agreement) that the real parties intend to finalize in 2015.

Participation is open to any student currently enrolled as an yale simulation 1undergraduate or graduate student. Registration is $20 (or $25 after October 17th, 2014), to cover food costs during the event. Free housing, offered by Duke students, is available for visiting students. After registration, students are assigned a country to represent throughout the negotiations, and readings and training are provided to help everyone learn and succeed.  Some of our VLS COP19 delegation students attended last year’s simulation before traveling to Warsaw, which was hosted by Yale, and spoke highly of the experience.


Looking back at the Climate Summit

As Carla posted here, a number of countries sent heads of state to the Climate Summit two weeks ago.  They or their U.N. ambassadors communicated a variety of pledges.  As the media reported, Presidentun summit plenary photo Obama repeated the pledges he’s made since COP15 in Copenhagen; he also made pointed statements aimed at his absent colleague from China.  Numerous developing countries pledged to pursue less carbon-intensive development.  For example, Costa Rica announced that it will be “powered purely” by clean energy by 2016, and Chile declared that it will derive 45% of its energy from renewables by 2020.  Industrializing southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia pledged, respectively, to cut GHGs by 26% and 40% by 2020.  The World Resources Institute (WRI) blogged here its take on the Summit.

ENB logoFor those of us who didn’t have access to the Summit, there are two ways to get an insider’s look at what happened, unfiltered by the mainstream press (or blogs).  For those who prefer to read their information, check out this edition of the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s summary report of the meeting.  It covers the individual ministerial interventions in some detail, as well as the information presented at the various thematic sessions.  Embedded in it are a variety of photos, but IISD’s more glamorous photo gallery is here.  I rely on this reporting service’s impeccable minute taking and summarizing of the UNFCCC/KP meetings that they publish under the title Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB).  You can find the most recent ENB covering the June 2014 SB40 and ADP meetings here.

un tv imagesFor those who prefer watching their news rather than reading it, you can find the archived webcasted sessions here on UN TV. From Ban Ki-moon’s opening speech (and Leo’s contribution not long thereafter) to the plenary where country ministers outlined their pledges, from the thematic sessions meant to convey current information on climate change and health, jobs, agriculture, and the economy to the poem read by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner of the Marshall Islands, it’s all here for your viewing pleasure.

Next stop on your must see and must read international climate change negotiations tour? The webcasted meetings of the October 2014 special session of the ADP and the ENB that will result.  Don’t switch that dial . . .  er, I mean bookmark.

Making the link between extreme weather and climate change

aussie extreme heatThis just in from down under:  current Australian heat waves are “almost certainly” a direct consequence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases.  According to the NYT, five groups of researchers used distinct methods to analyze the high temps that baked Australia in 2013 and 2014, and all five concluded that “last year’s heat waves could not have been as severe without the long-term climatic warming caused by human emissions.”  David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne who led some of the research, said that “when we look at the heat across the whole of Australia and the whole 12 months of 2013, we can say that this was virtually impossible without climate change.” These papers were among two dozen analyzing weather extremes from 2013 that were published yesterday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, part of an annual issue that tries to answer the question of whether climate change has anything to do with extreme weather events.  According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Martin P. Hoerling, who has skeptically viewed claims about links between weather events and global warming, “the evidence in those papers is very strong.”

These study results come at a propitious time.  Australia’s newly elected prime minister, Tony Abbott,bams_eee_2013_cover repealed the carbon tax and trading laws introduced by the Rudd government after it joined the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 (and Julia Gillard recommitted the country to a second round of the KP from 2012-2020).  Abbott’s government has also appointed a climate skeptic to lead review of the country’s renewable energy targets.  Consequently, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop was one of the speakers at last week’s UN Climate Summit who only reiterated past pledges: reducing emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.  In this new landscape of nationally determined commitments, she suggested that Australia’s emission reduction target compares well with those of other countries.  “This is a bipartisan target. It is an ambitious target because it means that Australia will reduce its emissions by 22% against business-as-usual levels. This compares well to the targets of other major economies.”


UN CLimate

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