Category Archives: Live from COP25

Posts created while attending the COP25 World Climate Summit

Big Ocean States have Big Ideas on Carbon Markets, Adaptation, and Loss and Damages

On December 3, 2019, the Vermont Law School COP25 student delegation started covering both negotiations and various side events of interest to small island nations. The primary focus of the day was the still unresolved details of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Article 6 is one of the most complex and obscure concepts of the Paris Agreement and has been an unresolved issue since 2015 because it is contentious and has wide-reaching implications. Generally, Article 6 will establish an international carbon market. Three main sections of Article 6 are up for discussion: 6.2, 6.4, and 6.8. First, Article 6.2 pertains to an accounting framework for international cooperation and allows for countries with existing carbon trading networks to link their emission schemes. Second, Article 6.4 covers the establishment of a central United Nations mechanism to trade credits from emission reductions achieved through implementation of specific projects. Finally, Article 6.8 recognizes a work program for non-market approaches, such as applying a carbon tax. Pre-negotiations started last week and will continue through December 9, 2019.

Student delegates at COP25. Top, l-r: Gillian Cowley, Naveed Nanjee, Ashli Taylor. Bottom, l-r, Antonia Douglas and Jordan Stone.

Student delegates at COP25. Top, l-r: Gillian Cowley, Naveed Nanjee, Ashli Taylor. Bottom, l-r, Antonia Douglas and Jordan Stone.

Another primary focus here at COP25 is all things ocean. Referred to as the Blue COP, small island nations have led the way here at COP25 in communicating that we must continue to reduce emissions, and we cannot look to the ocean to solve our climate emergency. The current state of our ocean’s health is a symptom of the international communities’ failure to act. In many negotiations and most side events attended by student delegates, the role of the ocean has been central to the dialogue.

Beyond the Article 6 negotiations discussed above, student delegates tracked the issue of Adaptation, which is divided into two main topics: (1) what to do to prepare for impacts associated with climate change (e.g., sea level rise, increased storminess, erosion) and (2) what to do in response to impacts already occurring. In a perfect world, vulnerable countries would be able to prepare for the impacts of climate change through adaptation and then could respond to those impacts through a loss and damage mechanism. But those coastal nations on the front lines of the climate emergency must both prepare for, and respond to, the effects of climate change simultaneously, and with limited financial resources.

The Blue COP

The Blue COP

According to the UNFCC, adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. Further, it refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. The informal consultations regarding National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) commenced December 3, 2019. Under the Cancun Adaptation Framework, NAPs were established to enable Parties to identify and address medium and long-term adaptation needs. The planning process is continuous, progressive, and iterative, and allows for a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory, and transparent approach. Since last year’s COP24, the focus has been on identifying and addressing the gaps and needs of countries in implementing their NAPs. Yesterday’s negotiations centered primarily on process, and financing mechanisms were of interest to many parties.

The first negotiations of WIM taking place.

The first negotiations of WIM taking place.

Many small island nations must also consider what to do in response to loss and damage from impacts associated with climate change in parallel with how to prepare for a more resilient future. Created six years ago at COP19, the Warsaw International Mechanisms for Loss and Damage (WIM) addresses loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The goal of this week’s WIM negotiations is to come to agreement regarding the implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change. Expressing some concern over the lack of time—and lack of representation—parties also continued the dialogue over whether loss and damage should be narrowly focused on financial needs or expand to cover adaptation measures.

While Vermont Law was busy with negotiations, student delegates also made time to go to several side events on topics ranging from Fossil Fuels to the Ocean. Stay tuned as we continue our daily posts on what is happening here in Madrid. #TimeForAction.

 

 

Making Waves at COP 25: Calls for Action and Stronger Commitments

Let us open our ears to the multitudes who are demanding change.
Let us open our eyes to the imminent threat facing us all.
Let us open our minds to the unanimity of the science.
There is no time and no reason to delay.
We have the tools, we have the science, we have the resources.
Let us show we also have the political will that people demand from us.
To do anything less will be a betrayal of our entire human family and all the generations to come.

– H.E. Mr. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Stations

Secretary General to the United Nations, António Guterres, closed his opening remarks to the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention with a call for action. This call to action, this urgency, is without doubt the tone that Chile has chosen to set for COP25, the Blue COP.

The walkway guiding attendees to the registration desk is lined with slogans calling for new rhetoric at today’s COP—one drawing our attention from change, to emergency. The mission of this year’s COP Presidency is clear: to respond to the protests raging across the globe, to integrate science into policy, to tackle the world’s addiction to coal, to strengthen commitments to emissions reductions, and to abandon the UNFCCC’s incremental approach for one that is “transformational.”

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The side events we attended as a group during our first 12 hours at COP held true to this message. The first, Global Climate Action: Indigenous Rights, Territories & Resources, turned attendees attention to the link between consumption in one nation and exploitation in another. With heavy emphasis of the negative effect of globalization, of the links between excessive consumption and human rights violations down the supply chain. In particular, the panelists discussed the devastating impacts the raging forest fires have had on the Amazon, and many indigenous communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on it.

Los incendios forestales tienen en llamas el pulmón del mundo
(Forest fires have the lungs of the world on fire)

Using the Amazon as a key example, each panelist emphasized the global nature of today’s local issues. The panelists concluded with a call for immediate global collective action to support and fight for indigenous rights.

The panelists featured in Nature Based Solutions: Integrating Coastal Ecosystems in 2020 NDCs mirrored the urgent calls for action expressed by both the Secretary General and the representatives from indigenous communities in Latin America. In his opening remarks for the panel, the Ambassador to the Seychelles emphasized the theme of COP25—year of ambition.

From a technical, scientific perspective, the panelists in this side event discussed the key function coastal wetlands (mangroves, sea grasses, and salt marshes) play in both mitigation and adaptation. But from a more political and general perspective, the panelists spoke to the power that Small Island Developing States (SIDS)—or as the Ambassador to the Seychelles, referred to them, Big Ocean States (BOS)—wield as a result of being both at the forefront of the battle against climate change as well as holding tremendous potential to mitigate the impacts of climate change by protecting the ocean, a carbon sink.

A panelist representing the interests of the Bahamas gave the most inspirational lecture of the day. She spoke of her personal experiences in the Bahamas, from July to September, when she and thousands of others live in fear of a hurricane, like Dorian, sweeping through the 14 islands of the Bahamas, wiping out infrastructure, flooding the streets, and leaving little but desolation in its wake. She called for the COP to be realistic about our future; about the fact that SIDS produce less the 1% of global emissions yet pay the highest price; about the fact that adaptation is not enough; about how only commitments to rapid and significant cuts in global emissions will save the lives of billions; and about how “the planet needs to understand, that there is no planet B.”

The negotiations over the next two weeks will reflect whether the content and outcomes of the agreements and debates reflect the sense of urgency in the air at the opening of COP25.

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COP25 Day 1 Pictures

COP25 Day 2 Pictures

Lorenzo Quinn's Sculpture

Lorenzo Quinn’s Sculpture

Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna, speaking at a side event

Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna, speaking at a side event

The "Blue Pacific Continent"

The “Blue Pacific Continent”

Students meet every morning to discuss client priorities and plan for the day ahead

Students meet every morning to discuss client priorities and plan for the day ahead

Negotiations

Negotiations

Seychelles Ambassador, Ronny Jumeau, speaking at a side event on nature based solutions

Seychelles Ambassador, Ronny Jumeau, speaking at a side event on nature based solutions