Category Archives: For the World

Small island nations develop cooperative solutions to manage their waste

By Student Delegate Julia Guerrein


Imagine sitting on a towel on white sand. Blue water stretches out from the beach, and a warm breeze is blowing. The breeze brings a smell—the smell of garbage. Out of sight, but not out of smell, is a landfill that is filling rapidly.

Small island nations are not known for their wide, rolling plains. Rather, these places generally have minimal land. This becomes a problem when island nations need to dispose of their waste through  landfilling,  recycling,  or  composting  because  it  requires  infrastructure,  which  takes  up space. In Samoa, for example, there are mountains of tires and junkyards full of barrels of old oil that have nowhere to go. “Here in Samoa and other islands as well there’s no recycling that goes on. Pretty much we collect and  process  it  for  export  to  countries  overseas,”  said  Marina  Keil,  the  President  of  the  Samoa Recycling and Waste Management Association, in an article by the UN Environment Programme. “But it’s hard for us to export because of the operational and the freight costs.” In an effort to solve this problem, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and  China  Navigation  Company  formed  a  partnership  called Moana  Taka.

SPREP Director General, Mr Kosi Latu, signing the Moana Taka partnership. Photo: SPREP

SPREP Director General, Mr Kosi Latu, signing the Moana Taka partnership. Photo: SPREP

This  public-private partnership  allows  Samoa  and  other  Pacific  countries  to  ship  recyclables  to  recycling  facilities abroad for free. The partnership started at three shipments in 2018 and expanded to fifty shipments from four nations in 2019. In 2020 and beyond the partnership is working to include more islands. Even with the partnership, recycling is still challenging for island nations because recyclables have varying  levels  of  marketability.  For  example,  transporting  liquid  waste  requires  permits,  which increases the cost and burden of disposal. Conversely, clean plastic is relatively simple to transport and is highly marketable.

Like  these  Pacific  nations,  the  Seychelles  has  worked  on  finding  a  place  for  their  waste.  In coordination with several different organizations, the Seychelles has conducted a series of studies to assess their waste management system. One  of  these  studies  was  a  collaboration  between  the  University  of  the  Seychelles  and  a  Swiss university, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich.

Students from ETH and UniSey on the Providence dumping site on Mahe, Seychelles

Students from ETH and UniSey on the Providence dumping site on Mahe, Seychelles

The two universities produced a report that assessed the solid waste management system in the Seychelles. The report, published in 2017, found that one of the major problems is the rate of landfilling. The  report  stated  that  waste  management  in  the  Seychelles  is  a  complex  and  multi-faceted challenge, which requires all stakeholders—including government, businesses, and households—to  work  together.  Some  of  the  solutions  suggested  are  turning  biowaste  into  biogas,  optimizing recycling  markets,  and  incentivizing  waste  reduction.  The  report  estimates  that  landfills  in  the Seychelles will be full by 2040 unless the stakeholders make changes. “Given  that  land  is  a  very  scarce  resource  in  the  Seychelles,”  the  report  concludes,  “waste management  planning  should  start  now  and  consider  all  options  available  to  reduce  landfilling rates.” Although managing waste is an ongoing process, small island nations are making progress. The Moana  Taka  partnership  and  the  Seychelles’  cooperative  efforts  are  just  two  examples  of  small island nations addressing waste management challenges.


A Blue Moon: Ocean Energy and a Just Transition

By Student Delegate Andrea Salazar

Our Moon and Ocean are a major source of energy. Both tidal energy and wave energy are forms of ocean renewable energy (ORE). For example, countries like Australia have proposed that ORE’s are a vital part of their blue economy. The promise of developing OREs is bolstered by the fact that tidal and wave energy are less variable than wind and solar—thus more reliable (Herner et al., 2018). In a 2011 report, the IPCC described ocean energy as an undeveloped energy source. The IPCC also found that, theoretically, the ocean could provide more than enough energy than the world’s population needs (IPCC, page 501). Here, we examine why the ocean moves and the location of ORE hotspots. Last, we discuss frameworks for using ORE responsibly–because with great power comes responsibility.

Blue Moon 1Tidal Energy

Tidal energy derives from the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth which creates a tidal force. As the Earth rotates, tidal force causes the Earth’s ocean water to bulge out on the side closest to the Moon. The parts of the Earth where water is bulging, experiences “high tide.” The sun and weather patterns can also affect ocean tides, but the Moon is most consistent. The Moon moves our oceans twice every day. (NOAA) The kinetic energy from this motion can generate electricity. The following figure quantifies tidal movement all over the globe. (IPCC) The blues show locations where little energy can be harnessed from tides while red show just the opposite.

Blue Moon 2Wave Energy

Depending on how fast the wind is blowing and for how long, the wind’s contact with the Earth’s ocean creates waves. Waves can travel long distances and grow because they are “very efficient at transferring energy” (IPCC, page 203). This map, also from the IPCC, shows the power in the ocean’s waves.


Transitions in a Blue Moon

Various forms of ocean renewable energy must be considered in through the lens of arriving at a future that is good for people and the planet. Standing for “Justice” “Universal” “Space” and “Time”—the J.U.S.T. Transition frames considerations in the process of implementing new energy systems that do not replicate social harm. The just transitions stem from labor movements and a key consideration is to understand and reduce negative impacts on the working class (UNFCCC). Williams and Doyon describe J.U.S.T factors in their research article as follows:

  • Justice refers to distributional (equality in prosperity and burden), procedural (accessible decision-making), and restorative justice (righting wrongs and conciliation);
  • Universal takes two forms: Recognition and Cosmopolitan;
  • Space calls for a location-specific analysis; and
  • Time.

In the U.S., the Climate Justice Alliance defines the just transition, more holistically, as a process for leaving behind an extractive economy towards a Regenerative Economy. Any future that intends to harness wave and tidal energy will require a step-by-step analysis as related to the factors described above.

Works Referenced:


Seychelles navigates “new priorities in a new reality” to take on COVID-19

By Student Delegate Jessica Griswold

In the Indian Ocean, roughly 1,000 miles east of the African Coast, lies an archipelago paradise called Seychelles. Comprised of 115 islands, the Republic of Seychelles is home to some of the world’s most beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. That said, it is no surprise that this mighty island nation was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to attain very high human development status. Seychelles is known globally as a powerful ocean conservation leader and innovative sustainable development finance trailblazer.

Like other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Seychelles relies heavily on fishing, agriculture, and especially tourism to maintain its economy. Tourism increases domestic revenue by adding to the consumer population, creates jobs, supports infrastructure development, and indirectly builds up ancillary industries, such as agriculture. Additionally, transportation to and from the country’s seaports is essential to the country’s agricultural export economy and importing necessities, including machinery and equipment, food, petroleum products, chemicals, and other manufactured goods.

On March 14, 2020, Seychelles reported its first two confirmed COVID-19 cases. In response, the country restricted travel to protect its people, industries, and livelihood. Less than one month later, the government banned travel, subsequently implementing a national curfew and limiting commercial activity to essential services. In just six short weeks, cargo and repatriation flights were Seychelles’ only connection to the rest of the world—including its African neighbors. Thus, the nation’s positive path toward achieving its sustainable development and climate adaptation goals came to a halt.

As Seychelles takes on “new priorities and a new reality,” climate change risks remain the same. The dangers of climate change require investments, additional resources and technology, and adaptable business strategies for tourism-based economies. As sea levels rise and sporadic storms brew, the sustainable development of critical infrastructure, such as airports and seaports that make up a sustainable transportation system, is vital to support small island tourism and trade. Taking the global pandemic’s economic and social effects into account, support for sustainable development and adaptation is non-negotiable now more than ever.

Under the Paris Agreement, setting and attaining a sustainable finance goal is an ongoing issue. On the bright side, the treaty acknowledges the different responsibilities, capacities, and vulnerabilities between wealthy developed country Parties and developing country Parties, including Small Island Developing Nations. Consequently, the treaty imposes mitigation and donation obligations on developed countries to support developing countries’ adaptation efforts. All the same, the Paris Agreement’s flexible, bottom-up approach only ensures that Parties make nationally determined contributions—it does not require Parties to contribute a particular amount. While the agreement’s flexibility has facilitated nearly universal participation, the conflicting interests of the Parties have served as a setback in the climate finance space.

Nevertheless, Seychelles found a solution to this problem in blended finance. The term blended finance refers to financing forms that leverage development funds to create a more investment-friendly environment for private sector capital to invest. By building partnerships between government, industry, science, and civil society, the blended finance approach reduces the high risk of relying on one income stream. Simply put, blended finance can effectively mobilize the resources small islands need for sustainable development.

The safe tourism certificate provides the seal of approval for service providers for operation (Photo source: STB News Bureau)

The safe tourism certificate provides the seal of approval for service providers for operation (Photo source: STB News Bureau)

Without a doubt, Seychelles resiliently capitalized on its remote geographic location and niche economy before the pandemic. In the wake of COVID-19, the island nation continues to fight its way through even more significant challenges. As Seychelles prepared to relaunch its tourism industry, the tourism department and health officials developed a “safe tourism certificate” program for businesses. Before opening their doors to foreign visitors, tourism businesses must satisfy COVID-19 safety criteria to receive a certificate showing that tourists are welcome to visit.

In June and July, low-risk countries from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the South Pacific were among the first that Seychelles welcomed as visitors. By September, over 75 percent of the rooms in Seychelles’ 418 hotels, guest houses, and self-catering establishments received safe tourism certificates and could open for business. In October, over forty countries made the updated list of those allowed to visit the islands safely. While the tourism industry is not what it was before the pandemic, Seychelles is setting an example of successfully adjusting to a new normal.

Works Cited

  1. Amanda K Serumaga, And Then Came the Pandemic: Addressing Vulnerability in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond in the Seychelles, United Nations Dev. Programme: Afr. (May 13, 2020),
  1. Climate Finance, World Res. Inst., (last visited Oct. 5, 2020).
  1. Financing Ocean Protection, United Nations Dev. Promgramme: Ecosystems & Biodiversity (October 23, 2019),
  1. Isabel Jurema Grimm, Liliane CS Alcântara & Carlos Alberto Cioce Sampaio, Tourism in the context of climate change: impacts, possibilities and challenges, Brazilian J. of Tourism Rsch. 2 (2018).
  1. Kashlee Kucheran, Seychelles Now Reopen For Tourism—Here’s Who Can Visit, Travel Off Path (Oct. 23, 2020),
  1. Lenzen, M., Sun, Y., Faturay, F. et al., The carbon footprint of global tourism, Nature Climate Change8, 522–528 (2018).
  1. Malshini Senaratne, COVID19: Seychelles Reboots Tourism, With a Twist, Observer Rsch. Found. (Aug. 24, 2020),
  1. Shivani Vora, Travel Tackles Climate Change, Y. Times (December 2, 2018),
  1. What is Blended Finance?, SeyCCAT, (last visited Oct. 5, 2020).
  1. Why Tourism is Important, Arrivals Hall, (last visited October 5, 2020).
  1. Yasmine Yehia, The Importance of Tourism on Economies and Businesses, Edge (Mar. 26, 2019, 12:21PM),
  1. Salifa Karapetyan, 75 pct of Seychelles’ Hotel and Guest House Rooms Certified COVID Safe, Seychelles News Agency: Business (Sept. 11, 2020)
  1. Seychelles: Voluntary National Review 2020, United Nations Sustainable Dev. Goals Knowledge Platform, (last visited Oct. 5, 2020).
  1. The World Bank in Seychelles, (July 31, 2020).

Deeper Dive into the Blue New Deal

by Vanessa Brown

In my last blog post, I argued that the Ocean Climate Action Plan (“OCAP” or “Blue New Deal”) would shape Biden’s climate policy and provide the framework for the United States’ Paris Agreement re-entry. In this post I take a closer look at some of the mechanics of the Blue New Deal and the framework for the United States’ submission of its NDC in 2021.

The Blue New Deal states two principle objectives: (1) To use ocean and coastal resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and (2) To enable coastal communities to more effectively adapt to climate impacts. It is divided into four issue areas: (1) Coastal Adaptation and Financing, (2) Sustainable Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Marine Biodiversity Conservation, (3) Offshore Renewable Energy, and (4) Ports, Shipping, and the Maritime Sector. The Plan advocates for a public-private partnership with respect to finance and recommends the U.S. join the International Platform on Sustainable Finance, sponsored by the IMF and World Bank, as well as adopt the 14 principles outlined in the Declaration of the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Appendix A provides 120 items of proposed federal legislation that addresses OCAP related issues.

In March 2019, Florida Representative Kathy Castor introduced HR 9, the Climate Action Now Act (“the Act”), in the House to direct the President to develop and submit a plan for the United States to meet its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement within 120 days of the Act’s passage, providing at least a 90 day period for public comment. This is the only legislation in the Blue New Deal that specifically relates to submitting an NDC. It has already passed in the House and is presently on the Senate legislative calendar under “General Orders.”

The Act prohibits the use of funds to advance the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement. It restates the United States’ prior commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025 and for the federal government to reduce emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Section 4 of the Act outlines five questions the President’s plan must address. Within six months of enactment, the President is required to both produce a report that examines the effect of the Paris Agreement on clean energy job development in rural communities and enter into a contract with the National Academy of Sciences to produce a report that examines the potential impacts of a withdrawal by the United States from the Paris Agreement on the global economic competitiveness of the United States economy and on workers in the United States. The President has a year to submit an updated plan, also subject to public comment.



Blue New Deal Expected to Drive Biden Climate Policy, Paris Agreement Re-Entry

by Vanessa Brown
Although the Trump Administration has pledged that the United States will exit the Paris Agreement, the formal withdrawal process will not be complete until November 4, 2020–the day after the election. Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has pledged to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Agreement if he wins on November 3rd. Although the US is technically still a party to the Paris Agreement, no one expects that it will submit a new NDC on target because its withdrawal from the Agreement in November will extinguish its previously submitted NDC. Furthermore, this year’s COP26 meeting has been postponed due to COVID-19 and has been rescheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021. This delay has given governments a grace period in submitting their second-round NDCs. Presently, only 13 countries have submitted new NDCs this year, and another 33 have stated their intention to do so.
Articles 2 and 4.1 of the Paris Agreement specify that its goals to limit the rise in average global temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C will be achieved over time. In order to enhance this long term ambition, the Agreement provides that successive nationally determined contributions, or “NDCs”, will be used to measure progress. Revised NDCs are set in comparison to the previous NDCs and reflect a state’s highest possible ambition, including targets, measures and policies that are the basis for national climate action plans. They are submitted every five years to the UNFCCC secretariat. Patricia Espinosa presently serves as the convention’s executive. Initial or intended NDCs (INDCs) were submitted in 2015 and 2020 was the deadline for the submission of the first revised NDCs.
If and when the US returns to the Paris Agreement, it will need to communicate a new INDC, and, although technically a fresh start, the international community will be evaluating its ambition based on its 2015 INDC. If Biden wins the election, some such as Susan Biniaz, former Deputy Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and lead climate negotiator from 1989-2017, are calling for the US to immediately submit a provisional/placeholder NDC or to delay its submission bolstered by announcing other climate-related actions and initiatives. Whatever the tactic, climate lawyers and policymakers should keep in focus last year’s BlueCOP negotiations, which conveyed the close links between the health of the climate and the health of the ocean, as well as keep a close eye on the Ocean Climate Action Plan or “Blue New Deal” presently under development at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, as it will provide the template for some of the first ocean climate legislation and policy actions in history, beginning in 2021. Unlike Biden’s Green New Deal, which promotes small nuclear reactors, the Blue New Deal is silent on nuclear development. Nuclear experts Gregory Jaczko, former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Arjun Makhijani of IEER, should be watched for comments.

A story of success in the Seychelles sustains hope in the wake of “failed” COP25 negotiations

While COP25 negotiators largely failed to account for civil society’s demands—and to represent all stakeholder interests at the international level—the reverse is occurring in the Seychelles, where people are no longer missing from the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). A space-based management tool used to restrict activities, such as fishing, within a designated area, MPAs make a positive impact on ocean health, increasing resiliency to human and climate change impacts. A number of scientific factors are used to select appropriate locations and restrictions, yet the issue of livelihoods is often an afterthought to implementation. Therefore, while MPAs often improve the health of the ocean, these area based management tools may not improve the lives of those depending on the ocean as a source of income. The Seychelles has a plan to change that and is using innovative blue bonds to ensure a win-win for both ocean health and ocean livelihoods.

Mackerel fishers on the shore of Seychelles Source: The Nature Conservancy

Mackerel fishers on the shore of Seychelles
Source: The Nature Conservancy

Blue Bonds are an innovative financing tool used to support “ocean friendly” projects. Blue Bonds present an opportunity to island and coastal nations to reinvest marine resources by refinancing their national debt.


Seychelles: First Sovereign Blue Bond

The Seychelles comprises 115 islands off the East Coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The nation has a population of 95,000 people and is a Small Island Developing Sate (SIDS). Like other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) fish contribute to tradition and heritage, forming a common cultural heritage within the Seychelles. Fish is critical to the Seychelles diet, with 57kg as the average consumption per person annually. This is among the world’s highest.

Map of the Seychelles

Map of the Seychelles

The top sectors in Seychelles include tourism and fisheries. The fisheries sector employs 17% of the population and fish make up 96% of the total value of domestic exports.  This includes a prosperous tuna industry, which comprises a significant portion of the Seychelles’ GDP. Unfortunately, fish stocks have declined by 60% in the last thirty years, which has resulted in a massive loss of income for fishers.

The Seychelles is a leader in the blue financing industry, upholding the Sustainable Blue Economy Financing Principles . In 2018, the Seychelles launched the first sovereign blue bond to support sustainable fisheries within their EEZ. The Seychelles’ Blue Finance objective is that it “will be a vehicle for promoting and finance[ing] sustainable fisheries, ocean protection, and the Blue economy.” The Blue Finance mission is to “finance fisheries related projects and business that are committed to transform the Seychelles fisheries sector to a sustainable basis”. The Blue Finance vision is for the “ocean to be teeming with life, and fisheries safeguarded for this and future generations.”


As part of a debt swap agreement, the Seychelles must protect 30% of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) through an system of MPA. The Seychelles recognized that the entirety of their EEZ must be understood in order to effectively protect 30% of it. Therefore, the nation commenced Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) for their entire ocean territory.

The Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) is an independent, nationally based, public-private trust, which manages the blue financing funds. With an experienced small island negotiator and Seychellois woman at the helm as CEO, SeyCCAT is already seeing great progress in the blue bond program through the inclusion of the Seychellois people and the protection of the marine environment.

One of the first projects that SeyCCAT took on was translating blue bond applications to Creole, which is the native language in the nation. This opened doors to the Seychellois people by sending a message that the Trust is for everyone to use.

Source: SeyCCAT

Source: SeyCCAT

The funds, amounting to $15 million USD, are used partially for financing a Blue Grants Fund ($3 million) and a Blue Investment Fund ($12 million). These proceeds are used to finance ocean related activities that contribute to the transition of sustainable fisheries.  SeyCCAT administers the grants from the Blue Grants Fund and the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) will administer loans from the Blue Investment Fund.

The Seychelles blue bonds support new and existing areas and sustainable use zones, empowers the fisheries sector, rehabilitates marine coastal ecosystems, builds resilience and climate change adaptation, and innovates sustainable blue economy business models. In the case of the Seychelles, innovative blue financing creates better management of the ocean while including the livelihoods at stake. Using a national organization, like SeyCCAT, maintains power over these funds by using them in the best interest of the people who depend on the ocean. As it did in the Seychelles, blue financing opportunities can open doors to island and coastal nations for better, more inclusive management of the ocean and its natural resources.

COP25 student delegates, and Professors Reiter and Brandt, meet with the CEO of SeyCCAT, Ms. Angelique Pouponneau

The Vermont Law School COP25 delegation meets with the CEO of SeyCCAT, Ms. Angelique Pouponneau.


Big ocean states like the Seychelles are leading the way with mutual gain approaches despite failed climate negotiations at the international level. Closing out the Blue COP with a win-win for both people and the ocean provides much needed hope for a sustainable future, and small island leaders are to thank for that.



The science is essentially unchallenged, climate activism has reached a crescendo, and U.N. climate negotiators are once again poised to punt. What went wrong, and why isn’t anyone here surprised? How is it that the U.N. has been taking shots … Continue reading

Framing Article 6: Rules About Transparency More Than Trade

One of the final components of creating a rulebook for 2015’s Paris Agreement is fleshing out Article 6, a central feature of the negotiations at this year’s COP. Negotiators are focused on several technical issues and disagreements about the rules for the carbon trading accounting that Article 6 contemplates. These include a number of discrete points of contention, but a quick look at a couple of them can help illustrate some general dynamics of the debate. First, the parties disagree about the scope and size of proceeds that will be forwarded to vulnerable countries for adaptation from the financing for carbon transfers. Second, there are differing views about the stringency of requiring “corresponding adjustments” to avoid double-counting, or having both the buying party and the selling party claiming credit for the same emissions reduction activities.




Each of these are important considerations, and observers are paying close attention to how compromise about the various options might play out. Often, however, Article 6 development is framed as “establishing a global carbon market” and treated with corresponding weight. This perspective is not quite accurate, and thinking about Article 6 in more tempered terms–with a focus on transparency–might help to clarify the scope of a potential agreement during this COP and its true importance. Framing the debate around transparency and accounting might help to make the issues more palatable and make clearer what is really at stake: not countries’ ability to finance climate action abroad, merely their abilities to claim credit for doing so when they communicate their Paris Agreement goals and actions. The idea behind Article 6 is not to build a carbon market, it is to build ambition–to make the use of carbon trading more attractive so that we see greater investment in climate mitigation.


Much like the larger Paris Agreement itself, the international framework being developed in the Article 6 rules is not about who may trade with whom or how; rather, it is about what aspects of those trades must be transparently communicated and reviewed at the international level. The point of Article 6 is not to create and regulate a centralized carbon market but to create enough trust and transparency around disparate ongoing and future trading schemes to incentive greater ambition in mitigating carbon emissions. Numerous regional and intergovernmental (and private-sector) emissions trading schemes exist today, such as the net zero commitments that have been made by the EU, Japan, the state of California, and many other governments. A well-formulated Article 6 would simply encourage these initiatives to adopt this new accounting framework for adjustments under the Paris Agreement, and that centrality would help these efforts grow in scope and scale.


Youssef Nassef, UNFCCC Secretariat and the role of centrality. Photo credit:

Youssef Nassef, UNFCCC Secretariat and the role of centrality. Photo credit:

On the sharing of proceeds, Article 6, paragraph 6 of the Paris Agreement calls for a sustainable development mechanism overseeing voluntary mitigation trades and requires it to collect from those transaction funds “to assist developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.” These trades are distinct from those under the direct goal-setting and reporting of individual countries’ “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), which are accounted for under another Article 6 paragraph. Negotiators disagree about whether proceeds should also be shared under the latter mechanism, which was not specifically called for in the Paris Agreement. Countries dependent on adaptation funds want to see opportunities for them expanded, while some other countries worry that injecting them into the NDC trading scheme might diminish its use and argue that for that very reason the original Paris Agreement left them out.


Such funds are vitally needed by developing countries, but there is uncertainty about whether the required share of proceeds, depending on its level, will disincentivize mitigating actors from making trades under the accounting scheme. Importantly, nothing within these Article 6 rules will change anything about the purely voluntary nature of both the NDC and non-NDC trading possibilities. No one will be forced to use these new market mechanisms, and in reality, it’s a small cadre of players on the world stage that really plan to use them. That use may help place us on track to meet our stated climate mitigation goals, however. Transparency and trust are key: more trading will occur if there is more confidence in the reporting and review of that trading.


Protesters view Article 6 in a different light. Photo credit:

Protesters view Article 6 in a different light. Photo credit:

Thus, any potential rule about the share of proceeds will not be a regulation on the ability to do carbon trading (which already occurs internationally in many ways). Instead, it would be a means of collecting money from trades that have become more attractive, and hopefully more abundant, because they can be used to credit one’s achievements in the Paris Agreement’s robust accounting and goal-setting scheme. Negotiators must find a balance whereby carbon trading is attractive enough to be done ambitiously under the agreement. This increase in ambition and in trades would raise significant proceeds, which may mean setting a proceed percentage that does not discourage the same trades. Parties are therefore hotly debating the appropriate percentage of proceeds to share and whether these mechanisms should be used at all for trades that go towards NDCs. Because Article 6 and the Paris Agreement are more about transparency and goals than about strict emissions commitments, everyone must bear in mind that the best outcome might not be that which demands the strictest action; instead, it might be that which encourages the most engagement. More engagement and communication about goals–so the Paris Agreement theory goes–will lead to more ambitious climate action.


The debate around corresponding adjustments similarly may be clearer when viewed through the lens of transparency rather than market-building. The idea behind corresponding adjustments is that when an entity in one state sells its carbon reduction efforts to an entity in another state, both states must adjust the emissions reductions they report under the Paris Agreement such that the buying state adds the emissions reductions to its ledger while the selling state subtracts that progress from its own. Under the NDCs that are central to the Paris Agreement, rigid corresponding adjustments make easy sense. Article 6, however, also speaks to a voluntary market for carbon trading that might be outside the scope of the NDCs, through private investment and similar means. How stringent should the rules around corresponding adjustments be in this world?


In a perfect accounting system, everything would be duly tallied up and the math done just right. But again, the Paris Agreement framework and Article 6 are not rules for making all this trading happen–much of it already occurs, but people want to see it get more ambitious as quickly as possible. Instead, the now-developing Article 6 rules will govern how all this trading is communicated and reviewed. Trust and transparency at the review level might make it easier and more attractive to begin heaping private capital into global emissions trading. The trick is finding the right balance. If the rules around communicating about these trades are too onerous, they could counteract Article 6’s intended effect “to incentivize and facilitate participation” and “to allow for higher ambition.” Some in the private carbon trading world think that even if the rules in this particular part of Article 6 appear relaxed, the trading parties themselves will pressure each other to accurately report adjustments; those schemes that don’t do so will look like bad investments because if they ever make it within the scope of an NDC, their accounting will be no good. Others in the debate take the position that there should be no leeway for potentially poor accounting given the high stakes of combating climate change. What text ultimately finds its way into the Article 6 rules will thus reflect some compromise on the extent to which transparency can incentivize efficient trading, and whether total comprehensiveness is required to do so.


A SDG pin found on the floor of the conference center. These are sold by the UNDP. Photo credit:

A SDG pin found on the floor of the conference center. These are sold by the UNDP. Photo credit:

Thus, rather than viewing the debate over Article 6 as the end-all-be-all of establishing the global carbon market, it may be fairer and more constructive to view the process as a balancing act in establishing transparency that mobilizes ambition. Because Article 6 is one of the final pieces of the Paris Agreement to flesh out, there may be a certain dynamic by which interested parties seek to add complexity and cross-cutting issues to its rules–we’re nearing the last change to secure such textual commitments in some fashion. This rush to robustness, however, may be a contributing factor in making Article 6 contentious. It may lead to burdensome concerns about governing actions throughout the global carbon market itself, with the consequences of that sweeping picture. Focusing instead on how Article 6 contemplates transparency, and how transparency begets trust in future commitments and more ambitious and efficient trades, may be the lens that leads these negotiations to more productive ends at the close of the COP.

Blue COP continues to deliver on an increasingly ocean-inclusive UNFCCC process

On Wednesday, December 11th, Professor Sarah Reiter and COP25 student delegate Kristyn Ostanek attended several ocean-minded side events. The more than 75 ocean events over the course of the past two weeks here at the negotiations have been part of a strategic initiative to make the UNFCCC process more inclusive when it comes to increased awareness, ambition, and action regarding the global ocean. What made yesterday a bit different was the opportunity to stop and evaluate whether progress is actually being made for oceans at this, the Blue COP. In particular, three events yesterday were both informative and inspirational:

  1. The High Level Event on the Role of the Ocean-Climate Nexus,
  2. Small Island Leadership on oceans, climate and sustainable development goals (SDGs), and
  3. The Climate Change and Ocean Action Reception.

Ocean champions, leaders, and negotiators discussed the science behind the ocean-climate nexus, and evaluated the progress being made on oceans in the international climate regime process. In particular, Gwynne Taraska, Director of the Climate Program at the Ocean Conservancy, outlined four key elements to a justifiable assessment that the Blue COP has indeed been Blue, and identified how far we’ve come:

  1. A coalition of the willing: California is partnering with Pacific Rim nations on ocean-climate based initiatives.
  2. Ocean-based Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) commitments: The Seychelles, Belize and Indonesia are leading the way with integrating blue carbon into their NDCs.
  3. Heightened visibility and awareness on the ocean-climate nexus: The 75+ ocean events during COP25 have increased dialogue and awareness in a process where oceans and climates, even within governments, are addressed and often managed, separately.
  4. Progress into the integration of oceans into the formal UNFCCC process: The end of the week should bring a decision from the COP President on the inclusion of oceans in the formal UNFCCC process. Sue Biniaz, who served as the lead climate lawyer for the U.S. State Department for more than twenty-five years, gave her evaluation of the proposal and its’ progress. 

Below are some photos from the day.


No adjustors, no lawyers, no paperwork…no problems on financial support for loss and damage

Blockchain technology may simplify the process for farmers to access insurance payouts for loss and damage from climate events.

Parties have only a few days remaining to make decisions about which way Article 6, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damages (WIM), and other topics will turn. With these critical negotiations come days of “boom and bust.” Negotiations will go well into the night one day, and the Co-Chairs will work throughout the night to come up with a more agreeable draft. This process takes time and comes in waves.

SBI/SBSTA informal consultations on the WIM and the 2019 review of the Mechanism. Photo credit: IISD Reporting Services

SBI/SBSTA informal consultations on the WIM and the 2019 review of the Mechanism. Photo credit: IISD Reporting Services

Meanwhile, side events on the periphery of the negotiations offer new and innovative solutions from the private sector. At one such event, “How blockchain-based parametric insurance can tackle the financial impact of climate disasters,” the idea of paying for loss and damage from climate disasters was explored in greater detail, with a particular focus on the agricultural sector.

Poor and underprivileged farmers bear the brunt of economic losses from climate events due to climate change (costing the “Vulnerable 20$62 billion in interest payments alone over the last 10 years), but they emit almost no greenhouse gases relative to developed countries. Unfortunately, farmers cannot afford to pay the high insurance premiums to protect their crops, so they are stuck with the economic losses. To combat the underlying drivers of high insurance premiums (e.g., overhead, lawyers’ fees, paperwork), the private sector is turning to an innovative solution involving blockchain technology and “smart contracts.”

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Blockchain is essentially an immutable online ledger that can complete secure transactions instantly. Smart contracts are contracts between insurance companies and farmers that would provide payouts once certain parameters are met (e.g. a hurricane with winds reaching a certain speed, a drought lasting a specific amount of time). This is known as “parametric insurance.” Once those parameters are met and verified by existing weather monitoring instruments, the insurance companies can instantly payout small-scale farmers by depositing money in their digital wallet. No adjustors, no lawyers, no paperwork.

Providing farmers with that type of security, they can safely grow more valuable crops that they would not otherwise risk losing due to weather events. This allows farmers to better serve their community and make more money all while paying insurance premiums at least an order of magnitude less than traditional insurance.

Like all new innovations, blockchain, smart contracts, and parametric insurance have their drawbacks and are not yet ready to be implemented at scale. For example, blockchain can only work effectively if provided with accurate data, without which it is useless. Additionally, it remains to be seen whether smart contracts are truly enforceable.

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Finally, and perhaps most fundamentally, the parameters must be accurate for parametric insurance to work, or else famers will not be paid out when their crops might actually be damaged. Despite the uncertainties associated with this novel idea, it provides hope that streamlined processes may create conditions for which someone is willing to reach for the bill.

Back inside the negotiating room, parties have been focused on three main areas of disagreement reflected in the draft decision for the Warsaw Implementation Mechanism (WIM), which aims to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change, including both extreme events (e.g., hurricanes) and slow onset events (e.g., desertification) in developing countries. Reaching consensus has been challenging because of three main issues: (1) provisions for the mobilization of financial support, (2) options to strengthen the workstream, and (3) options for technical support.  Various parties have expressed a range of views on an acceptable way forward, ranging from minimal ambition to significant ambition.

With less than 72 hours to go on the loss and damage issues under negotiation, the promise of a more “simplified” future, using blockchain, smart contracts and parametric insurance, is quite appealing. Regardless, if there is one common theme stemming from the narratives of both the negotiations and the side event, it is that the process is both evolving and unpredictable. Whether a lawyer, a farmer, a negotiator, or an adjustor, in an era of dynamic, unprecedented change, we must become more familiar with what may, at first, be uncomfortable.