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Governing Climate Change: New Ideas and Latin American Leadership as Peru Prepares to Host the 2014 UN Climate Negotiations

Climate Change final

April16, 2014 – Time: High Level Plenary Sessions 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Location: Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University -111 Thayer Street – Providence, RI

The conference will be live-streamed and will be available to view after the conference. The live-stream link is: http://mediacapture.brown.edu:8080/ess/echo/presentation/5ca33def-d507-404a-8a1e-482942060b9e

Description:

The conference “Governing Climate Change” will take place on April 16, 2014 at Brown University. The conference is co-organized by the Climate and Development Lab and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

The conference is supported by Brown University’s Office of the President, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (CLACS), the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), and the Watson Institute for International Studies with support from Fundación Botín and the Starr Lectureship Fund.

It will provide a unique and neutral space to explore how new ideas and leadership from Latin America are changing climate change discourse and governance. The meeting will have a special focus on Peru’s role as incoming president of the Twentieth Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the UNFCCC in December 2014, in Lima.

There will be three high level plenaries on April 16 which will all be live-streamed: 

9:00 – 10:30 am – First High level plenary: An Ambitious Global Climate Agreement Must Start at Home: The Imperative of Presidential Leadership

Chair: Professor Rich Snyder, Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Brown University

Timmons Roberts, Ittleson Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology, Center for Environmental Studies, Brown University

Former President of Chile and Professor-at-large Ricardo Lagos at Brown University

Former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon and Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate

Questions and Answers

10:45 -12:30 pm – Second High level plenary: New Ideas and Latin American Leadership on Climate Change

Chair: Timmons Roberts

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC (live video)

Manual Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of the Environment of Peru and COP20 President

Luis Alfonso de Alba, Mexico’s Ambassador to Austria and formerly Mexico’s Special Representative for Climate Change

Rene Orellana, Head of Delegation to the UNFCCC, Bolivia (

Questions and Answers

1:30 – 3:30pm – Third High level plenary: Breaking the Impasse? Prospects and Ideas for Securing Progress at the UNFCCC in 2014 and 2015

Chair: Lisa Friedman, Deputy Editor, ClimateWire

Sir David King, the UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change

Pa Ousman, Director of the Department of Water Resources and Special Climate Envoy, The Gambia

María Laura Rojas Vallejo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombia

Olai Uludong, Nauru and Lead Negotiator of the Alliance of Small Island States

Rene Orellana, Head of Delegation to the UNFCCC, Bolivia

Alejandro Rivera, Director of Environmental Governance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico

Jorge Voto-Bernales, Peru’s Special Representative for Climate Change

Contact Information: For more information, send an email to paola_eisner[at]brown.edu

Latin American climate policy weakened by Chinese business deals

By Guy Edwards and J. Timmons Roberts

China Brazil

Recently, China is behind a new wave of trade and commercial ties across Latin American which focuses almost exclusively on natural resources including fossil fuels, mining and agricultural commodities.

China’s rapidly increasing investment, trade and loans in Latin America may be entrenching a heavily polluting economic model which is out of step with the required action to achieve cleaner and more sustainable economies.

Latin American countries such as Costa Rica and Peru have become global leaders as examples of low-emissions economies and progressive voices at the United Nations climate negotiations.  China could be inadvertently threatening that leadership.

Why is this troubling? Along with Europe, the United States and big multinationals, China may be indirectly undermining Latin American countries’ attempts to establish climate change policies. China could be strengthening the relative power of domestic constituencies and of “dirty” ministries such as mining and energy which regard confronting climate change as a brake on economic growth at the expense of traditionally weak environmental and climate change ministries.

Latin American countries run the risk of becoming locked into polluting and carbon intensive economic growth models which could undermine progress on sustainable development and sabotage their enthusiasm for an ambitious new climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2015.

China is interested in cooperating with Latin America on climate change, but beyond the public statements little is happening.

Following the creation of the China–CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum, there is an unprecedented opportunity to launch a climate initiative within the Forum. This initiative could focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, as well as sharing technology and strategies for adapting to climate impacts and promoting renewable energy.

China and Latin America have a critical hand to play in putting together a new global climate agreement by 2015. Together, they account for approximately 40% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Some Latin American countries are pushing through climate legislation and have announced voluntary emission reduction pledges at the UN. Staying on or moving to low-carbon economic models is crucial for these countries, but China’s growing presence—when combined with those of other nations and firms—run the risk of taking the region in an unsustainable direction.

Global momentum is building towards the UN climate change conferences in Lima this December and Paris in 2015 representing an ideal moment to put climate onto the Chinese-Latin American agenda. Both could benefit substantially in terms of new opportunities for low-carbon growth, but also by pushing for a new and transformative climate deal which could limit very costly climate impacts in the future.

China and Latin America need to rapidly change course to avoid cementing a high-carbon partnership and embrace a strong sustainability agenda, one which reflects the urgency of tackling climate change.

This article was originally published here. 

This op-ed is based on policy paper ‘A High Carbon Partnership? Chinese-Latin America Relations in a Carbon-Constrained World’ published by Brookings Institution this week. Guy Edwards is Research Fellow and J. Timmons Roberts is Ittleson Professor at the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University, USA.  

 A High-Carbon Partnership? Chinese-Latin American Relations in a Carbon-Constrained World

By Guy Edwards and J. Timmons Roberts 

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The Chinese financed project would replace Costa Rica’s old national oil refinery.

China’s rapidly increasing investment, trade and loans in Latin America may be entrenching high-carbon development pathways in the region, a trend scarcely mentioned in policy circles. High-carbon activities include the extraction of fossil fuels and other natural resources, expansion of large-scale agriculture and the energy-intensive stages of processing natural resources into intermediate goods.

This paper addresses three examples, including Chinese investments in Venezuela’s oil sector and a Costa Rican oil refinery, and Chinese investment in and purchases of Brazilian soybeans.

We pose the question of whether there is a tie between China’s role in opening up vast resources in Latin America and the way those nations make national climate policy and how they behave at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. We focus on the period between the 2009 Copenhagen round of negotiations and the run-up to the Paris negotiations scheduled for 2015, when the UNFCCC will attempt to finalize a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.

China and Latin America have a critical role to play to ensure progress is made before the 2015 deadline, since they together account for approximately 40 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Several Latin American nations are world leaders in having reached high levels of human development while emitting very low levels of greenhouse gases. Several have publically committed to ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Staying on or moving to low-carbon pathways is critical for these countries, but substantial Chinese investments in natural resources and commodities—when combined with those of other nations and firms—run the risk of taking the region in an unsustainable direction.

Chinese investments and imports of Latin American commodities may be strengthening the relative power of political and commercial domestic constituencies and of “dirty” ministries (e.g. ministries of mining, agriculture or energy) vis-à-vis environmental and climate change ministries and departments. These “cleaner” ministries are traditionally weak and marginalized actors in the region. China may thus be inadvertently undermining Latin American countries’ attempts to promote climate change policies by reinforcing and strengthening actors within those countries and governments that do not prioritize climate change and who have often seen environmental efforts as an impediment to economic growth.

China has stated that it is interested in cooperating with Latin America on combating climate change, but official bilateral or multilateral exchanges on the issue outside of the UNFCCC negotiations have been limited. Both China and Latin America could benefit substantially by refocusing on opportunities for low-carbon growth such as renewable energy. China’s growing influence in global renewable energy markets presents excellent opportunities to invest in clean energy in Latin America.

China and Latin American countries could launch a climate change initiative through the newly created China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum, focused on financing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, energy and transport, as well as sharing technology and strategies for adapting to climate impacts. Chinese-Latin American relations should also mainstream environmental protection and low-carbon sustainable growth into their partnership, to avoid pushing countries in the region towards high-carbon pathways.

Download the paper here

Venezuela’s 2014 climate summit faces credibility crisis

By Guy Edwards, Michael Murphy and Paola Eisner

MADURO ACUSA A CAPRILES DE INTENTAR CAMPAÑA DE VIOLENCIA Y DICE QUE HABRÁ PAZ

Deteriorating political stability, which has allegedly left 150 injured and 50 dead, does not bode well for Venezuela’s plans to host a climate summit in November before the UN Climate Convention meets in Peru this December.

Venezuela plans to host the first “Social Pre-COP” [Conference of the Parties], a series of conferences planned from July to November which aspire to put civil society at the heart of the global climate change debate.

This effort is urgently needed in order to make the UN climate change negotiations more accountable and open to the world’s citizens. Last year the UN climate negotiations in Warsaw saw a historic walk-out of civil society groups who voiced anger at what they saw as regressive steps taken by rich countries and their lack of interest in listening to civil society groups’ priorities and demands.

Venezuela is capitalizing on this frustration by envisioning a “Social Pre-COP” that would promote civil society voices instead of corporate and political interests that normally dominate the Pre-COPs.

Venezuelan chief climate negotiator Claudia Salerno explained to DemocracyNow! that Venezuela would host “the first formal consultation of every single social movement involved in the climate change agenda,” in which ministers would not only talk to each other but also their people about the agreement the world wants to see.

Venezuela wishes to build on the legacy of the 2010 First World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which drew over 35,000 people to Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Regarded as a revolution in social mobilization around climate change, numerous statements from the People’s Agreement were incorporated into the UN Climate Change official negotiating text in 2010.

However, by the COP16 in Cancun, they were all eliminated as the focus on highly politicized issues was deemed too controversial for the UN climate negotiations.

Instead, the Social Pre-COP would be a unique opportunity for civil society to debate and draft its own document before presenting it in person to ministers.

Although Venezuela projects a climate justice discourse that resonates strongly with civil society groups, its domestic and international policies reveal inconsistencies.

In light of the recent violence and forced closures of some media outlets, rhetoric from the Venezuelan government promoting inclusive and participatory governing systems rings hollow.

Venezuela’s domestic efforts on climate change are modest. It has distributed millions of energy-saving light bulbs as part of a national energy efficiency initiative and reforested 31 thousand hectares since 2006.

In 2012, Venezuela announced plans to put in place a program to limit greenhouse gas emissions; although skeptics suggest that these plans have no chance of being implemented.

Oil is the lifeblood of its economy and essential to its development. Venezuela holds the world’s largest known oil reserves, which, if considered alongside Canada’s tar sands, would fill up the available atmospheric space within the estimated carbon budget for remaining below 2 degrees of warming.

This poses a difficult challenge for civil society groups who oppose the extraction of heavy crude found in Venezuela and Canada which if extracted and burned could overwhelm the global carbon budget.

At the UN climate change negotiations, Venezuela’s role in the Like Minded Group, alongside China and Saudi Arabia, and its position on maintaining the North-South “firewall,” (alongside foot dragging by major polluters such as the United States and Australia) have also frustrated attempts to chart a middle ground for progress.

Venezuela might see hosting the Social Pre-COP as a free pass to appear that they are doing something and brush aside criticisms that they are not pulling their weight.

Venezuela’s typically fiery rhetoric may strike the wrong note, given the timing between Ban ki-Moon’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change in September and the UN climate conference in Peru in December.

Foreign ministers may be reluctant to attend due to lingering security concerns and Venezuela’s habit of commandeering the podium for its political ends.

Ensuring sufficient civil society representation at the events and allowing them the necessary space to meaningfully participate will be essential. Compared to other Latin American countries such as Brazil or Peru, Venezuela’s civil society has little capacity on climate issues, which poses problems for a strong and credible turnout at home.

The Social Pre-COP’s aim of projecting the voices of civil society groups could be an extraordinary wakeup call for politicians around the world especially in the richest countries who lack the political will to take a strong stance on climate change.

It could also be the turning point for Venezuelan civil society to play a bigger role in shifting public opinion towards confronting climate change and promoting a more sustainable development model.

In turn, hosting the Pre-COP could put much needed pressure on the Venezuelan government to upgrade its own domestic climate policies.

Whether Venezuela can successfully play this role due to its existing climate policies and ongoing political instability and violence is unclear. Regardless, the voice of civil society must be placed at the heart of the climate negotiations. Venezuela’s proposed efforts are a positive and a much needed step in the right direction.

This article was originally published here. 

The authors are based at the Climate and Development LabBrown University, Rhode Island. The opinions reflected in this article are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not reflect the views of Brown University.

 Temperature’s Rising: Building Trust around Climate Action

With an upcoming April conference on Governing Climate Change at the Watson Institute, Professor Timmons Roberts talks about the importance of building trust among nations. He hopes that the conference will provide delegates a space to set the groundwork for a global agreement on greenhouse gas reductions in 2015. The focus of the conference will be Latin America’s leadership and its role during the United Nations negotiations.

By Wendy Lawton

Our planet is warming, the seas are rising, the weather is more savage and unpredictable. Beyond a doubt, science shows that the climate is changing and the changes are human-generated. Yet 17 years after the Kyoto Protocol, there is no new global climate change action plan.

The trouble? A “trust deficit,” Timmons Roberts says.

Poor countries don’t trust wealthy nations to keep their promises about reducing carbon emissions and increasing foreign aid. At the same time, wealthy countries don’t always trust poorer ones with that aid. The money, some mutter, will be wasted.

“Everything is at stake,” says Roberts, a Watson faculty fellow and Brown’s Ittleson Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, “the direction of multinational economic development and whether we’re going to have a livable planet.”

To build trust, Roberts wants to get both sides talking, and working, together.

So with members of his Climate and Development Lab, who provide research support to the world’s 49 least developed nations, and with support from the Center for Latin American and Carbibbean Studies and the Office of the President, Roberts is organizing an April conference at the Watson Institute that will bring together climate experts from the wealthy Global North with those from the poorer Global South to discuss climate action and finance, with an emphasis on Latin America’s role as climate change leader.

More than a dozen environmental ministers, climate negotiators, researchers, and activists from the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as from Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and Panama, are invited to meet for two days to discuss fresh ways to move forward on reducing emissions and improving the system of climate aid, which has a major impact on how developing countries can adapt to climate change and blunt its future effects.

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, one of the world’s most influential climate change leaders and the executive secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, will deliver a video message to the group.

Figueres is president of the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP. For the last three years, Roberts has traveled with Brown undergraduate and graduate students to the COP talks to see global climate negotiations first-hand. Held in Cancun in 2010, Durban in 2011, and, last year in Warsaw, the COP is the leading UN body made up of representatives of the 195 Kyoto Protocol countries, which are legally bound to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the Watson conference, Roberts sees a critical opportunity for collaboration. In 2015, the COP will gather in Paris, where representatives are expected to finalize a universal climate agreement. If it happens, it will mark the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations that all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by an agreement to reduce their emissions.

“We want to help the movement and help build that trust,” Roberts said. “One way you do that is get folks to talk with each other — outside of the talks.”

A central issue at the Watson conference, in the global climate policy community, and in Roberts’s work over the past decade, is how to best create an equitable and accountable system of climate finance.

At stake are billions of aid dollars pledged each year by developed countries to compensate for past and future climate damage, and to encourage developing countries to reduce their carbon emissions in an effort to reduce future damage. This arrangement is bluntly referred to as “the polluter pays principle.”

But with such enormous complexity in the economic, diplomatic, and scientific issues surrounding development assistance, it is difficult to tell what is pledged, what is actually paid, and how money is spent.

In an effort to increase transparency in climate finance specifically, and foreign aid broadly, Roberts co-founded AidData.org, now a partnership of more than 50 universities and think tanks worldwide that makes data on international development more accessible and usable for everyone. AidData, and the Climate and Development Lab at Brown, have produced a raft of policy briefs, original research, and hands-on policy training.

Building trust and creating partnerships are the threads that run through Roberts’s work — not only at the global scale, but also locally.

With his encouragement and direction, 11 of Roberts’s students authored the 2010 bill that created Rhode Island’s first climate change commission, which is charged with planning for climate change adaptation. Roberts, who serves on the commission, is now working with student interns and state policy leaders to create, and pass, a more politically difficult bill that calls for the state to act on climate change adaptation and also to cap its greenhouse gas emissions. 

“We got the balloon off the ground, and now we will see how far it will fly,” Roberts says. “I’m cautiously optimistic. But I’m a dreamer. What can I say?”

This article was originally published here.

Photo credit to SNRE UMichigan under a Creative Commons License.

Three ways for Peru to secure progress on the road to COP20 in Lima

By Guy Edwards and Timmons Roberts

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This year Lima will host the next major round of UN Climate Change negotiations. The opportunity to establish climate change as a key domestic issue and achieve progress at the UN negotiations will not come around for another generation.

Peru is seen as a bridge builder between developing and developed countries, and is considered a leading actor on climate change as the first developing country to offer voluntary climate action in 2008.

At the UN climate talks, Peru negotiates alongside Chile, Colombia and others as part of the Alliance of Independent Latin American and Caribbean States (AILAC). This group attempts to build consensus between developed and developing countries on the need to take far reaching action on climate change and the importance of establishing a new legally binding agreement for all countries.

Peru has a year to make a vital contribution before COP20 to improve confidence and ratchet up global climate action. Otherwise, the goal of producing a draft text in Lima to be decided in Paris in 2015 will be simply unreachable. Peru could focus on three strategies on diplomacy, action and galvanizing domestic support.

A major step of Peru’s climate diplomacy is to engage with the major emitters – including the U.S. and China. Peru needs to facilitate a new dialogue promoting ambition between the U.S. and the BASIC group—Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Discussions with the EU on increasing ambition in Europe and Peru and its AILAC partners could increase confidence. As Venezuela will be hosting the pre-COP20 event, close collaboration between Peru and Venezuela will be essential in ensuring a strong regional voice calling for progress in Lima. Peru’s diplomacy with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries is also crucial.

Second, Peru’s focus on climate action by all countries—with developed country support on finance and technology transfer—can help establish a more holistic narrative tying together the myriad threads of the negotiations. This action by all countries is crucial in avoiding the polarizing debates between the North and South which undermine the talks. When Peru put forward its voluntary pledge in 2008, it established a new climate discourse. This discourse needs a boost and Lima can be that space.  Peru and AILAC can put ambition front and centre by promoting their pledges. AILAC may also consider increasing their own pledges in the interest of generating confidence in the UN process and promoting low-carbon growth which is in their national interests.

Thirdly, strong domestic support is essential. The president and all ministries can bolster the important efforts by the ministry of environment and other government agencies to ensure Peru makes progress on its domestic climate goals but also establish a lasting COP20 legacy. The central role of the private sector and civil society is also paramount in that endeavour.

Combining these strategies could revitalise the UN climate talks and set Peru on a cleaner and more sustainable development pathway. As a country very vulnerable to climate impacts, Peru needs to promote urgency, action and equity. Lima will be a decisive battleground to ensure the 2015 deadline for a new climate deal is not missed.

UN Climate Negotiations: Indigenous Resistance from Within

By Camila Bustos

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In 2009, Members of Indigenous Organizations Including COICA Gathered to Form a Human Banner. Photo Credit: http://www.galdu.org

As climate finance and “loss and damage” payments dominated the agenda at last November’s United Nations climate change negotiations in Warsaw, Poland, indigenous peoples’ groups fought to be heard.

One of the most vocal and visible indigenous groups at the UN climate talks, COICA (The Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon) was founded in 1984 as the umbrella group for more than 350 indigenous organizations in nine different countries. It works to address issues of human rights, self-determination, and natural resource protection.

While other groups such as the Asia Indigenous People’s Pact discussed their experiences with “REDD+” (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation)—a mechanism that, as it stands now, creates a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, and thus provides developing countries an incentive to reduce deforestation—COICA actually proposed an alternative: “REDD+ Indigena.” The COICA alternative promotes the protection of social, environmental, and indigenous rights, as well as the conservation of the Amazon through sustainable management practices.

From REDD to REDD+

Since 2005, the UN negotiations have made deforestation part of the agenda, as the clearing of forests alone contributes to almost 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007, the negotiations began focusing on a mechanism called “REDD,” whereby developed countries compensate developing countries for reductions in their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The mechanism allows industrialized nations to offset their emissions by paying communities in developing countries to protect the forest and prevent the carbon stored in them from being released into the atmosphere. As such, REDD transforms the storing capacity of forests into a commodity, and allows landowners to sell carbon credits in international markets. The REDD mechanism shortly thereafter became known as REDD+, when negotiators broadened the program to cover not only the climate change mitigation aspect of forests, but also the co-benefits of conservation and sustainable management.

According to a UN report, the impact of REDD+ on indigenous communities will depend on how local implementation follows rules regarding access to information, prior and informed consent, and governance. But critics of REDD+ argue that by only focusing on carbon, it fails to adequately serve the needs of indigenous communities by commodifying nature, displacing communities, and undermining sovereignty and autonomy of ancestral territories. COICA has criticized REDD+’s failure to address the real drivers of degradation and deforestation, pointing to the contradiction between the rhetoric of indigenous rights and the daily aggressions indigenous peoples face. “REDD+ cannot frame the indigenous agenda,” said COICA member Roberto Poveda.

REDD+ Indigena: The UN Turns a Deaf Ear

The COICA alternative, REDD+ Indigena, borrows from Bolivia’s 2012 alternative to REDD+ called “The Sustainable Life of the Forest.” Both Bolivia’s and COICA’s proposals integrate mitigation and adaptation efforts, reject mercantilist approaches that promote voluntary carbon credit markets, and recognize developed nations’ ecological debt to the rest of the world. They call for a less vertical approach to climate-related decision-making, promoting a holistic management of the forest that takes into consideration culture, society, and nature.

COICA’s alternative stresses the importance of safeguards to ensure the protection and autonomy of indigenous territories. It prioritizes the role of indigenous peoples as stewards of the forest and of indigenous territories as effective barriers to protect biodiversity; partly in response to the mismanagement of Brazil’s Amazon Fund, a large portion of which is not even reaching indigenous populations, REDD+ Indigena opposes the role of national governments as funding intermediaries. It calls for the private sector to demonstrate its commitment to reduce emissions, and is extremely critical of the establishment of monocultures, or large-scale plantations, as a way to store carbon. REDD+ Indigena calls for a moratorium on extractive industries (hydrocarbons, mining), megaprojects (hydroelectric plants, highways), and agricultural industries (biofuels, transgenic products). In essence, REDD+ Indigena calls for a reduction to the ecological footprint through an approach based on consent and climate justice principles. COICA’s alternative challenges mainstream definitions of “development” and “infrastructure,” demanding structural changes to the REDD+ mechanism.

Despite the continued struggles by indigenous representatives to have their voices heard, the UN negotiations failed to incorporate their demands, and a decision defining the rules and technical details for REDD+ was approved at the 2013 conference, with praise by the UN Environmental Programme.

Indigenous Voices and “Collaboration” in Lima

COICA’s situation has been one characterized by “exclusion to possibilities of inclusion,” as representative Roberto Espinoza stated. Indigenous peoples are among the first to experience the impacts of climate change, yet their voices are often silenced during the decision making process.

Indigenous groups receive a limited number of credentials to participate in the UN talks and continue to face language barriers. They lack the funding and resources that large NGOs tend to have and do not have the ability to vote in decision-making processes that countries enjoy. (See here for information on the Abya Yala summit, an alternative indigenous summit that acknowledges these barriers to entry as the very apparatus of environmental degradation.)

However, COICA is optimistic that next year’s conference in Lima, Peru, will provide an opportunity to work towards more inclusive participation and to bridge the gap between indigenous groups and decision makers. In an early gesture toward indigenous inclusion, the Peruvian government has met to hear the demands of indigenous groups. Preliminary planning for the negotiations already includes an entire pavilion dedicated to indigenous populations, and approximately 2,000 indigenous leaders plan to be present. Jorge Gustavo Suarez de Freitas, a representative from the Peruvian Ministry of Environment, said: “Collaboration has not always been easy, but we recognize their constructive input.”

Though COICA is waiting to see how much substance is behind the Peruvian government’s claims toward “recognition,” they are preparing now to maintain consistent pressure on the Peruvian government, and they remain hopeful. Says Espinoza: “Next year has the potential of being a conference with indigenous flavor.”

This article was originally published here.

Climate Finance at COP19: A Post-Mortem

By Alexis Durand 

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Photo: Push Europe

Activists lay down in the halls of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland last week, forming the letters “W.T.F.” with their bodies.  The letters stood for “Where’s The Finance?,” and their message was clear – the failure to revamp the funding to help developing countries green their economies and prepare for climate change impacts had turned the conference into a deep disappointment.

The frustration expressed in the action reflected the sentiments that defined the recent international climate negotiations, the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19).  COP19 was expected by many to be ‘the finance COP,’ and some hoped that this round of negotiations would produce a fair agreement on the future of climate finance and pave the way for further finance negotiations in Paris in 2015, when the global climate deal is supposed to be struck.

Most nations agree that developing countries need pledges of financial assistance from wealthier nations to contribute to domestic efforts to reduce their emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change.  The World Bank estimates that developing countries’ needs will increase to hundreds of billions of dollars a year by 2020.   However, developed and developing countries have vastly different ideas of the form this support should take.  Because of these tensions, COP19 has failed to produce a meaningful pathway towards equitable climate finance.  Should we be surprised?  An autopsy of climate finance and the political tensions surrounding it reveals that the possibility of a powerful and just climate finance deal for 2013 was truly dead on arrival.

In Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries collectively pledged US$30 billion per year to support mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries.  Parties pledged to scale-up the yearly sum to US$100 billion after this ‘fast start’ finance period ended in 2012.  Although countries indicated that they have successfully delivered the agreed-upon sum during the fast-start period, the outlook for long-term funding is grim.  It seems that mobilized finance has plateaued after the fast-start finance period, and the Overseas Development Institute notes that pledges to UN climate funds have dropped 71% in 2013.

The issue of increasing the overall quantity and effectiveness of funds was advanced only fractionally during the Warsaw negotiations – transparency remains low, recent pledges are modest, and effective and just delivery of funds is still not assured.

The political climate at the negotiations made progress towards an improved new period of scaled-up climate finance impossible.  At COP19, the climate finance conversation remained split sharply along the divide between the global North and South.  Many of the 48 Least Developed Countries continued to push for quantifiable pathways for developing countries’ efforts to scale up climate finance, arguing that predictability is critical for them to plan their actions.  Additionally, they want the newest multilateral UN finance channel, the Green Climate Fund, to be well funded and to finally begin operations.

But none of the developed countries have yet committed to a scaling-up pathway.  Indeed, the UK is the only developed country to declare that countries should commit to roadmaps to scaling up public finance.  This adverse political climate, spurred by North-South tensions and conflicting ideologies, made the creation of an equitable and just climate finance scale-up system unlikely.

Certainly, progress has been made at COP19.  Several developed countries have publicly pledged funds to UN climate finance channels.  The Adaptation Fund reached its modest US$100 million fundraising goal during the COP, and the Green Climate Fund announced that it is completing the final steps that will enable it to begin operations.

Nevertheless, new pledges fall far short of the agreed-upon value and developing countries’ needs.  Additionally, transparency remains dubious, and no further action was taken at the COP to ensure that the finance is “new and additional” (as promised), or that it is distributed as grants rather than loans.  Pathways to scale up climate finance to the agreed-upon US$100 billion by 2020 were not established; even proposals to create an intermediate target (US$70 billion by 2016) were not accepted.  Developing countries left COP19 without a predictable source of funding.

In light of the results of the fast start finance period and the political climate at COP19, it is not surprising that negotiators failed to justly resolve the issue of climate finance.  After all of the negotiations and dialogues, trust between developed and developing countries was lower than ever, and developing countries had no confidence that developed countries will scale up finance adequately.

This raises the question: Is the demise of the possibility for a just climate finance deal symptomatic of a greater disease?  For decades, conflicting ideologies have created a climate stalemate, preventing the creation of a robust international climate action plan.  Compromise is a difficult pill to swallow, and sometimes developed countries must be willing to reach an agreement on developing countries’ terms.  As we approach the milestone COP21 in Paris, nations need to act collectively to protect mutual interests, prioritizing finance delivery to promote global climate justice.  A paradigm shift is necessary to resuscitate the possibility of just climate finance and an effective climate regime.

This article was originally published here.

Lima Must Deliver on Indigenous Peoples’ Vision of Inclusive Climate Decision-Making

By Keith MaddenImage

A year from now, Lima, Peru will host the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  For Latin American Indigenous peoples—who make up a large proportion of the populations of Peru and neighboring Bolivia and Ecuador—COP20 is a pivotal chance to coordinate and leverage their influence on the international stage.

2010 was the last time Latin American Indigenous peoples had the opportunity to air their concerns about climate and environmental inequities—albeit outside of the official process. In April of that year, the first World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The conference brought together over 30,000 activists from over 100 countries, largely as an alternative to the failures of the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Indigenous peoples fed up with the lack of results from the UN conference articulated their own vision of climate justice at the 2010 Cochabamba Conference.  The resulting People’s Agreement aimed to construct a new system based on harmony and balance between humans and Mother Earth.  They reconceived a series of rights that were overlooked during the official negotiations, drafting the landmark Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

What has happened to Indigenous people’s voices since then? Few Latin American Indigenous groups are able to travel to far-flung conference locations like Doha and Warsaw. Indigenous peoples continue to struggle for recognition and fair access to the closed intergovernmental negotiations.

Amazonian and Andean Indigenous groups have minimal say in critical decisions that affect their livelihoods.  For now, they are limited to non-governmental organization observer status, with restrictions that permit only a few registered conference entrants per organization. Thus, their impact on the tone and course of the central negotiating process is limited, especially in moments of tough deal-brokering.

Indigenous peoples continue attempting to influence the process from the inside. Rodolfo Machaca Yupanqui was representing Bolivia at this year’s COP19 in Warsaw as an Aymara Indigenous person and rural farmers’ union leader. He identified a sad misalignment in outcomes between the Cochabamba Conference and the COPs—for example, the difficulty of inserting ideas about Mother Earth as the ultimate provider of life into the vast G77 negotiating group. However, he reiterated the consistency in principles between the Cochabamba Conference and Bolivia’s official negotiating positions.

The few Indigenous representatives at this year’s COP seemed somewhat reluctant to express views that reflect poorly on their government leadership. In a process where Indigenous peoples lack direct influence, governmental representatives often become their only link to closed decision-making sessions. Cutting off engagement could mean losing their diplomat spokespeople.

As Latin American Indigenous people work to ensure that their interests are incorporated and protected in future climate agreements, Peru must create the conditions necessary for the Lima COP to be reinvigorated with the spirit of the Cochabamba Conference.  This means allowing Indigenous voices to be heard directly—not merely through the actions of a few official delegation leaders and regional blocs, as in Warsaw.

For Indigenous people to protect their interests in Lima, the Peruvian government has a role and responsibility to facilitate an equitable process as hosts and ensure moral leadership that recognizes the broad ramifications of climate change for Indigenous and marginalized peoples worldwide.  If the answer is not another World People’s Conference, then Peru must play a very active role in setting new precedents for inclusiveness in Lima.

Domestic recognition of Indigenous people’s legal autonomy and self-governance (such as in Articles 57 and 171 in Ecuador’s Constitution) is seldom effectively enforced and protected. However, it is even more of a shame that Indigenous groups struggle with these same representation issues at the UN, by being denied the sovereignty that would give them a seat at the negotiating table.

For the world to finally witness a more inclusive COP, Peru and the UN must begin planning now to open the channels for Indigenous participation and make closed negotiations accessible to non-diplomats. The equity issues raised at the Cochabamba Conference should be at the heart of the debate. Article 6 of the UNFCCC Charter guarantees “public participation in addressing climate change…and developing adequate responses,” but Indigenous people contend that the UN process shuts them out.

The next major opportunity for Indigenous inclusion will be in Lima, where facilitation by the COP20 host could be crucial. Fortunately, Peruvian Minister of the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal has shown signs that he is committed to an inclusive process by recently signing a joint commitment with WWF International to collaborate at the COP20.

Still, details about the proposed setup and participative format in Lima are only slowly emerging. Being equipped with more information will enable Indigenous groups to organize and have a voice in the proceedings. With the COP20 now less than a year away, the stakes could not be higher for Indigenous peoples.

This article was published here by Americas Quarterly     

A New Frontier for Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform?

By David Ciplet and Alison Kirsch

oil

Subsidies to dirty and wealthy fossil fuel companies represent a paradoxical misalignment of priorities. Action to remove fossil fuel subsidies must be a centerpiece of international and national climate efforts.

The final embers of heated debate have fully fizzled out at the UN climate change negotiations in coal-friendly Poland. While the formal negotiations were plagued by inaction, one hopeful dialogue emerged in Warsaw among some of the most influential players in global politics.

In a series of panels, representatives of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Energy Agency and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development all argued the benefits of, and need for, fossil fuel subsidy reform.

As Rachel Kyte, vice president of Sustainable Development at the World Bank explained during a panel on the subject, “This is the ultimate test of policy coherence. We can try to raise $100 billion. We can, as multilateral development banks, invest $27 billion in climate mitigation and adaptation projects [as we did] last year alone. But we’re wasting $500 billion in fossil fuel subsidies each year.”

Data from the organization Oil Change International confirms that the wealthy world is subsidizing the extraction, processing, transportation and use of oil, coal and natural gas at a rate of more than five times that of what we are contributing to help countries affected by climate change to adapt.

This is a gross and paradoxical misalignment of priorities. Governments waste precious time and money maintaining an uneven playing field for the largest fossil polluters, providing $6 to carbon-intensive fuels for every $1 that goes to renewable sources. Meanwhile, poor countries continue to experience climate change impacts worst and first. Those in the least-developed countries experience deaths from climate-related disasters like typhoons, droughts and floods at a rate of nearly six times the global average.

Yet, the current dialogue and efforts among the large multilateral development organizations are incomplete. The World Bank, for example, despite progress on a new policy to limit loans to coal, continues to finance fossil fuel projects. According to Oil Change International, fossil fuel lending from the bank actually increased from 2012 to 2013, with $336 million of continuing support for fossil fuel exploration projects.

Steve Kretzmann at Oil Change International explained, “Without a doubt, we have to think about putting production subsidies, particularly subsidies for new exploration in the red [unfavorable] category, and that’s because we have IEA [International Energy Agency] and IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] telling us we need to leave roughly two-thirds of the existing fossil fuels in the ground if we’re going to meet our goals of staying under 2 degrees of climate change.”

He continued, “Why in God’s name are we spending billions more, incentivizing companies to find more of something that we can’t burn? That makes absolutely no sense.”

New research published in the journal Climatic Change revealed that just 90 companies produce two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions, with many of the biggest receiving large annual subsidies. In the United States alone, the top five investor-owned corporations on this major polluter list – Chevron, Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Shell and ConocoPhillips – receive $2.4 billion of tax breaks from Congress annually, despite holding more than $71 billion of cash reserves.

The growing international attention on this issue is beginning to pay off. The UK and the United States recently committed to stop funding coal-fired power stations in developing countries. And this week, the ministers of 28 member states of the International Energy Agency committed to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. They also encouraged countries to take subsidy reform into account as they prepare their commitments for a new international climate framework, to be agreed upon in 2015.

However, previous commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies made in 2009 by governments of the Group of 20 major economies have yet to be fulfilled. If we are to have any chance to prevent catastrophic climate change and redress the impacts of already-locked-in warming experienced by vulnerable peoples around the world, eliminating fossil fuel welfare to mega-polluters like Chevron and Exxon Mobil will need to become a centerpiece of the UN climate negotiations in 2014.

This will require civil society to ramp up efforts to challenge government handouts to big oil, gas and coal. These efforts already have broad public support. Fossil fuel subsidy reform means taking a firm stand against giveaways to the wealthiest and dirtiest corporations on the planet, while providing targeted support to the poor as we transition to sustainable energy.

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

Can Chile balance growth and climate action?

By Alison Kirsch and Guy Edwards 

copper

Chile is at a crossroads. Copper prices are falling, the gap between energy supply and demand is widening, and in December the second round of presidential elections will determine who will lead Chile in the next administration. Chile faces a difficult balancing act to maintain its strong economic growth and the energy this requires, while ensuring progress on its climate, environmental and clean energy goals. In this whirlwind of domestic change, Chile has the opportunity to reaffirm its position as a global leader on climate change.

Chile has the highest income per capita in all of South America, largely thanks to a recent boom in copper exports to China. Yet mining is energy-intensive and the government estimates that Chile will need to increase its energy supply 16% by 2020. As an energy-poor country, Chile is forced to import 75% of its energy, including expensive liquid natural gas. Sourcing this energy and its high price tag has generated a politicized and difficult debate without an easy way forward.

Meanwhile, Chile is making progress on its pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 2007 levels by 2020. Chile also recently doubled its renewable energy target from 10% by 2024 to 20% by 2025. At the UN climate change negotiations, Chile is part of the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean States (AILAC, in Spanish), which includes Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, and Peru. This group, currently co-chaired by Chile and Colombia, emerged in 2012 in an effort to break away from the stifling North-South divide and push for binding emission reductions for all countries in a new treaty by 2015.

As the recent COP19 climate negotiations in Poland entered their second week, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet secured an easy victory in the first round of presidential elections. In December Bachelet will face a runoff with the second-place candidate, Evelyn Matthei, from which she will likely emerge the winner.

Current president Sebastián Piñera will leave office without establishing a clear vision on national energy policy. Bachelet supports a variety of energy projects, including new coal-fired power plants and expanded import of liquid natural gas. Alarmingly, discussions of climate change and low-carbon development were largely absent from the presidential campaign.

At the center of this prickly energy debate is the controversy surrounding HidroAysén, a proposed 2,750-megawatt hydroelectric project in Patagonia. Piñera’s administration has postponed a decision on HidroAysén until after the elections. Bachelet is often quoted as saying that HidroAysén is “not viable.” Yet Waldemar Coutts, from Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, believes Chile “needs to seek new energy sources to maintain growth, highlighting, in particular, non-conventional renewables.” Though Bachelet continues to promote importing expensive liquid natural gas, mounting pressure to feed the country’s hunger for energy could push her to reconsider her position on HidroAysén.

Andrés Pirazzoli, from Chile’s Office of Climate Change, said of the election, “We don’t foresee that it’s going to have significant impact [on climate change policy] due to nonpartisan consistency across administrations.”

Enrique Maurtua, regional coordinator for the Latin American branch of the Climate Action Network, is confident in Chile’s ability to lead AILAC alongside Colombia, but notes the tension between environmental concerns and Chile’s interests as a mining country. “If they succeed on the energy issues they are having, they will be a good model for the rest of Latin America,” he said.

Chile is not the only AILAC country whose economy depends on the extraction of natural resources. AILAC’s members’ similar backgrounds support collective ambition:  all AILAC countries have pre-2020 mitigation commitments, which is not true for many other developing countries. Might Chile take the plunge to further solidify its leadership and increase its own ambition before 2020? “It is still early to say, but Chile is doing its best to build capacity at home and develop as many domestic mitigation actions plans as possible. We want to quantify our every effort towards our goal, with an aim to exceed the challenge,” said Pirazzoli.

In the meantime, Coutts states, “We are a constructive group of countries, but we do not hesitate to demand that developed countries do more in terms of providing leadership and financial assistance.”

After the limited success of COP19, attention is shifting rapidly to the UN climate negotiations in 2014. With the pre-COP in Venezuela and COP20 in Peru, 2014 will be Latin America’s year. This is an opportunity for Chile and AILAC to exert a larger influence in the push for significant commitments and a new climate change regime by 2015. Yet AILAC can only be an international pacesetter if the domestic policies of its member countries reflect the group’s ambitious rhetoric at the UN.

With a new administration and shifting dynamics in the energy and mining sectors, Chile is on the precipice of change and can seize the opportunity to consolidate and enhance its actions on climate change. Backtracking now or failing to sufficiently implement its domestic policies will only serve to dilute Chile and AILAC’s progressive voice and leadership. Both are urgently needed to push aside the North-South divide and progress towards an ambitious and binding agreement for all countries in 2015.

Another version of this article was originally published here

Were Those Cheers or Jeers? Warsaw Leaves Doubts on Support for Developing Countries to Address Climate Change

By Timmons Roberts 

gavel

The shouting began just before 7 p.m. on what was supposed to be the last day of the COP19 (19th Conference of the Parties) negotiations inside the vast temporary metal and fabric plenary rooms constructed right on the soccer field in Warsaw, Poland’s national stadium. At first, the shouting from activists outside in the bleachers sounded like football cheers, but then they grew in volume.

Polish Environment Minister and COP19 President Marcin Korolec joked that “we are reminded that we are inside a football stadium.” Then it grew louder and more menacing: “Stop climate madness!” again and again. Delegates put on headphones to be able to hear the speakers, even though most did not need the simultaneous translation being produced by teams in seven separate soundproof cabins on a platform at the back of the room.

But then the shouting died down, and Karolec’s gaveling began in earnest. Agenda item after item was gaveled through:

“Hearing no objections, it is so decided.”

That was the easy stuff. The main text on climate finance, sweated over for two weeks by a group of delegates from nations around the world, met an objection from Nicaragua, speaking for the Group of 77 and China bloc, actually 134 developing nations representing nearly six-sevenths of the world’s population. The issue for this negotiating group was how two promises made at the contested Copenhagen negotiations in 2009 would be kept.

At Copenhagen, wealthy nations agreed to provide $30 billion over the three years (2010-2012), in an effort to provide financial assistance quickly to show their seriousness about helping the developing world. The funding was to be “balanced” between support for reducing fossil fuel use in their growing economies (mitigation), and to help them prepare for the expected increase in climate-related disasters (adaptation). This was the first promise, for so-called “Fast-start Finance,” and whether that promise was kept is sharply disputed.

The second promise was that the average of $10 billion a year over those three years would “scale up” to an amount approaching $100 billion annually by 2020. Being the first year after the “Fast-start” period meant that Warsaw was an important place to explain how we’d do that “scaling up.” Many activists called the meeting “The Finance COP,” in expectation that the topic would dominate the discussions.

In the end, that was not really to be the case. A new mechanism on “loss and damage” and a finalized agreement on avoiding deforestation were two major outcomes. Meanwhile, the “Long-term Finance” text debated for two weeks behind closed doors by the negotiating group was sharply divided.

After submissions of proposed text to the UNFCCC Secretariat, two weeks of negotiations, and a ministerial-level meeting on finance, a slim one-and-a-half page decision on a “Work Programme on Long-term Finance” was presented to the world’s nations on the last day at Warsaw. It included 13 brief numbered paragraphs, largely urging and reminding Parties to report on what they were doing on finance, to do their best and to continue their discussions.

On scaling up from $10 billion to $100 billion, just one key paragraph had any significant action, and that was modified by the weak verb, “urges.” The Work Programme states that the Conference of the Parties:

7. Urges developed country Parties to maintain continuity of mobilization of public climate finance at increasing levels from the fast-start finance period in line with their joint commitment to the goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency of implementation.

Some Parties believed this wording implied a straight line from $10 billion in 2012 to $100 billion in 2020. When the text got its turn in the big final plenary session where the protestors were chanting outside the metal rooms on the soccer stadium’s field, Nicaragua spoke for the G77 and China group of developing countries in favor of specifying a mid-term target along the way, saying: “On Long-term Finance, we would like to add the text ‘with at least $70 billion by 2016.’”

Bolivia chimed in: “We are very much disappointed about the text we have in hand. This was expected to be the COP of financial and technological support. We were supposed to emerge with a roadmap to get us to 2020, instead we have unclear language.”

Speaking for the 48 Least Developed Countries group, Nepal said “My group came to Warsaw with great expectations. We called for pathways on finance, pre-2020 ambition, and called for a “loss and damage” mechanism separate from adaptation. We have compromised on many issues, but there is a limit to compromise, from the most vulnerable countries in the world.”

The U.S.’s negotiator Todd Stern responded calmly that the Long-term Finance text was a significant compromise for them, and that if it was reopened, that the U.S. would bring up more issues of its own.

Later, COP President Korolec instructed negotiators to join a huddle to work out their differences on this and other core issues remaining at the end of the negotiations. Quietly, the mid-term target demand for $70 billion by 2016 disappeared entirely from the list of demands for the text, and it passed to applause in the giant hall.

“Hearing no objections, it is so decided.”

For years now we’ve heard how promises not kept erode the trust so badly needed to make these critical negotiations a success. Without mid-term targets that create urgency to get us to that substantial 2020 target, it is hard to see how trust can be built. It also makes sense that one does not arrive expecting to win a 90-minute soccer match having only trained for 10 minutes at a time. Annual mid-term targets escalating by about $11 billion a year would get the finance team into shape for 2020 and build confidence that developed countries are good for their word.

So when 2015 comes, will we hear cheering from the stands, or jeers? Delegates from China and the Philippines expressed feelings of frustration common among developing countries. The Philippines stated, “Finance is the big disappointment of this COP. We engaged sincerely in these negotiations and we received in return nothing except a very unbalanced text.” China said, “The Long-term finance text has no balance in it. We need to see a timeframe, some milestones.” The Chinese representative added: “We are not asking too much—the current text does not meet the minimum requirements of developing countries.”

Beyond some small contributions to the Adaptation Fund and for a forests initiative, Warsaw should be seen as a lost opportunity to build trust and fulfill our commitment to create predictable and adequate funding for developing countries to green as they develop, and survive the storm ahead.

This article was originally published here. 

How can Peru make next year’s climate summit a success?

By Guy Edwards and Timmons Roberts 

Machu Picchu

As delegates begin to reflect on the limited success of the UN Climate Change negotiations in Warsaw which ended last week, eyes are now turning optimistically to Peru as the incoming president of COP20 in 2014.

Poland, as host of COP19, has now taken three bites at the apple of leading UN climate negotiations, and a number of observers believe the country is too compromised with its coal dependency and drive for economic growth to guide the world to a low-carbon future requiring tough choices.

Although the conference in Warsaw managed to secure some progress on a range of issues, Peru will have to do some very heavy lifting to ensure the delicate timetable of agreeing a new climate deal in Paris in 2015 is kept on track.

This is all sounds slightly familiar. After the train wreck in 2009 at the COP15 in Copenhagen, Mexico rode to the rescue of multilateralism the following year at COP16 in Cancún.

Mexico created a Special Representative for Climate Change and dispatched one of its top diplomats, Luis Alfonso de Alba, to rebuild confidence in the process. De Alba spent roughly 250 days in 2010 travelling around the world, listening to countries rich and poor. Mexico lowered expectations and adopted a pragmatic approach that served to rebuild trust and encourage consensus.

Mexico’s position as a middle-income country helped to build consensus. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, put climate change at the top of the political agenda and were committed to a successful outcome at COP16.

Calderón decided that the process needed extensive multilateral experience, so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took responsibility instead of the Ministry of Environment. At COP16 considerable attention was placed on the process of inclusion as much as the content.

Consequently, nearly all countries had only praise for Mexico’s stewardship (Bolivia was a lone resistor).

Peru is next up and has great potential to secure progress in the global climate negotiations at COP20 in Lima in 2014.

Peru is a bridge builder between developing and developed countries and is considered a leading actor on climate change. In 2008, it was the first developing country to announce a voluntary emission reduction pledge, offering to reduce the net deforestation of primary forests to 0 by 2021 and produce 33 percent of its total energy use from renewable sources by 2020.

In 2010 Peru’s Ministry of Environment published its Plan of Action for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change (Plan CC). However, according to the Latin American Platform on Climate, the low level of implementation of its domestic climate policies still needs urgent attention.

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Peru is part of the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean States (in Spanish, AILAC) alongside Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama.

AILAC attempts to build consensus between developed and developing countries on the need for all to take ambitious action on climate change, and on the importance of there being a legally binding agreement holding countries to account. However, AILAC countries at times come under fire for their domestic policies, which seem to clash with their progressive rhetoric at the UNFCCC.

Alongside its AILAC partners and others—including the United Kingdom and Bangladesh—Peru also participates in the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action. The Dialogue is an informal space, open to countries working towards an ambitious, comprehensive and legally binding regime, and committed domestically to becoming or remaining low-carbon economies. The Dialogue has been able to achieve progress at the negotiations by seeking collective ambition from all countries, particularly at COP16 and COP17.

En route to COP20, Peru has a year to make a vital contribution to restore confidence and ratchet up global climate action. Otherwise, the goal of producing a draft text in Lima to be decided in Paris at COP21 in 2015 will be simply unreachable.

Peru could focus on three key strategies. First, Mexico’s extensive and tireless preparations and management of COP16 should serve as a template. Mexico’s participation in the Cartagena Dialogue as COP16 president was also crucial.  This experience shows that Peru can be more active in the Dialogue without undermining its neutrality.

Peru’s climate diplomacy in 2014 could focus on the following key players. A major step is to reach across to the major emitters – including the U.S., Japan, Australia and Canada.

Peru and the EU share similar views on the need for ambitious action to increase progress in the negotiations. Discussions surrounding an increase in ambition by the EU and Peru and its AILAC partners could increase confidence. As Venezuela will be hosting the pre-COP20 event, close collaboration between Peru and Venezuela and the other ALBA countries (e.g., Ecuador and Bolivia, the group is the Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas) will be essential in ensuring a strong regional voice calling for progress in Lima.

Peru can also attempt to facilitate dialogue between the U.S. and the BASIC group—Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Finally, Peru’s diplomacy with the least developed countries (LDCs) and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) is paramount in ensuring that the most vulnerable are actively involved.

Second, Peru’s flexible interpretation of the critical phrase “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities”, and its view that all countries need to act to varying degrees to reduce emissions, will be essential. So will driving forward discussions on equity, which again arose this year in Warsaw.

Peru’s membership in AILAC and the idea of the “beautiful middle” can help put medium-sized countries at the center of the climate debate. A focus on reducing emissions by all—which is contingent on developed country support on climate finance, adaptation and capacity building—can help establish a more holistic narrative tying together the myriad threads of the negotiations.

As a medium-sized country, Peru can develop and drive forward this narrative and avoid the polarizing debates between the North and South that undermine the talks.

Third, when Peru put forward its voluntary pledge, it established a new climate discourse. This discourse needs a boost and a major platform to test its utility. COP20 can be that space.  Peru, alongside its AILAC partners, can put ambition front and center by promoting their collective pledges. AILAC may also consider increasing their own pledges and activities in the interest of generating confidence in the process and promoting low-carbon growth.

Combining these strategies could revitalise the UNFCCC process following the modest results in in  Warsaw. As a country very vulnerable to climate impacts, Peru can promote urgency, ambition and equity. Lima will be a decisive battleground to ensure the 2015 deadline for a new deal is not missed. Peru must start this daunting task now in earnest.

This article was published on the RTCC website. An earlier version was originally published on Brookings

Corporate Influences Silence Voices Demanding Progress at COP19

By Bryna Cofrin-Shaw

Image

At 5 pm on November 23rd, 2013, the Warsaw stadium hosting this year’s UN Climate Conference, COP19,  erupted in applause. The room, packed with party delegates and observers who had already worked through the final night and into the next evening showed enormous relief that some progress had been made. The progress in question? To adopt a future mitigation agenda “inviting” parties to initiate “preparations” for intended nationally determined contributions. In other words, No emissions targets, no pledge and review process, not even commitments.

At the podium, two chairmen high-fived. Meanwhile, frustration erupted at the back of the hall by all who recognized that this was just a formal way of saying we’re still headed for a devastating global rise in temperatures.

To some, this year’s conference in Warsaw is a success: given the low expectations going into the summit, the mere fact that conclusions were passed regarding climate finance, “contributions” to greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and the contentious issue of “loss & damage” is something to celebrate. But there’s a stark and fatal distinction between success for the conference and success for the climate, and at least some of the finger pointing can be directed toward the host nation itself, Poland. To get a full picture, let’s go back to Day 1 of the COP19 conference:

On November 11th 2013, Yeb Sano famously addressed the conference hall by calling on delegates to “stop this madness” of climate change, linking it to the recent onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan in Sano’s home country, the Philippines. Sano made the public commitment to fast until a meaningful outcome was reached at the 19th Conference of Parties (COP19). As Sano walked out of the hall, approximately 60 youth stood behind him in solidarity, in an action pre-approved by security. Three of these activists were exiled from the conference moments later for holding small banners listing Typhoon death tolls.

When asked about the de-badging of his companions, Nathan Thanki of the organization Earth in Brackets says of the COP process, “the parameters of what’s allowed are constantly shifting, there are no clear rules. Everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else.”

This year’s de-badging comes after the deportation of activists in Doha last year for holding a “Qatar – Why Host, Not Lead” banner, and four years after 230 activists were arrested in the streets of Copenhagen in protest against the summit’s woefully poor results.

More dramatically still, on November 21, hundreds of environmental activists and civil society organizations such as WWF, Oxfam International, and Friends of the Earth Europe staged a unified walk-out of the COP in Warsaw’s national stadium. The activists are spreading the message that the world needs to recognize the failures of COP19’s negotiations, and that the ministers and delegates still arguing within closed doors must hear the people’s demands. Polluters talk, We walk, read civil society’s shirts and banners as they left the stadium en masse today. Just like G77 delegates abandoning the Loss and Damage negotiations at 4 am on November 20th, all have been left to wonder, why talk if no one’s listening?

Even before the start of COP19 and its various outrages, the Polish government came under fire for its utter mismanagement of the event. First, Polish organizers were criticized for posting online comments about the great benefits of Arctic ice melting for oil and gas exploration. And when Greenpeace discovered that in a nearby hotel, Poland would be hosting the World Coal Association summit it demanded, in bill-board sized banners, “Who rules Poland? Coal industry or the people?”

This year’s COP is also the first of its kind to be corporate sponsored. BMW, the oil conglomerate LOTOS Group, and General Motors are only a few examples of corporate control pervading COP19, despite the international conference’s alleged goal of forging a global agreement for avoiding catastrophic climate change and, arguably, for deciding the fate of humanity.

Given the Poles’ dire handling of events and the historical impotence of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), few were optimistic that COP19 would produce effective progress toward reaching a global agreement on climate change in 2015. Progress has been made, but not in the direction of diverging from a 4.5-6° C rise in global average temperatures. So far the UNFCCC has proved utterly unable to address the problem of climate change, yet back-patting, high fives and the repeated incantation of the “spirit of compromise” continue each time the gavel sounds.

But despite the implications for the climate, many still argue that the UNFCCC serves an important function as a global stage for environmental and development concerns. It provides the world’s most vulnerable populations, for whom climate change is already a destructive force, a space to voice their grievances and demands. According to this perspective, civil society, including NGOs, activists and organizations fighting for issues of environmental justice and sustainable development play an important role at the UN climate conferences, serving as a much needed counter balance to the business and commercial interests on display at these climate change negotiations.

However, with creative corporate advertisements such as showcased BMWs and Emirate Airline beanbag chairs dotting the halls, the words of civil society and marginalized people, the ones most in need of a robust and ambitious climate deal, are nowhere to be seen. As Venezuela pointed out during the final session, poorer countries with far fewer delegates were sacrificing their health and livelihood to participate in the 30+ hours of ongoing final talks. “We are human beings, we are not machines to deliver decisions” said representative Claudia Salerno. The world’s most pressing problem for the future is being addressed within a game of power and economic influence. Those with enough courage to raise the basic question, “How many more?” have been silenced within the only truly multilateral space available for solving a global crisis.

The Climate Conference in Warsaw has shown, in no uncertain terms, the divisiveness of climate change. Division between the loud corporate voices and the silencing of civil society; between the vulnerable demands of developing countries and the stubborn obstinacy of the US and others, and most crucially, a division between whether these leaders have gathered to work toward addressing climate change, or whether they’re each just desperate not to return home empty-handed.

This article was originally published as a Truth-Out original

We Need Another Mexico: Pressure on Peru as Poland’s COP19 Fails to Deliver

By Guy Edwards and Timmons Roberts

Lima. Guy EdwardsIn the 11th hour of its final day, it appears that COP19 in Warsaw is barely avoiding being a complete flop. With a difficult task to keep on track the fragile roadmap agreed to in Durban at COP17 towards a new climate deal in 2015, the Polish presidency of the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) has failed to bring together the global North and South to collectively address the climate change crisis.

Poland has now taken three bites at the apple of leading U.N. climate negotiations, and a number of observers believe they have now struck out. Many argue that the country is too compromised with its coal dependency and drive for economic growth to guide the world to a low-carbon future requiring tough choices.

We have been here before. After the train wreck in 2009 at the COP15 in Copenhagen, Mexico rode to the rescue of multilateralism the following year at COP16 in Cancún. Mexico created a Special Representative for Climate Change and dispatched one of its top diplomats, Luis Alfonso de Alba, to rebuild confidence in the process. De Alba spent roughly 250 days in 2010 travelling around the world, listening to countries rich and poor. Mexico lowered expectations and adopted a pragmatic approach that served to rebuild trust and encourage consensus.

Mexico’s position as a middle-income country helped to build consensus. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, put climate change at the top of the political agenda and were committed to a successful outcome at COP16. Calderón decided that the process needed extensive multilateral experience, so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took responsibility instead of the Ministry of Environment. At COP16, considerable attention was placed on the process of inclusion as much as the content. Consequently, nearly all countries had only praise for Mexico’s stewardship (Bolivia was a lone resistor).

Peru is next up and has great potential to rescue the global climate negotiations at COP20 in Lima in 2014. Peru is a bridge builder between developing and developed countries and is considered a leading actor on climate change. In 2008, it was the first developing country to announce a voluntary emission reduction pledge, offering to reduce the net deforestation of primary forests to 0 by 2021 and produce 33 percent of its total energy use from renewable sources by 2020. In 2010 Peru’s Ministry of Environment published its Plan of Action for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change (Plan CC). However, according to the Latin American Platform on Climate, the low level of implementation of its domestic climate policies still needs urgent attention.

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Peru is part of the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean States (in Spanish, AILAC) alongside Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama. AILAC attempts to build consensus between developed and developing countries on the need for all to take ambitious action on climate change, and on the importance of there being a legally binding agreement holding countries accountable. However, AILAC countries at times come under fire for their domestic policies, which seem to clash with their progressive rhetoric at the UNFCCC.

Alongside its AILAC partners and others—including the United Kingdom and Bangladesh—Peru also participates in the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action. The Dialogue is an informal space, open to countries working towards an ambitious, comprehensive and legally binding regime, and committed domestically to becoming or remaining low-carbon economies. The Dialogue has been able to achieve progress at the negotiations by seeking collective ambition from all countries, particularly at COP16 and COP17.

En route to COP20, Peru has a year to make a vital contribution to restore confidence and ratchet up global climate action. Otherwise, the goal of producing a draft text in Lima to be decided in Paris at COP21 in 2015 will be simply unreachable.

Peru could focus on three key strategies. First, Mexico’s extensive and tireless preparations and management of COP16 should serve as a template. Mexico’s participation in the Cartagena Dialogue as COP16 president was also crucial.  This experience shows that Peru can be more active in the Dialogue without undermining its neutrality.

Peru’s climate diplomacy in 2014 could focus on the following key players. A major step is to reach across to the major emitters—including the U.S., Japan, Australia and Canada. Peru and the EU share similar views on the need for ambitious action to increase progress in the negotiations. Discussions surrounding an increase in ambition by the EU and Peru and its AILAC partners could increase confidence. As Venezuela will be hosting the pre-COP20 event, close collaboration between Peru and Venezuela and the other ALBA countries (Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas), e.g., Ecuador and Bolivia, will be essential in ensuring a strong regional voice calling for progress in Lima. Peru can also attempt to facilitate dialogue between the U.S. and the BASIC group—Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Finally, Peru’s diplomacy with the least developed countries (LDCs) and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) is paramount in ensuring that the most vulnerable are actively involved.

Second, Peru’s flexible interpretation of the critical phrase “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities,” and its view that all countries need to act to varying degrees to reduce emissions will be essential. So will driving forward discussions on equity, which again arose this year in Warsaw. Peru’s membership in AILAC and the idea of the “beautiful middle” can help put medium-sized countries at the center of the climate debate. A focus on reducing emissions by all—which is contingent on developed country support for climate finance, adaptation and capacity building—can help establish a more holistic narrative tying together the myriad threads of the negotiations. As a medium-sized country, Peru can develop and drive forward this narrative and avoid the polarizing debates between the North and South that undermine the talks.

Third, when Peru put forward its voluntary pledge, it established a new climate discourse. This discourse needs a boost and a major platform to test its utility. COP20 can be that space.  Peru, alongside its AILAC partners, can put ambition front and center by promoting their collective pledges. AILAC may also consider increasing their own pledges and activities in the interest of generating confidence in the process and promoting low-carbon growth.

Combining these strategies could salvage the UNFCCC process following the lack of progress in  Warsaw. As a country very vulnerable to climate impacts, Peru can promote urgency, ambition and equity. Lima will be a decisive battleground to ensure the 2015 deadline for a new deal is not missed. Peru must start this daunting task now in earnest.

This article was originally published here

Small islands negotiating for survival at climate talks

By Olivia Santiago 

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With the onset of sea level rise and increase in extreme weather events, entire island nations face extermination. Islands in the Pacific Ocean are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and are some of the first countries being forced to migrate from their homeland.

At the closing of the UN climate negotiations today, these small island states are negotiating for their very survival as they are forcibly being driven from their homes as a result of climate change.

Kiribati, a low-lying South Pacific country, is using the UN climate negotiations as a platform to bring light to these climate-induced forced migrants. Recently, the Kiribati government has suggested relocating the entire island’s population of 100,000.

The process of relocation has already begun. Earlier this year, Kiribati President Anote Tong confirmed plans to buy 6,000 acres of land in Fiji to ensure food security for his people. Kiribati’s food production has been hard-hit by the sea level rise, with saline water intruding on the fertile soil of the island.

Last month, Ione Teitiota from Kiribati sought asylum for his family in New Zealand, asking that country’s High Court to allow him to claim climate change refugee status. The verdict is pending, as no international law currently exists to address the rights of climate change refugees.

According to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee has historically been defined as a person whose “fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” has made him or her “unable” or “unwilling” to seek protection in the home country.

Written in 1951, the document primarily addressed migrants from war and persecution. The idea of displaced peoples due to global warming did not exist.

The term “refugee” implies something temporary. Island states like Kiribati are not dealing with people who seek sanctuary elsewhere because of the political, social, or economic situation in their homeland. These are people who have been permanently displaced due to climate change – circumstances neither they nor their governments created. They do not have the ability or choice of returning one day to their homeland, as it will be submerged underwater.

Many ambiguities and problems remain with addressing the rights of these people: When does an island nation decide to move? And if so, where? When a country moves to a new land, does it still exist in law? Although these issues are being included in discussions about a “loss and damage” mechanism within the UN climate negotiations, how do governments and policy makers quantify the loss of an entire homeland?

Ambassador Ronald Jumeau, who represents the Seychelles at the United Nations and who is chief negotiator of the Small Island Developing States, is addressing these questions. He points out questions about how “host” countries take these immigrants in, and how sea level rise even in their own countries could make less land available for newcomers.

“How does the Seychelles start a discussion, if we don’t know where we’re going in the first place? At what time do we decide to move?” he asks.

“We haven’t prepared for it,” he says. People in his country “are very much aware, but this is the last thing you want to talk about.”

There is a very real potential of entire societies disappearing. A conversation to respond to this crisis needs to start within the United Nations, incorporating impacted peoples, elected leaders of island communities and states, and human rights groups and academia in the process. And it needs to start immediately.

A loss and damage mechanism established by the U.N. to provide compensation for climate impacts should be a critical step. However, additional steps must be taken to update the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and related legal frameworks and support systems. Some nations are beyond the point of loss – they are facing extinction.

This article was originally published here

Grey Skies in Warsaw: the UNFCCC Climate Change Negotiations Enter Their Second Week

By Timmons Roberts and Claire Langley 

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The winter skies were a dim grey as the second and final week began at the United Nations climate change negotiations in Warsaw, Poland.  Sadly, the hopes for an ambitious global effort to address the grave risks of a destabilized climate look similarly dim. 

The drumbeat of negativity is drowning out those who would put a brave face on the hopes for a strong global effort on climate.  Typhoon Haiyan has brought on a desperate response from some developing countries and NGOs, as it is being seen as a reflection of the urgency with which to address climate change.

In the big picture, a plan was put forward two years ago in Durban to reach a new agreement on climate change by 2015, which would then enter into force in 2020.  This agreement may take the form of either a “protocol, [a] legal instrument or [an] agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties.”

It is still unclear at this point which outcome is most likely or how meaningful the agreement might be.  Debate continues around a number of issues:  the character of nations’ commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the nature and extent of differentiation of commitments between rich and poor countries, and a process to assess and consider commitments and how to change them if they are too weak.

Another issue under discussion is whether countries should have pledges in hand by September, 2014, when Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for a high level meeting of the United Nations in New York, and what to do if those pledges are too weak to address the problem.  But even having them in hand in time for this deadline seems increasingly unlikely.

These yearly Conference of the Parties (COP) negotiations often hit a nadir about this time in the two-week cycle, but this year is worse than usual.  Japan and Australia have emerged as the villains this year. The new Australian government has repeatedly been voted the “Fossil of the Day” by the international NGO Climate Action Network due to its refusal to send a minister to Warsaw and for undermining discussions on climate finance. And Japan sharply walked back its pledge to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by 25 percent, instead seeking a 3.8 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.  A large network of African NGOs has asked the African negotiating group to simply walk out.

Finance is seen as the main issue at Warsaw that has the potential to clear some roadblocks on the path to a 2015 agreement, but progress here has stalled also.  There was a groundbreaking commitment made in Copenhagen and implemented in Cancun to scale up financing from about $10 billion a year to $100 billion a year by 2020, but several elements are still unclear: how much of the funds should come from public or private sources; how much should go toward helping countries adapt to climate change; and how to measure and track the funds.  Adding to the lack of progress on this long term goal is the absence of concrete commitments for midterm financing to fill the gap through 2020. The least developed countries proposed early this week a midterm target of $60 billion by 2016, while the Africa Group has called for $70 billion by 2016.

Now, the co-chairs of the ADP track (the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) have produced a new text from which to negotiate the 2015 agreement.  Yet even this text is basic and reads like a “to do” list.  It does not set a date for when parties should put forward their pledges for emissions reductions or for scaled up finance commitments.  The new text also does not define the scope for new finance commitments, which alternatively could be addressed by Ministers releasing statements on this in the high level segment of negotiations beginning Wednesday.

The United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Germany are reported to have pledges forthcoming on finance for the protection of standing forests under the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) program, while Australia leads another group in arguing that the lion’s share of climate finance will need to come from the private sector and that there are many emerging economies that are wealthy enough to make their own pledges.  Given the recession and need for economic growth, they say, obligations or mandatory obligations from developed countries are not realistic and therefore not acceptable.

Discussions on a 2015 agreement are not progressing and are being put in jeopardy by a lack of movement on finance.  The G77+China group of 134 developing countries is pushing hard for finance pledges, saying that funding needs to be scaled up in line with what was promised through 2020 during negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancun, and that progress on this long term finance goal must be demonstrated before discussions on 2015 emission reduction commitments are allowed to continue.

In anticipation of weak financial pledges, the Climate Action Network staged a protest in the enormous national stadium in Warsaw on Tuesday, spelling out a giant “WTF?” to ask “Where’s the Finance?”  The exasperation of environmental NGOs at this point, however, is expressed in both meanings of the acronym.

Another hot topic in Warsaw concerns an interesting but difficult proposal by Brazil has been put on the table for calculating emission reduction pledges, using historical emissions based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data.  This is based on the principles of equity and historical responsibility, central words in the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Some countries (mainly in the European Union) feel that focusing on the one indicator of historical emissions is too narrow—there are concerns that this type of mechanism could politicize the IPCC’s work.  There are also fears that developing a new approach could delay agreement until after 2015, so Brazil’s proposal has been pushed to some sub-negotiating tracks and is currently still under discussion.

One of the most acute areas of disagreement is over a new issue under negotiation called “loss and damage.”  This issue is concerned with how developing countries are compensated for harm done by climate change that cannot be adapted to.  The issue was originally raised by the Alliance of Small Island States way back in 1989.  The issue came to the attention of the 48 least developed countries a few years ago, and they have pushed hard for it to be taken up in its own mechanism separate from the “adaptation” agenda— adversely complicating these efforts, several prominent developed countries (e.g. the European Union and United States) have indicated they would prefer loss and damage to be covered under existing adaptation mechanisms and institutions.

So in Warsaw we wait for the skies to clear—for a ray of sunshine and hope to shine into a darkly polarized world.  Even winter days can be brilliantly sunny; it remains to be seen if any of that sun can break through to the meeting rooms of the Warsaw stadium.  The question is who has a cloud busting machine that powerful.

This article was originally published here

CAN-LA and the Latin American Platform on Climate present on Latin America’s climate policies at COP19

By Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis and Alison Kirsch 

ImagePhoto credit: Alison Kirsch 

Two of Latin America’s leading climate change networks organized a side event at COP19 in Warsaw, to analyze the climate policies of Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, while also sharing experiences of other countries in the region.

More than 130 people participated in the event on November 13, including various representatives from governments and civil society.

Daniel Ryan (Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) presented a regional comparative analysis based on the experiences of ten Latin American countries published last year, with a focus on agriculture and forestry. Ryan presented common characteristics between the countries, such as a lack of finance and human capacity.

He stated that although strong political support for climate change in the domestic political agendas of these countries is lacking, existing policies are not as polarized between political parties as in other regions. Ryan concluded that in Latin America it is crucial to “integrate the climate agenda with development and other sectoral policies.”

Mariana Castillo (Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental) presented the key elements of Mexico’s General Climate Change Law and how civil society actively participated in the process. The law established emission reduction goals and involves many stakeholders from different levels of government.

The law also created a fund to direct public and private resources toward climate change programs. Castillo emphasized in her presentation that the law brings continuity to climate policy, though “implementation and coordination between different levels of government continues to be a challenge.”

Carlos Rittl (Climate Observatory) informed the audience that Brazil is the seventh largest emitter in the world. Emissions from deforestation have gone down, but have increased in other sectors such as energy – where emissions increased 126% since 1990. As Rittl said, this “indicates a lack of synergy among the different departments and levels of the government.” Additionally, fossil fuel usage is driven by billions of dollars in investment. In 2013, Brazil began to discuss its National Adaptation Plan, the latest progression of the National Climate Change Plan.

Isabel Calle (SPDA) spoke about Peru’s important role as a responsible leader and host looking toward COP20 in Lima in 2014. One of the country’s commitments is to create an energy mix where at least 40% is made up of nonconventional renewable energy and hydropower. She said, “Climate policy cannot be interred within the Ministry of the Environment, but must link with the energy, health, industry, and mining sectors.” Thus, it is important to allocate funds to these projects because of the risk that climate change proposes to Peru’s economy.

Latin American countries find themselves in a moment of opportunity for sustainable development, said Monica Araya, a former member of Costa Rica’s delegation to the UNFCCC. Araya emphasized the importance of integrating climate change into the democratic process. As more voters engage in the issue, Latin American politicians should do more to include climate change policies in their political strategies.

This press release was written by Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis (CAN-LA Coordinator) and Alison Kirsch (Brown University). For more information, contact Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis: enriquemk@yahoo.com +48-792-071-444

Originally published in Spanish by CAN-LA.

Ecuador’s climate ambition faces test post Yasuní

By Guy Edwards and Keith MaddenYasuni

This year Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa terminated the Yasuní-ITT Initiative following the lack of international support. Ecuador proposed to keep 846 million barrels of “oil in the soil” under the Yasuní national park in exchange for compensation from the international community. However, in a country where oil revenues cover over one-third of the national budget, Ecuador’s government decided it could wait no longer for the international community to donate the funds.

Consequently, “Plan B” is now in motion, which will likely see the exploitation of three new oil blocks in the Yasuní national park, roughly 20% of Ecuador’s oil reserves, with an estimated value of $18 billion.  At the heart of this shift in national policy is Ecuador’s massive $10 billion debt to China, which is to be repaid in oil. In this context of structural dependence between the two countries, Ecuador’s recent alliance with China at the UN climate change negotiations is perhaps not surprising, but it is of serious concern.

As a country particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such an alliance with China, which has played a largely obstructionist role (along with the US) in recent international climate politics, is ultimately against Ecuador’s national interests.

With the UN Climate Conference in Warsaw next week (COP19), Ecuador’s proximity to China, along with the termination of its flagship Yasuní-ITT Initiative, risks jeopardising its credibility in the negotiations. A major shift in strategy is needed if Ecuador is to play a positive leadership role towards achieving a new adequate climate deal in 2015.

Bye-bye Yasuní

The decision to utilise the oil reserves will expose one of the world’s most biodiverse areas to the irreversible trauma of oil exploitation. As the Ecuadorian Amazon’s interior withers away, indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation are seeing their ancestral homelands get picked apart by oil profiteers and illegal loggers and at extreme risk to their survival due to immunological vulnerabilities.

Carbon emissions will also increase due to the exploitation: by not extracting the oil reserves, around 407 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions would have been avoided.

Ecuador took the decision to terminate the Yasuní -ITT Initiative for many reasons, including only securing $13 million out of the $3.6 billion in solicited funds and the unfortunate timing of the initiative’s launch in 2007 which coincided with the global financial crisis. The Ecuadorian government’s regular hints at the possibility of ‘Plan B’ to exploit the oil were also a major limitation.

The Ecuadorian public was strongly in favour of the initiative and Correa’s decision was met with protests. In response, a propaganda offensive was launched explaining how the $18 billion of oil wealth would be used. Recent polls suggest increasing support for exploitation, but a movement to protect the Yasuní and the indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation is gaining momentum and may force a national referendum despite the National Assembly’s green light for exploitation.

The primacy of oil for Ecuador’s social spending on schools and hospitals and debt repayments to China reveals the fragility of climate policies to economic necessity.

Ecuador’s partnerships with China have grown through the extension of loans following Ecuador’s default on its sovereign debt in 2008-2009, which discouraged other lenders. China has lent Ecuador roughly $10 billion, mostly via commodity backed loans, which will be repaid in oil. Chinese companies have also been directly linked to the exploitation of the Yasuní oil blocks.

Ecuador’s climate policies

Ecuador is highly vulnerable to climate impacts. In recent years floods and droughts have caused billions of dollars in damages. Although Ecuador emits around 0,001% of global GHG emissions, it is taking various steps to tackle climate change.

Ecuador has made impressive advances through its forestry protection scheme Plan Socio Bosque which incentivises forest protection, developing a national REDD+ programme and through Quito’s Climate Action Plan. Ecuador is also the first country in the world that has adopted the rights of nature in its Constitution.

By 2017, Ecuador aims to generate 6% of electricity from non-hydroelectric renewable sources and 93% from hydroelectric. However, Ecuador’s most recent yearly budget dedicated over $4.5 billion dollars to fossil-fuel related subsidies, which exceeds the quantity it requested for the Yasuní-ITT Initiative by just over a billion.

At the UN climate negotiations, Ecuador has gained a reputation as an innovative and pragmatic player. In addition to the Yasuní-ITT Initiative, Ecuador has been active in putting forward pioneering proposals.

Ecuador has tabled plans for a small carbon tax on oil at a May meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The initiative, known as the Daly-Correa tax would see a 3-5% tax levied on every barrel of oil exported to rich countries, with the proceeds transferred directly to the UNFCCC’s Green Climate Fund. Ecuador will promote the Daly-Correa tax proposal in Warsaw, which it thinks could raise up to $80 billion a year.

Ecuador negotiates at the UNFCCC alongside its ALBA partners including Bolivia and Venezuela. Ecuador and ALBA also participate in the Like-Minded Group with China, Saudi Arabia, India and others. The group focuses primarily on upholding the principles of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” (CBDR+RC) and equity. The group also works to strengthen the unity of G77 and emphasises developed countries’ historical responsibility for climate change.

Given Ecuador’s minimal contribution to global GHG emissions, its alignment with China, the world’s largest emitter, and the Like-Minded Group is intriguing. Ecuador and ALBA’s insistence on developing countries’ rights to develop aligns them with China’s positions. Second, Ecuador (and ALBA) and China claim the historical responsibility of developed countries to act first. Finally, taking these positions provides Ecuador and China with the opportunity to challenge the global status quo and US hegemony.

One of China’s main strategies has been to frame climate change as a North-South issue thus prolonging the “firewall” between developed and developing countries. It has framed its opposition to binding commitments in the language of CBDR allowing it to use rhetoric that appeals strongly with developing countries including Ecuador.

Solidarity within the G77 to confront a sense of inequality and exclusion in the global economic system creates common purpose among the G77, including Ecuador, and results in positions that promote inclusiveness and consensual decision-making. G77 leaders, including President Correa, are also presented with an opportunity to score political points at home and abroad by berating developed countries for their lack of action on reducing emissions.

These overlapping interests, combined with Ecuador’s dependence on China in the form of substantial debt, give us some insight as to why Ecuador and China would participate together in the Like-Minded Group. However, the risks posed by climate change to Ecuador today and in the future if a strong agreement is not reached with substantial emissions reductions from all countries including China, suggest membership of the Like-Minded Group goes against Ecuador’s national interests.

To Paris (via Lima)

With the demise of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative and Ecuador’s proximity to China and the Like-Minded Group’s entrenched positions on the North-South “firewall”, Ecuador risks diluting its potential leadership role at the UNFCCC.

Quito should reevaluate its proximity to the Like-Minded Group at COP19, and build alliances with nations with a more flexible and ambitious approach. This realignment is in Ecuador’s national interest. With climate impacts set to becoming increasingly severe, a far-reaching agreement from all countries is required to limit global temperature increases to no more than 2°C.

Ecuador would not abandon its solidarity with the G77, but rather use its domestic climate policy and pioneering proposals to better use, through building alliances with more progressive groups in the G77 such as the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Least Developed Country Groups and the European Union. As Ecuador is the most progressive country within ALBA, it can act as bridge between ALBA and others within the G77 in the run up to COP20 in Peru.

With the 2015 deadline to reach a new global climate deal fast approaching, Ecuador stands at a crossroads.

The failure of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative may have tragic consequences for Ecuador’s Amazon region and indigenous peoples, but in terms of the UN climate negotiations it is but one of many setbacks. Ecuador’s position at the UNFCCC may have been weakened by the end of Yasuní-ITT, but its proximity to China and the Like-Minded Group could make a bad situation far worse if this group’s entrenched positions lead to further paralysis in the negotiations.

Ecuador has a choice. It can bemoan the obstinacy of the international community for failing to support its flagship project and throw in its lot with China, or it can bounce back by ensuring a well-managed national referendum on the Yasuní and promoting its pioneering proposals, emboldened by new alliances with other progressive nations at the UN climate talks.

In Warsaw, Quito has the chance to be a crucial player in building a new ambitious axis of progressive nations, and move the world forward towards the successful outcome needed in Paris in 2015.

This article was originally published on RTCC

IIED Briefing Paper for COP19 Released

By Olivia Santiago

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The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has partnered with the Climate and Development Lab to provide a concise document to be presented by the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference (UNFCCC) of the Parties (COP19). The briefing policy will be used by LDCs to advocate for more equitable and adequate access to finance to mitigate their vulnerability to climate change.

The paper highlights the worsening situation in LDCs to climate change. Although not responsible for the vast majority of climate-related issues, LDCs experience the impacts worst and first. LDCs suffered more than five times the global average of climate related disaster deaths from 2010 to July 2013. As climate disasters worsen and the intensity of sea level rise increases, the burden of responding to climate change should fall upon those most responsible for causing the problem and those most capable to address it.

Over ten years ago, the UNFCCC prioritized LDCs for support through National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) to improve these vulnerable countries’ adaptive capacity, or “the ability or potential of a system to respond successfully to climate variability and change” (definition taken directly from article). Working alongside the UNFCCC, forty-nine LDCs have created their NAPAs to identify “urgent and immediate needs” which have identified social, economic, and environmental vulnerability to climate stresses.

However, finance delivered from wealthy countries to enable the implementation of NAPAs has been inadequate, providing only US $4 billion of the estimated US$86-109 billion needed over the past three years. This lack of funding is further exacerbated because the funding from the wealthy nations is often diverted from other pressing development needs such as health and education. Unsurprisingly, climate finance, especially for adaptation, has been a top priority for the LDC Group in the UNFCCC negotiations. The group has made several submissions and interventions related to climate finance since the previous climate negotiations including: the full funding of NAPAs, provision of adequate and additional finance, ensuring predictable and sustainable funds, support adaptation, improving disbursement practices, and prioritizing the most vulnerable.

We hope the COP19 will provide the LDCs with the opportunity to make progress on some of these core issues and to continue pushing for the full funding for the NAPA program. The countries who are most impacted by climate change yet who have the least capacity to adapt need to be aided by those who are most responsible for the problem and the most capable of addressing it.

To download the full IIED Briefing Paper PDF, click here: http://pubs.iied.org/17181IIED.html

A new EU/Latin America and the Caribbean coalition for climate change

By Guy Edwards and Timmons Roberts 

Venezuela-EU

A new coalition between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) could be just the ticket to rejuvenate the UN climate change negotiations as they enter their third decade next week in Warsaw. This bi-regional partnership can serve as a vehicle to build momentum towards a fair, robust and ambitious agreement. All EU and LAC countries have expressed their will to adopt a new agreement by 2015, and surveys have repeatedly shown that their citizens are very concerned about climate impacts.

Together the two regions account for over one billion people, around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and nearly a third of the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Climate change and sustainable development are already central pillars of EU-LAC relations, and EU cooperation and investment in climate-related activities in Latin America and the Caribbean are considerable.

The timing is ripe, which could allow for greater consistency and continuity in a negotiating process that often lacks both. The next three Conferences of the Parties (“COPs”) of the UNFCCC will be held in countries from the two regions. Poland takes up the challenge this year, Peru will host COP20 in 2014 and France will host the COP21 in 2015.

EU and LAC countries have some very positive experiences of climate diplomacy to draw upon. The innovative informal discussion group called the “Cartagena Dialogue” included countries from both regions, and has been an important space for improving trust and building consensus. Mexico’s adept performance as the incoming President for the 2010 Cancun COP16 also provides a vital template for success, which could prove very useful for Peru and France as future COP presidents. Shrewd and careful diplomacy between Brazil and the EU was also instrumental in achieving progress at COP17 in 2011.

Even though the EU-LAC group can cite some positive examples of cooperation on climate, a considerable portion of their trade and investment is based on polluting and carbon-intensive sectors. These activities may represent key sectors for both parties, but represent a major stumbling block to mainstream sustainability and climate change into the partnership.

This shared reliance on carbon intensive sectors makes EU-LAC leadership and experience all the more compelling in order to create a new climate deal that is both ambitious and realistic. Both regions are in the position to promote a new climate narrative calling for action by all countries, based on the key UNFCCC principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility.

EU-LAC countries can also demonstrate how climate protection and economic growth can be complementary goals. Both regions have much to gain by capitalizing on the opportunity these next three COPs represent.  The Warsaw COP starting next Monday is a prime opportunity for this group to work together in a bold new leadership alignment.

This article is based on a paper co-authored by Guy Edwards and Timmons Roberts and published by the EU-LAC Foundation which is available online here.

 

This article was originally published on E! Sharp

Can EU and Latin America and the Caribbean lead the way towards a climate deal in 2015?

By Paola Eisner and Keith Madden 

Dilma Merkel

As the deadline for reaching a new global climate deal draws nearer, pressure is mounting on the international community to take definitive action. While the global scientific consensus hardens on the need to drastically reduce emissions to limit average temperature rise to 2 degrees, countries question whether it will be possible to come together by 2015.

With just two years on the clock, leadership is urgently needed. The EU-LAC Foundation’s new report makes the case for how existing relations and common goals between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean can serve as a solid foundation to build momentum towards a fair, robust and ambitious agreement on climate change in 2015.

The EU and LAC regions account for roughly 20% of global GHG emissions, over one billion people and nearly a third of the 195 UNFCCC Parties.

Together, they have the capacity to form a powerful group and provide the impetus to promote an adequately ambitious international agreement. All EU and LAC countries have expressed their will to adopt a new agreement and international surveys have shown that citizens in both regions are very concerned about climate impacts.

As detailed in the report, climate change and sustainable development are central pillars of EU-LAC relations, and EU cooperation and investment in climate-related activities through the Latin American Investment Facility and European Investment Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean are substantial.

The three Conferences of the Parties preceding the 2015 deadline will be held in EU-LAC countries, with Poland hosting the COP19 this year, Peru hosting COP20 in 2014, and France hosting COP21 in 2015. This succession may allow for greater consistency and continuity in a negotiating process that often lacks both.

As co-author Professor Timmons Roberts, founder of the Climate and Development Lab at Brown University put it, “Climate change presents a number of challenges but more importantly opportunities.  EU and LAC countries can ratchet up climate diplomacy, particularly to find common ground on ambition and equity.”

As the report discusses, some EU and LAC countries’ participation in the informal Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action has been an important space for improving trust and building consensus. The report credits the Cartagena Dialogue for some of the progress made at COP16 in 2010 and COP17 in 2011. Behind-the-scenes work by the EU and Brazil also generated consensus on securing the Kyoto Protocol’s Second Commitment Period and a road map for a new climate deal in 2015.

Guy Edwards, Research Fellow at Brown University and co-director of the Climate and Development Lab, adds, “Mexico’s experience in the Cartagena Dialogue as the incoming COP16 president proved crucial for its preparations and running of the COP. This experience will be very useful for Peru and France as future COP presidents, allowing them to be more active in the Dialogue without undermining their position or neutrality.”

Despite some positive examples of cooperation and diplomacy on climate change, much of EU-LAC trade and investment is in polluting and carbon-intensive sectors, which represents a significant stumbling block to mainstreaming sustainability and climate change into the partnership.

However, EU-LAC cooperation and diplomacy on climate change could prove a productive avenue for decisive, proactive and mutually beneficial climate action in the coming years.

“EU-LAC countries can promote a new climate narrative calling for action by all countries based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. Some of these countries are in an excellent position to demonstrate how climate protection and economic growth can be complementary goals”, said Guy Edwards.

The EU and Latin America and the Caribbean have the means and the opportunity to promote a new climate deal by 2015. Their shared reliance on carbon intensive sectors makes their leadership and experience all the more compelling in order to create an international agreement that is both far reaching and realistic. EU-LAC countries have much to gain by capitalizing on this opportunity to the benefit of both regions and the UN climate negotiations.

The full report is available in English and Spanish

No Room for Doubt: IPCC Releases New Climate Change Report

By Camila Bustos

IPCCAR5

In a study recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s top climate scientists once again stressed the urgency of global action to fight climate change. Using the strongest language of any report to date, the report called global warming “unequivocal”, indicating with 95 percent certainty that human influence has been responsible for the observed increase in average surface temperatures since the mid-twentieth century.

The observed changes in the climate are “unprecedented over the decades to millennia,” the report said. “The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentration of greenhouse gases have increased.”

For the first time in its history, the panel argued in favor of a carbon budget that would limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from both industrial production and deforestation. Christina Figueres, Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, identified the development of low carbon intensive infrastructure as the main challenge of developing nations, and further highlighted the need for the developed world to provide financial and technological assistance in order to help developing nations meet their carbon reduction goals.

Predicted temperature increases under two scenarios. Rise in average surface temperature by 2081-2100. (Source: IPCC)

Data from IPCC. (Source: BBC)

Thomas F. Stocket, co-chairman of the IPCC, called the climate change “the greatest challenge of our time,” and Secretary Figueres added that this challenge “is much more important and urgent than we what we originally thought.”  Despite such strong statements, skeptics immediately attempted to undermine the panel’s results.

With the next round of international climate talks set to begin in Warsaw next month, many wonder if the publication of the IPCC report will have an impact on course of negotiations.

Brown University Professor Timmons Roberts, a specialist on climate change politics and climate finance, indicated in an interview to the BHRR that this latest report can have a significant impact.

“I believe that this new report could be important in bringing some new momentum to the needed global effort to address climate change’s vast dangers,” said Roberts. “The report makes clear just how strong the scientific evidence is that we are destabilizing the Earth’s climate, placing very clear levels of certainty on its conclusions.”

Towards a Comprehensive Climate Treaty?

Yet the path towards comprehensive climate legislation continues to be uncertain. During last year’s conference in Doha negotiators once again postponed the deadline for the creation of an international agreement to 2015, continuing a legacy of negotiations that fail to produce a substantial agreement.

Some would argue that the main impediment in past and future negotiations has been the United States’ failure to ratify any of the key agreements that impose binding targets for carbon dioxide emissions. Professor Roberts points out that the United States’ legislative structure remains a main obstacle in negotiations.

“For 15 years now the United States has been a roadblock to international agreement on how to address climate change.  The difficulty of our constitution, which requires 67 votes in the U.S. Senate to ratify a treaty, means that the Administration has very little ability to make a strong agreement.” Professor Roberts also alluded to the impact of the multi-million dollar lobby by the fossil fuel industry and other campaign contributors as an obstacle to any international or domestic climate legislation.

In addition to the unwillingness of the United States to commit to a binding agreement, tensions between developed and developing nations over their respective commitments to mitigate emissions continue to hinder progress. Countries like China and India are likely oppose any binding agreement that could potentially threaten their right to development, while small-island states focus their attention on climate aid to finance adaptation and relocation.

The future of climate negotiations remains unclear. Even though the urgency to act upon the scientific evidence provided by the IPCC is greater than ever, legislative obstacles, economic interests, and the inherently complex dynamics of international negotiations continue to threaten a global agreement. The world will have to wait until next month in Warsaw to assess the potential of an all-encompassing treaty.

Climate Equity, Not Fossil Fuel Subsidies

By David Ciplet and Timmons Roberts

It’s absurd — the countries least responsible for causing climate change are suffering worst and first from its impacts, including droughts, floods and famines. Meanwhile, wealthy countries continue to feed the problem by directing hundreds of billions of dollars to subsidize fossil fuel industries every year. In fact, the support they’ve offered those hit hardest is less than one percent what they give the polluters most driving climate change.

In 2009, these countries promised to end fossil fuel welfare once and for all. It is time that they met this promise. Redirecting this money to the Least Developed Countries and other vulnerable nations would help them to adapt to this new climate reality and level the playing level playing field for clean energy, spurring a transition to a sustainable economy.

In three weeks, representatives of the world’s nations will meet for talks on the United Nations’ climate change treaty. President Obama led the initial charge against handouts to Big Oil, but lost the political will to make it a reality. Hot off his reelection, Obama has a huge chance to be bold and start moving money from the problem to its solution. Sign the petition here – Avaaz.org will deliver the petition to wealthy countries at the climate talks when we reach a critical mass!

CDL and the ‘climate paradox’ featured in The Guardian

By David Ciplet and Timmons Roberts

Do you know about the climate paradox? The countries hardest hit by climate change are also the least responsible for causing the problem. Learn more by checking out our video and research covered today in The Guardian at this link.

Ecological Debt and Climate Justice After Durban: Time for Some Practical Politics

By Timmons Roberts*

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Photo Cred: Orin Langelle/GJEP

Written December 21, 2011, posted March 21, 2012

In the utilitarian lecture-hall of the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa, some of the world’s top scholars and activists on the “ecological debt” spoke to a half-full hall.   Impassioned speeches outlined the big idea: that rather than owing a huge economic debt to private and World Bank lenders and governments of the wealthier nations, the world’s poorer nations are actually owed an “ecological debt” due to the plundering of their natural resources by colonists and neo-colonizing corporations alike.

Who owes by this reckoning?  The global North.  The bill?  By one scholarly estimate: US$1.8 trillion.  Others argue that it is impossible to calculate the value of complex ecological systems, but the first level estimation is that the financial debt of poor nations is tiny in comparison and should be forgiven.

The microphone is passed around the audience in the risers, and finally finds its way to the hands of a Durban labor union leader.

“We must get beyond nice slogans, to find the practical politics to rally around,” he says.  “Do we really expect the North to pay reparations?  And who pays, corporations or states?”

This event, taking place at the dramatic hilltop university in parallel to the United Nations’ “Conference of the Parties” following up on the Kyoto Protocol about four miles away at the glitzy convention center in downtown Durban, was part of “the people’s conference”, an ambitious counter-event organized by the Economic Justice Network of the Foccisa Fellowship of Christian Councils in South Africa.  The miniconference was focused an idea that has gained traction over the past decade in developing countries—the Ecological Debt—and how it relates to the injustice of climate change.

The case of climate change raises a simple and stark case of injustice: the poorest nations did not cause the problem but are suffering its impacts first and worst, without the conditions to cope with these impacts.   The reality of this injustice is irrefutable, and the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change acknowledged it and how wealthy nations therefore needed to act most aggressively and quickly to address it by reducing our emissions and sending money South to help them avoid carbon emissions and cope with climate disasters.

While the injustice is clear, the practical politics called for by the Durban labor leader are anything but clear.  Todd Stern, the lead negotiator from the United States, said at a press conference in Copenhagen two years ago that because for most of history we were “blissfully ignorant” of the impacts of fossil fuel burning, “I completely reject the notion of a debt, or reparations, or anything of the like.”  Voluntary compensation to the victims remains off the table for the U.S., and legal efforts to force reparations are extremely preliminary and hotly contested.

This intransigence extends to most other developed countries, loath to admit the need to compensate poor nations for past, present or future damages from a destabilized climate.   So we are left with the Durban labor leader’s question: what are the practical politics of addressing climate justice?  And what was the impact of the Durban negotiations on efforts to address climate justice—are we closer or further away after Durban?

The core language of the UNFCCC agreed by 194 countries in 1992 is that nations would act according to their “Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities.”  This “CBDR+RC” was understood as the US and other rich nations taking the first steps and the developing countries joining in later.  However the US Senate’s July 1997 Byrd-Hagel Resolution sought to avoid an “unfair” advantage to overseas firms by prohibiting the nation from taking binding action reducing our emissions without there also being binding limits on India and China’s emissions.

The battle for a more just climate policy has become quite fragmented, specific and balkanized in the past few years.  For example, in an effort to gain a predictable and adequate flow of funding to developing countries for addressing their needs to adapt to climate change, many groups have focused on “innovative” finance mechanisms, like a financial transaction levy, an airline levy, or taxes on “bunker fuels,” those used in international shipping.  These international taxes are especially appealing since they would avoid national treasuries and flow through United Nations channels, where the developing world has more leverage than in World Bank-controlled funds.

While generally in favor of these tax measures, most groups in the Climate Justice Now! (CJN!) network have taken hardline positions against any mechanisms that allows trading and markets in carbonincludingbecause they allow rich nations to get off the hook from reductions they should be making at home.  CJN!’s position often puts climate justice activists outside the room when United Nations and national policies are being debated, since both the Kyoto Protocol and EU and US regional greenhouse gas reduction plans have been centered around the practical political idea that trading emissions permits allows emissions reductions to go on where the costs are the lowest.

Durban negotiations saw the EU joining up with the Association of Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries to push for a new commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol after its expiry in 2012, but CJN!’s 10 December press release argued that “the richest nations have cynically created a new regime of climate apartheid” by delaying real action until 2020.   Critical of nearly every element of the Durban Framework, CJN! argued that “Developed countries, in assuming their historical responsibility, must honor their climate debt in all its dimensions as the basis for a just, effective, and scientific solution.“

Certainly developed nations much honor their debt and act as we promised back in 1992, acknowledging our responsibility and capability to do so. The framework built by the NGO EcoEquity.org lays out estimates of each nation’s responsibility and capability quite clearly.  However, the outcomes of the Durban package are intriguing precisely because they allow forward progress in spite of diametrically opposed positions of the U.S., BASIC, and the new EU-LDC-AOSIS coalition.  By saying there are going to be emissions limits with “legal force” by 2020 on all nations (including India and China) and by calling for tougher action as it becomes necessary and possible, the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action may have found the sweet spot between the perfect and the possible.  Time will tell, and serious militancy will be required to mobilize the effort the Platform promises.

2020 is a brilliant time horizon from the perspective of politicians because it is just over the political horizon—they can pass the tough decisions off to their successors.  However we know that 2020 is too late for serious action reducing our emissions, so “increasing our ambitions” will be needed urgently, especially by the biggest emitters.  This in turn requires a mobilized civil society in places where it has been weak (the U.S., China, among many other places), demanding tough choices by their politicians to address a long-term but grave issue.  National policies need to be strengthened in harmony with international norms, so that single countries do not feel they are acting alone.  And the easiest part of the puzzle for the wealthier nations is to meet their promise of supporting green energy solutions in developing countries. But if this is to lead to greater justice on climate change, these efforts must support solutions that actually reduce climate-changing pollution. This means closing various loopholes. This is a job for civil society, who must wade through messy politics to create the best change possible.

Karl Marx famously said that “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.”  The injustice of climate change will not be righted quickly or with utopian slogans, as the Durban labor leader pointed out.  We owe the Ecological Debt, to be sure, but the paying of that debt must be creatively crafted into a system of payments and emission reductions that can be seen to benefit all, South and North.  The G20 meetings and the Rio+20 meetings in June are excellent times for movement in globally addressing these debts.

Got transparency? Leaders and laggards in climate finance reporting

By David Ciplet

The need for transparency in climate finance is plain: unless developing countries know how much money to expect, when and for what, they cannot effectively plan their efforts to address and respond to climate change. But what has been the track record of wealthy countries on this crucial issue?

A new scorecard, released by the organization the International Institute for Environment and Development, reveals that we have a long way to go in making climate finance transparent. Two of the authors, David Ciplet and Timmons Roberts, are from Brown University’s Climate and Development Lab.  The scorecard evaluates the extent to which these countries meet a set of 25 common-sense transparency criteria in their climate finance reports to the UN. The scorecard can be found at: http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/17100IIED.pdf

Even the highest-scoring countries — Norway and Japan — barely reached a 50 per cent score across the criteria evaluated.  A look at how funds are being allocated reveals a murky and complicated underside to the commitments made two years ago in Copenhagen.  There are grave concerns that funds previously promised or expected for basic needs such as health and education are being diverted for climate projects.

“Transparency is as important for taxpayers in the North as it is for climate-vulnerable countries in the South,” says Dr Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in the climate change group at IIED. “Transparent reporting is essential to enable recipient countries to plan their responses to climate change and for civil society to hold governments to account on their promises.”

In the lead up to the global climate change negotiations in Durban, the authors call for an international registry of funds that provides comprehensive, detailed, consistent and transparent accounting and reporting measures at the project level.  A transparent system, they argue, is essential to build much-needed trust and to jointly achieve the critical global goal to reduce emissions and protect those people most vulnerable to climate change.

Post by David Ciplet, member of Brown’s Climate and Development Lab.

Shaping the Durban Platform: Latin America and the Caribbean in a future High Ambition Deal

By José Alberto Garibaldi, Monica Araya, and Guy Edwards


After the longest session on record, governments at the COP17 in Durban in December 2011 agreed to negotiate by 2015 a climate deal to enter into force in 2020. The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action defied predictions that the meeting in South Africa would lead to a collapse of the UN climate talks. Many parties from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have worked many years to make possible the political compromise achieved in the final hours and included in the Durban Platform. Today, the challenge is to make this platform ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change.

In this new CDKN and Energeia Policy Brief we discuss the outcomes of the COP17, the contribution Latin America and the Caribbean made and the implications of the Durban Platform for the region. The Brief finishes by offering a set of recommendations:

1. Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries supporting high ambition at the international climate negotiations need to continue to shape a more ambitious climate narrative by acting together, domestically and internationally, and strengthening existing work with experts on bold action both within and outside the COPs.

2. Informal exchanges inside and outside of the UNFCCC process to jointly define key milestones for the Durban Platform and identify areas of convergence and divergence must take place within LAC countries and with Africa and Asia between now and 2015.

3. Both at home and abroad, the LAC region needs to improve how it communicates its successes on low carbon, climate resilient strategies to keep building confidence and generating a stronger impact at the international climate negotiations.

4. LAC countries need to continue to explore how best to advance national conversations linking climate change issues such as mitigation and resilience plans to national interests and potential losses in food security, infrastructure and trade.

To read the Policy Brief click here.

IPCC Releases full SREX report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the full version of its Special Report on Extreme Events and Disasters (SREX). Check out this powerful video for details on the study and its implications.

Latin American governments and civil society combine forces at COP17

By Guy Edwards

The COP17 was a watershed moment for Latin American civil society participation in the UNFCCC negotiations. Civil society organizations (CSOs) actively engaged with governments at the talks and, in turn, governments made efforts to reach out to civil society. This increased level of exchange can be observed on two levels.

The first consists of shared gatherings to encourage dialogue and cooperation. Country delegations arranged open meetings in which CSOs were invited to participate, while CSOs invited country delegations to their own specially arranged events.  During COP17 the ALBA countries, represented by Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba, organized a meeting with Latin American CSOs to discuss their key positions, focusing on the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Climate Fund.

Bolivia emphasizes creating spaces for civil society participation in decision-making on climate change.  Although the involvement of civil society in Bolivia’s own national decision-making is less robust, on a global scale, Bolivia is an important driver of global climate change activist networks.

Bolivia’s efforts to reach out to civil society can be traced back to the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba in April 2010. Bolivian President Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez joined 30,000 activists from around the globe in demanding climate justice. The People’s Agreement of Cochabamba, which emerged from the conference, set out a series of demands including a call for developed countries to recognize and honor their climate debt.

In Durban, the other ALBA countries emulated these efforts to ensure a more participatory negotiating process — to a certain extent at least. This can be explained by a variety of factors. Firstly, there is a strategic imperative. The ALBA countries and particularly Bolivia, which stood alone in rejecting the Cancun Agreements, require support from CSOs to gain legitimacy and coverage for adopting a particular stance in the negotiations.  There is greater recognition of civil society’s ability to communicate rapidly and effectively with diverse audiences and constituencies.

Secondly, the political weight of civil society in Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua presents an important reason to engage with these actors. CSOs can be prickly and fickle partners, and it would be unwise to risk bad press back home by shunning opportunities for engagement and cooperation at the talks.

Latin American CSOs have also been proactive in engaging with country delegations. Following its formation in March 2011, the Construyendo Puentes (Building Bridges) Initiative brings together Latin American platforms and networks to improve coordination, communication and dialogue between CSOs and negotiators at the UNFCCC talks.  On two occasions during the COP17, Construyendo Puentes met with delegations from a number of countries–including Peru and Panama–to discuss those countries’ principal issues at the negotiations. These meetings were an opportunity for CSOs to take the pulse of the talks based on country delegates’ perspectives, and to offer specific recommendations in an open and participatory environment.

The second level focuses on increasing levels of CSO participation within country delegations. The COP17 was the first time the Mexican delegation included members of CSOs in its ranks. The Bolivian delegation also included a limited number of civil society representatives. The Brazilian delegation, on the other hand, has included scores of civil society and private sector representatives in the past.

CSOs participation in country delegations appears to be symbiotic. Government delegations are able to draw on media and translation skills and scientific expertise such as in the case of the Rwandan government, which invited the UK’s former Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, to participate in its delegation. These CSO delegates may also be part of civil society networks and can be called upon to connect with these large audiences to support the dissemination of governments’ positions and demands.

CSOs representatives working in country delegations have unrivalled access to the internal workings of the UNFCCC negotiating process–a rare opportunity, given the traditionally closed and secretive nature of the talks. The potential for CSOs to influence proceedings from the inside is not an opportunity to be taken lightly.

Increased engagement, dialogue and exchange between Latin American delegations and civil society organizations at the organizational and individual levels are beneficial to both actors, as well as the progress of the UNFCCC negotiations. Given Latin American citizens’ high level of concern over climate issues, further exchange between these actors should be encouraged to ensure a more participatory and democratic process at the domestic and international levels.

Cross-posted from intercambioclimatico.com

Why the UNFCCC needs more countries like Mexico

By Guy Edwards


During the COP17 I caught up with Dr. Fernando Tudela Abad, one of Mexico’s foremost climate change experts and a high ranking official of the Mexican delegation. Dr. Tudela is Under Secretary of Environmental Policy and Planning at the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resource and also chairs the expert group of the OECD on climate change.

Dr. Tudela explained how Mexico’s active involvement in the climate negotiations is based on national concerns of the country’s considerable vulnerability to climate-related disasters. In2010 Mexico’s Foreign Secretary, Patricia Espinoza, remarked before the COP16, ‘we estimate that 15 per cent of our national territory, 68 per cent of our population and 71 per cent of our GDP is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change.’

Last year Mexico faced its worst drought in 70 years with the lack of rainfall affecting almost 70 percent of the country. Entire crops covering tens of thousands of acres were lost and over 400,000 cattle perished in arid pastures.

As the first heavily-populated oil-exporting country to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Mexico has a long history in the international climate change negotiations and strongly emphasizes the importance of multilateralism. The country’s efforts at the COP16 in Cancun, which successfully resuscitated the UNFCCC process following the bungled COP15 in Copenhagen, are generally recognized as a diplomatic triumph.

Dr. Tudela also commented that Mexico views climate change as an incentive to advance sustainability. This shift in thinking towards a low carbon resilient economy is partially based on the studyThe Economics of Climate Change in Mexico,which states that climate change has and will continue to have significant impacts on the Mexican economy. The study details impacts on a variety of sectors including agriculture, tourism, infrastructure and public health.

The report states that the total costs of climate change by the year 2100, are the equivalent of around 6.2% of GDP, excluding livestock production, extreme weather events, sea level rise and nonmarket costs in terms of biodiversity and human lives. The cost of mitigating emissions by 50% by the year 2100, relative to 2002, are between 0.7% and 2.2% of GDP making a very strong case on why inaction could prove so costly.

Dr. Tudela also highlighted the importance of every country doing its best to work towards securing a successful outcome at the UNFCCC talks, while also being ambitious at the national level. Even though Mexico’s developing country status precludes it from legal commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, its Special Program on Climate 2009-2012 sets out an aspirational target to reduce national GHG emissions 50% by 2050 with year 2000 emissions as the baseline. However, the Program states that this target will only be met if developed countries provide unprecedented levels of financial and technological support under a multilateral regime.

Mexico’s desire to be a leader in green growth saw the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources sign a cooperation agreement in September 2011 with the UNEP, which will assist in creating and operating a new Mexican Center for Sustainable Development. The Center will aim to become a regional hub for Latin America, fostering cooperation on low-carbon growth and green economy issues.

In the chaotic corridors and meeting rooms of the COP17, Dr. Tudela’s thoughtful and softly spoken comments are emblematic of a country quietly ‘getting on with it’. As we wrapped up the interview it seemed more likely that the overall goals of the UNFCCC could be met if more countries like Mexico brought positive experiences and a pragmatic attitude to the table.

Cross-posted from intercambioclimatico.com