Blog Posts

The environment is harsh, but there is life in the desert

 

Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis
Fundación Biosfera, CANLA

COP 18 is now done. A key milestone in our international negotiations for a global agreement on climate action has passed, and very little progress has been made. Global negotiations on climate change will continue next year, loaded with responsibility. Many tasks are overdue, the two most important being mitigation ambition and financial transfer.

But what happened in Doha? Russia, Poland and Ukraine continuously blocked the negotiations under KP for the 2nd commitment period; while NZ and Japan obstucted in another way: saying they would pull out of KP while enjoying the benefits. The US and Canada worked together to play a very unconstructive role in the negotiations as far as climate finance, as well.  

With things like this happening on a daily basis, the good efforts of some countries to create a positive outcome from Doha seem to be overlooked. It is important to make this clear: there are some positive things in the UNFCCC. UK and France some countries expressed their willingness to contribute to financial support in this COP, while others, such as Monaco, pledged emission reductions for 2020. Some developing countries, like the Dominican Republic, even pledged a 25% absolute reduction by 2030 without international support.

The positive actions we have seen in Doha are small compared to the empty Climate Fund and remarkably low ambition from some developed countries to reduce their GHG emissions. This kind of situation puts the world on a difficult scenario to 4ºC.

All of this being said, you cannot blame those who question this process, especially because they hear only of disappointments, lack of ambition and frustration. Many people ask us, the Civil Society Organizations, why we continue to attend COPs if they don’t lead anywhere. I can understand them, but I believe that, even though the last COPs did not deliver a global agreement, many movements and environmental programs around the world were born from this process. Changes have happened- believe it or not.

As a final thought, observers in UN are key witnesses to what governments are doing. The world knows what is happening thanks to people like us, who are not driven by only one interest- the integrity of this world’s environment.

 

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Feelings after Doha

 

Lama Ghaddar
IndyACT

I am writing this from Lebanon, after I returned back from the Qatar National Convention Center in Doha for COP 18.

After 2 exhausting weeks and a very busy schedule consisting of attending sessions, side events and meetings, talking to delegates, doing actions and writing ECO-articles, here I am!! I went from a person who had zero experience or knowledge about climate change negotiations to someone who knows what KP, LCD, ADP and other eco acronyms mean.

One week ago, I was asked to write about my feelings at the COP, and my answer was simply: “I have neutral feelings”. Being asked that same question now, I can effortlessly say that it is the best feeling ever. I must confess that the last two weeks were a great turning point in my life; I’ve changed a lot on a personal level.

As this was my first COP, I didn’t have much background knowledge about it, but I learned a lot during my short journey to Qatar. I got to learn about the decision-making process: now I can say that I have a clear idea of how political games work.  I am sincerely disappointed by the failure of COP18, being that it was hosted in Doha- an Arab country! Why didn’t the Arabs lead? I expected Arab countries to give pledges to reduce GHG emissions since they have the financial power to do so. Why did they miss this opportunity?

There is no question that climate change is happening, but the main question remains: why are countries like Russia, Japan and Canada seemingly unaware of this global problem? We have an agreement on KP, but a weak one… is this the concurrence that we are looking for?

It is not the time to blame civil society, who had a very weak position and a feeble influence this year, nor the government. But we should always keep our positive outlook. Change doesn’t come without persistence and resistance and a lot of work (and struggle) is waiting for us.

We came to save the world, so let us keep this spirit….

 

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Doha and rising above it all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vositha Wijenayake, Srilanka
SLYCAN

Back home after another session of “climate talks”, I am left to wonder what I have achieved during this adventure. Some things were accomplished, but there is much more left to be done in the coming year. Am I happy or sad? Well, I’m looking ahead, wondering what’s next.

What was achieved in Doha? A plethora of information from different parts of the world: a new-found respect for women and many new realistic goals focussed on education and legal activism. This COP has finally put me in the area of work that I have been expecting to work in, but have not yet had the chance. COP 18 showed us we need more work on legal issues, and to learn that being able to interpret the pros and cons of words can help our cause.

Memories to be taken away: stories of Sixbert in Tanzania, with the implementation of the “Akashiv foundation for Education and Research” in the coming year, Ben and the Kiribati airport, and Mona on survival in Palestine.  Also, that huge spider and the eerie feeling it gave me every time I passed it. Imagine my surprise upon discovering that the spider was named “maman”, a tribute to motherhood (quite ironic, methinks!)

However, nothing tops the taxi drivers sans any sense of direction, or the two and a half hour bus ride from the convention centre to the Horizon Manor Hotel, less due to traffic and more due to a lost driver and the policemen who had apparently misdirected him. In short, Doha didn’t seem quite prepared to handle the whole event; it was a bit pricey for those without the means to finance ourselves.

Summing up on a personal note, Doha was a learning experience on many levels, especially on diversity and climatic impacts which affects us all in different ways. It has also been an appreciation of others’ experience in facing hardships of the world- be it climate related, poverty related or opinion and judgement infused. Doha was also an experience of discovering a new-found respect for those who have risen above these difficulties and been able to make a difference and crate positive changes in others’ lives. But, it’s a pity that these stories were only heard by a few, many of whom overlooked them due to their own fixed mentalities.

So before I declare “the end” to COP18 and the year 2012, here’s to better climate talks and more appreciation of humanity in the coming year!

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Doha has proven to be a doom for the poor

 

Sixbert Simon Mwanga
Climate Action Network-Tanzania

The 18th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),Conference of Parties (COP) and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) has concluded in Doha, Qatar on the 9th of December, 2012.

Civil Society Organizations and delegates from developing countries have clearly shown their concern with the outcomes of the negotiations. The critical areas of  concern include low ambitions to cut hot air, the length of the second commitment to Kyoto Protocol with so many loopholes and difficult to implement and a lack of commitment to provide  climate finance to operationalize the green climate fund. The conference also failed to deliver on technology issues which developing countries and African countries need to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change.                                                             

These decisions and commitments have many negative implications to the developing countries:  migration (especially for climate change refugees), increasing poverty, frustrations, dejections, and deaths, all of which spell an infringement of the right to live. Being my first COP, I saw how respected leaders from developed countries failed to show leadership and political will in addressing the structural issues that have caused climate change.

We praise the African and developing countries delegates for standing firm and in union on damage and loss issues. For the first time, loss and damage have been accepted and international mechanisms have been set to address them. If there is one thing that we have achieved, it is work on loss and damage.

Some issues have been postponed, as usual.  By postponing important issues like technology transfer and finance to the next COP, it has proven COP18 to be the doom for the poor.  During this postponement and the slow creation of work programmes, we should know that communities are suffering from climate change. Therefore, it is unacceptable to procrastinate in making these important climate decisions.

For us who are already affected by climate change, an hour-long delay to take action feels like ten years. We find no reason for world leaders to attend the COPs while their aims are to delay actions on the negative impacts they have caused while struggling to develop their regions.

We see this as dividing the world on the efforts to fight our “common” enemy: climate change and its impacts. Scientists with their reports are disregarded; affected people in developing countries are seen as nothing while developed countries are not committed to pursuing sustainable development. They continue to invest in development pathways that are negative to the environment. We call upon leaders from developed countries to remember the role they played in emitting billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases and the necessary political will and leadership needed to emission cut targets. This is required by science to save our one and only home called the Earth.  

 

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From a Pinch of Salt to “Pinches” of Gender

 

One speaks of gender rights and environmental rights, but combining them on the UNFCCC track is important and can be a challenge.

Women play a key role in day to day life, and are those who are most burdened by climate issues. Nevertheless, a focus on women in COP discussions is lacking. In Decision 36 of COP 7 in 2001, the need to focus on gender and women was already highlighted. From Beijing Declaration of 1995, the Decision goes to lay down the importance of the inclusion of women delegates in the UNFCCC process, and other form of entities that take action on climate change. This is based on the need for effective communication of women’s needs, which can be most clearly stated by those who are affected due to their absence.

Furthermore articles 3,4,5, 15 and 16 of the Beijing Declaration all stress on the need for inclusion and equal treatment of women in development. In addition, article 27 of the same states the inclusion of the women in the development process of developing countries is needed, as well as highlighting the need for participatory development where women are not side-lined by their male counterparts.

The relevance of this in UNFCCC discussions is clear: women are key victims of the impacts of climate change. They are the most vulnerable and most affected by climate disasters. Furthermore, in agricultural communities affected by climate change, women walk for many kilometres in search of water. In African and South Asian regions hit by droughts, women not only struggle to find water, but to feed their children, given the scarcity of food. Maternity makes women more vulnerable to climate change, health-wise as well as financial wise. In many coastal communities, agricultural communities are suffer from loss of crops due to sudden changes in the climate. The mother of families in these regions bears all of it, while struggling to adapt to changes in circumstance, while at a loss of livelihood through harsh changes in the climate.

The lack of awareness and education among women regarding the impacts of climate change affects their ability to react to these changes. The seasons may change, the crops may be damaged, and the rains may fall harsher, but the lack of knowledge on what impacts their life makes women unable to adapt to the situation  appropriately. There needs to be more focus on Article 6 and education. Girls in societies where they are deprived of access to education render them vulnerable, depriving knowledge to future generations.  As clich­é as it may sound, the education of a woman is the educating of a generation.

So what is needed? More inclusion of the female gender! While I do see many women in the UNFCCC processes, there lacks a focus on highlighting women's rights  in combating climate change. This could be the next step for those who walk the corridors of UNFCCC – including me.

So time to suit up, buckle up, and call for climate justice, several “pinches” of gender  included.

Will Doha be an oasis of hope or doom for the poor?

This generation has witnessed unforgettable catastrophes of climate change. The most affected are the rural and poorer people of developing countries, Africa in particular. The African continent has contributed the least to the problem and is the one least able to cope with the impacts, because we depend heavily on climate sensitive activities for our survival. Most of the NAPAs from Africa prioritized agriculture, water, health, energy, forestry and wetlands, wildlife and tourism as the most vulnerable sectors.

The whistle for negotiations in Doha has been blown and negotiators are running from one room to another to ensure as much ground is covered as possible within one week. However, most of the outcomes of these discussions are not in favour of the interests of the developing countries, including Africa, leaving most of the negotiators dejected and frustrated.

However, there is still hope to be salvaged  Doha-Qatar negotiations and asking negotiators from Annex 1 countries must be friends in need so that we become friends indeed by focusing on the scientific imperative. They must reflect on the dangers that climate change already felt by vulnerable regions of Africa and other developing countries. This will be easily seen by finalizing and adopting a meaningful and effective second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, addressing the outstanding issues under the convention track in accordance with the 2007 Bali mandate and setting the negotiations under the Durban Platform for enhanced action on firm footing to adopting a legally binding agreement by 2015.

Africa is looking for an agreement that will assure to undertake mitigation and adaptation through effective finance mechanism and technology transfer.

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COP 18 Doha: Pledge, People, Pledge!

 

Towards the end of the most hilarious annual conference on climate change in the world, Doha's COP 18, finance is still a big issue to handle. The year of 2012 is crucial, because it is the last year for Fast Start Finance to flow, and, starting 2013, a USD 100 billion by 2020 should be dispursed from developed countries to developing countries.

Numbers are not yet on the table, except one from UK that’s pledging for £ 2,9 billion by 2015, which was announced through their press conference in Doha, on December 4th 2012. EU, with their unfinished budget discussions back home, is definitely got pushed by NGOs to give some numbers, ensuring that they will continue their funding. Too many statements from developed countries, saying ‘we will continue funding’, is unaccceptable. A predictability of the funding is highly crucial, as well as having a clear pathway towards the USD 100 billion to 2020.

Learning from the Fast Start Finance for the last two years, developing countries have learned, that certainty of finance sources is highly needed. Climate finance should be new and additional than the existing funding. Therefore, transparency, of course, should be on board for developed countries to regain the trust of developing countries.There are so many innovative resources that can be explored by the developed countries. Even the long term finance workshops that have happened twice in 2012 (not to mention the webminars), have clearly showed that those sources of fund are real and possible, to meet the USD 100 billion by 2020.

Pledge, people, pledge! Not only the financial pledge, but also your emission reduction pledge. And please, leave the hot air behind. 

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Thoughts from Lama, at her first COP session

 

Before I begin, I want to draw to your attention that COP18 is my very first negotiation session. If you have ever participated in such a conference for the first time, you will understand well how I feel.

Just the fact that you are in the process of participating in a conference where they are discussing the existence of the humanity and the civilization makes this one of the most interesting conferences in the world. Everyone knows the importance of the participation in COP; you meet a lot of people of different nationalities and have the ability to make connections all over the world.

To be honest, I don’t have specific feelings, nor specific expectations. If I did, I believe that it would make the COP18 less interesting. But I am here today knowing that, in future years, I will have a better knowledge of environmental policies and, more specifically climate policy. 

So, for the moment, I can say that I am neutral.  I am trying to understand the process, and it is getting better day after day,  

Coming from the MENA region, the effects of climate change are already being felt in some areas and others are currently being threatened. This is why I've chosen to focus on mitigation; I am really keen that the knowledge I gain at the UNFCCC and through CAN will have a practical application in my work and within my region. I am looking forward to pushing all countries in my region to respond to climate change by reducing GHG emissions and enhancing sinks and reservoirs.

As I said before, I have no expectations, but I have some hopes. I have a hope that Arab countries submit concrete pledges for mitigation targets at COP18, real ones that take climate change effects into consideration. I have a hope that Arab Countries can prove that they are serious about this.

Finally, I really hope that COP18 will be a success!

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Something has to happen!

 

COP 18 is another step in the climate change negotiations. There are a lot of expectations here and many issues need to be covered. Most importantly, a comprehensive decision has to be made in order to deliver what humanity needs in order to survive. This is something we hear all the time around climate change negotiations. The issue is that, if we need to repeat it, then there has not been any change.

For some countries, there is an economic interest conflict - a fear of losing money. For others, it is just a matter of survival- a loss of lives. We all will face the consequences, climate change doesn’t recognize differences. It will happen and we must take action.

Negotiators are convinced that they will find a solution. But, will this happen? Will they realize they are negotiating a way forward for everyone and not bargaining to get something? Will they stop putting the blame on each other?

Finance issues are crucial for this regime to move forward but recent statements from some parties are not very encouraging. This only diminishes the acknowledgement of any progress that could have happened.

Realistic mitigation efforts by developed countries have been due for a long time now. Some developing countries are being more proactive than developed countries. While this can be a good sign towards a future low carbon world, developed countries should do more in order to achieve what humanity needs.

Adaptation is crucial for all, but especially for those in developing countries, where there is lack of capacity to adapt to climate changes.

Being in a Doha Conference center, where everything is so scattered, where there seems to be empty rooms everywhere, it feels as though not much is happening. We hope that, in the next few days, delegates can work out ways to facilitate the process of ministers reaching agreements.

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Thoughts from Ben, a CAN LDP fellow in Doha

 

(photo credit: IISD)

My name is Ben Namakin, and I come from the small island state of Kiribati in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is a place in which, along with our other pacific islands neighbors, we contribute less than 0.001% to the global greenhouse gas emissions; sadly, we are currently paying the price for global emissions with rising sea levels, droughts and saltwater intrusion contaminating our groundwater.

Kiribati was the first place to ring in the new millennium in 2000 and will also likely be the first state to be shown on international news as being underwater. What steps should those in our region take? We may be small, but we are not insignificant.

I am fortunate to be a Leadership Development Program (LDP) fellow for CAN International, which gives me the opportunity to increase my knowledge and skills on the issues, especially at the United Nations negotiation level. We are doing as possible to adapt to climate change: raising awareness on the issues of our people, building sea walls to prevent coastal erosion, and working on other adaptation activities. Despite this work, we still need to make our voice be heard at international negotiations! We must express the concerns of vulnerable communities to the leaders of the world, who claim they make decisions on behalf of us. Here I would like to highlight those of the developed states.

I am here in Doha, Qatar with 7 LDP fellows from various parts of the world following the UNFCCC COP18 negotiations. We all come from the South, and represent the most vulnerable parts of the world to climate change impacts. Though few in numbers, we try to cover the different issues that most concern us, such as mitigation, equity, finance, sustainable development goals and adaptation.

My focus is on adaptation, given the situation faced by those of Kiribati today. We are indeed in need of support for adaptation mechanisms that will ensure the survival of my people. My expectations here concentrate mostly on the call for international mechanisms for loss and damage, for adaptation committees as well as developed countries raising their ambitions on both finance and mitigation.

I want us to leave Doha with an outcome in which the role of the adaptation committees is well arranged so that they will function appropriately. I would also like to see arrangements under loss and damages adopted with concrete mechanisms for all LDC countries, including easy access to funding mechanisms for implementing national adaptation plans. What we want out of this gathering in Doha is not pretext of commitment, but real commitment.

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