Blog Posts

Way Forward on L&D

While loss and damage has seemed all but forgotten at this SB, ECO expects the UNFCCC’s first Pacific island Presidency to inject COP23 with a strong dose of the reality of climate impacts, thus directing some much-needed attention towards L&D. Although there is no major decision on L&D for November, Fiji’s own extreme vulnerability to losses and damages should create a push for ambitious outcomes.


At least some L&D discussion will occur at COP23, when the Warsaw International Mechanism’s Executive Committee reports on its efforts to flesh out its five-year work plan. So here are a few suggestions on what needs to happen before COP23 to ensure progress on L&D befitting a Fiji Presidency.


First, Parties and non-state actors should actively engage in the drafting of the WIM’s five-year work plan, especially at October’s ExCom meeting. Usually, work plans are negotiated in technical bodies and then reported to the COP, but are not reopened to substantial revisions. Therefore, key issues, such as institutional arrangements and additional sources to provide financial support for loss and damage, must be addressed in the ExCom’s pre-COP draft. ECO will be carefully monitoring how Parties — especially wealthy countries that have resisted supporting L&D despite pledging to do so in Paris — contribute to the ExCom’s work.


Second, ECO hopes to see a side event on financing L&D at COP23. Such an event was originally planned for COP22 but never happened, leaving a serious need for a dedicated event to frame and focus the L&D finance discussion. And, hey, while we’re at it — why not designate a full day at COP23 as Loss and Damage Day?


Third, a decision providing the WIM ExCom itself with enough reliable funding to do its job is long overdue, and would be a valuable COP23 outcome.


Finally, ECO sees many less obvious but crucial steps on L&D that could be taken at COP23. Decisions could establish L&D finance as separate from adaptation funding; clarify pathways for provision of L&D finance; set funding targets; launch COP work on migration; expand support for vulnerable country insurance pools — and the list goes on.


Parties at COP23 have the opportunity to build an impressive legacy on L&D under the  first small island Presidency, and a strong foundation for this legacy must be laid in the months leading up to the COP.


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Upcoming Political Moments

It feels like only yesterday COP21 gave birth to the Paris Agreement and now it’s out in the real world — making change, and delivering a low carbon resilient transition. As Bonn draws to a close, implementing Paris is set to be a hot topic during a number of upcoming star studded events: the Petersburg Dialogue, G7, the Ocean Conference, and the G20, just to name a few.


The Petersberg Dialogue is first up, and it seems that Germany is keen to focus on what really matters: climate action. After doing a stellar job this session, Fiji will be making its mark once again when Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Bainimarama come together during this auspicious meeting to speak about climate action.



After that, the G7 countries will meet up. This is the first Summit for four of the G7 leaders — President Macron, President Trump, Prime Minister Gentiloni, and Prime Minister May. Each will be in the spotlight from May 26-27. ECO expects the G7 to send a strong signal of unwavering support to implementing Paris, which is good for the climate, good for the economy, and supported by citizens and voters. One country should not be allowed to spoil the party. We have so much to gain and too much to lose; and the world will certainly be watching.


The Ocean Conference will be next and bring us to June 5-9. It will be hosted by the upcoming COP Presidency, Fiji, and climate champion, Sweden. The summit will take steps towards achieving SDG 14 on oceans. When it comes to climate change, oceans are crucial to mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage. They provide a vital carbon sink, offer prosperity for many communities, and are highly vulnerable to climate change. Fiji will no doubt be connecting these dots, and will be, once again, riding the wave of climate action.


The last event before the summer break will be the G20 on July 7-8. ECO hopes countries and stakeholders will continue to bear the torch for Paris implementation at the G20.. It’s important to keep up the ongoing work done by the Green Finance Study Group and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, as well as adopting the climate and energy action plan the Sustainability Working Group has been working so hard to perfect.

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“Without Increased Climate Action, No Country Can Ever be Great Again”

ECO would like to alert you to the exceptionally exciting highlights of several statements made by the CVF leadership. Not only did they reaffirm their commitment to the Marrakech vision, they laid out concrete steps for implementation. ECO agrees that the Paris spirit is not only alive and kicking, but is also being implemented.


CVF supports the need to trigger, in 2018, the revision and enhancement of climate ambition by 2020 if the Paris Agreement’s goals are to remain achievable. It is also refreshing that several CVF members have already started revising their NDCs. They highlighted that increased climate action is not only necessary but also desirable for economic growth and job creation. As H.E. Emmanuel De Guzman, the Philippines’ Climate Change Commissioner said, “without increased climate action, no country can ever be great again”.


This statement comes at a crucial time as G7 and G20 countries prepare for two summits where climate change will be on the agenda, and the new American administration will be tested on the subject. As the CVF leads in climate action, and challenges others to do the same, it is up to the major economies in the G7 and G20 to prove that they stand with the most vulnerable countries and communities, not the interests of an elite few.


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(Getting Over) Equity Stress Disorder

This latest round of talks has made it clear that after years in the trenches, many of our colleagues are suffering from a debilitating malady that we might call Equity Stress Disorder (ESD). The symptoms of ESD are many, but the most serious is the delusion that “equity” is the source of all our difficulties, and that, now, after the Paris breakthrough, we’ve put it behind us.

Alas, this is only denial. Equity remains fundamental to the Paris Agreement. The real question is what CBDRRC means — and how it can be operationalized in a post-binary world. Only by facing it head on can we hope to find the path to recovery and ambition.

None of us here at ECO have a psychotherapy degree, but we can perhaps help by calmly explaining the facts of the situation. Here goes:

  • The world is a complicated place, thus, we need a new approach to differentiation; a dynamic approach that’s based upon the Convention’s core equity principles. To be blunt, we need a dynamic and non-reductionist approach to CBDRRC. Pretending otherwise is fine, but it’s not going to get us to a high-ambition world.
  • There’s still some truth in the North/South “binary,” but it’s not a particularly helpful truth; not here inside the “UN bubble.” In fact, holding on to the binary just empowers the folks who want to avoid the overarching challenge of the MOI gap, a gap that we’re going to have to bridge if we really want to get onto a cooperative 1.5°C (or even 2°C) pathway.
  • The best approach to dynamic differentiation will vary across the elements of the Paris Agreement, but CBDRRC remains relevant across the board, though the details remain to be defined. For some purposes (e.g. transparency) it might be possible to live with an ambiguous notion of high and low capacity countries, but for others (e.g. the Global Stocktake) we’re going to have to be a bit more specific. Think in terms of a “development spectrum”; it can help.

The point is: we can get past Equity Stress Disorder, but we’re going to have to do it together. Which means that we’re going to have to work out what both “differentiated responsibilities” and “respective capabilities” mean in a post-binary world, and work out which one of them is most relevant where, when, and how.  This challenge isn’t going to go away. Pretending otherwise is just another kind of denial.

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Seeking Sustainable Guidance on the Road Towards COP23

Since the start of this session ECO has been looking for some guidance on climate finance. However, the complexities of these negotiations – debates about the Adaptation Fund serving under the guidance of the CMA or/and CMP; the technical discussions about accounting modalities; and the possibility of including finance in the Global Stocktake – have us completely lost.


It took the CVF press conference to bring things back into focus.  “As long there is a chance to stop global warming at a level that lets humanity survive and thrive, we should seize it,” the climate commissioner from the Philippines said, adding, “This is why we continue to advance the call for world leaders to keep to the 1.5 goal and to recalibrate climate finance.”


Before bidding farewell to the negotiators for a little while, ECO wants to remind them that outside this bubble, speaking about finance also reaffirms the importance of urgent climate action, and brings trust into the new climate regime. Developed countries have already committed to mobilise US$100 billion and while this commitment is welcome, let’s not forget that the costs for addressing climate change within developing countries are significantly higher.


As we move towards COP23, we want to share three priorities.


First, ECO cannot imagine that a first COP chaired by a vulnerable Pacific island in times of a well-recognized ambition gap, could conclude without a strong finance outcome. The roadmap doesn’t erase the need to scale up finance provided to poor countries. More efforts are required to raise adaptation finance, which remains a gap, and to reach the balance of mitigation and adaptation support stated in the Paris Agreement.


Delivering adequate climate finance should become a key priority for negotiators. It’s necessary to ensure that finance reaches the most vulnerable in a transparent way and helps build more resilient societies. When ministers convene for a high-level dialogue on finance at COP24, we expect they will exhibit strong ambition, not only on mobilizing and providing finance, but also on linking support with the Facilitative Dialogue 2018 upwards (remember this when you consider the FD at COP23). And finance discussions should focus on innovative mechanisms, such as carbon levies or revenues from air or sea transport.


Second, it would be a shame if finance negotiators spend all their time in lovely Fiji (aka lovely Bonn), talking only about the Adaptation Fund serving the Paris Agreement when the AF’s financial resources are what makes the real difference for vulnerable communities affected by climate change: a testament to the good work the AF has already done.


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Do Not Lose Sight of the Vision

The preamble of the Paris Agreement offers a vision of a world that we can all embrace. Parties outlined a joint vision of collective action addressing climate change in a manner that builds on equity; protects the integrity of ecosystems; promotes the rights of those on the front lines of climate impacts and climate responses; and empowers communities.


Now it is time to place this beautiful vision at the core of the implementation of the Paris Agreement. For the APA to best set the path toward fully implementing the Paris Agreement, Parties must consider how the principles outlined in the preamble should guide national climate action and international cooperation.


ECO is concerned that this vision is being lost in the midst of technical negotiations. So far, those discussions taking place under APA have failed to consider how the NDCs, the adaptation communications, the transparency framework, and the global stocktake can promote sufficient climate action and ambition in a manner that recognises important linkages between these mechanisms and the principles reaffirmed in the preamble. These issues must be brought back to the table so as to maximize the benefits of climate action for all people and ecosystems.


As Parties prepare for COP-23, ECO calls on all delegates, and that requires constant attention, to linking the technical negotiations to the preamble vision, so that this process can deliver on all the promises made in Paris.


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Long-term Strategies: The Time is Now!

It is no secret that, while Parties’ NDC’s represent an improvement over business-as-usual trajectories, they fall short of meeting the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals. Moreover, global emissions are not on track to peak by 2020, let alone steep reductions thereafter. According to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, to have a likely chance of limiting warming to 2 °C, carbon dioxide emissions need to drop to net zero between 2060 and 2075. To limit warming to 1.5 ° C, carbon dioxide emissions need to drop to net zero 15 years earlier, between 2045 and 2050. This will require significant transformation at an unprecedented scale and pace.

If our global community is to have a fighting chance of meeting these temperature goals, we urgently need to embrace more long-term and holistic strategies for our global development. Failure to do so risks driving investments towards incremental improvements: like replacing coal with natural gas or improving efficiency of fossil-fueled vehicles and appliances. These improvements, while sufficient to achieve NDC targets, are not sufficient to achieve the transformative changes, like transitioning to zero-carbon energy and electrifying vehicles, necessary to decarbonize the economy.

The Paris Agreement and its associated decisions recognize this need and invite Parties to submit mid-century, long-term low-greenhouse gas emissions development strategies. Such long-term strategies can help countries save money by avoiding investments that are not consistent with achieving net-zero emissions and climate resilient development. They can also send necessary long-term signals to the private sector, thereby fostering innovation and allowing companies to reap the benefits of early action.

Long-term planning also offers an important opportunity to integrate the consideration of multiple development objectives. The solutions to climate change are often also the solutions to other sustainable development goals. The New Climate Economy, for example, has demonstrated that climate action and economic growth go hand-in-hand, but trade-offs need to be identified and managed. The development of long-term strategies provides an opportunity to bring all relevant ministries, different governance levels (cities, regions), as well as a broad array of stakeholders together to plan and prepare accordingly.

We are encouraged by the countries that have already communicated their long-term strategies to the UNFCCC. We hope that others will do so soon, so that the strategies can guide implementation and the next NDCs. The perfect need not be the enemy of the good — in fact all of the long-term strategies submitted so far are intended to be updated (and we hope revised upwards) periodically. But it’s critical that we don’t delay their development, given that they can help direct investments towards clean renewable energy options, and sustainable long-term planning, in line with the necessary transformation to zero carbon economies and societies.

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Let’s Talk About Adaptation Communication

Last week, Parties spent a lot of time and energy discussing adaptation communication under Article 7.10 of the Paris Agreement, as well as Article 13, related to transparency of actions. ECO is pleased with this and sees it as a step towards an effort to allocate adaptation an equal status with mitigation in the Paris Agreement.


The adaptation communications also provide a welcome opportunity for countries to share their adaptation efforts, achievements, and good practices, as well as challenges and gaps in a coherent and coordinated way. A new adaptation registry could serve as an entry point for the learning and sharing of best practices and results to help improve the impact of adaptation efforts.


After this week’s negotiations, a consensus is emerging on the purposes and elements of the adaptation communications and we are indeed pleased to see many delegations recognizing its usefulness. The talks seemed to be stuck, for some time, on the issue of flexibility: some countries seem to suggest that flexibility means no guidance on the elements and information that should be part of the adaptation communication. ECO believes there should be agreement on common elements to be addressed, leaving enough flexibility for Parties to provide the information that is available and useful to communicate.


This will also make the task easier for governments when they consult with civil society and institutions on what to present in a communication. Without any guidance — so-called “maximum flexibility” — there is the risk of losing the opportunity to effectively synthesize and aggregate information, which could inform the Global Stocktake on progress towards the Global Goal on Adaptation and the decisions that Parties will take upon these.


A structure for what elements and information should be part of the adaptation communications will be useful. Most of the information will already be available in other documents: NDCs, National Adaptation Plans, the sustainable development indicators, and national communications. Agreeing on purpose and elements for the communications will make the data more easily accessible. Countries with lower capacity should be supported with capacity-building and finance.


Adaptation principles from Article 7.5 have not been mentioned much in this forum. We hope that silence means consent in a good way:  adaptation actions must be country-driven, gender responsive, participatory, and fully transparent….and based on available science and… knowledge of indigenous peoples … (we will not repeat it all). Almost 150 countries have already ratified these principles, and providing information in the communications on how these are addressed will be to the benefit of all.

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How UNFCCC Can Co-pilot Aviation’s Climate Deal

Airlines face a big problem with numbers when it comes to the sector’s Carbon Offset and Reduction System for International Aviation (CORSIA) — the planned global measure to offset the sector’s emissions growth above 2020 levels.


That’s because we’re not quite sure how CORSIA’s numbers will add up. As airline emissions continue to grow, airlines will need to buy an increasing number of offsets from other sectors. But the Paris Agreement makes this tricky, as all states have submitted pledges which aim to be economy-wide, and increase in ambition over time. So, when an airline buys an offset, how can it be sure that the emission reduction isn’t being claimed by a state or someone else?


There are many ways that CORSIA can screw up the numbers: for example, if the same emission reduction is sold to two different airlines, or sold once but claimed elsewhere. This is worrying because: given the sector’s major and growing climate impact, it badly needs a working mitigation measure that can assure who should claim what reduction.


The good news is that states, airlines, and civil society are hard at work trying to fix this problem. However, the UN agency running this measure, ICAO, can’t solve this problem on its own. That’s why we need UNFCCC and its APA to come to the rescue! ECO reckons it knows a thing or two about carbon markets and emissions counting, and so it should pitch in to help airlines out.


How? By remembering the aviation sector when drafting its rules, especially for accounting (Article 4.13), markets (Article 6), and transparency (Article 13). Aviation is going to be a big buyer of offsets. If UNFCCC parties don’t add back into their emissions inventories an amount of emissions equal to the credits they “export” to international aviation, both the Parties and the airlines will be trafficking in hot air.
So come on UNFCCC, will you be the perfect co-pilot to ICAO’s CORSIA?

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Bring Climate-Induced Migration Issues to the Table!

The fact that COP23 will be the first COP under the presidency of a small island state, Fiji, draws particular attention to the plight of those that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. One of the starkest impacts will be the forced migration of millions of people, as sea levels rise and natural disasters grow more frequent.


As recently as this past Wednesday, Vanuatu was hit by cyclone Donna, and cyclone Ella also came close to striking Fiji. As climate change progresses, these extreme events will only intensify, along with other effects such as desertification, sea level rise, and soil erosion. These phenomena will drive millions of people away from their homes, often with no hope of return. The International Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that roughly 22.5 million persons are already displaced each year because of climate change. Future forecasts indicate that there may be as many as 200 million to 1 billion climate migrants by 2050. These climate change induced migrations will affect developing countries, as well as developed countries. However, not all people have the same capacity or economic ability to resettle.


In light of this, the UNFCCC climate talks must be an arena to discuss the important issue of climate-induced displacement, especially now that the Paris Agreement has explicitly connected climate change to human rights. The rights of displaced people should be a key topic of discussion, leading to the framing of a better governance structure to help countries cope. Effective adaptation measures and climate change resilience building, as well as careful planning and support for relocation and resettlement, are essential to help countries limit forced migration.


The issue of climate-induced migration requires political attention and careful negotiation that considers cross-disciplinary issues such as human rights; women’s rights; preservation of culture and traditions; and food security. With a small island state that is particularly vulnerable to climate induced migration presiding over COP 23, it would only be appropriate that Parties take collective responsibility for highlighting the challenges faced by climate migrants, and the need for measures to protect their rights – both under the UNFCCC and in ongoing UN processes related to migration.

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