THE POST-COPENHAGEN ROAD
A fair, ambitious and binding deal is needed more urgently than ever. Climate science is more compelling by the day. Impacts are coming harder and faster. Disastrous flooding in Pakistan, heat waves and forest fires in Russia and hottest recorded temperatures around the globe, amongst other devastating climate-related events, all point to the need for urgent action. Levels of warming once thought to be safe, may well not be, 1.5˚C is the new 2˚C.
Copenhagen was a watershed moment for public interest and support for climate action – and people have not lost interest. More people in more countries than ever have put their governments on notice that they expect a fair,
ambitious and binding global deal to be agreed urgently. Trust-building is essential after the disappointment of Copenhagen. Developed country leadership must be at the core of trust building efforts. Countries must show
their commitment to the UNFCCC process by driving it forward with political will and flexible positions, rather than endless rounds of repetitive negotiations. Many countries are troublingly pessimistic for Cancun, and are working to lower expectations. While others, including countries most vulnerable to climate change, maintain high expectations.
Challenges ahead of Cancun
There are many challenges to getting a full fair, ambitious and binding deal at Cancun, including:
- Lack of a shared vision for the ultimate objective of the agreement, and the equitable allocation of the remaining carbon budget and emissions reduction/limitation commitments;
- Sharp divisions on the legal form of an eventual outcome;
- Failure of the US Senate to pass comprehensive legislation this year; and
- Current economic difficulties facing many countries, which make it difficult to mobilize the substantial commitments to long-term climate finance needed as part of any ambitious agreement.
Positive moves afoot
However, more and more countries, both developing and developed, are stepping up their efforts to pursue low-carbon development and adaptation, despite the absence of an international agreement. This can be seen in a variety of ways:
- Investments in renewable energies have continued their exponential growth, increasing to 19% of global energy consumed;
- Progressive countries are working to move the negotiations forward;
- There is a growing perception that low-carbon and climate-resilient development is the only option to sustainably ensure the right to development and progress in poverty reduction.
So, what does a pathway forward look like?
Firstly we must learn the lessons of Copenhagen. The “nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed” dynamic from Copenhagen could mean that nothing would be agreed in Cancun. An agreement in Cancun should instead be a balanced and significant step toward reaching a full fair, ambitious & binding deal at COP 17 in South Africa. This will require parties to work together in good faith to create sufficient gains at Cancun, and a clear roadmap to South Africa. This paper outlines how that could be achieved.
Far back in the mists of time, Parties agreed on a Durban Platform. Concerned that the train of negotiations might leave the station and quickly gather speed, Parties proceeded to have a two-year “contemplation phase” in an effort to stay on track.
They then decided to go into a “workshop phase” where they were expected to express their basic desires to their benign and all-knowing spiritual guides. These guides would then translate these desires into suitable language for polite company before presenting them to the outside world. But some of the travellers began to complain that they preferred their own words, however unrefined and divergent.
The language of the much-anticipated central covenant of all the peoples was given special treatment, since agreement was not needed immediately. It was particularly elevated and deliberately vague, so that the travellers would not begin to bicker over the details. But some began to rebel against the ritualistic debates and increasingly frustrating attempts to discover exactly what others were talking about, and what they might be able to agree on once they had to make decisions.
More of them started putting forward their own versions of the covenant. Though the guides paid little attention to their crude efforts, they did generously offer the possibility of going into a side carriage on their own and return with more worthy offerings. But they never said what fate would await these offerings.
Meanwhile in the main carriage, the travellers continued to offer up their modest ideas, in the hope the guides would find some of them worthy to put into their non-covenant. But most of them looked in vain for a true representation.
However, the words of one wise traveler resonated from beyond the dawn of time: “Discussions in the absence of negotiations cannot prosper.”
Then began a clamour for true negotiations –to engage with the actual words of their fellow travellers, and not the words of the guides. More and more of them made this demand, but fearful of the consequences if the travellers became too aware of the real divisions among them, the guides preferred to hold to their more refined version as long as possible…
We know you’ve been busy trying to hammer out the details of the Paris Agreement, but ECO would like to draw your attention to an important letter that has been addressed to YOU. This letter was sent, last week by 28 independent experts from the UN Human Rights Council.
Tasked to provide support to all countries with the promotion of human rights—like the right to clean drinking water to development–-these experts all came to the same conclusion: climate change threatens to undermine the protection of human rights. Let this sink in for a moment: it means that the UNFCCC has a crucial role in effectively protecting human rights for all. If you haven’t read the letter, please check your inboxes.
The open letter clearly states that “all of the State Parties to the UNFCCC have committed to respect and protect human rights.” Building on the Cancun Agreements, that makes reference to these obligations, the UN human rights experts urge Parties to:
recognise the adverse effects of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights, and to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures to prevent further harm. We call on the State Parties to include language in the 2015 climate agreement that provides that the Parties shall, in all climate change related actions, respect, protect, promote, and fulfil human rights for all. And we urge the State Parties at COP 20 in Lima to launch a work program to ensure that human rights are integrated into all aspects of climate actions.
On behalf of present and future generations, ECO supports these conclusions and calls on all Parties to include rights protections for all.
ECO has always believed that the Convention, with its Annexes and principles, need not, and must not, be a straight jacket that restricts the ability of the UNFCCC to adapt to emerging realities. While some developed countries give the distinct impression that they would like to sweep the Annexes (and perhaps the whole Convention) aside and start over, there are now some developing countries showing how we can move forward by building on the current structure of the Convention.
Different proposals have been put forward that provide interesting ways to move past a binary world to cross the rigid firewall.
The LDCs proposed an interesting idea in this regard: Annex I Parties should adopt economy-wide targets, and non-Annex I Parties “in a position to do so” (the so-called “POTODOSO countries”) should do the same. Both of these groups – all parties with economy-wide commitments – would then inscribe these commitments in Annex A to the new agreement. This would be an elegant way of using the current Annexes to ensure no backsliding, while progressing beyond an exclusive reliance on these commitments. ECO could imagine other creative ways to do the same thing.
Another way of moving beyond a binary world is the route proposed by Brazil (yes, that Brazil!). Making clear they did not support a bifurcated approach, Brazil proposes “concentric differentiation”, where Annex I countries with absolute reductions targets are at the centre of concentric circles of less rigorous commitments going outward. (ECO is paraphrasing here.)
So far, so good (or, “so far, so Art. 4.1/4.2”, as it were). But where Brazil advances the discussion is by saying that everyone should be encouraged to move towards the centre over time. This would pave the way for voluntary graduation, and prevent any voluntary backsliding. Many countries should be prepared to move close to (and some into) the coveted inner circle now. ECO is sure they know who they are.
Not content to just signal an interest in an enhanced interpretation of the Convention, Brazil also made a very useful suggestion on finance. Brazil recommended that developing countries indicate South-South financial contributions and collaborative actions in their INDCs. The LDCs’ and AILAC’s submissions also call for financial contributions from an expanded group of countries, while placing primary responsibility on Annex II Parties.
ECO wonders how developed countries will justify their refusal to talk about finance in their INDCs when developing countries are willing to do so.
Monday’s ADP session on adaptation and loss and damage covered a lot of ground. LDCs’ call to base all adaptation actions on certain guiding principles, as agreed upon in the Cancun Adaptation Framework, set off the debate on a positive foot. Promoting a gender-sensitive and participatory approach focused on vulnerable people, communities and ecosystems are principles currently absent from the text. They should be bolstered by Parties to guarantee a people-centred, human rights-based agreement.
Convergence emerged around the need to include a long-lasting vision for adaptation in the Paris agreement. Defining objectives for this goal, related to adaptation finance, institution building and readiness would make it even more concrete.
Parties need to come to grips with the link between mitigation and adaptation. One way to do this would be an assessment of the adequacy of NAPs, once mitigation pledges are on the table, taking into account expected level of warming. Vulnerable countries could then better assess the fundamental threats they face, and Parties might reconsider their mitigation ambition.
ECO further welcomes AILAC‘s proposal to set up an Adaptation Technical and Knowledge Platform, conceived as an enhanced hub to support adaptation design and implementation. Indigenous peoples, acknowledged by Norway as adaptation knowledge holders, could play an important role in this initiative.
Many Parties insisted that loss and damage be part of the agreement. LDCs proposed a mechanism related to climate change displacement which could provide support for emergency relief, assistance in organised migration and planned relocation, and compensation measures. It would fit well with the mandate of the existing loss and damage mechanism, and address an unfortunately increasingly real world problem faced by poor countries and communities.
Parties should take advantage of the cold and rain to huddle together, as advised by the Co-Chairs, and warm up to common ideas for how the 2015 agreement can embrace and nurture adaptation and loss and damage. Storm clouds are forming on the horizon, and there are few safe havens in sight right now.
ECO sat through 4 long days and one very long night in Barbados last week, but it was worth it. The Green Climate Fund Board finally agreed upon arrangements to receive contributions this year, and further prepared the governance system to start disbursing funds next year.
Not all negotiators will know that the issue of whether contributors could include specific “targets” within their contributions was the one issue that kept board members up until 3:30 AM on Saturday. Developing countries firmly rejected this idea, despite the imminent threat that developed country treasuries were sure to contribute less if this extra grip on the GCF’s purse strings was relinquished.
ECO sees hope and feels that this step highlights the GCF as an entity that could herald a new era in international cooperation, where country ownership and direct access to funding replaces the old model of institutions and decisions dominated by developed countries. Developing countries could have an equal say in fund governance.
Some fights have yet to be fought, though, like whether the GCF will fully steer clear of fossil fuels. ECO has learnt that the idea to tie voting to contributions may rise again, but for now, things seem to be moving in the right direction, albeit slowly and unevenly.
The next milestone is the Pledging Session in Berlin in November. Developing countries are calling for $15 billion in pledges, which ECO considers to be an adequate sum, though modest compared to the scale of the climate challenge and the benefits of preventing dangerous climate change.
Developed countries, led by Germany and France, have pledged around $2.3 billion so far. Some smaller and typically more responsible countries are likely to once again make their citizens proud by shouldering more than their fair share. There are still big question marks around the USA, Japan and the UK and whether they will step up to the mark.
ECO notes that Canada and Australia are two worrying question marks too. Whilst they have been conspicuously silent about their responsibility for making substantial contributions, ECO is confident that good sense will prevail. Perhaps it will be triggered by forthcoming serious contributions, even from developing countries – though it is developed countries that have the legal and moral obligation to pledge.
Contributions in the “double digit billions” scale will certainly improve the prospects of a positive outcome in both Lima and Paris. However, a finance package demonstrating developed countries’ willingness to make progress on the $100 billion a year promise by 2020, must include robust provisions on climate finance. For the post-2020 agreement, the overall challenge to shift the trillions in public and private finance away from fossil fuels towards renewable energies and solutions compatible with equitable and sustainable development must also be a part.
ECO wants all negotiators to understand that what they are doing here really does matter to the lives and futures of billions of people and ecosystems around the world. In a little over a years time, the world needs to see an ambitious and equitable agreement which does not condemn the poorest and most vulnerable to a future of disasters and permanent state of emergency. Negotiators need to make progress this week on four items related to adaptation and loss and damage in the 2015 agreement.
First, the 2015 agreement must highlight the requirement for all climate action to be guided by certain principles; in particular recognising the needs of vulnerable people, communities and ecosystems as well as rights-based approaches, gender-equity and broad participation. Though the 2010 Cancun Adaptation Framework contains some ‘guiding principles’, these aren’t even referenced in the current draft ADP text. This puts the UNFCCC 2015 agreement at risk of being the least people-centred and rights-based of the three international frameworks currently under discussion. Drafts for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 Disaster Risk Reduction Framework contain much stronger wording on people’s needs and human rights.
Second, it is clear that emission reduction efforts must be at the core of INDCs. But some developing country groups have stressed the need for the INDCs to also cover future adaptation measures, seeing this as a way to strengthen adaptation measures in both the international and domestic contexts. ECO believes that including adaptation in INDCs should be seen as an important opportunity for all Parties to strengthen their own awareness of climate risks and adaptation needs, but stresses that important conditions must be put in place. Adaptation measures cannot replace mitigation contributions. The adaptation components of INDCs must be voluntary and countries must be able to choose when they submit these components, and if they should come alongside or separate to their mitigation pledges. Including adaptation in the INDCs should reinforce ongoing adaptation planning efforts that are already underway in the preparation of National Adaptation Plans. ECO suggests that Parties fully consider existing NAP guidance materials readily available.
Third, ECO sees the need for progress on the idea of a global adaptation goal. The Cancun Adaptation Framework represents a good start; however, it fails to link the level of adaptation action required, and the support needed for such action, with proposed levels of mitigation and associated global warming. This is a fundamental problem as temperature increases beyond 1.5°C would, in many countries, require much higher levels of adaptation, and could even exceed thresholds of what can be adapted to. The current 2015 negotiation text contains elements that could address this shortcoming, especially the idea of a global goal on adaptation. This week we need in-depth discussions on what a meaningful adaptation goal would look like, and the identification of key questions which require further work between now and Paris. In line with the expected costs in poor countries, this global goal should include an objective for public adaptation finance from developed countries (and others with similar capability). ECO also calls on Parties to create a review mechanism to assess collective progress towards fulfilment of the adaptation goal and its related objectives.
Finally, loss and damage is fast becoming a reality for millions of poor and vulnerable people worldwide. The establishment last year of an international mechanism on loss and damage was only a first step towards recognising the tragic implications of unabated climate change. ECO thinks that the 2015 agreement should recognise the Warsaw international mechanism and contain concrete provisions to increase its ability to support the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities and ecosystems. The Paris decisions must hold countries accountable for the costs of climate change impacts according to their contribution to the cause of the problem. This is necessary in order to secure additional finance for the necessary measures to address loss and damage.
I’m a 6,000-year-old woman (but a lady never reveals her true age) looking for suitors who are prepared to send me ambitious INDCs. I enjoy slow change, spinning around, long orbits around the sun, regular seasons, and cute and fluffy animals. My dislikes include comets, mass extinctions, ice ages, solar flares and fossil fuels. I’ve had a rough relationship history and my sudden break up with the dinosaurs wasn’t easy either. Currently, I’m in an extremely abusive relationship with Homo Sapiens, they’re keeping me sweating.
I must admit that I have volatile tipping points and I have become icy cold and uncomfortably hot in the past. I’m afraid that if I have to deal with further weak promises and empty “commitments”, I may do something rash and enter a state of anger that will make the hurricanes, droughts and storms that you’ve seen before look mild.
I’m hoping to retain my stability by receiving lots of INDCs from suitors who are:
- Interested in 5 year commitments periods (I need some long term security and not another decade in a destructive relationship)
- Transparent about the level of effort that they will invest in my wellbeing
- Willing to indicate how much money and other support they will provide to keep me happy
- Upfront about how much external support they will need to make the relationship work if the INDC is from someone with less capability
- Adaptable: I have some historical scarring that is likely to make any future relationships difficult and I will need all the INDCs to indicate adaptation plans as I blow off steam
- Passionate about equitable relationships and my long-term prosperity
- Willing to review, and if necessary improve, their contribution to making our relationship work
- Willing to submit to expert counselling to ensure that they are doing enough to make a long-term relationship work
- Willing to start work immediately to prevent any further damage to my person
Suitors that have caused harm in the past and that have lots of resources, send me your ambitious proposals by March 2015. Those out there who have caused less harm or that have low capability can send their proposals by June 2015.
Yours in anticipation,