Blog Posts

Hopenhagen in Le Bourget

By Adrian Yeo

Not too long ago, there was a COP labeled as the most important juncture in climate negotiations. It was a culmination of a few years of intense negotiations which will craft our way forward post-2015. It had to be a success to save the climate. That year was 2009 at COP15 in Bella Centre, in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark. We all know what happened then.

Six years on, I arrived in Le Bourget, Paris, for the recent COP21. It felt so strangely familiar. Headlines around the world ringing a similar tune. The excitement in the air was equally apparent. However, it was also very different in many ways.

Instead of people reading climate change stories for the very first time like they were in 2015, climate change is already a subject much spoken about in the media. In the run up to COP21, many analytical papers, documentaries and even a Grist video have been produced in relation to climate change. Back in the days of Copenhagen, the media and the public were still grappling on how to explain the complexity of climate change, let alone the COP process.

With much secrecy and almost no figures and plans on the table prior to COP15, parties came in with armour and shields, ready for a long, arduous debate. However at COP21, countries had to submit INDCs ahead of time so pledges and plans were shared way ahead. Parties were better informed, especially the developing countries, on the commitment and ‘game plans’ of developed countries. Thus the feeling of hope and confidence in the success of COP21 was felt strongly since Day 1.

Everyone was smiling and at ease, even with the extended State of Emergency after the tragedy that rocked Paris just weeks before. It must have been something in the water at the venue.

“It is a changed world in 2015”, many were quoted as saying in the meeting rooms. Many developing countries showed leadership and invested massively in a low or zero emissions future. We saw China and India being the largest consumers of solar and wind energy. Our friends from the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) even set up their own trust fund to assist each other. With such commitment and pressure, the actors from developed countries will be put to shame if nothing good comes out of the implementation of COP21.

The Paris Agreement brought the real meaning in Hopenhagen, a tagline used back in the Scandinavian country. Delegates went home with a clear target and timeline. Something all of us can work with.

 

Image credit: Joachim Ladefoged

Record Breaking COP21

 

Besides producing the Paris Agreement, COP21 has broken many records. Here are some notable ones from Adrian Yeo, CAN Leadership Development Fellow.

We started COP21 a day ahead of schedule. The much anticipated UNFCCC proceedings were supposed to start on Monday, 30th November, and the parties would have informally met the beginning of the week before. By the Friday before COP began, we were hearing news that it would begin one day earlier and the meetings officially started on Sunday, 29th November.  http://unfccc.int/meetings/paris_nov_2015/session/9126.php

Biggest gathering of world leaders in a UN event. Over 150 heads of state and government arrived at the conference venue on Monday to give their public support, the largest group of leaders ever to attend a UN event in a single day.

40,000 (some say 50,000), the total number of participants. This figure includes 25,000 official delegates (government figures along with representatives from intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs, civil society), 3,000 accredited journalists who noted down every development, organizers, speakers and world leaders. The largest previous summit was the Copenhagen COP15 in 2009 with roughly 27,000 participants.

Not 1, but 2 CAN Parties. Up until the middle of the first week of COP, the CAN/CSO party was a no-go, due to security and various other reasons. But seasoned COPers just wouldn’t buy it. Kudos to the CAN Secretariat, the ‘underground’ party was announced. Much to everyone’s surprise, we even granted a second edition right after COP closed.

Warmest Year on record. A preliminary estimate based on data from January to October shows that the global average surface temperature for 2015 so far was around 0.73 °C above the 1961-1990 average of 14.0°C and approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial 1880-1899 period. This temperature tendency indicates that 2015 will very likely be the warmest year on record. https://www.wmo.int/media/content/wmo-2015-likely-be-warmest-record-2011...

Adopt A Negotiator reached 400th article milestone. A big congratulations to our friends from GCCA and Adopt A Negotiator Program with their 400th articles, videos, infographics and sorts. The COP21 song playlist is phenomenal. http://climatetracker.org/climate-trackers-post-their-400th-article-of-cop21-break-tracking-record/

For the first time, a limit of 1.5C has been locked into the treaty after a concerted push by small island nations (SIDs) who said their very existence was threatened if the world limited global warming to 2C. The treaty said the world will be "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change".

Global fossil fuel divestment push hits a record-breaking $3.4tr. The record-breaking figure was announced today at the UN's Paris Climate Summit by campaign groups 350.org and Divest-Invest. The update came alongside a slew of new divestment pledges from 19 French cities, including Lille, Bordeaux, Dijon and Rannes. The $3.4tr represents the total assets under management by all the institutions, not the amount of money being divested - which is difficult to track accurately, according to 350.org. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-02/fossil-fuel-divestment-tops-3-4-trillion-mark-activists-say

 

In retrospect: Last 48hrs of COP

We are sharing this blog piece in retrospect, written by CAN's Leadership Development Programme Fellow in South Africa, Neoka Naidoo, during the last hours of COP. 

As we enter the last 48 hours of negotiations, I wanted to focus today’s post on some of the people and solutions that have inspired me on this journey through COP21. 

1) Bringing down fossil fuels 

The day before I left for COP21 I had the privilege of watching Naomi Klein’s documentary  “This Changes Everything“. I must admit I have seen my fair share of documentaries, and for some reason they motivate me to try and do my best at my endeavours. I watched many people work together to make changes in their communities the best way they could. One of these inspiring people was Crystal Laymann from the Beaver Cree Nation, who is standing up against the tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada.

Her community mobilized and fought against the destruction of their entrusted land. The tar sands are not only devastating for the environment, but of course also increases the amount of fossil fuels available to burn when we should be moving towards renewable energy. 

Neoka with Crystal Laymann

 2) The climate effects on vulnerable Kenyan farmers

Neoka with Kisilu Musaya (1)

Kisilu Musaya is a young farmer from the east of Kenya who is here in Paris. He made a conscious choice to change his farming practices after experiencing a huge amount of variation of weather and subsequent crop failure. With determination, he started a voluntary learning space within his community to share ideas, and plans to maximize the next crop after a drought. The community decided to plant drought resistant crops and using mulching techniques to stop evaporation from the soil.

Unfortunately, despite all that planning came yet more uncertainty, with the biggest flood they had ever seen. Paw paw trees that had taken five years to grow were obliterated in one night. As Kisilu said after a screening of ‘Kisilu Climate Diaries’, a documentary that followed his struggle over four years, “climate change has no privacy, so neither do I”. As he says, he is just one of many that are going through these drastic unpredictable events that threaten people’s very livelihoods and dignity. I found his story inspiring because of the innovation and resilience that he and his community have shown in the face of such terrible odds.

3) Renewable energy: the change that is necessary 

Neoka with Costa Rican head of delegation

I accidentally met the Costa Rican Minister of Agriculture and Environment yesterday. To date, Costa Rica has been able to use 100% renewable energy for 255 days of this year. Sceptics suggest that renewable energy cannot yet meet all of our energy needs, and yet with breakthroughs in battery storage and the cost per kilowatt from solar now cheaper than coal in some countries, this is questionable. Costa Rica proves the power of a just transition that many countries are going to have to accelerate if we are to hold to a 1.5 degree or even 2 degree future temperature rise.

 4) People, not politicians, must and will have the final word

As much as the UNFCCC is about the formal negotiations in which the diplomats, politicians and business are the principal actors, it is the energy in grassroots social movements that will be key to holding these leaders accountable for their decisions.

While this agreement is being negotiated, the variation in weather patterns is driving citizens (as well as progressive governments) to act now. The COP negotiations has another side to it that has produced an unintended consequence. Change is happening all around us, within our climate, within our communities, and within us all. It is the actions of social movements happening over the next few days outside of the negotiations in Paris, as well as the sit-in yesterday by civil society actors in the corridors themselves, that are critical to keeping pressure on the leaders over these last 48 hours in order to secure a better agreement.

In Paris this Saturday there will be mobilisations. The people will have the last word. 
 

Bumps in the road to Paris

Written by Neoka Naidoo, Leadership Development Fellow from South Africa. 

The thing that resonates with me about the UNFCCC process, and I take it resonates with everyone else within the CAN community, is the disparity between political will and action. Everyone sitting in the plenaries knows what the impacts of climate change are and how this will negatively affect people back in their countries, but the actions back home continue to be slow comparatively to the ambitious action that is required, according to the science, to minimize the catestrophic impacts of climate change.

Nikola Tesla proclaimed that “the individual is ephemeral, races and nations come and pass away, but man remains” and this might have been true in his time but after reflecting on SB42, so much has happened and nothing has changed. In my opinion there are no climate borders that align with our political borders, so its about time we realised it. Our leaders need to act because the likelihood of, to quote Tesla, 'man remaining' is decreasing. But I believe the UNFCCC process stilll provides an opportunity to come together and realize our common humanity. This is especially the case  within the smaller sessions, like the SB42, where the creases are ironed out and political disagreements resolved. In the same breath common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities need to be upheld.

Our thinking needs to be amalgamated with the great sense of humanity. This is not the time to silo climate change because it is difficult topic but rather embrace the cavity that calls for innovation.

The trip ended just before the Papal Encyclical and the REN 21 report were launched. These complimented each other, one pointing out the great moral duty we have to act, with the REN21 report showing that the path to 100% renewable energy is already laid out, and we just need the courage from our political leaders to take it.

 

4 Things I learnt from the June 2015 Bonn Session

Written by Adrian Yeo, CAN Leadership Development Fellow from CAN South East Asia. 
 
Like every UNFCCC Session, the recent Bonn #SB42 2015 was so fast paced there is barely time to make your own reflection. So now, a few weeks later, here are 4 things I learnt from this Bonn Session that I wish to share with you.
 
All members work as one. Unlike small party delegations, like Saudi Arabia for example, who have to dash from one meeting to another and sometimes only making it half way through, CAN coordination allows smaller CSO delegations to work together and tap on the experience and expertise of the wider network. CAN members share intelligence, gossip and strategies throughout the session in their daily meetings and on CAN-Talk. This goes beyond their own organisation that they represent. Many CAN working groups produce results as a team and not individually. I really appreciate this.
 
Many of the old guard from YOUNGO are still around, doing great work. I was heavily involved in the youth constituency, YOUNGO, back in 2009-2010. It is amazing how many YOUNGO-ers from back then are the movers and shakers of today’s negotiations. Education and early exposure of the UNFCCC process is important, and must be inclusive and accessible to all, championing diversity in gender, country, language and age. We should have more capacity building workshops to ensure young people from civil society will continue to be involved in the UNFCCC during their careers.
 
Malaysia’s negotiators bike to the meeting venue! One morning as I was walking towards the Conference Centre I saw Dr Gary Theseira, a Malaysian negotiator, locking up his bike. He takes C02 emission reduction seriously, and puts it into practice.
 
One must be very focused to be effective. At any one time, there could be 5-6 meetings happening during the session, side events, actions by civil societies, bi-laterals, briefings and CAN working group meetings. It is a well-documented diagnosis called “COP Fever” where you get lost in the circus of things, so one has to have a laser focus on your role and your objectives in coming to these meetings. Make a priority list and never let anything come in between, including lunch.

 

The Magic of the ECO Newsletter

Adrian Yeo tells us why ECO has magical properties... 
 
A day in UNFCCC sessions will not be complete without flipping through a copy of CAN’s ECO Daily Newsletter. For negotiators, the magic of ECO usually begins while they are still having breakfast. Readers get a quirky, insightful perspective into the previous day’s negotiations and more. But as I learnt, many hard-working elves are needed in order to let ECO work its magic.
 
According to Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action, producing a publication allows communications and engagement with a wide audience of stakeholders. Editors of ECO have been known to receive calls from parties, NGOs and journalists enquiring the titles of the next day’s issue. What makes it so popular?
 
ECO has proven to be an effective tool, especially when used to amplify issues that have not been discussed in the negotiating room. Any of the over 900 CAN member organisations can submit articles to be published, and inspiration for these comes from many places - from the security check queues, along the corridors, in the café or of course within the plenary and negotiation rooms. But the best usually come from unsuspected turns of events, in the heat of a power play of the negotiations. And last but not least, a good dose of humour allows the elephant in the room to surface, and keeps parties on their toes.
 
During the latest Bonn UNFCCC session, I joined one of the midnight Editorial Board shifts – where the magic happens. Linh Do, the Chief Editor / Wizard of ECO, explained to us newbies that the submitted articles always need to be fact-checked and deliberated on by the various thematic working groups in CAN. This ensures the credibility of the piece and allows us to be strategic in using the article to drive negotiations forward.
 
Then it’s the editors’ job to put the articles in plain language, explaining some of the technical terms, as besides the negotiators, media and NGOs, ECO is also read by the general public outside the UNFCCC bubble. After more than 3 hours of revising and finalising, the Chief Editor begins the laborious task of arranging the articles to fit into the famous ECO template (that has been around since 1972!). Juggling word count, simple graphics and titles, her task may run until 2-3am before calling it a day! The next morning, volunteers will pick up the warm fresh prints of ECO which have magically appeared and have them distributed at various stations around the venues.
 
Sourcing and enlisting writers and articles, coordinating experts to fact-check, having volunteers to edit and produce ECO and using the newsletter as a lobbying tool for the greater climate change movement is a mammoth task, but somehow CAN manages to pull it off again and again. To me, ECO really defines the network. It takes so much to have it work and thrive so successfully, but when that all comes together magical things can occur!
 

Engaging Everyone

Adrian Yeo, Leadership Development Fellow from Malaysia, reflects on the shape of activism in Norway... 

Upon reaching Oslo, for my CAN Leadership Development Program Study Trip, I oriented myself with the city by walking around the neighbourhood. As I was passing by the Norwegian Parliament grounds, two things struck me. One, there is lack of the usual security perimeter or any fence around Norway’s law making institution building. Second, there was a large rally outside the parliament ground, focusing on stopping the dumping of mining waste into the much loved fjords.

The people of Norway are highly engaged with their government on environmental issues, both local and international. Two days after the mining waste rally, the same parliament ground hosted the much talked about #DivestNorway petition rally. The Norwegian people do take their sustainability agenda seriously. Citizens’ engagement with policy makers is high and this is reflected in the elected representatives in the Parliament. Having Members of Parliament who can intellectually debate and produce climate friendly policies is crucial  not only for good policy but even better for implementation on the ground.

Seeing all the banners and messaging of the rallies were in Norwegian, I asked a smartly dressed gentleman next to me to explain. He laid out in detai, the background, the impact on the environment, the government’s justification and why the people are so angry about this legislation. He impressed me with his in-depth knowledge on the issue and his high-level policy understanding, especially on climate change. Much later into the conversation, I learnt that he is a Member of the Parliament, Mr Terje Breivik, and the Deputy Leader for the Venstre Party.  Kudos to him.

Norges Naturvernforbundet also known as Friends of the Earth, Norway, is the country’s largest member-based environment organisation, with over 100 local chapters. They recently celebrated their centenary anniversary in 2014. Later, on a visit to their offices, I was flipping through their commemorative book, I saw there were congratulatory messages from a full spectrum of the society. From political parties, to labour unions, community leaders, faith group leaders and youth groups, even the Royal family of Norway.

The big lesson here is to engage and include everyone in the society, if you wish to see success in your campaign. Build bridges and invest to keep the links and networks strong. Only then, there might be hope to move everybody across the finishing line.

 

Beyond the walls of the UNFCCC

Adrian Yeo gives a presentation on his CAN Leadership Development Programme study tour in Norway. 
 
Norway is an obvious choice of location for the CAN Leadership Development Programme study tour. The level of environment awareness and sustainable responsibility in Norway is among the highest in the world. While 96% of their local energy source coming from hydro power, they are also the top 10 oil producing countries. It was enlightening to learn how  Norwegian civil society organisations work within such dynamics and how we can bring learnings back to our own countries.
 
We were excited with the dynamic discussion in the seminar on “Net-Zero Emissions” hosted by ‘ForUM for Utvikling og Miljo’. Here we wanted to answer the following questions:
 
What is the real meaning net-zero emissions ?
What technologies do we have today to achieve net-zero emission?
How is it perceived by various stakeholders?
 
To start with, we learnt that there are several ways to describe strategies or ways to achieve net-zero emissions. Terms likes geo-engineering, decarbonisation are  relatively new terms while Bio-Energy Carbon Capture & Storage (BECCS) has been widely used within the UNFCCC and is more commonly referred to. Camilla Skriung from ZERO presented a case for the adoption of Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) in Norway and the rest of the world. She argued that decarbonisation is extremely difficult without using CCS in the near future.
 
Bård Lahn from Regnskogfondet (Rainforest Foundation Norway) reminded us of a different view. He mentioned that one thing often missed out from discussion is the technology to keep the trees in the forest standing. While we filled our mind with the efforts to solve the impending climate crisis, we often forget that prevention is often the best solution.
Pat Mooney from ETC-Group continued by sharing the story about the iron-pumping-plankton growing projects that failed in the past, and similar patterns and worrying paths that can be observed in recent attempt on solar radiation management projects. However he also stressed the potentially shock-knee-jerk adverse decision that may occur in the coming decades if this climate crisis continues. 
 
Then it was our turn, the CAN Leadership Development Program Fellows, Neoka Naidoo from CAN-South Africa and myself Adrian Yeo from CANSEA  to share our strategies & challenges on GHG emissions reductions from our respective countries and regions.
 
This seminar was very encouraging for me. To see the participations from labour unions, university researchers alongside the usual environment NGOs is wonderful. Back in Malaysia, such in-depth discussion on a particular subject only happens within the UNFCCC working groups and only awareness talks happen on a public level. This gave me hope that there is a bigger community that takes the discussion beyond the walls of the convention.
 

The city that (almost) never sleeps, Oslo

Neoka Naidoo blogs from her CAN Leadership Development Fellow study trip to Oslo this week. 

The almost 23 hours of travelling welcomed a beautiful end in Oslo. I had chills of excitement and nervousness coursing through me. There were many hurdles to conquer.

The first hurdle was addressing Norwegian civil society. Public speaking is not my forte but I was calm explaining to a room of 40 people about South Africa‘s energy battle and the sense of how renewable energy is perceived. I explained how South African’s energy is tightly interwoven with our development, and how this is used as an argument by the fossil fuel industry to peptuate our reliance on fossils fuels.

This was accepted and known by the civil society present even as a 1st world nation with an open government. The retail of fossil fuels riddles the Norwegian carbon ‘low’ record with blemishes that can’t be easily removed. Civil society plays a vital role in pointing this out and providing alternatives. With extended sunlight hours we were able to capitalize on working into the wee hours of the morning. We met with lots of different organisations: Zero, WWF Norway, Friends of the Earth Norway, Naturvernforbundet, Youth and Environment and ETC-group. The variation of the groups was great, and allowed us to get a variety of opinions. But think what I found more interesting was the fact we had some of the same fights.

One of the prominent examples is getting the government to divest the biggest pension fund in the world out of the fossil fuel industry. There was sustained pressure from civil society and whilst I was in Oslo there was the long awaited victory. The Parliament of Norway decided before their scheduled voting parliament that there would be measures to move the pension fund out the fossil fuel industry. Norway might midnight sun but the civil society are the ones that shines and this is just one example of how collaboration of like-minded people can achieve something unbelievable.

Norway might be a 1st world country but they are dealing with post-industrial issues that need to be addressed immediately.

I think I had a great realisation that as global civil society we have the same problems and we are not alone. We as a movement are addressing injustices and not just climate change related issues. We all know that ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the same ideology that the cancer cell uses.’ – Edward Abbey

Adrian lends his wisdom on climate communications in Guardian Live Q&A

On Thursday 30th April Adrian Yeo, our Leadership Development Fellow from South East Asia will join a panel of experts for a Guardian Q&A entitled: What are the best ways to communicate climate solutions? Climate communications can be a tricky busieness, so this Live Q&A seeks to shed some light on the most effective ways to get our our messages whilst campaigning and advocating. Joining him on the panel will be our very own CAN Director Wael Hmaidan, as well as Hoda Baraka from 350.org, Ester Agbarakwe, founder of the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition and Jamie Clarke from Climate Outreach Information Network. 

The LiveQ&A is at 12.00GMT-14.00GMT. Even if you miss the live stream, you can still visit this page to see all the comments and questions. 

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