Blog Posts

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. 

Weight on young shoulders. Introducing Amit, our Leadership Development Fellow in the Pacific

Climate change is a problem deeply affecting the Pacific Island countries. As young professionals we have weighty expectations on our shoulders. We are expected, with the support of our elders, to find ways to make our communities more resilient and enable those younger than us to be free of an unsafe and insecure environment created by climate change. Being a victim of climate change during my own childhood, I am inspired to seek opportunities to enhance my leadership capabilities and competencies in the climate and sustainable development sphere, to create a better living environment for the next generation. 

In order to become a leader I’ve undertaken two opportunities. The first, my masters degree in Australia, has allowed me to understand the decision making process on climate and policy development. This is knowledge that I can share with others. But to compliment my studies, I have also become the CAN Leadership Development Fellow in the Pacific. It has been a fantastic experience so far working with CAN International and PICAN. This programme has enabled me to build my own capacity and build relationships with others in the network. Young people are tagged as agents of change and are required to demonstrate themselves as drivers and thought leaders of the future. However, there are few opportunities in the Pacific for young professionals to enhance their leadership capabilities so this programme offers something new. 

With more new challenges facing the Pacific, I hoping to gain competencies on policy issues and decision making process, develop my skills in building coalitions and networks, most importantly improve my communication skills to transfer my knowledge and lesson learnt from this programme to other young people in the Pacific.

In the time machine - a short history of CAN South East Asia

Whilst working on CANSEA’s new website, Leadership Development Fellow Adrian Yeo got the chance to dig through the archives and realised how CANSEA has had to ‘adapt’ over the years…  

CANSEA was established in 1992 with CAN members from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The first Steering Committee meeting was held the following year. Thailand members joined CANSEA on later years. It was felt that this form of partnership was needed to address the socio-political issues associated with the climate change debate and to exchange information, strengthen communication and coordinate activities at the regional level.

South East Asia is also diverse in history, culture and religions.The diversity in these 4 countries are much celebrated, but that diversity comes with a challenge as they share no common language, making documentation and conversation difficult. Combine this with other challenges, phone calls and air tickets were expensive, skype call was not yet created.  It was amazing to learn that the founding members of CANSEA has the foresight to come together despite such adversity.

My climate change activism started with my involvement in YOUNGO back in 2009. We mobilised over 2,000 youths from around the world towards COP15. English language is widely used, we connected via the internet, information was shared endlessly on emails and google wiki sites. Being in the youth constituency, we worked naively towards a fair, ambitious and binding climate agreement. But how did CANSEA did it back in 1992?

When I attended one of CANSEA meeting recently, it felt more like a close friends gathering rather than a work meeting. The trust that built working over the years was evidently shown in the maturity during negotiation and conflict resolution. Such trust is lacking in today’s UNFCCC processes, from my humble opinion.

When going through the archives, I realised founding documents were produced by a typewriter on the old type of paper. I couldn’t believe that if such documentation were needed during one of the COPs then, it would take a whole truckload of paper instead of our thumb drive or storage in the cloud now. My short involvement with CAN and CANSEA allows me to experience and document the evolution throughout the years. One thing for sure, like climate change, we have to adapt to these changes.

It made me think of the future of CANSEA. My 90’s generation grew up with the popular cartoon “Captain Planet and the Planeteers”, and inspired a whole new generation of environmentalists. Much have changed since.

I wonder what is the green-themed cartoon children watches today, and what that will mean for CANSEA tomorrow?

The ad-hoc what? Reflecting on the Geneva 2015 ADP session

Neoka Naidoo, Leadership Development Fellow from South Africa reflects on her experience of the February 2015 ADP session in Geneva.

Firstly, getting our terms out the way. ADP stands for The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), - what a mouthful! 

On behalf of Project 90 and as a representative of South Africa CAN, I went to Geneva for this bizarrely named session last month. This was my first time being in this space, but I found it interesting and enlightening. There were so many differences to what I experienced in Lima - for example, I noticed there were smaller party delegations with a greater sense of openness to engage with civil society. The conference was held in the old League of Nations building, which is steeped in a history of world changing decisions. I am not sure if it was the environment or the setting itself which was conducive to consensus as opposed to the high-pressure situation in Lima.

The ADP session finished on time with agreement of a 86 page text that included all options. This was somewhat of a disadvantage as the semantics take away from the strength of the elements. I wonder if every option is negotiable and the options are on a varying scale of ambition, will an agreement at COP 21 in Paris just unravel?

The Intended National Determined Contributions were hot on the off record agenda as there were murmurs through the halls of the release dates. In my opinion it is definitely necessary that a full assessment is completed on the all UNFCCC measures that address average global temperature increase and the measures to adapt to a world we are already ‘cooked’ into.

 

Pages