Blog Posts

Och Aye the COP

In many ways, the COP can take place anywhere. Inside the halls, meeting rooms and plenary spaces of IFEMA, you could be forgiven for forgetting that you are in in Spain at all. Each year the COP comes to town and creates a world of its own. Whether you are in Katowice, Bonn, Marrakech or Paris, the view from the negotiating table is frustratingly generic. Each year the negotiations are characterised by the same tedious bickering, the same dragging of heels, and the same proactive vandalism of the process by big polluting countries.
However, when the COP comes to Glasgow next year, it will be coming to a very specific place. From a UK point of view, the COP taking place in Glasgow is a complex predicament. Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, but has its own government with extensive powers in key areas, including over many aspects of climate change policy. COP26 will therefore be a UK Government event, taking place in a part of the country that develops its own, more ambitious, climate policy. Furthermore, just as we don’t know if the UK will still be in the EU this time next year, there will be questions asked about Scotland remaining in the UK, as its government seeks legislation for a second referendum on Scottish Independence.
But aside from the national question, COP26 next year will also be taking place in a city with its own unique story to tell — a story which can help shape our understanding of the crisis we are in. Glasgow was founded in the 6th century, and takes its name from the Gaelic for “dear green place”. In later years, this “dear green place” was transformed into an industrial heartland. It became a centre of shipbuilding in the 15th century, when vessels from Glasgow were used to transport slaves across the globe and plunder far-away territories. In the 19th century, Glasgow became the heart of the industrial revolution, processing the raw materials brought back by ships from the Caribbean and from plantations in the US.
However, the wealth that the ships brought back to Glasgow did not go toward feeding the people who built them. In a time where Glasgow was known as the “second city of the British Empire,” it was also a host to slums, extreme poverty, and an ever-more furious working-class. In the 20th century, Glasgow became a site of resistance, with its people leading movements that would transform workers’ rights across the country. Many of the same people would go on to travel to Spain to fight fascism in the 1930s, and those who returned brought with them a deep sense of local and global justice.
This history of Glasgow simmers beneath its streets, and when the COP comes to the city, it will bubble up over the surface. Questions of colonialism, of its legacy of slavery, of industry, of strikes, and of social movements, will frame our discussions when the world comes to town on equity, loss & damage, human rights, climate justice and the just transition.
Glasgow’s story is a common story to many cities in the ‘developed’ world. It encapsulates the historical exploitation which shaped our current crisis, the local exploitation that fuels global exploitation, and the need for urgent transformation to repent for the sins of the past. It also reminds us of the change that can occur when the oppressed refuse to take it any longer. When the COP comes to Glasgow next year, its people will be ready for them, and will let the negotiators know exactly where they are. 

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It’s Not Time to Say Goodbye

Dear Party delegates,

2019 has been a year in which millions of people have taken their demands to the streets (and hundreds to the halls of the IFEMA Conference Center), clearly voicing our discontent with the c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e lack of ambition to address the climate emergency.

With only 17 days separating us from 2020 — the year when global emissions need to decrease drastically — it’s high time to adopt an ambitious package here at COP, before going home and getting to work in our respective countries and communities.  We came here to hear your concrete plans on how you will enhance your NDCs by 2020 to ensure we limit warming to 1.5°C, and we didn’t hear much that inspired hope.

To prepare you for such an exciting year as 2020 will be, ECO has put together a list of the necessary ingredients for a truly transformative NDC:

This NDC will affect everyone, so include everyone; ensure a broad civil society based approach. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a TIP: process needs to be Transparent, Inclusive and Participatory.
A well-defined timeline for enhancing your NDCs, making sure they are complete by the end of August or, at latest, September.
A long-term strategy that will ensure a sustainable, equitable, and just transition of our societies, for people and planet, with real positive impact on the ground and at local levels.
A little bit of courage to make sure that, in spite of the lobbying efforts of big emitters and industry, we have ambition that embraces human rights, ecosystems and addresses the needs of the most vulnerable;

If you wrap these ingredients with the best available science — like the three very comprehensive special reports that you yourself ordered to guide your work and the IPCC has so kindly laid out — you (and we) will be just fine.

It is, once again, that time of the year when we depart from these halls. But now, with the NDC revision process knocking at your door, it’s not time to say goodbye. Rather, we’ll say: we’ll see you very soon, at home. And please do not worry, we’ll be there to make sure you unpack the ambition package properly.

Hasta luego!

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Voices From the Front Lines

At COP24 in Katowice, 14
accredited participants were stopped at the border and denied entry into Poland
so that they would not be able to attend the
COP. These people were from the Ukraine,
Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia.

After 1 year, it is still a mystery to ECO on how
the Polish authorities identified those climate activists as a possible
“threat to national security” of the
hosting country. Most of them were newcomers at international climate change
events, and did not have records of offences in Poland or any other country. ECO
hopes it was not like in the movies when police officers make their investigations
based off some paranormal perception of the future.

This year, we met Nugzar Kokhreidze from
Georgia, who had been denied the right to
participate in the climate negotiations by Poland and spent 4 days in the transit zone at the Katowice airport. He is
a friendly, cheerful,
and kind person and  it is still
not been made clear why and how he was selected as a person who poses a
potential threat to Poland’s national security. Now
at COP25, Nugzar has become one of the 12 people who were physically debadged
during a peaceful protest on Wednesday, December 11th. He has stayed optimistic
throughout the whole process and already made jokes about what will likely
happen to him at COP26. Although it helps to cheer each other up in these hard
times, these issues are no joke. We see that the media at COP is not covering
these stories widely enough. We see how negotiations are moving so much slower
than the climate catastrophe. And, to be honest, we are a bit scared that this
is the reality civil society will face from now on.

But we are also hopeful. We want you, the person who reads
this article, to spread the word as far and wide as you can. We want you to
support your local activists and maybe even join them. And we want you to cheer
each other up in hard times, like Nugzar did. Because we need to be strong and
we need each other in the forthcoming years.

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NDCs

Six long months ago CAN published a briefing on climate change and the SDGs which rightly
sought to bring the discussion way beyond goal 13 on climate change. In this,
it argued that efforts to achieve all the goals are dependent on efforts to
respond to global heating. The clue is in the ‘sustainable’.
Similarly, responding to the climate crisis depends on advances made towards
the development goals.

As the IPCC 1.5ºC
report said: “sustainable development supports and
enables the fundamental societal and systems transitions and transformations
that will help limit global warming to 1.5°C. It can achieve
ambitious mitigation and adaptation in conjunction with poverty eradication and
efforts to reduce inequalities”.

Several SDG themes (i.e. socio-economic sectoral categories) are
addressed by numerous climate actions, indicating that there are multiple
opportunities for policy coherence. This can be a major contribution of climate
action to the delivery of coherent delivery of Agenda 2030.

Analysis has shown that links between existing NDCs and the SDGs are
found in the areas of water, food and energy.

Despite environmental goals being represented in a bunch of the
NDCs, many countries do not make explicit plans to realise potential for
nature-based solutions that could help deliver SDG 14 (life below water) and 15
(life on land), as well as contributing to climate mitigation and resilience.

The social SDGs are highly under-represented in NDC commitments
compared to the environmental and economic goals; in particular health, education
and gender equality (SDGs 3, 4 and 5, respectively).

NDCs should reflect the findings of the IPCC
on climate-resilient development pathways and “the importance of addressing structural, intersecting inequalities,
marginalisation, and multidimensional poverty” to “transform the development pathways themselves toward greater social
and environmental sustainability, equity, resilience, and justice”.

Given the multiple connections between climate vulnerability and
poverty, more ambitious NDCs should account for social as well as the
environmental goals of Agenda 2030.

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Two Sides of the Same Coin: A Youth Perspective on Climate and Social Crisis

The twin traumas of social and environmental crises
are bearing down on citizens around the world, but political leaders lack the
passion and ambition needed to address thelooming catastrophe. In some places, they lack even simple acknowledgement
and acceptance. To get a better sense of what happens outside the walls of COP,
ECO spoke with youth from Chile and Mexico, and their experiences show how
stark the contrast is between the struggles of people on the ground and the
attitudes of their leaders. The people in charge could learn a thing or two
about working together from these youth.

What’s clear is that the climate crisis and the
social crisis are two sides of the same coin, and need to be addressed together
in order to fully be addressed at all.

Chileans are facing enormous challenges with their
government. And because COP25 was supposed to be there instead of here, let’s
hear from a Chilean youth as COP comes to a slow, unsteady end.

What the world, and even Chile’s own government,
doesn’t understand is how most Chileans are alarmingly exposed to the
disastrous effects of the environmental catastrophe. Because of extreme social
and economic differences, the 1% live comfortably and ignore the social issues
that affect the most vulnerable. People are waking up, but no matter how much
they protest, the government is not listening.According to politicians, youth have no voice to speak with.

It is inconceivable that there is not a single drop
of empathy from politicians who watch from afar while their own city burns to
the ground and rots from the inside out.

In Mexico, being an environmental activist is a heavy, dangerous task. ‘Disappeared,’ ‘found dead,’ ‘gone missing.’ These are words and phrases that we see in the news every day. Chilling images under countless names — as much as one tries to ignore the headlines, fear builds in our hearts — is the risk, the fight, even worth it? How can anyone expect people to fight the climate crisis when their own safety is being threatened every day?

Fear and safety are boiling issues in this country.
Mexicans face the displacement of millions, loss and extinction of species, and
the segregation of vulnerable groups like women and Indigenous Peoples. All
these issues are escalating on account of the climate crisis.

These are only a few of
the ways people’s rights are being threatened, and it’s time for countries to
address both sides of the coin. No one said leading a country was easy, but our
leaders signed up for it. And now it’s time for them to deliver.

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IEA: Where’s the 1.5°C Energy Roadmap We Need?

As countries make plans to ramp up their NDCs,
they need a 1.5°C scenario to help them chart a course away from fossil fuels.
On Tuesday evening, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Executive Director
Fatih Birol took to the plenary stage for the Energy Day Ministerial meeting.
Energy ministers from around the world shared the (still largely inadequate)
actions their countries are taking to decarbonize the energy sector.

Sadly, right now, the IEA is fueling
inadequate levels of ambition. The IEA has rebuffed growing calls to develop a
1.5°C scenario. Instead, the IEA, in its scenarios, prolongs our dependence on
fossil fuels — especially fossil gas. It’s so-called Paris-aligned scenario
only reaches net-zero by 2070, at least 20 years too late. The IEA’s World
Energy Outlook (WEO) is frequently used to justify major new fossil fuel
infrastructure, including coal in Australia, tar sands in Canada, fracking in
the Permian, and offshore drilling in the Arctic. All of these new developments
are incompatible with 1.5°C.

“Energy decision-makers need to make hard
decisions… The aim is not to increase our egos, but to decrease our energy
emissions,” said Birol. ECO couldn’t agree more. Now it is time for the IEA to
put egos aside and heed the science, the needs of its own members, the growing
calls from the financial community and the climate movement and create a 1.5°C
scenario.

On Thursday, a civil society coalition
interrupted an IEA side-event to deliver a petition signed by 12,000 people
demanding that the IEA create a 1.5°C-compatible scenario. Their voices were
amplified by leaders within the halls of IFEMA.

“1.5℃is
no paradise for the world’s most vulnerable countries. It is a compromise that
will still cost lives and livelihoods,” said Renato Redentor Constantino,
advisor to the Climate Vulnerable Forum. “There should be no question that a
1.5℃ scenario should be the centerpiece of the World Energy Outlook. It is what
we have all agreed on in the Paris Agreement, and it is a matter of life and
death. The IEA is a tool of wealthy, developed
countries that talk a big game on climate, and it is high time that they step
up.”

“Climate science clearly tells us we needed to
drop fossil fuels yesterday. And in the Permian Basin where I live, it’s not
just climate. Oil and gas expansion harms our health with toxic air pollution,
our property with earthquakes, and our lives with explosions. In every sense,
the Permian is a carbon bomb, and rather than defusing it, the IEA is holding
the match,” warned Lori Glover, Earthworks organizer & longtime Permian
resident.

If the IEA and Energy
Ministers start taking 1.5º seriously — as a life-or-death limit — ECO is
confident that they’d STOP excusing and permitting new fossil fuel
infrastructure; get moving on the necessary transition to 100% renewable,
regenerative economy; and cast off false solutions like “cleaner” fossil fuels.
If we don’t start planning for the energy transition needed for 1.5°C right
now, then the challenge will only grow steeper, imperiling our chances to
manage it in a fair and just way.

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Ray of the Year

The Ray of the Year goes to Scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

CAN does not often award Rays of the Day; to receive such an award requires a significant step forward on climate action and these happen lamentably infrequently. However, there is a body that CAN has decided deserves not only a Ray of the Day, but Ray of the Year.

  The winner of this prestigious award is…the Scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)!

  This award aims to recognize the amazing work of this Nobel Prize winning group of scientists. They produced three key reports in the past two years that provided the basis for all the work civil society is doing to pressure governments to accelerate climate action and decarbonize the economy. 

We applaud these scientists for providing the solid truth that we need to do more and we need to do it faster to save humanity and the planet fromm devastating climate change.

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Fossil of the Day

Our voices are being silenced and it´s not funny. 

Despite emptier hallways this evening, we continue to hold space even as our colleagues are shut outside in the cold simply for raising their voices for a better future and climate justice.

Today, the UNFCCC security deserves a fossil but we had previously decided to give it to a few nasty countries and we won’t let the UNFCCCs bad behaviour derail us from commenting on the negotiations.

Today we award the first place fossil of the day award to Japan for rejecting the opportunity to commit to climate ambition and coal phase out.

It is hard to describe how deeply disappointed we are with Japan’s announcement — or  lack thereof — today. 

Japan’s Environment Minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, said Japan rejected yet another opportunity to improve its “highly insufficient” emission reduction target and to end financing for coal.

Since 2012, Japan has built 15 new coal plants; an additional 15 NEW domestic coal-fired power plants are currently under construction. This deadly buildout would make it impossible for Japan to achieve its already insufficient target, let alone raise ambition.

Japan also continues to be the world’s second largest financier of coal-fired power plants overseas. The country argues that its “highly efficient” coal-fired technologies contribute to the lives of people in developing countries, however,  the science is clear: coal has to be immediately phased out everywhere in the world if we are to have any hope of limiting warming to 1.5ºC. 

As a rich country, Japan had a golden opportunity to show leadership in responding to the science and charging ahead with transforming and decarbonizing an industrial economy.    

Japan’s continued conduct and support for dirty coal is an international embarrassment. Let us say: “How dare you, Japan?.”

The second Fossil of the Day award goes to Brazil for legitimizing land grabbing and deforestation.

Bolsonaro rewards criminal gangs and ignites a carbon bomb.

  Elected under the promise of bringing law and order to his country, Brazil’s far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro gave criminal gangs quite the Christmas present last night; he sent Congress an executive decree that grants a wide amnesty for land grabbing, the single most important driver of deforestation (hence carbon emissions) in Brazil. The new legislation, which still has to go through Congress, states that if you invaded and clear-cut public land as of 2018 you can still get land titles. 

In the best possible case, the move will allow the additional deforestation of 1.6 million hectares (the size of England) and the emission of 650 million tonnes of CO2 in the next seven years. What’s worse, this sends a political signal that crime pays. We simply can’t control deforestation if we don’t stop criminal land grabbing. In the past, Brazil managed to drive deforestation down by controlling the invasion of public land. It appears that Brazil has become the country where environmentalists go to jail — if they are not killed — and criminal land invasions get the stamp of legality. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, upon hearing that Greta Thunberg tweeted about Indigenous Brazilians assassinated for protecting their land, Bolsonaro called her a pirralha, or “brat”. It seems like there are no limits to the idiocy of this President and his Ministers.

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To the Responsible Parties of the Paris Agreement, From the Youth of Australia

Right now, the youth of Australia are not being listened to by our government, even though the impacts of the climate crisis are here now. Sydney and regional NSW are blanketed with smoke from catastrophic bushfires, with fires all across the country, and air quality 11 times what are hazardous levels.

Yet our government is trying to use an accounting trick to get out of acting on the driver of these devastating fires, climate change. Energy Minister Angus Taylor has continuously made misleading claims about the government’s reduction in emissions. Taylor claims Australia will meet its targets 7 years ahead of schedule, which is untrue.

A meaningful global target for Australia would be at least a 45% reduction. Yet Australia’s target under the Paris Agreement is 26-28% by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050. The Morrison government wants to count surplus emission reductions credits earned as Kyoto Credits. With these credits, Australia’s expected emissions reductions will be just 16% - not at all our fair share. We need to do something about this. We need to stop countries like Australia from being able to “cheat” their way out of real action on climate change.

Climate change is causing unprecedented drought and resulting in our bushland and forests drying out like never before, even in ancient World Heritage Listed rainforests that have never been subject to bushfire. We students have long lives ahead of us, and we don’t wish for this to be the new normal; but if sufficient action is not taken, it may well be the reality.

Climate change is already affecting us all and will continue to get worse, especially for those on the front lines and for Indigenous peoples. They are dealing with food shortages, land loss, water shortage, and loss of connection to their culture. All while the Australian government takes their land and sells it to mining companies for their own profit.

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Adaptation Has To Be in the Mainstream

After a frustrating series of negotiations leading to bland compromises on unblocking funds for poor countries to make plans, a toothless criticism of the committee charged with ambition, and an unseemly struggle for control over the accounts, adaptation has been stranded at this COP.

The clue is in the name: climate change. When things change, we have to adapt to the new circumstances. What could be bigger than a change in the climate? Albert Einstein once described the environment as ‘everything that isn’t me’. Change that, and I have to adapt everything I think, plan, and do.

Of course, mitigation would be best. But, where we find ourselves today, adaptation has to happen. Millions of people are already faced with fundamental challenges: more frequent droughts, flooding, and storms threaten food security, ways of life, and basic rights. US$13.3 billion in adaptation finance is far below the $50b goal. The Adaptation Finance Gap report from 2016 tells us that adaptation costs could increase up to $300b by 2030.

Without a concerted effort by international institutions like the UN, adaptation will be a piecemeal effort with insufficient resources used inefficiently and ineffectively. The Global Commission on Adaptation is a start, but 1 year of action is certainly not enough. The theme should be more action, every year. We need long-term and predictable action. 

LDCs and other developing countries are called to submit their NAPs by 2020, yet, there is still a lack of support in conducting this important but resource intense process. At COP26, adaptation should no longer be beached, but be swimming along in the mainstream of climate action.

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