Blog Posts

Viennese Treats: Mozartkugeln and HFCs

 

Mozart-a-what, you ask? Why, the small, round sugar treats made of pistachio marzipan and nougat, covered with dark chocolate. The Mozartkugeln! Delicious, endorsed by ECO, and a perfect accompaniment to good climate news. Parties to the Montreal Protocol recently made progress, in Vienna, towards adopting an amendment to phase-down HFCs this year, with huge benefits for the climate.

Parties finalised text on the financial mechanism for the HFC phase-down, as well as on the finance, intellectual property and linkages with the HCFC phase-out. Progress was also achieved on key elements, when Parties put forward options for baseline ranges and consumption freeze dates. Before you help yourself to a second Mozartkugeln, ECO would like to remind you that important work still remains to be done so that the HFC phase-down agreement will achieve a generous amount of emission reductions.

In light of Paris, it is imperative to aim for the most ambitious phase-down schedule possible with an agreement this year in Kigali. If Parties are wondering what can be done to make Kigali a feast; how about a reminder to MOP negotiators that they should honour the Paris Agreement when trying to come to a deal in October?

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Brexit: Keep Calm And Up Your Global Climate Leadership

June 23: the day those careful, reserved Brits voted to leave the EU. Wow. The outcome sent shockwaves around the world. Alas, the climate keeps changing and ECO hasn’t stopped demanding that the UK, and the EU’s other 27 member states, shoot for higher climate ambition.

In practice, the UK won’t leave the EU until 2 years after they trigger “Article 50”—which, rumour has it, will not happen until 2017. In the meantime, the UK, the EU and its other 27 member states will all need to ratify the Paris Agreement. Brexit may be an upheaval, but it is not an excuse for delaying ratification. ECO calls on the EU to speed up its effort sharing decision and show that collaboration on climate must persist regardless.

And as for the UK’s own leadership on climate change, ECO was not impressed when it heard the UK was merging their climate department with business and industry. Some stressed the opportunities to be gained through integrating climate considerations into industrial projects, but it’s up to the UK to prove them right. The final outcome remains to be seen, but, dear United Kingdom, ECO will not let you off the hook.

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Aviation Climate Deal: Global Must Mean GLOBAL

2013 saw governments, industry and NGOs come together in an attempt to do something about ever increasing aviation emissions. Part of the plan is a global, market-based measure to stabilise net emissions at 2020 levels, primarily via offsetting. This was set to be agreed by Parties to ICAO at its next assembly in late September this year. Success is essential–after all, international aviation alone has a climate impact equal to the 129 lowest emitting countries combined.

With the deadline approaching, ECO is dismayed to see silos emerging. Just because international bunkers are not part of the Paris Agreement, Parties can’t try to shift responsibility to others. It’s time to work out a deal that’s fair to all. All countries must act so that aviation emissions, everywhere, can fall to reach 1.5°C. Historically, developed countries have produced the majority of aviation emissions—the EU and US combined account for 40%, for example. However, developing countries are fast catching up, with some large developing countries growing at 2 or 3 times the global average.

Developed countries, especially the US, appear to be trying to take advantage of how their emissions grew rapidly in previous decades to craft a deal that places little to no obligation on their airlines. Many developing countries are ignoring the Paris spirit of “we’re in this together” by trying to opt-out entirely. On that note, ECO salutes Mexico for agreeing to join from the very beginning.

A comprehensive deal with global coverage, fair to all, is urgently needed. It’s not just a case of opting in or out. The deal itself must have environmental integrity. As the measure will heavily rely on offsets (and to a lesser degree on biofuels), it must have strong and transparent rules to keep out those dodgy offsets (and biofuels) that don’t represent real emission reductions elsewhere, or that undermine sustainable development..

Like the Paris Agreement, this global measure will be a starting point–not the end game. The proposals on the table are a step forward, but they don’t get the aviation industry anywhere near a fair or sufficient contribution to our 1.5°C benchmark. This starting point will become a false start unless everyone pulls their weight. ECO asks every country to do their bit in Montreal!

 

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Human Rights: the Pre-Marrakesh Homework

 

While formal climate negotiations will only reconvene in November, other UN bodies continue their work to support the full implementation of the Paris Agreement. Their respect of the UNFCCC mandate means that climate negotiators still need to play their own part.

In early July, the Human Rights Council adopted a new resolution on human rights and climate change. Other human rights bodies, such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, are also scheduled to focus their work in the coming months on the implications of climate change.

Even though the Council had already adopted resolutions on climate change and human rights in the past, this year’s resolution was unique in emphasising heavily the role played by the UNFCCC on these issues. The resolution recalls the language included in the Paris Agreement affirming the necessity for Parties to respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights when taking climate action. It also emphasises the need for early ratification and effective implementation of the Agreement, and calls upon states to consider, among other aspects, human rights within the framework of the UNFCCC.

But the Council was careful not to step on the toes of climate negotiators, refraining from adopting any prescriptive conclusions. Instead, it leaves to climate negotiators the task to determine how the rights-based approaches mandated by the Paris Agreement will need to be implemented.

With about 100 days left before the COP, delegations still have time to consider how the outcomes of COP22 can ensure that human rights and core social principles are fully integrated to climate policy, to deliver benefits for communities, too. ECO is hopeful that many of the submissions prepared in the coming months will already articulate some of this vision.

 

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Breakfast of Champions: A Guide

Pre-2020 climate action is a prerequisite for delivering on the 1.5°C goal. At current emissions levels, the carbon budget for a strong likelihood (66%) of keeping warming below 1.5°C could be exhausted in as little as 6 years. If more is not done now, the Paris Agreement will be too little, too late.

ECO has long supported the notion of high-level champions as a way to foster concrete near-term climate action by unlocking the necessary attention and support for this issue to deliver more, faster and now. ECO is delighted by the active engagement of the first two champions, France’s Laurence Tubiana and Morocco’s Hakima El Haité; as well as by Morocco’s vision of COP22 as an “action and implementation COP”.

A strong and ambitious roadmap for the champions’ work, with the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) and enhanced pre-2020 action under the UNFCCC at its heart, will reduce emissions, increase resilience and help mobilise support for further action.

1) ECO fully supports the situation analysis and appreciates the recognition of the need to prioritise pre-2020 action. We want to highlight the need for more means of implementation for pledged action to further increase ambition.

2) Given the mandate of the champions stems from the need to close the pre-2020 ambition gap, champions should tailor their engagement as much as possible to facilitating the implementation and scale-up efforts in this period. They have a critical role to play in unlocking synergies between government and non-state action, and should not focus exclusively on either.

3) The success of the GCAA will rest on its criteria and accountability measures. The champions must ensure the robustness of the criteria for participation and accountability of the results. Adequate upfront information should be provided on initiatives to ensure transparency, effectiveness and replicability to scale-up the initiatives, aiming for large scale mitigation and adaptation action.

4) Technical Expert Meetings (TEMs) have important roles to play for mitigation and adaptation. The mitigation TEMs have proved their value by bringing, nay, allowing, discussions of specific policies and measures, such as renewables and energy efficiency into the UNFCCC and by fostering efforts such as the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative. They now need to focus more on identifying and overcoming common barriers that countries face to scale-up ambition. The adaptation TEMs (TEM-A) are an exciting new opportunity, but to ensure success, Parties need a common understanding of the value added compared to other adaptation processes,.

5) Champions should help foster the full potential of UNFCCC institutions and initiatives set-up to deliver early action, by reestablishing  trust in the NAMAs as a vehicle for increased ambition, and fully operationalising and implementing REDD+.

As a very last point, ECO must also emphasise that pre-2020 climate action cannot be limited to the UNFCCC. Beyond potential synergies with the SDGs, champions should also consider investing their political capital to support ambitious agreements under the Montreal Protocol, the IMO and ICAO, to rectify any inconsistency between them and the Paris Agreement. Pre-2020 climate action is not a niche, but a necessary common effort.

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Patricia Espinosa, Welcome!

Ms. Espinosa—a hearty welcome back to the climate scene in your new role as UNFCCC Executive Secretary. Now is a crucial time for action, and we don’t want to waste it with formalities, so let’s just say—bienvenida y muchas felicidades.

We know that you have already rolled up your sleeves for the big tasks ahead. ECO will be a true companion in your new adventure—providing useful insights on the UNFCCC negotiations throughout your journey. We hope that you will be an advocate for climate issues on all fronts, to ensure the importance of the climate change is elevated to the level required for enabling true global action. Here are some pointers for the way ahead:

With the diplomatic success of the Paris Agreement behind us, we are now moving from ratification to implementation. ECO counts on you to play a central role in ensuring early entry into force and fostering increased ambition from countries to close the emission gap and get on track for 1.5ºC.

In the appointed high-level champions on the Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA), you have 2 powerful advocates to help strengthen the pre-2020 process and early action. The Technical Examination Processes for mitigation and adaptation need to be results-focused and identify concrete next steps to overcome barriers to scaling-up specific, credible and impactful initiatives. The success of the GCAA rests on the robustness of the criteria for the participation and accountability measures in place.

To increase ambition on climate action, a careful process will be required to ensure that the 2016 and 2018 facilitative dialogues and the 2023 Global Stocktake are successful. These are key institutional elements, and ECO strongly advises their careful design and planning, including the modalities of the Global Stocktake. These are moments to enhance political momentum and increase ambition.

Civil society plays a pivotal role in all aspects and levels of effective climate policies. ECO has constantly raised concerns about shrinking civil society space in the UNFCCC, with increased closed meetings in informal negotiation settings. ECO counts on you to take up this matter to ensure that the UNFCCC adheres to the principles enshrined in the Aarhus Convention. Civil society can play a key role in getting countries to revise their inadequate NDCs and to maintain momentum for increased political will.

Finally, the geopolitical and macroeconomic issues in leaving fossil fuels behind us are huge. They involve powerful multinationals transforming their business models and entire countries transforming their economies. But it must be done, and we need leaders who are willing to say this repeatedly and openly. ECO hopes that you are one of these many needed leaders.

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Show Us the Money

 

As nations consider whether to introduce a new, improved technology framework in advance of COP22, ECO has a plaintive question for delegates: Is this the year when you plan to show us the money?

COP veterans can trace debate over the technology framework back to COP7 in Marrakesh. ECO has heard about the fundamental dissatisfaction with the current tech framework and its limited utility in meeting the Paris goals. ECO has also seen developing countries driven into successive rounds of technology needs assessments (TNAs), project registries and bilateral/multilateral funding mechanisms. At every turn, precious time has been spent developing funding methodologies and accountability tools, so that projects could roll out.

It’s been a long and tortuous enough process to leave ECO counting the grey hairs on its head.

They’re much more plentiful than they were the last time we were in Marrakesh!

With the momentum and ambition that nations worked so hard to build into the Paris Agreement, COP22 must set the stage to turn TNAs into fundable projects. We need institutions that can move with lightning speed to mobilise funds, build capacity and introduce structures that make it easier for countries to adapt and adopt the technologies that pretty much every nation wants.

A successful mechanism will also require institutional architecture that enables developing countries to set their own technology priorities. That will mean transferring the “software” as well as the “hardware”. Solar panels, grid-scale batteries and soil remediation technologies will help developing countries to function as full participants in the Paris implementation. But they’ll also need the information, analysis and know-how to put those systems to use.

Countries started the technology dialogue the last time the COP was in Marrakesh. Let’s close the loop and get the right solutions in place when we go back this year.

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Forget Forecasting and Back Backcasting

We’re all familiar with forecasts. There’s not much to be done if you’ve planned your Sunday picnic when it’s set to rain. All that’s left is hoping, often in vain, that rain will turn into shine. Let’s flip this idea of looking into the future on its head. Instead of forecasting what is likely to happen, how about backcasting? If we know where we want to be, we can work backwards and plan how to get there!

Tackling climate change and enabling sustainable development dominated global negotiations last year. Successfully addressing these interconnected, mutually dependent challenges is essential, via the development of national long-term strategies for sustainable development and decarbonisation.

So let’s put backcasting into practice: we first need to know where we want to be. In Paris, countries agreed to pursue efforts to limiting global warming to 1.5ºC. To achieve this, a global phasing out of fossil fuels and phasing in of 100% renewable energy will be required by 2050, if not well before. By working back from 2050 to now, we can plan our path to get there individually and collectively, ensuring that we have time to change tracks if needed. The development of national long-term strategies for sustainable development and decarbonisation will provide us essential guidance on the impact of our current policy-making decisions., It is likely to show that achieving our long-term goals will require taking urgent action now. The more we raise our ambition in the short-term, the less steep emissions curbs will need to be in the future. See the logic?

For governments, backcasting through ambitious long-term strategies represents a significant opportunity to assess and plan for how their development needs and priorities fit. Furthermore, the resulting policies are likely to provide several co-benefits, while also contributing to countries’ fulfilment of both the aims of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of the 17 SDGs. Long-term planning will avoid locking in high carbon infrastructure and send a strong signal to the private sector, creating a positive policy framework for businesses to make informed decisions for shifting financial flows to climate-friendly investments.  

Recent discussions at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development show that political momentum is building in the recognition of the need to address these challenges synergistically. The Paris Agreement requires long-term strategies to be delivered by 2020, but several countries have indicated they will deliver sooner than this. Between now and the facilitative dialogue at COP24 in 2018, there is a real opportunity to ramp up global ambition on climate change.

 

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A Roadmap in the Making

 

August may be a month of vacation of many, but ECO is thrilled that developed countries are spending these months working on their roadmap, instead of their tans. It’s great that Parties want to show how they will fulfil their $100-billion-a-year-from-2020 promise.

An obvious starting point is to provide projections as to how levels of public and private finance will increase. Given that there will be a temptation to just extrapolate some shiny figures derived through questionable accounting methods, ECO suggests that, in both cases, public finance and mobilised private finance, should be accounted for through robust annual plans on how these levels will be reached. Don’t even think of simply applying some random leverage factors or anything of that sort from old trick tool box.

The roadmap should spell out scenarios for different sources, instruments and channels to back up the projections. It could also be an opportunity to show how it is possible to overcome existing barriers to achieve such scenarios, for example through massive support for capacity building and readiness measures, and accelerating implementation of direct access models for accessing finance.

For ECO, and more importantly all those severely affected countries in urgent need of adaptation, it would be a real downer if the roadmap were not to include a projection on how adaptation finance will increase significantly over the next couple of years, following the call from Paris. The roadmap should include a target level for the amount of annual adaptation finance to be reached by 2020.

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The Pre-2020 Opportunities Package

It’s on everybody’s lips and on everybody’s mind: COP22 is going to be the Action COP. The Moroccan presidency will need to do their utmost to start closing the ambition gap with concrete action on mitigation, adaptation and support. ECO invites Parties to join the incoming presidency in its efforts to build on the spirit of Paris.

The 2016 facilitative dialogue, finance high-level event, agreement on a capacity building work program, engagement of the high-level champions, and the high-level event to strengthen cooperative initiatives within the Global Climate Action Agenda can all be harnessed to help drive greater ambition.

The COP22 facilitative dialogue should aim to capture over-achievement by various countries and regional groups on the Cancun pledges, and should explore how NAMAs in the UNFCCC NAMA Registry pipeline could be supported to unlock potential short-term mitigation ambition even before Marrakesh. ECO also calls for developed countries to have a close look at what concrete sectoral commitments they can bring to the table.

At SB44, we saw the first ever technical expert meetings (TEMs) on adaptation, and two TEMs with follow-up dialogues on mitigation. The biggest challenge is converting the TEMs from a knowledge forum to an implementation one, developing a synergistic relationship with the various institutional bodies within UNFCCC and the broader Action Agenda.

ECO warmly welcomes the appointment of Laurence Tubiana and Hakima El Haité as the global high-level champions for pre-2020 climate action. In the next month, both must focus on developing a roadmap, which should lay out strategies to scale up transformative initiatives, and address the barriers to rapid deployment of climate-friendly technologies identified by the TEMs. They must also focus on championing the emerging Action Agenda.

Morocco should work transparently with France, Peru, the Secretariat, and the UNSG’s team to develop the necessary light-touch institutional infrastructure to strengthen the Global Climate Action Agenda. ECO proposes the establishment of a small permanent support team and funding arrangements, with clear links to the on-going UNFCCC technical examination processes for mitigation and adaptation.

There also needs to be an agreed set of criteria to bring initiatives into the Action Agenda. While it’s encouraging to follow the science-based target setting of some progressive business coalitions, it’s maddening to see the continued green-washing and sometimes blatant lying of the laggards (#ExxonKnew). ECO worries that giving the UN stamp of approval to such actors will not only undermine the credibility of the UNFCCC and the Action Agenda, but also put us further away from 1.5°C.

Then there’s the role of non-Party stakeholders. The Action Agenda must be about facilitating, enabling, and amplifying the interplay between states and non-state actors (with the exception, obviously, of those fossil fuel laggards!).

All these intended national actions cannot be scaled-up without the necessary finance. COP22 provides the opportunity for developed countries to finally “put their money where their mouth is,” enabling developing countries to upscale their NDCs. And to think about how they will move innovative sources of finance forward.

Lastly, capacity building will be the key to unlock much of the adaptation and mitigation potential of developing countries in the coming years. At COP22, Parties need to get the Paris Committee on Capacity Building (PCCB) off the ground to address gaps and needs, both current and emerging, to build capacity in developing countries.

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