Blog Posts

BreakFree: the voice of vulnerable but defiant

Written by Amit Kumar, Pacific Islands CAN Leadership Development Fellow

The Pacific Island countries and other Small Islands Developing States have learnt the hard way how climate change impacts our islands. While we continually prepare for worse to come, knowing that extreme changes are happening in our climate at an unprecedented rate, the coal and fuel fossil industry is constantly searching for opportunities to develop, in pursuit of new operations.

In the Pacific, many of the poor and vulnerable do not have a voice to represent their concerns and hardships. They may not know the science behind unexpected changes in weather patterns they experience firsthand. They are puzzled, as such unpredictable changes in climatic patterns is beyond the scope of their traditional ecological knowledge, but they know it is driven by a force other than the nature.

Therefore, we need organisations and/or movements such as Break Free to represent our voice and act with us and for us where we cannot reach. We are grateful that Break Free is calling for action with local and international organisations, grassroots groups and coalitions, to join a global movement for a transition to 100% renewable energy.

As a Pacific Islander, I support BreakFree for a positive change to the just transition to 100% renewable energy for an economy that I know possible with lower ecological footprint. A  100% renewable energy and green economy has already been demonstrated by some countries. Bhutan is a great example.

Pacific Islanders are afraid that our lands are reducing in size and our invaluable ecosystems that support our livelihoods are being ruined. It is better now than tomorrow to start the transition to 100% renewable energy, so that we leave the remaining carbon in the ground. In this world of possibilities, let’s not procrastinate. Right now, for a greener future, we Pacific Islanders are urging organisations, coalitions, groups and networks to join BreakFree take action to resolve the transition off fossil fuels.

 

 

An opportunity worth taking

In his final blog as a Leadership Development Fellow, Amit Kumar reflects on his time in the programme. 

It is rare to find a opportunity in the Pacific Region’s civil society sector which aims to build capacity and leadership skills of young professionals who are inspired to work on climate change and sustainable development. But CAN’s Leadership Development Programme did this for me.

I was fortunate to come across this opportunity through my colleague and have been able to experience working at the regional level and witnessing sophisticated policy making processes at the international level by attending COP21.

The LDP Fellowship with CAN International has allowed me to work with Pacific Islands’ Climate Action Network (PICAN) whilst gaining valuable experience in areas such as organisational (network) strengthening, policy making, advocacy, campaigning, developing website content, and using social media to deliver key messages efficiently and effectively.

Policy making, advocacy and campaigning were areas that I really needed to develop upon prior to engaging in this programme. The LDP fellowship offered this opportunity as part of their capacity building agenda. Being actively involved in these areas of the programme has increased my confidence  to use my skills and abilities independently.

One of the best parts of this programme was attending the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 in Paris. Active involvement with the CAN-Secretariat during COP 21 allowed me to access high-level plenary sessions and enabled me to directly report for the entire CAN community. In the end, I accomplished my desired objectives, although being part of the CAN-Secretariat demands  a lot of passion for the cause.

During COP21, I was able to gain good insight into the strength of civil society to influence governments to accommodate our feedback on thel agreement. I closely followed the negotiations processes and saw that the enormous amount of work in the run up to COP21, done by academics, delegations and professionals across all sectors and disciplines had to be negotiated within a very short two week period – an immense workload and psychological burden. Eventually, the Paris agreement - a 30 page long document - was agreed upon.   

The entire programme has provided an instrumental experience that aligns very well with my future professional goals and my master studies. PICAN’s flexible working hours and virtual office    arrangement allowed me to study and work simultaneously.

It was my first experience working in a virtual office and it felt like I was working in a face-to-face environment. The Climate Action Network community operates in a close knit virtual environment setting and continues to effectively engage its members across the globe. I am very confident that the knowledge and skills I gained from this programme will support me in the next level of challenges.

 

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. 
 

Ambition: Don’t Leave Paris Without It

As we move into the final hours of the climate negotiations here in Paris, the outcome could go one of two ways. We will either achieve a Paris agreement that accelerates the transition to a global economy based on 100% renewable energy, allows us to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and helps vulnerable countries cope with the impacts they are already experiencing. Or we will leave Paris with a least common denominator agreement that sees important elements left on the cutting room floor. ECO insists that ministers overcome their differences and work together to craft the ambitious, effective, and balanced agreement that the world expects, needs and demands.

Such an agreement must include a reference to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees and a long-term goal that makes it clear to investors, businesses, and citizens that the fossil fuel age is over, and the transition to the age of renewables is unstoppable. It must include five-year cycles for review and revision of INDCS, with the first review by the end of this decade. With continued declines in the costs of renewable energy and efficiency technologies, all countries should be in position to increase the level of ambition of their initial INDCs before they are finalized in the new agreement. This will be facilitated by greater clarity and predictability of post-2020 developed country climate finance, supplemented by voluntary contributions from developing countries who wish to make them.

The Paris agreement must also address the needs of vulnerable communities already experiencing the impacts of climate change. It must increase the share of public climate finance going to adaptation activities and help countries deal with loss and damages such as the cost of dealing with sudden disasters like typhoons and slow-onset impacts like sea-level rise and drought.

Getting such an agreement over the next 24 hours requires some shifts in the negotiating positions of a number of countries. Eco wasn’t in the Indaba last night, but we have been informed that the United States, Japan and the EU took a very hard line on several aspects of climate finance, especially on short term collective goals. Leaders from these countries called for a strong Paris agreement; their ministers and negotiators must be more forthcoming on the climate finance issues if we’re going to achieve such a result.

ECO is told that a number of developing countries, including India and China, pushed back against some of the good language in the most recent text on issues including the long-term goal, five-year cycles, and independent verification of national reporting on emissions trends and actions. China and India are both taking impressive actions at home, and their leaders have acknowledged the urgency of acting on climate change. Both countries must work in the last hours in Paris to find acceptable compromises on these issues. They are essential elements of any agreement that strives to hold global temperature increases well below 2 degrees C. Turkey proposed deletion of language on developing countries providing climate finance on a voluntary complementary basis,” apparently because Turkey itself isn’t willing to do so. And Russia objected to the reference to 1.5 degrees C, calling it arbitrary.

We’re informed that Saudi Arabia played an especially unhelpful role in last night’s Indaba sessions by, amongst other things, trying to weaken the temperature goal, delete references to the need for global peaking of emissions, and drop the paragraph urging countries to reduce support for high-emission investments. This behavior must stop, or the Saudis must finally acknowledge that they are placing their short-term financial interests above the long-term survival of vulnerable communities and their own citizens.

In sharp contrast, ECO hears that a number of countries, including Angola, Brazil, Egypt (on behalf of the African Group), Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa, played very constructive roles in last night’s negotiations, striving to find bridging solutions to some of the difficult issues. We thank these countries for operating in this spirit, and urge others to join them.

Last week, the more than 150 world leaders here in Paris projected a sense of urgency and a clear commitment to reach an ambitious and equitable agreement – one that will give the world hope that we can come to grips with the mounting climate crisis and leave our children and grandchildren a livable planet and a safer cleaner future. ECO calls on ministers and negotiators to operate with the same sense of urgency and commitment, and to bring a strong agreement to tomorrow’s closing plenary–one that addresses the well-documented ambition gap between the temperature limitation goals and aggregate emissions reduction commitments and that assures vulnerable countries that they will receive the help they need to cope with the increasingly serious impacts of climate change.

In the months and years to come, Paris will either be seen as a transformational moment, or as a tremendous missed opportunity. The outcome is in your hands; please choose wisely.

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‘Round Midnight

As ECO went to press, the Committée de Paris had just resumed its work again. The outcome of the final round of negotiations is still uncertain. That need not stand in the way of a hard-nosed analysis of the new text, though, with the really big issues still left to be decided. Overall, ambiguity is the mot de vogue with several decisions still bracketed yesterday now ‘simply’ postponed. ECO makes a final plea to ministers and their heads of state, who will be asked to weigh in at the last minute:

Ambition
Parties chose to land in the ‘well below 2°C’ zone, while still pursuing a 1.5°C warming limit. This is, however, not compatible with GHG emission neutrality somewhere in the second half of this century. Full decarbonisation, with no tricks (like non-permanent offsetting and geoengineering), is needed and should be what those who claim to be ambitious fight for!

Differentiation
The endless variations in the new text trying to reframe the Convention’s preambular ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions,’ [ECO’s emphasis] are a reflection of a genuine global struggle to come to terms with new realities. ECO does not romanticise the past, nor ignore historical responsibilities. The Paris Agreement can only deliver on its goal if all respect the Convention in full.

Finance
Which brings us to means of implementation. The floor of US$100 billion seems to now be established. But the agreement does not enough to ‘shift the trillions.’ ECO believes the Paris Agreement sends a signal to investors about the long-term direction. It pays lip service to setting a carbon price. Yet, Parties are about to fail in their duty of care, which would make them commit to finally end all fossil fuel subsidies, stop financing carbon-intensive investments or indeed commit to divestment.

INDCs
That the current INDCs, many of which are conditional on adequate international support, are not enough to limit warming to well below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, is acknowledged and shockingly taken for granted. For now, there is no plan to close the resulting gap. We do not need to wait until 2018 for the IPCC to tell us that the pathway we are on forecloses limiting warming to 1.5°C. Independent assessments have already shown that developed countries in particular are lagging behind. The facilitated dialogue in 2019 merely opens the door for countries to rethink their lack of ambition. In 2025, ECO does not want to be looking back on the Paris Agreement, and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight judge that this was a grave error. The five-year cycles of updating and enhancing #### (shall we just call them NDCs?) can start immediately upon entry into force.

Loss and Damage
The fight for loss and damage continues in dark corners of Le Bourget. To the most vulnerable, we say: Stay strong! To the blockers: You let the genie of liability and compensation out of the bottle. Please put it back in, as nobody is calling for it in this agreement.

Transparency, MRV and Compliance

After a decade of building confidence and trust through these talks, the Paris Agreement still reflects the fear that transparency on implementation and meaningful review of outcomes could be punitive. Shining a light is something ECO has done since 1972. In light of the bottom up character of the INDCs and the facilitative nature of the proposed review we urge all to lighten up and embrace transparency.

On a related note, ECO always understood the Durban mandate was ‘to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties,’ to mean an international agreement would have some teeth. Simply put: the bracketed wording on ‘compliance’ needs to be included in the Paris Agreement.

Human Rights

ECO is shocked that countries have surgically removed human rights from the core climate change agreement.

A broad coalition of civil society organisations and indigenous peoples have come together to collectively support joint text for Article 2, the heart of the agreement. All attempts were made to keep it simple for Parties. Instead, civil society’s voices are being ignored. You forgot that you represent us. You forgot that your job is to speak for us.

President Hollande: When you said that ‘COP21 would be a new step for human rights’, what exactly did you mean?

ECO praises Mexico and other champions for their work in promoting human rights in the operative text of the agreement. We owe it to the world’s vulnerable—those least responsible for and most impacted by climate change.

Today, Friday, a new moon will rise over Paris. ECO still has hope it will mark a new era. The change that is needed takes all of you. Soit brave!

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An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

Some countries (including Saudi Arabia) have questioned the scientific basis for the need to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C. ECO would like to remind everyone, but especially these countries, that Article 3.3 of the Convention (remember it?) states that ‘Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimise the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures’. ECO calls upon Parties to enhance their implementation of the Convention to fulfil this agreed mandate.
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Carbon Markets: All Cards on the Table

The new draft text still features brackets around the sustainable development mechanism provision. Decisions to be made in the next 24 hours include whether offsetting will be allowed (please, NO!), whether developed countries will be able to play the offset generation game, accounting rules, guiding principles and a share of proceeds for climate finance purposes.

ECO suggests:

  • Disallowing the use of offsetting. To achieve the 1.5C goal, we need to focus on emissions reductions
  • Enhancing inclusion of ’environmental integrity‘. by inclusion of the additional principles‚ real, permanent, verified and supplemental for any international exchange of mitigation outcomes under this mechanism
  • Elaborating how to avoid double counting. ensuring a corresponding adjustment by both Parties for an exchange of mitigation outcomes covered by their ###
  • Establishing eligibility rules to participate in carbon markets. If offsetting is to be allowed (against ECO’s stern advice) developed countries should definitely not compete with developing counties for project financing. It would be inequitable. Use of international credits should be supplemental to ambitious national action. Only countries with absolute, multi-year targets (budgets) should be allowed to engage in markets
  • Aachieving sustainable development.  Given the goal of the mechanism is to support sustainable development, there should be a work program agreed to develop modalities for sustainable development indicators and a ‘do no harm’ assessment.
  • Crating new and additional climate finance. Agree a share of proceeds on all use of markets including in 3.20 (and ideally universally)
  • Achieving net atmospheric benefit. Any new offsetting mechanism (still not listening to ECO??) should reduce emissions through the cancellation of a share of credits used.
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Response Measures: Lost in Transition

Developed countries in the Convention must ‘take into consideration’ the impacts of the ‘response measures’ [in 4-2-8(h) and 4-2-10]. An interpretation is that victims of mitigation measures such as energy efficiency or alternative energy policies in the North could be compensated for decreased sales. This idea, regularly put forward in the UNFCCC by the Saudi Arabia, is mostly seen as an insult to vulnerable countries such as SIDS, where impacts of climate change are of a much greater magnitude.

Now that a wave of energy transition is sweeping the world, with 100 big cities and 43 vulnerable countries committing to 100% renewable energy, and insistence that oil should stay in the ground, no Party can be seen as responsible for lost sales of oil products. Markets, recent technologies and individual actions by citizens or businesses are responsible for this development, not Parties.

This concept shouldn’t be a laughing matter anymore. Diversification by fossil fuel dependent industries or countries is not only necessary for the climate. It also makes business sense.  A new article in the draft (4-9-e former 4-9-f in L6), applicable to all Parties, insists on ‘resilience of socio-economic systems’ and on ‘economic diversification’.

Fortunately, some progress is being made on this unilaterally. Saudi Arabia’s GDP (market exchange values) in 2014 was about US$753 billion; the value of its total export was about $373 billion, of which oil alone stood for $285 billion. The value of oil revenues has declined to only 38% of its GDP. Saudi Arabia should be proclaiming its success, and showing others how to  diversify their economies in such a way. The Saudi example demonstrates that there is no need for Article 3.15’s cooperative mechanism to address the adverse effects of response measures.

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