Blog Posts

Voices from the Frontlines: Fleeing the Climate

Have you ever thought about what you would do if the climate changed the place where you live? When climate impacts hit, impacting your life and livelihood, you have to decide: stay or go. In the driest corridor of Central America, it has been years since rainfall catastrophically decreased.

When the El Niño and climate change made life unsustainable, Yensi Marisela and her husband decided to move to Tegucigalpa. There he found work, and she joined a factory in a special economic zone. Some time after, the son of one of her friends was murdered in a shootout. The insecurity caused by gang activity, cost of living, and the lack of dignified work meant Yensi returned home, while her husband stayed and sent money home.

The drastic change in rain patterns have ruined the harvest in the Dry Corridor, where 60% of people already live under the poverty line and rely on subsistence agriculture. This is a humanitarian crisis aggravated by climate change in which migration is often the only viable option. Migration often occurs within country borders or towards Costa Rica and El Salvador, and more recently, there are increased migration flows towards other international destinations. 

Studies on the gendered impact of climate change show an increased flow of female migrants toward Spain and the US as housekeepers. Others migrate towards urban centers and work in factories under harsh conditions, and some families migrate seasonally to harvest coffee beans; schools in Honduras have even adapted their calendars to accommodate student absences from December to March.

In El Salvador and Guatemala, climate migrants are largely men who migrate to cities to find work and send money back to their families; women at home must take on additional duties to take care of their families and farms. Not owning the land that they work on adds extra stress to the situation. Water wells have dried up, increasing the workload, and when these women participate in adaptation projects like seed banks, agricultural cooperatives, and water reserves, they are not consulted and often end up doing more work than before. The Gender Action Plan would support these women – this is one more reason to ensure it is unlocked here in Madrid.

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Just Transition Needs Fast-Tracking, Here in Madrid

Well, after already delaying a year, it looks likely that the 6-year work-plan for the Forum on the Implementation Response Measures has stalled, though discussion continues, facilitated by a pair of Ministers. 

While it sounds nice to include “recalls the imperative for a just transition,” in the draft decision, let’s be honest, there is NO action in remembering something. That is just unacceptable. 

This round of negotiations started out promisingly as countries began to discuss issues related to a fair, equitable, and just transition from a dirty fossil-fuel energy economy to a 100% clean, renewable one. But, they also demonstrated how difficult and critical these issues are, particularly if countries want to ensure (as they should) that the transition protects the rights of Indigenous communities, workers and unions, youth, women and gender constituents, people with disabilities, frontline communities, and other structurally oppressed groups. 

A just transition – if done right – will jumpstart new social and economic development with a more resilient and democratic economy, while increasing climate ambition. It is, therefore, central to every country’s effort to decarbonize. Yet, equity and justice continue to be divorced from ambition goals, NDCs, finance, and other commitments, siloed inside one single forum. The fact that Response Measures continues to stall underscores the need to address just transition issues head-on in all actions that need to happen to combat the climate crisis. 

ECO therefore urges the Conference of the Parties to include just transition goals in ambition and finance, and in the Decisions of the Parties, urging all Parties to incorporate within their revised NDCs just and equitable transition plans for and led by all workers, labour unions and communities impacted by the energy transition. We cannot afford to wait any longer as just transition and economic diversification discussions under the UNFCCC continue to be kicked down the road. They must be treated with the same level of urgency as other elements of the COP agenda.

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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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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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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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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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Multilateral Development Banks Promise Paris Alignment: but won't say when they'll stop funding fossils.

The nine multilateral development banks (MDBs) -- which include the World Bank, the Asian Investment Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank among others -- have an outsized influence on the private finance landscape and on countries low carbon development pathways. 

As public *development* banks, who are mandated to act in the public good, they should be at the vanguard of the all-important provision of Article 2.1c – “making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

It seemed they got off to a good start -- they first promised to align their financial flows with the Paris Agreement in 2017! But they’re yet to come up with the goods and a timeline ever since. On Tuesday at COP25, ECO waited with baited-breath for another much-anticipated joint announcement, but instead was greeted with a dizzying array of impressively content-free flowcharts, assurances their framework would show “some projects are Paris-aligned and others are not”, and a promise that full implementation won’t happen until 2023-2024. Another smoke and mirrors powerpoint presentation! It seems politics trumped science on this occasion.

If public banks who are literally mandated to do sustainable development want to wait until 2023 to implement a framework that will eventually get their finance aligned with 1.5°C, we hate to think what the plans of the private arm of the financial sector might look like. 

ECO has three pieces of advice for the MDBs to get their act together: (a) end support for all fossil fuels by the end of 2020, (b) rapidly scale up investments in renewables and energy access for the communities most impacted by climate change, and (c) report transparently on finance levels and portfolio emissions. 

There is still hope. The Santiago Action Plan released by the 51 members of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action on Monday highlights MDBs as priority institutions for Article 2.1(c). And just last month the European Investment Bank (EIB) passed a policy to phase out lending to almost all fossil fuel projects after 2021 (even for gas!), with dedicated and robust packages for energy efficiency and just transition. There is no reason whatsoever why the other MDBs can’t follow the EIB’s lead, communicate with their clients that continued investment in any fossil fuels creates a risk of stranded assets, and demonstrate that they are going to support a zero-carbon pathway. And why not also announce plans for major investments in renewables while you’re at it, starting with those who lack access to reliable energy services? 

 
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Australia gets a big ZERO on climate policy – is it possible to be that bad?

 Last week ECO exposed the Australian Government’s role in pushing for use of carryover units from the Kyoto Protocol to meet a large portion of their already very low Paris NDC for 2030 – ECO likened this to a runner wanting to start a race at the half-way point, rather than at the starting line. That’s obviously not fair or responsible (ECO might say it is even cheating), especially when the race is about stopping catastrophic climate damage.

 

This week ECO can reveal it’s even worse than that! The Australian government has updated their plans on carryover and is now trying to use it for almost 60% of their NDC, to avoid a whopping 411 million tonnes of carbon abatement. This gets right to the heart of ambition and their genuine commitment to meet responsibilities under the Paris Agreement.

 

Australia’s strategy in Article 6 negotiations to ensure use of Kyoto carryover is basically a ‘nothing to see here’ strategy. After all, Australia is reportedly the only country admitting that it will use carryover credits to meet its Paris target, and seems to be hoping the issue will just slip by.

 

But early in week two of COP25, their cover was blown, after the Guardian Australia reported that as many as 100 countries, led by Costa Rica and Belize, formally challenged Australia and called for a ban on the tactic, including text to be inserted into the rulebook.

 

It’s difficult to think of a more cynical way for a country, especially one with arguably the best renewables potential on earth, to reach an already shamefully low 2030 NDC. That’s why ECO is calling on all countries to weigh in behind Costa Rica and Belize in banning the use of Kyoto units in this way.

 

Against this backdrop ECO can’t help but report on the results of the annual Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) – the global comparison of 57 countries plus the EU –released by Germanwatch, New Climate Institute and Climate Action Network at COP25. The CCPI covers countries representing 90% of global climate pollution and makes it clear which countries are leading and which are lagging behind on a range of indicators that relate to greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, renewable energy, and climate policies.  

 

ECO was shocked to see that on a 100-point scale, the Australian government, which is claiming to be taking meaningful action on climate change, scored a zero (yes that’s right, zero!) on climate policy. By any interpretation, that score indicates a massive failure. This makes it clear why the Australian government is trying so hard to use sneaky carryover credits to meet its international responsibilities.

 

 
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Knowledge without rights is extraction

ECO is pleased to share our platform with the Indigenous Peoples Caucus to amplify their unique and individual voices.

 

Bushfires have been raging across the illegally occupied lands of Australia for the past few weeks, wiping out homes, displacing communities and threatening wildlife populations to the point of extinction. Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai, Gunditjmara, Djab Wurrung Woman reflects on the way that disregard for indigenous rights and knowledge has resulted in what is now an uncontrollable situation. She says, “the logging of old growth forest in the name of jobs continues to strip the earth of moisture and throw the ecosystem out of balance.” This has contributed to what has been one of the driest summers to date. 

 

The traditional practice of burning, a form of fire management that has been used successfully for thousands of years by her people, has been ignored and misused. She says “the way the Department of the Environment go about their business is not in line with our traditional ways of protecting and preserving country.” As residents throughout Australia are subject to the devastation of these fires, environmental groups are finally coming to the realisation that indigenous knowledge and practices are a vital part of ongoing climate solutions.

 

These fires however are just the tipping point of what has been centuries of colonial exploitation of resources and people. Some examples include the ADANI Coalmine (a massive extractive project bordering the Great Barrier Reef), nationwide hydraulic fracking, and the continued threat of highway construction in places which would uproot 800 year old Djab Wurrung birthing trees. All of these examples are connected and exemplify the way in which the Australian state governments have continued to trample over indigenous rights as suits their economic and political agenda. 

 

As recognition of the importance of indigenous knowledge grows, there must be an equivalent push to advocate for and protect indigenous rights. This includes rights to sovereignty over lands, and the rights to enforce practices of stewardship in line with indigenous customs. You can’t have indigenous knowledge while the community that holds that knowledge continues to suffer – taking knowledge without giving or supporting rights is extraction. 

 

 

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Eeh... You! - What About Your Ambition?

We, the European Youth, want to remind all country delegates that are already comfortable with the current development at COP25: we did not meet in Madrid for a second-class climate conference, but to decide on the crucial remaining subjects of the Rulebook and – of course – to take the urgently required next steps: increase efforts and reach the ambition we need! 

After one week of polished and largely unproductive negotiations, we are still awaiting proof of your commitment and ambition. There is one thing, civil society and the climate need: a clear promise and decision from member states to enhance their NDCs in 2020 at the latest. 

And we have one Party we want to focus on: what is your next step, EU? Your Parliament declared a climate emergency and you, new Commission, have promised to put climate action at the core of its activities. Yet, here at COP25, no official statement has been made about when you will step up to raise ambition. Come on, we know you just got started, but climate change is not really waiting for you to decorate your offices...

COP25 is the time for the EU to choose whether it wants to be a “Climate Champion" or to slow down action. It’s not only about the fact that the current EU NDC is way too weak and needs significant improvement to make sure that the 1.5°C target is reached, it is also about the EU being the third largest carbon emitter, behind China and the US. Ambitious commitments from the EU, agreed upon early enough in 2020, will set an example for other parties to follow  – the EU could be a Champion again. Don’t give us all the details now; an announcement to go for a carbon reduction of 65% by 2030 would be a fine start! 

If you agree that world leaders and the EU in particular, should jump start the second week of negotiations with some greater ambitions, join us in calling for it!

 

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