Tag: COP19

Typhoon tragedy shines light on need for action at Warsaw climate negotiations

[Warsaw – Poland] – November 11, 2013: The major UN climate negotiations of the year opened today against a backdrop of tragedy with more than 10,000 people expected to have been killed in the most extreme Typhoon to have ever hit the Philippines.

According to the IPCC, such typhoons are expected to become more frequent and more extreme if the climate continues to change.

Speaking at the Climate Action Network opening press conference, Dr Alicia Ilaga from the Filipino delegation, said the devastation caused by the Typhoon highlighted how important it was that these talks agree to establish an mechanism in the UN to deal with the loss and damage caused by climate change.

“I bleed for my country, I bleed for my people who have been buried and washed away,” Dr Ilaga said. “We are investing in renewable energy, we are trying to adapt, but we cannot bear this burden on our own.”

Climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. That industry is having unprecedented access to these negotiations at the behest of the coal-dependent Polish Government, through corporate sponsorship and the  Coal and Climate Summit being held next week.

Julia Michalak EU policy officer from CAN Europe said that if the Polish Government wanted to be taken seriously on the international stage, it needed to prove it deserved to host this year’s climate negotiations.

“The Polish Government can show it cares about future generations by abandoning plans to build new coal mines, ceasing to block EU climate action including discussions around an ambitious 2030 carbon pollution reduction target,” Michalak said.

While the tragedy of the Philippines disaster cast a pall over the opening of the climate negotiations in Warsaw, it should give parties a wakeup call to come up with concrete steps to urgently reduce carbon pollution and provide funds for poorer countries to take their own climate actions.

“The Polish government’s flagrant fossil fuel agenda should not deter parties from pushing hard for positive outcomes in Warsaw. This is no time for low expectations. We expect vision and leadership on the path to Paris in 2015,” said Tasneem Essop, WWF Head of Delegation to COP19.

ON DEMAND WEBCAST of PRESS CONFERENCE AVAILABLE HERE: http://unfccc4.meta-fusion.com/kongresse/cop19/templ/play.php?id_kongres...

For more information or for one-on-one interviews with NGO experts, please contact Climate Action Network International’s communications coordinator Ria Voorhaar on +49 (0) 157 317 35568 or rvoorhaar@climatenetwork.org.

Climate Action Network (CAN) is the world’s largest network of civil society organizations working together to promote government action to address the climate crisis, with more than 850 members in over 100 countries.
Climate Action Network-International


The Topsy-Turvy Land Downunder

You may have heard that things have gone a little awry in the climate downunder.

Not only has Sydney just had the worst bushfires ever in October (mid-spring!), this year saw national temperature records broken month after month after month. After the hottest day ever across Australia in January, the Bureau of Metereology had to include a new colour for much hotter levels of hot. And perhaps this is no surprise -- now the heat seems to have gone into the heads of the politicians.

Despite the fact that the majority of Australians want action on climate change (as made clear by extensive exit polling at the recent election), the new government sacked the independent Climate Change Authority (which provided independent scientific advice on climate policy), and is in the process of repealing Australia's carbon price and limit on pollution as well as its legislated commitment to 80% reductions by 2050.
Say again? With more than 40 countries, states and provinces around the globe implementing a carbon price, the new government is falling backwards, scrapping Australia’s pricing scheme and moving to an inefficient government funded scheme that – wait for this! -- pays polluters to pollute.

But unfortunately, there’s even more. What about Australia’s ability to meet the middle or upper end of their 5% to 25% 2020 target range? Seems to be gone in a flash. Other countries should sound alarm bells and question Australia’s intentions to contribute its fair share to cut global pollution and limit warming.

The new Australian government is hardly inclined to take climate change seriously -- but they must.


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So Where's the PUBLIC Finance?

ECO’s ears are hurting from the deafening noise developed countries are making around private finance as being the key to scaling up climate action and meeting the $100 billion target.

Maybe we are just finding it hard to see, on the evidence provided, that developed countries are really trying hard at all to mobilize enough public finance to address developing country needs for mitigation and adaptation. It’s hard not to conclude that maybe they’re just trying to get away with as little public finance as possible. But so far, the sad reality that since the end of Fast Start Finance, developing countries have been given no clarity on the future scale of public finance they can work with.
Worst of all, most developed countries’ climate financing levels have either plateaued or decreased. And it also turns out most public finance reported to be available in actuality is recycled ODA or loans to be repaid. Do developed countries really expect the private sector to fill the climate finance gap as it continues and even increases investment in the multi-billions in fossil fuels each year? ECO's sense of humour does not stretch that far.

Meanwhile, ECO has been doing some homework too. Here’s the maths for those private finance-loving Parties.

While surely the private sector must be involved in fixing the climate crisis, private investment won’t reach many of the most vulnerable countries and communities, especially for adaptation. So US $100 billion of public finance will be the key -- and a small price to pay for avoiding subsequent trillions in irreversible loss and damage.

And if climate finance is to be used partly to catalyze climate-friendly private sector action in developing countries, given the scale of investments needed (in excess of $1 trillion, so we have heard), the $100 billion must be all public.
Getting both immediate pledges for pre-2020 finance and a roadmap for how we’ll scale up public finance to (at least) $100 billion by 2020 is crucial – both for actual climate outcomes and for trust in these negotiations. If ECO were a smart cookie/developed country Party, scaling up public finance would be right at the top of its (finance) ministerial agenda in Warsaw.


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Perplexing Poland

Has the Polish Government been taken over by the Yes Men? (That would be the somewhat erratic outfit with a penchant for highlighting the superficial and often self-serving follies of leading institutions and firms).  ECO asks this only rhetorically, of course -- at times the back and forth made our eyes cross.  But let us explain.

There was that somewhat mad posting a few weeks ago on the official COP19 website about the economic opportunities that the Arctic ice melt would bring while chasing pirates, ecologists and terrorists off the seas.  
The Yes Men stepped up to claim credit, sort of.  The whole thing left everyone quite perplexes, including the Polish government.

But then the story got better (or really, worse). Check out the official COP iPhone application. It actually greets you with this opening message: ‘Climate changes are natural phenomena, which occurred already many times on earth’. So why worry, huh?! ECO has been wondering whether an accompanying ringtone is coming, maybe “Que sera, sera”…

Inviting 12 fossil industry firms to sponsor the COP, including only the anti-climate lobby Business Europe in the pre-COP and – to top the madness, actually organizing a global coal summit in Warsaw alongside the COP, complete with a “Warsaw Communiqué ”?
All this would push the envelope even for the Yes Men.

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From Talk Shop to Action Shop: A Modern Fable

“Mommy, before you go to work, tell me again the story about how ships and airplanes saved the world…”

“Sure, dear. Back at the beginning of the century, believe it or not, most people weren’t very sure that we could avoid a climate catastrophe and still give the world’s growing population a long, prosperous and happy life.

“Government diplomats met over and over again at big international meetings and mainly told each other why their countries were already doing more than they needed to and why other countries should do more. Just like mommy and daddy arguing over who should wash the dishes after dinner.

“But their most clever and silly arguments were about ships and airplanes. They even argued about where they should argue about this. They would argue in one meeting that voting was against everything they stood for, and in the next that voting was healthy and indispensible. ”

“But why would they do something silly like that, mommy?”

“These diplomats weren’t quite sure how to blame each other for pollution from ships and airplanes, because it happened in between countries. And if they couldn’t blame each other, they had to come up with new arguments. The people who owned their own ships and airplanes came up with clever arguments for not doing anything, which many diplomats repeated enthusiastically.

“But they never argued so much as when one group of countries got tired of all the arguing and decided to actually do something to control pollution from planes visiting their countries. That got other countries arguing even louder, especially those who listened most closely to the owners of ships and airplanes.

“But what they worried the most about was that success in controlling pollution from ships and aircraft might encourage efforts to reduce the rest of the pollution.

"Some rich countries thought all the ships and planes should get the same treatment. Some poor countries (and some richer ones who still wanted to be treated like poor ones) thought this was the worst idea in the world, because if all ships and airplanes were treated equally, then all cars, steel mills and coal plants might also be treated equally. ”

“But, mommy, you can’t cross the ocean in a car or a steel mill, right?”

“That’s right dear, so the arguments went on and on. Until one day they stopped. No one was quite sure why. Perhaps they got tired of arguing. Perhaps because a meeting happened at the same time as the most powerful typhoon ever in the world hit one of their countries, which made them think about what might happen to all of them if they didn’t stop polluting.

“Whatever the reason, they decided that ships and aircraft had to do their fair share to save the climate.

"They set limits for emissions from these sectors and made sure they paid for their pollution, and used part of the money to make more efficient ships and planes, and the rest to help poor countries develop without polluting, and to adapt to climate disruptions.

“The world was so thankful to the diplomats who made this happen, that the other diplomats decided they should stop arguing for doing nothing and find solutions for the rest of the emissions as well.

“And that’s why now I can be the captain of a ship with almost zero emissions, so efficient that on a good day it gets most of its power from the wind. Now I’ve got to get on board and raise the sail. Promise me you’ll study hard while I’m gone.”

“Mommy – I’m so proud of you. See you on Skype soon!”


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Christiana Figueres letter

Several organizations, including ActionAid, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oxfam and WWF, sent a letter to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres asking her not to participate in the forthcoming ‘Coal and Climate’ summit. Due to the provocative and problematic nature and timing of this event, ECO presents an excerpt below.

Your Excellency,

The undersigned organizations write to raise very serious concerns regarding the upcoming UN Climate Conference in Warsaw, Poland.

It is abundantly clear that to prevent the breaching of critical climate tipping points and potential catastrophic climate change, we must stop the extraction and use of all new fossil fuels sources, particularly coal, the most abundant and dirtiest fossil fuel in use today. Therefore it is outrageous that the World Coal Summit on invitation of the deputy Prime Minister of Poland will take place at the beginning of the second week of the climate negotiations.

In light of the above, we were very troubled to learn that you as the ‘voice’ of the climate change convention (UNFCCC) have agreed to address this Coal Summit. By doing so we believe you would give it much more public attention and add your own (considerable) credibility to an event that should not be legitimized. This could contribute to undermining civil societies’ campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground rather to burn them on the backs of future generations, and to promote a just transition to renewable energy.

With respect, we ask that you withdraw from speaking at the Coal and Climate Summit. We need all of our leaders to promote green jobs and a just transition towards sustainability. This requires providing a clear commitment to work closely with those governments and sustainable businesses who want to lead the world towards a zero emissions and sustainable future in the interests of all global citizens, not the polluting industries which are undermining the intergovernmental process and the ultimate objective of the Convention.

We recognize that this is a difficult request and we do not make it lightly. However, we would appreciate a public response and would in any event welcome the chance to speak with you further next week.

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Adaptation Fund: Progress and Peril

Will the Adaptation Fund (AF) come to a standstill next year?

Only three years after the first call for proposals, the AF has approved 29 concrete adaptation projects and allocated US $200 million. It has entered new ground with its direct access modality.
Just a week ago, the Board of the AF approved a comprehensive environmental and social policy, including capacity building support for developing country institutions to meet the substantive requirements.

Delegates should really have a look at the annual report of the Adaptation Fund Board. The AF has made remarkable strides in very tough circumstances, and yet things are actually getting worse.  

The main funding source of the AF, the “share of proceeds” of CERs from the Clean Development Mechanism, has now almost totally dried up. Early in 2012 the AFB estimated it would have another $200 million from that source during the year. Instead, CER prices collapsed and only $17 million was delivered.
The AFB also set a fundraising goal of an additional $100 million by the end of 2013, to be met mostly from direct contributions by Parties. But only 4 pledges were made since then (brave Sweden weighed in twice), amounting to only roughly $40 million.

And yet some good has come out of it. The new funds were immediately turned into action, since a number of projects have already been approved by the AF but were just waiting for money to come in. But the targeted $100 million will be used up fast and there is an urgent need to replenish the Adaptation Fund.

Could it be that other developed countries were just holding their pledges so they could make them at this COP? ECO, of course, is ever-optimistic. Developed countries that constantly confirm they stand by their goal to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 will surely not argue they can’t find $100 million to support urgently needed adaptation actions.

So who's next? ECO will carefully record every single million pledged at this COP to save the Adaptation Fund. We might even suggest that participants at the world coal summit might want to chip in, but suspect they will be distracted by other matters than helping those who need help the most.

But let’s not forget how far the Adaptation Fund has come and where it is going. This is the starting point of a longer journey to 2020 (remember that $100 billion?) and beyond. Making good on climate finance promises requires this COP to deliver much more – making finance available immediately for 2013-2015, a global finance roadmap to 2020 including scaling up plans from each country, and much more.

We all must learn to walk before we can run.  Meeting the $100 million goal of the Adaptation Fund should be a scene-setter for the early days of week 1 in Warsaw – giving ministers a jump start on the bolder stuff that gets us on a path to $100 billion.

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The New Unnormal

“If not us, then who?  If not now, then when? If not here, then where?” Those words of Philippine lead negotiator Naderev Saño touched the hearts of all COP18 attendees in a powerful speech just one year ago, just after Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) struck the southeastern Philippines and killed more than 1000 people.

Who could imagine that just one year later this country would face the most powerful and strongest storm ever to touch land – Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), with a death toll that might surpass 10,000, and millions more affected?  These real losses of lives and physical damages occurred despite strenuous efforts to avoid such a disaster.  It points to a new world where there is no more normal.

ECO would like to express its solidarity with the Filipino people, and grief for those who are suffering  and those who died from this storm.  Haiyan appeared so magnificent in the photos from the space shuttle, and yet so utterly devastating to millions on the ground, and especially to girls and boys who lost their fathers and mothers, and to the parents who lost their children.

This monstrous storm scored an unthinkable 8.1 on the 8.0 Dvorak scale (causing consternation from meteorologists worldwide).  Yet it appears sea surface temperatures (SST) ahead of the storm, while above average, were not exceptionally high. 

Even small changes in SSTs dramatically amplifies these giant storms.  As the oceans continue to warm from the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, what will the years ahead bring to the nations and communities that already are the hardest hit?

The IPCC WG1 report, approved by the same governments sitting here in Warsaw, concluded that in a warmer world, extreme precipitation events over the mid-latitude land masses and over wet tropical regions will very likely be more intense and more frequent. We are creating a climate in which the Haiyan of today may be the ordinary unnormal storm of the future.

Last year’s typhoon was a wakeup call, and there have been many other extreme events in the following months. And the mainland region where Vietnam and China adjoin is now being pounded by the “remnants” of Haiyan that by any measure is still a very dangerous storm.  The Philippines itself may even be facing another five major storms during this season.

If 200 mph sustained winds aren’t a loud enough wakeup call, the world is going deaf.  In the coming days we will fully see the reality facing the most vulnerable regions – but we will also see their heroism and determination to rebuild stronger and safer.

In a story on Sun Star, the respected Philippines e-news site, the nationwide climate activist alliance Aksyon Klima Pilipinas stated, “The Warsaw conference should therefore produce real gains mainly in the form of more climate funds and less greenhouse gas emissions.”  

The question we lay before the Parties assembled in Warsaw is this: Are we going to stand with them and do all we must to help them?


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Which Way for Warsaw?

And so here we are once again -- with a hop (Doha), skip (Bonn) and a jump (Bonn the sequel) we’ve landed back in Poland for another COP.  

Indeed, it’s been a busy few months with the IPCC AR5 report from Working Group I out (and shutting down the deniers), both China and the US taking explicit action to curb coal, and some movement from the Montreal Protocol negotiations and even the ICAO.  We are excited to see whether this momentum plays out in Warsaw, but you can tell we’re also a bit worried.

ECO welcomes our readers to Poland!  [despite the inappropriate scheduling of coal conferences]  So what’s in store over the next two weeks?  

In the coming days, we can see some wild cards on the table.  How will the Russian et al. objections be reconciled? How many lawyers will the US bring out of the woodwork to ensure no mention of ‘compensation’ crops up?  

But there are also some positives.  With the completion of the Kyoto Protocol and Bali negotiating tracks, negotiators will feel less of a burden from those complicated flow charts that tried to keep up with seven negotiating tracks at once.

And the simplified schedule should also concentrate minds on the key issues that urgently need to be addressed.  Progress here in Warsaw on finance, loss and damage and pre-2020 ambition is essential to build trust and to lay the foundations for an ambitious and effective 2015 agreement in Paris.

We must also see much greater clarity at the end of these two weeks on the process and timeline for countries putting forward their proposed post-2020 mitigation pledges -- and for developed countries, their indicative post-2020 financial pledges -- as well as a clear process for a full and meaningful review of those pledges well in advance of Paris. That review must assess both the collective adequacy of the pledges against the global temperature limitation goal, and their individual fairness against a set of equity criteria and indicators.

Parties need to go home from COP 19 fully aware of their homework assignments to build up their post-2020 pledges in order to put them forward in 2014. They also must focus on ways to close by 2020 the substantial Gigatonne Gap (with a third UNEP update on hand just last week).  And the homework assignment there is quite clear: raise the ambition of existing pledges and enhance cooperation on deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, phase-out of HFCs and other key efforts.

ECO hopes our COP hosts will move the process along smoothly, despite being preoccupied by hosting their other summit with the World Coal Association.

ECO would like to remind the government of Poland that along with aspiring to be an emerging international player comes more responsibility.  

The World Coal Summit reinforces the structural bias of the global economy towards fossil fuels (which quite frankly, dear readers, need no helping hand!).  But it is also distinctly dismissive towards those countries facing an existential threat from climate change.  

So, fully noting our bewilderment at the COP host's strategy, ECO hopes that the new, slimmer version of these talks results in a make-over as to how Parties engage.  
They must roll up their sleeves, put aside their well-known talking points (the ones we can all recite now without looking at our notes from previous sessions), and make real progress on finance, loss and damage, pre-2020 ambition, and the way forward to deliver the ambitious and fair post-2020 agreement the world demands in Paris.  

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