The shiny walls of the Maritim have a history of isolating negotiators from the troubles of the real world. While record floods have been devastating parts of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, forcing thousands to leave their homes, business as usual has continued undisturbed in this calm and cosy UNFCCC bubble.
But yesterday ECO caught the scent of a fresh breeze of science and reality! It was when the 2013-2015 science and adequacy review kick-started with a reality check workshop. While scientists were at the podium, civil society was on the microphone and on the wall through Twitter. Thumbs up for the Secretariat and the Chair!
Here’s the good news: According to the Hadley Centre, meeting a 1.5 degree C limit is still possible. Sure, there is a low probability, OR it could be a rebound after a temperature overshoot of at least several decades. But despite these caveats, it’s still possible.
The bad “news” is that reality is closer to worst-case scenario put forward by the IPCC in 1990, which is why this adequacy review is crucial.
ECO recognizes there is a risk Parties will end up reviewing everything from the first UNFCCC document they ever read to the adequacy of the Maritim sandwiches (not adequate). This will only result in a bloated reiteration of what we already know, without clear conclusions, recommendations and decisions.
ECO expects the review to, firstly, assess the scale and nature of irreversible damage, human misery, ecosystem losses and risks related to tipping points that could be avoided if warming were limited to 1.5 degrees instead of 2. The structure of the review – including its process and the inputs it receives - must serve this key question, with special focus on the most vulnerable.
Secondly, yesterday Parties were warned about the fundamental importance of early peaking of global emissions if we want to achieve any tolerable temperature limit. This core consideration should guide the adequacy review.
Thirdly, the review should help put us on track in preventing climate chaos. It is not just another technical exercise. This is our opportunity to learn from past mistakes in order to set meaningful targets and deliver on commitments. The review must focus, from the beginning, on drawing actionable conclusions from the plethora of assessments that already exist.
The long-term goal, targets and commitments in the 2015 agreement must be based on the review findings. But the review must also guide enhanced short-term action (think ADP Workstream 2), with decisions to be taken in 2013 and 2014. The iterative nature of the review and the workplans of both the Joint Contact Group and Expert Dialogue should allow for this.
Finally, ECO was glad to observe that both presenters and Parties recognised that assessing the adequacy of a temperature goal or countries’ action is not only a scientific exercise. Eventually, guided by science, value judgements will have to be made. So close involvement of civil society should be obvious. In reviewing how governments are doing in meeting their goals, non-governmental organisations are essential to transparency and accountability. In making a value judgement of adequacy, involving civil society, and in particular the voices of those most impacted, is fundamental. ECO is looking forward to the first meeting of the Joint Contact Group, scheduled for Friday morning.