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News

Updates from COP23

07 Nov 2017

Follow this page for regular updates from our COP 23 reporter/co-ordinator, Alexander Pfeiffer.


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 12 (Week 2), Friday Nov. 17, 2017

Young European Leadership: Millennials, Accepting the Challenge. Braver, Further, Faster.

by Shrina Kurani

These past two weeks have been the ultimate convening of experts and the people in a position of power to put that expert knowledge to work. But today, the Young European Leadership had its first Press Conference at COP23! After two weeks at COP23, we gave an update on what we learned, and rallied our generation to accept the challenge and have the courage to stand up to how things have always been done - and accept failure.

It’s this risky propensity for failure that allows a new generation of climate entrepreneurs to test the limits of every assumption. Climate change at its core is about tipping points - limits to our current condition and the assumptions that come with it. While climate science continues to quantify and assess these limits, solutions continue to operate in the current paradigm of “this is how it’s always been done”. In battling a progressive issue, scientists are conservative in how they problem-solve, and how they communicate. And this is how climate entrepreneurship can take up the mantle - the world around us is not made up of change makers that were the first to solve a problem for society. They didn’t open the doors to those solutions, but they did close the door behind them. In the world we live in now, accelerating towards injustice, the doors are all open. We’ve been trying so many different solutions, from negative emissions to nature-based, and we need to keep trying - and not be afraid to fail, to change how things have always been done. Because how it’s always been done has gotten us to where we are now - and where we are now is not where we want to be.

As YEL has attended COPs since COP21, we aim to increase the impact of YEL going forward. We’re eager to join forces with other organizations from all sectors to work together to discuss solutions that not only Europe, but the entire world faces. As we look towards COP24 and beyond, we ask ourselves and other groups with similar missions, what can we do to be better and make this strong impact?

Climate sociologists and historians wrote a book from the perspective of year 2400, about how we failed. What we need is a perspective from year 2050 that narrates how we succeeded - and the scary future we narrowly avoided. There is a major disconnect in how we communicate climate science, and the juxtaposition is apparent at COP23. It is a convening of the greatest minds with the intention to save the world. They do great work and research, and they’re the world’s climate idols. But they’ve been negotiating for 23 years since the first COP. And in the past 23 years, their work hasn’t quite cut it. Because what it takes, at this point, is to be courageous. Courage to stand up to how things have always been done, courage to take action despite uncertainty. And what we, as Millennials, bring is that courage. This year, the theme of COP23 is “Further, Faster, Together”. Our theme is “Braver, Further, Faster”. Because when you’re all dead, we’re going to have to deal with this.

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Shrina Kurani is an impact investor based in San Francisco, supporting entrepreneurs tackling big problems. 


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 11 (Week 2), Thursday Nov. 16, 2017

Transformation by Education: education day at the climate conference

by Alexander Pfeiffer

Today was Education Day at the COP. Just like Gender, Farmer’s, and African Day, the theme day today was heavily structured around its leitmotif with side events, high level panels, and actions. It kicked-off in the morning with a high-level event with UNFCCC Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco. Both stressed the importance of education for climate change. They also re-emphasized that much more must be done to make sure that countries and organizations work together to achieve a widespread awareness and understanding of climate change in the broad public. As Patricia Espinosa put it: “Transformations don’t happen in isolation, they require education and they require partnerships.

High-level event with Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco, UNFCCC Secretary Patricia Espinosa, and the choir of Bonn’s young climate ambassadors

Education has a special and important role in fighting climate change. In fact, it is important enough to be mentioned in a dedicated article (one of only 26 articles) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Article 6 (‘Education, Training, and Public Awareness’) states that to effectively fight climate change, participating nations (parties) shall “promote and facilitate […] the development and implementation of educational and public awareness programmes […]; public access to information […]; public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses; and training of scientific, technical and managerial personnel.

To understand the reasons for and impacts of climate change is important for grasping the urgency of why we must act to reduce CO2 emissions decisively, and why we must work on adapting societies and economies to prepare for the climate change that we can no longer avoid. Article 6 emphasizes the role education, training and public awareness play. Climate change is the entry point for a global transformation to a sustainable future. Everyone has something to learn and to contribute to that transformation. Education and training enables society to be a part of the solution.

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Alex is a delegate in Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 10 (Week 2), Wednesday Nov. 15, 2017

Climate Change and Health

by Casey Catherine Miller

Picture Credit: http://graduateinstitute.ch 

“We’re only as healthy as our planet.”  Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, spoke those words at a COP23 side event on the connection between health and climate change. Climate change is a complex issue, with fingers impacting everything from agriculture to political conflicts.  When it comes to health, climate change is greatly impacting something important to everyone -- the ability to live and lead a healthy life.

The impacts of climate change on health are many.  Rising temperatures alone will lead to heat stress, more air pollution, and more frequent and stronger extreme weather events.  Changes in weather will allow diseases and disease-carrying insects to travel to further.  A recent study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is clear about this topic -- heat related deaths alone will increase mortality in all regions if actions are not taken. The World Health Organization has stated that these impacts will target women more than men, and children will be particularly affected.

There are a few benefits of climate change’s impact on human health. In terms of climate change communication, many people see climate change as a serious issue, but one that does not, and will not, impact them.  The threats of climate change can seem like problems that may impact people on a small island in the Pacific, or future generations.  By focusing on the health impacts of climate change, we can exemplify how climate change is not a problem for people in another location or future generations, but everyone, everywhere, right now.

Our focus now needs to be threefold. There needs to be work done to reach the goals set out by the Paris Agreement to lessen the impact on human health.  For those impacts we’re already facing or can no longer mitigate, we need to increase public health outreach.  Lastly, we need to use the knowledge of climate change’s impacts on health that we have to show people that climate change is a problem that is here now and can, and will, impact everyone.


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 9 (Week 2), Tuesday Nov. 14, 2017

Gender and Climate Change: what is that all about?

by Alexander Pfeiffer

Many days at the COP have a theme. Depending on the theme, several side events take place on that day, discussing topics concerning that subject. There are, for instance, Africa Day, Education Day, Farmer’s Day, and our theme for today, Gender Day. But what does gender have to do with climate change and why is Gender Day even a thing?

Climate change often most affects the weakest members of society. That applies to the global context, in which developing and least-developed nations bear a disproportional share of the negative climate impacts, as well as in the national and communal level. Women and children are in many communities amongst the most affected by climate change. Poor sections of the population that depend most on natural resources, such as water, for their livelihood and who have the least capability to withstand natural catastrophes, such as droughts, floods, and landslides, are suffering most from climate change. Most of the world’s poor are women.

Women often bear most of the negative impacts of a changing climate on livelihood

Women often bear most of the negative impacts of a changing climate on livelihoods. At the same time, however, women are often excluded from participation in decision-making processes and the labor market. This makes it hard for them to take control over their own fate and prevents them from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation.

Women have a lot to contribute – and, in fact, do contribute a lot – to fighting climate change. They often possess significant knowledge about sustainable resource management on the local and communal level. At a political level, the involvement of women has led to a greater responsiveness to the needs of the population and has often increased the co-operation across parties and ethnicities. On a global level, there are many inspiring and successful female climate leaders, such as Sunita Narain, Angela Camacho, Bridget Burns, or Reem Al-Mealla.

The UNFCCC has recognized the importance of involving women and men equally in the process, e.g. by acknowledging in the Paris Agreement that “Parties should when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, […], as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity."

In particular, the parties have two goals to achieve this wider involvement:

  1. Improving gender balance and increasing the participation of women in all UNFCCC processes, including in delegations and in bodies constituted under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, and
  2. Increasing awareness and support for the development and effective implementation of gender-responsive climate policy at the regional, national and local levels.

The progress to achieve this goal, however, has been slow. During the COP in Lima (COP 20) the parties agreed to develop a Lima work plan on gender (LWPG), which is currently scheduled for the COP 25 in 2019. During this year’s COP, an action plan for this was supposed to be adopted by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). While this topic seemed to be a bit stuck in negotiations it was indeed adopted today. The technical paper on achieving gender balance under UNFCCC is available here.

To sum it up: Climate change will overly affect women and children. Furthermore, women have much to contribute to make the fight against climate change successful. At the same time, women are often excluded from decision making that affects climate change (or is effected by climate change). Therefore, the parties should develop (and have decided to do so) a plan that further involves women into the process. A first success on the way to this was achieved today with the adoption of the gender action plan. Over the next COPs this must be further detailed and reviewed.

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Alex is a delegate in Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 8 (Week 2), Monday Nov. 13, 2017

Acronyms, Agendas and More: Resources to Help you Navigate COP Negotiations

by Casey Miller

At the start of the second week of COP23, negotiations are starting to ramp up and the urgency of the fast approaching end of the conference is setting in. Following the various negotiations, side events and more can get complicated and leave anyone that doesn’t consider themselves an expert in climate change negotiations a bit lost.

Luckily, there’s a wealth of resources that can help you follow along these final days of the conference, from technical recaps of Bula zone meetings to opinion pieces on various COP23 topics.

Climate Tracker Daily Track Live Stream

This resource should be the first stop for anyone with an interest, but almost no previous knowledge, in climate negotiations. Representatives of Climate Tracker organize an informal, and often times fun, daily presentation of the previous day’s negotiations, with frequent interjections to clarify some points that may be a bit tricky for a negotiation newcomer. Climate Tracker’s Daily Track takes place daily in the Bonn Zone meeting room 10 at 10:30 am, but anyone around the world can follow along through the Climate Tracker’s Facebook livestream.

IISD Reporting Services’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin

For those who like to truly dig into the gritty details of negotiations, IISD Reporting Services produces the daily Earth Negotiations Bulletin, which gives an in depth summary of the previous day’s meetings. ENB goes past a short explanation of the main topics, and is useful for those who either have an interest in a topic typically skipped by other COP23 reporting sources or just prefer to know everything that’s going on.

Eco

Written in a more playful manner, this daily newsletter gives a basic overview of the main topics coming out of the previous day’s negotiations. Filled with puns and the always popular “Fossil of the Day” award, Climate Action Network has created a resource for everyone who wants to get a cursory knowledge of the negotiations through the eyes of one of the largest environmental NGOs while having a few laughs (or sometimes, groans).

Climate Tracker Infographics

Anyone who has spent any time following a negotiation has most likely spent a significant chunk of that time scratching their heads, asking questions like “What’s the difference between COP, APA, SBSTA and SBI?”, “Why do they keep referring to Article 6?”, and, most commonly, “Why are there so many acronyms and what do they mean!?”

Climate Tracker works to break down these complex topics in order to make the technical aspects of negotiations more accessible. While they also focus on writing various articles during the conference, these infographics are where Climate Tracker shines. The recent infographic on loss and damage, for example, is especially relevant during this COP.

Most importantly, the infographics on COP 23 Bodies should be everyone’s go-to resource when following negotiations. With not only a brief description of the various negotiating bodies, such as APA, SBSTA and COP, this infographics also digs into the most relevant agenda items of these various bodies. Think of it as your COP Acronym to English translation dictionary and keep it handy.

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With one more week to go, we hope that the negotiations pick up speed and current stalemates over topics such as pre-2020 action and loss and damage finance will eventually lead to solutions. As these complicated negotiations continue, make sure to keep an eye on the multiple resources available.


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 6 (Week 1), Saturday Nov. 11, 2017

‘We Are Still In’ – Two American Faces at COP 23

by Casey Catherine Miller

With Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement earlier this year, all eyes have been on the role of the United States at COP 23, and the impact Trump’s decision will have on negotiation progress.

There are two distinct faces to American representation at the conference this year. One is the usual negotiations team, which although smaller than usual, is nonetheless present. The process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement won’t be completed until November 4, 2020 (interestingly, just one day after the next Presidential Election), so a delegation has been sent to represent American interests in the implementation of the agreement.

Although reports suggest that this team has been fairly constructive so far, Trump’s position is certainly being felt. The negotiating team has not stepped into the leadership role it once assumed, and for the first time in 20 years, the United States’ government does not have a pavilion at the conference. Furthermore, the administration is set to host an event at the COP next week promoting coal, natural gas and nuclear energy as an answer to climate change. This is expected to provoke strong reactions here in Bonn.

In contrast, over one hundred American state, city and business leaders are participating at COP 23, as part of the We Are Still In movement. 2,500 American leaders have signed the We Are Still In Declaration, committing themselves to delivering on the promise of the Paris Agreement, and showing the world that US leadership on climate change extends well beyond federal policy.

We Are Still In has established the US Climate Action Center, a pavilion and forum where dozens of American leaders are convening throughout the negotiations. Activities have kicked-off in the past couple of days, with events being led by Governor Jerry Brown from California and Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City.

The jam-packed venue, widespread American presence, and sheer energy at the US Climate Action Center this morning (even on a rainy Day 6 at COP!) showed that the even in the absence of federal leadership on this issue, Americans are continuing to play a central role in the climate change agenda. From Senator Jeff Merkley’s ‘100 By 50 Act’ – which lays out a roadmap for a transition to 100% clean and renewable energy in the US by 2050 – to the City of New York’s commitment to climate resilient planning and development, this morning proved that there’s still plenty of reason for optimism.


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 5 (Week 1), Friday Nov. 10, 2017

Food, Land, Water, and Reality.

By Katja Garson

Friday at COP23 focused on food, land and water. It was a day for the discussion of the need to protect territories, habitats, and food systems which rely on an environmentally, and politically, secure world. It was also made clear that this secure world is disappearing, or perhaps already changed forever.

At the bi-weekly Demand Climate Justice meeting, pre-2020 targets and ambition were high on the agenda. Currently there are no binding legal obligations within the Paris Agreement for countries to achieve targets before the 2020 deadline. This means that developed countries are dragging their feet whilst less developed nations call for greater ambition on emissions and climate schemes.

Also discussed was the continuing refusal of the United States to engage on Loss and Damage (L&D). In a nutshell, L&D refers to the negative climate impacts which occur despite countries’ attempts to adapt or to act. L&D particularly affects less developed and developing nations. Most recently, the G77 group of countries (developing countries with similar economic interests) have united around wanting to create a permanent subsidiary body to implement discussions on Loss and Damage. However, the United States has repeatedly blocked any attempts to move this forward, even when a forum was suggested as a compromise. Those attending the DCJ meeting as representatives of climate justice groups are naturally frustrated by the United States’ ongoing blocking of talks on the subject.

Lack of ambition and commitment is not only politically problematic, but it has real effects on human populations and natural environments in many parts of the world. Drawing one of the largest crowds for any side-event so far, former US Vice President Al Gore presented his thoughts on the overwhelming climate crisis, its everyday lived reality, and what is already being done to tackle climate change.

Al Gore, who now heads the Climate Reality Project, spoke eloquently and dramatically; asking three questions: Do we really have to change? Can we change? Will we change? What is clear is that we are already seeing unpredictable and devastating weather events which are especially debilitating to those who are socially marginalised. It is also clear that renewable energy is a key way forward, with countries such as Chile, Algeria and India leading the way in transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, in a show of energy, hope, and refusal to be drowned out by corporate interests, a group of activists including individuals from Engajamundo, the Indigenous Environmental Network, SustainUS and UKYCC took part in an action on land and forest rights. This is our reality; the reality of many people in threatened territories around the globe -- our forests are being auctioned off by corrupt governments and greedy investors. ‘Defend Indigenous rights, no to deforestation!’ they say.

If pre-2020 ambition can be increased and binding commitments pushed forwards and past barriers created by countries such as the US, then perhaps we will finally be on the road to a better reality. The last day of Week 1 shows just how much there is yet to be done.

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Katja Garson is a member of the COP23 Delegation for Young European Leadership. She also organizes with the UK Youth Climate Coalition, is passionate about communication and the building of collaborative networks to enact positive change, and holds an MSc in Environmental Governance.


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 4 (Week 1), Thursday Nov. 9, 2017

Youth and Future Generations Day: An Analysis of Youth Involvement at COP23

By Sian Evans and Casey Catherine Miller

Today it’s Youth and Futures Day at COP 23, and my first full day at the conference - a fitting time to get stuck-in as a YEL delegate.

As a newcomer to the COP process, it’s encouraging to see the level of youth engagement here. Representation of youth at COPs has grown significantly over the years, with most youth participation taking place at the civil society level, and the importance of this was discussed today during a dialogue between various youth groups and the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.

Espinosa spoke of the efforts taking place to educate youth on climate change issues and engage them in the decision-making process, but also acknowledged there is a gap to be bridged. Capacity building support is needed to equip youth with the skills and knowledge to effectively participate in negotiations, and to facilitate youth engagement at the policy-making level. This is particularly the case for youth representatives from the global south.

While Young and Future Generations Day was the perfect time to highlight the benefit of increased youth involvement in the COP process, youth had to share the spotlight with another thematic day – Business and Industry. Various youth organizations used this overlap to speak out on their issues with conflict of interest between industry representatives promoting environmentally damaging industries and the ultimate goals of the Paris Agreement.  One activist action highlighted this issues through a mock auction, where the interests of youth were bought and sold by “businessmen” with unfettered access to the negotiations.

It’s clear that the youth at COP23 are passionate and ready to fight for their cause, yet there needs to be further capacity building to allow youth involvement to be more effective and meaningful. Hopefully by COP24 this is something that is accomplished.

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Sian Evans is a member of the COP23 Delegation for Young European Leadership. She is a Project Manager at the Office of the Quartet, an international organization supporting Palestinian economic development, and is passionate about sustainable development and the clean energy transition.

Casey Catherine Miller is the delegation lead for Young European Leadership. A recent Environmental Science MSc graduate, she is passionate about environmental education and communication, youth capacity building, and sustainable development. www.caseycatherine.com


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 3 (Week 1), Wednesday Nov. 8, 2017

Good Actors and Bad Actors: Not all Non-Party Stakeholders are Created Equal

By Casey Catherine Miller

Following yesterday’s announcement of Syria’s intent to ratify the Paris Agreement, another historic moment took place today at COP23. For the first time in COP history, party and non-party stakeholders were invited to a Presidency's Open Dialogue to go over issues of NDC implementation and non-party stakeholder involvement in the COP process.

Broken into two sessions, the second session of the Open Dialogue looked for concrete ways to include civil society and other non-party stakeholders into the negotiation process effectively, transparently and equitably. Although the purpose of this discussion is valuable and the fact that it took place shows Fiji's dedication to including all stakeholders at COP23, one statement emerged to the forefront of the discussion: when it comes to non-party stakeholders, should we be trying to include all stakeholders in an equal manner?

Multiple constituents of the YOUNGO, ENGO and Women and Gender working groups brought this issue to the table. Increased involvement, or more to the point the increased effectiveness of involvement, of non-actor stakeholders is much needed. Yet issues arise when this involvement extends to those who are in no way acting towards the benefit of the Paris Agreement and climate action in general. This refers to non-party stakeholders representing industries, businesses and organizations with direct financial interests in weakening the Paris Agreement.

One ENGO constituent put it quite clearly: many non-state actors at COP23 are acting in the public’s interest, yet some are clearly acting in their best commercial interests. To sum it up, this constituent mentioned that “clearly, not all non-party stakeholders are created equally.”

Giving non-party stakeholders with anti-Paris Agreement agendas full access to a conference that is taking place to further the implementation of the Paris Agreement is counterproductive. While this issue won’t be solved in one open dialogue, it’s high time for a serious discussion within the UNFCCC on what level of involvement certain, for lack of a better word, destructive stakeholders can participate in the COP. The UNFCCC can look to the World Health Organization’s work towards preventing the tobacco industry from domineering negotiations on health as a prime example on how to do this.

Hopefully it won’t take 23 more COPs to develop a way to effectively include non-party stakeholders in the negotiations without giving excessive power to stakeholders working to challenge the Paris Agreement. As one Climate Action Network constituent stated in the Open Dialogue, “what we expect from this dialogue is hopefully to come to some very good solutions and then move on...then we don’t have to use our time and your time to engage on [the issue of non-party stakeholder engagement], which shouldn’t be an issue.”

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Casey Miller

COP 23 Lead Delegate, Young European Leadership


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 2 (Week 1), Tuesday Nov. 7, 2017

A Day for Civil Society, from U.S. Peoples’ Delegation to Indigenous Groups

(Picture Credit: ICLEI USA)

Day 2 at COP23, and things have been just as busy as expected. After the excitement around yesterday’s opening events, Tuesday got off to a confident start. This delegate has been rushing from event to event, following personal passions whilst trying to keep a handle on advancements within the negotiations.

The U.S. Peoples’ Delegation, a delegation comprised of individuals from different backgrounds and with multiple identities, including youth, Indigenous peoples, professionals, frontline communities and advocates, held a press conference in the Bula Zone this morning. This press conference provided a platform for the group to speak out against the Trump Administration’s socio-environmentally unjust activities, from the proposed axing of healthcare, to rollback on legal climate protection and the playing-down of the threats of climate change. In addition, the delegation called for all nations to unite in delivering climate justice; highlighting that Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement must not be an excuse for other countries to drag their feet. Determined, and already seeing patterns of climate-denial and corporate greed in their home communities, the People’s Delegation presented a powerful united front in moving forwards to resist polluters and leaders who do not shoulder their responsibilities.

As today is Indigenous People’s Day, it seems fitting that also taking place at this time were the first few hours of an international tribunal on the Rights of Nature. Attendees include members of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Amazon Watch, and the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, as well as many others. It is hoped that debates and progress on securing land rights and the protection of indigenous cultures will spread not only within civil society, NGO groups and the media, but also within spaces of ‘official’ decision-making and leadership.

After this session it was time for a quick lunch in the Bonn Zone and a visit to the increasingly popular free coffee stand (hopefully fairtrade and sustainable) in the German Pavilion, before moving on to an action and productive conversations with representatives from Friends of the Earth Europe and other European NGOs. There is a true spirit of collaboration her, at least among civil society groups.

While I was putting my energies into hearing stories from the frontlines of climate change, countries resumed negotiations within the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement. This group discusses adaptation communications, frameworks for transparency, and the ways in which Parties will submit their Nationally Determined Contributions. So far, all countries have been able to make themselves heard through this Working Group earlier in the year, however as this is only the second day of COP23, no amended text has yet been agreed.

Though the policy has seen minimal change so far, today was an especially exciting day for climate policy, as it was announced that Syria will ratify the Paris Agreement. This leaves the US as the only country not to be included within the Agreement.

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Katja Garson is a member of the COP23 Delegation for Young European Leadership. She also organizes with the UK Youth Climate Coalition, is passionate about communication and the building of collaborative networks to enact positive change, and holds an MSc in Environmental Governance. 


COP 23 Daily Blog – Day 1 (Week 1), Monday Nov. 6, 2017

Building the Foundation of the Talanoa Dialogue at COP 23

Author: Casey Catherine Miller

For those that follow international climate negotiations, little inspires excitement as much as the first day of a COP.  This morning, participants from all over the world made their way to the Bonn and Bula zones to start side events, actions and negotiations. Regardless of the zone, as participants discuss what to expect in the next two weeks, there are two words that seem to be on everyone’s lips: Talanoa Dialogue

In today’s opening plenary, Fijian Prime Minister and President of COP 23 Frank Bainimarama claimed “we must not fail our people - that means using the next two weeks to do everything we can to make the Paris Agreement work.”  For many people here at the COP, “everything we can” means working towards the successful execution of the Talanoa Dialogue.

Formerly known as the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, the Talanoa Dialogue is a mechanism developed as part of the Paris Agreement at COP 21 to review work that has already been done and increase future ambition.  By utilizing a global stocktake, or a series of assessments, there’s hope that we’ll know more of the impacts of the work done so far and what needs to be done in the future to reach our goal of keeping temperature rise under 2°.

Multiple side events here at COP 23 have already outlined the vast benefits of a successfully executed Talanoa Dialogue -- from acting as the heart of an increased ambition mechanism, to identifying existing barriers to implementation, to connecting developing countries with needed support.  Yet we won’t experience these benefits unless negotiations at COP 23 succesfully outline the concrete details of the Talanoa Dialogue. 

Here in the Bonn Zone, observers and party members alike are discussing the possible details of the Talanoa Dialogue.  In what form will the Talanoa Dialogue take place? What information and data will be included? What impact will it really have on increasing ambition and implementation? If all goes well, at the end of these two weeks of negotiations there will be a concrete outline of the Talanoa Dialogue that will answer all of these questions, setting us up for a an even more successful COP 24.

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Casey Catherine Miller is a the delegation lead for Young European Leadership.  A recent Environmental Science MSc graduate, she is passionate about environmental education and communication, youth capacity building, and sustainable development.  www.caseycatherine.com


COP 23 Introduction, Monday Nov. 6, 2017

COP: What is it, who’s involved, and what does it mean for climate change?

Authors: Shrina Kurani, Katja Garson

We know you have lots of questions about COP, and specifically COP23. Let’s dive in:

Let’s get the letters out of the way. What does 'COP' mean?

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. These conferences are held each year in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). UNFCCC COPs serve as the formal meeting of the UNFCCC Parties (or countries) to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

This year’s UNFCCC COP takes place from November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany.

Tell me about the UNFCCC.

The UNFCCC began in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio, when countries joined the framework as a way of working together internationally to tackle climate change. It entered into force in 1994. There are now 197 parties (or countries) within the UNFCCC framework. The UNFCCC hopes to combat climate change by limiting the rise in global temperatures through action taken on international and national levels.

How many COPs have there been, and what have been the results of previous COPs?

  • COPs began, logically, from number 1. The first UN Climate Change Conference (COP1) was held in 1995 in Berlin. So COP23 will be the twenty-third.
  • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at COP3 in 1997, and entered into force in 2005. This Protocol is important because it sets binding emissions reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries. It has a principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’, which means that every country is responsible for reducing emissions, but developed countries need to do more than others because of their larger relative contribution to climate change.
  • COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 was a failure from the policy-making perspective.  There was a lot of talking, but hardly any listening, and the conference culminated in the rushed drawing-up of the Copenhagen Accord by a small group of countries behind closed doors. This Accord was not legally binding, did not legally require anyone to do anything, and did not take the views of all parties into account.

However, when you fall low there’s always room for improvement:

  • Since 2011 the meetings have been used to negotiate the Paris Agreement as part of the Durban platform activities, which created a path towards climate action.
  • COP21 in Paris saw the formation of the historic Paris Agreement. This entered into force on November 4th 2016. The Agreement brings all countries together to work on keeping temperature rise during this century below 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement requires ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) from each country. These include regular reporting on the actions they’re taking.

What is special about this year's UNFCCC COP?

With Fiji holding the presidency, it will be the first time that a Small Island Developing State has taken on this role. This is highly symbolic in a time when rising sea levels and a lack of resources/financial support threaten such nations, and will hopefully spur action which takes small nations’ needs into account..

Why is COP23 being held in Germany if Fiji has the presidency?

The presidency rotates between the five regional groups of the UN. This time it’s Asia-Pacific states’ turn, and Fiji was nominated. However, as a small island nation, Fiji quite simply does not have the space nor the facilities to host such a major conference.

Bonn is seen as the UNFCCC’s base. It is home to 19 UN agencies, more than 150 international organizations, and is the ‘seat’ of the UNFCCC secretariat.

How many countries attend COP?

At each COP there are representatives from the five recognized UN regions: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, and Western Europe and Others. There are currently 196 Parties to the UNFCCC - in other words, 196 countries which can and do attend COP.

Who can go to COP?

Anyone can go if they have accreditation, the official documentation which allows you to enter the venue. It’s easiest to get accreditation if you attend with a delegation (an official group with a purpose which makes COP meaningful to them). The delegation lead will then be able to acquire accreditation for each of their delegates. Groups can include NGOs, youth groups, academic institutions, special interest groups, businesses, and, of course, governments.

Do young people get to attend?

Yes, young people can attend COP as long as they have accreditation. YEL is an example of a youth delegation, and there are many other youth delegations from around the world.

Furthermore, the Conference of Youth (COY), which takes place before each COP, is a space open to any young person who would like to attend either as an organisational representative, or as an individual. This is a great way to discuss and learn about environmental issues even if you’re not attending COP.

How long does COP last and what is the significance of each day?

COP lasts for two weeks, and this year it takes place from November 6-17.

Often, days are allocated a theme, for example the ‘indigenous peoples day’ or the ‘forests day’, to help organize the multiple side events on various topics which are hosted by different organizations and governments.

However, the negotiations still continue at their own pace and according to a pre-arranged negotiation schedule. It is not unusual for negotiations to take a very long time, and to overrun the original schedule. Negotiators frequently work into the night to agree on details in the last couple of days.

What is the conference space like?

COPs are generally held in large venues composed of a  series of rooms, public areas, and larger negotiating spaces. The space is split into two zones, one zone being where negotiation takes place, and the other being more openly accessible. This year the Bonn conference is divided between the Bula zone and the Bonn zone. The Bula zone will house the negotiating spaces and delegation offices, and the Bonn zone will house side events, exhibits, and media activities. The two zones will be connected by a corridor for easy transit. You still need accreditation in order to access either of these spaces.

What does COP23 hope to achieve?

This year there is an emphasis on collaboration and cooperation. COP23 President and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has called for the voices of those who are most vulnerable, including those from small nation states, to be heard, and for the resilience of these nations to be increased. He has also stated that he hopes that non-state actors can become more closely involved.

COP23 aims to advance work on the Paris Agreement, for example by pushing for technologies which will enable future economies to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions, as well as by accelerating collaborative action between all levels of society and organizational bodies.

What are the main barriers to achieving those goals?

A key challenge is, quite simply, trying to find solutions that all parties are happy with. As in Copenhagen, tension between developed and developing countries persists, with developing countries often claiming that the richer, more developed countries are not doing enough to pull their weight.

Although the ratification and entry into force of the Paris Agreement was a hard-earned achievement, making sure that all countries are able to implement it will be much trickier. The extent to which countries are able to or willing take action is shaped by political and cultural contexts. Those contexts vary wildly around the globe, so trying to find national solutions which fit into the wider international picture is a significant challenge.

This year, we’ll see states continuing to work on the implementation of the Paris Agreement without the United States. That’s one major international player which will no longer be pulling its weight in tackling climate change... yet a player which is still sending delegates to COP23.

What are some criticisms of COP as a decision-making and meeting space?

There have been issues with accessibility of COPs, for example for civil society from the Global South, who are often underrepresented in policy spaces. The fact that you can not take park in a COP without accreditation can be an issue for many people who are only just starting out in the climate change field. Furthermore, in some of the past meetings it has been all too easy for developed countries to drown out the voices of developing nations. This was especially the case at COP15, and continues to be a risk each year.

How about the positives?

COP is unique in being the largest international conference on climate change. People who are highly skilled and expert in many aspects of climate change come together, as well as those with little experience but are there to learn and absorb new information. Civil society gets an important opportunity to challenge leaders on their commitments, and often-sidelined indigenous, Global South, developing country and youth groups are able to take a stand under the media spotlight and in front of leaders, in order to make their views heard. As such this is a moment for the sharing of ideas, building of connections, and, hopefully, the creation of concrete, just, and ambitious policy.

How can someone who can't attend COP find out more and stay up to date?

You should follow YEL online! We will be creating a variety of outputs, including articles, opinion pieces and videos. Take a look at our Twitter channel for live updates.