Sustainability: COP23 UN climate change conference

 

 

COP23 - AFP7230899_Articolo
COP23

The first week of COP23 is over, and now attention turns to the high-level segment of these international climate talks. While week one focused mostly on technical negotiations around the specifics of how to implement the Paris Agreement, week two could provide a few fireworks as ministers and heads of state arrive in Bonn and the international politics start to heat up. 

 

 

Wary eyes will be on the Trump administration’s representatives. The U.S. delegation has been actively participating in these negotiations — mostly keeping their heads down and sticking to the same positions they’ve held for a while, according to observers. The arrival of people more closely aligned with the president — like George David Banks, Trump’s special assistant for international energy and environment — could set up a more visible confrontation. Banks was once thought to be someone who might convince Trump not to pull out of the Paris Agreement. Now he’s tasked with delivering the president’s message to a crowd that has spent the last year denouncing Trump’s position on climate change.

The U.S. delegation’s only official side event promises to be one of COP23’s most controversial. Trump administration officials and energy leaders will hold a discussion of the role “cleaner, more efficient fossil fuels” must play in mitigating climate change. Some of the participants have billed this event as a reality check for the climate change crowd, who they say must come to terms with the fact that fossil fuels will remain a significant part of the energy mix for decades.

That message will no doubt face strong pushback from the thousands of civil society, business, and political leaders assembled here who think the U.S. should get behind renewables — and a good portion of people in the room will be there to find out just what form that pushback takes. Considering the anti-fossil fuel protests that interrupted California Governor Jerry Brown’s remarks on Saturday, I would count on slogans and banners.

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The first week of COP23 is over, and now attention turns to the high-level segment of these international climate talks. While week one focused mostly on technical negotiations around the specifics of how to implement the Paris Agreement, week two could provide a few fireworks as ministers and heads of state arrive in Bonn and the international politics start to heat up.

Wary eyes will be on the Trump administration’s representatives. The U.S. delegation has been actively participating in these negotiations — mostly keeping their heads down and sticking to the same positions they’ve held for a while, according to observers. The arrival of people more closely aligned with the president — like George David Banks, Trump’s special assistant for international energy and environment — could set up a more visible confrontation. Banks was once thought to be someone who might convince Trump not to pull out of the Paris Agreement. Now he’s tasked with delivering the president’s message to a crowd that has spent the last year denouncing Trump’s position on climate change.

The U.S. delegation’s only official side event promises to be one of COP23’s most controversial. Trump administration officials and energy leaders will hold a discussion of the role “cleaner, more efficient fossil fuels” must play in mitigating climate change. Some of the participants have billed this event as a reality check for the climate change crowd, who they say must come to terms with the fact that fossil fuels will remain a significant part of the energy mix for decades.

That message will no doubt face strong pushback from the thousands of civil society, business, and political leaders assembled here who think the U.S. should get behind renewables — and a good portion of people in the room will be there to find out just what form that pushback takes. Considering the anti-fossil fuel protests that interrupted California Governor Jerry Brown’s remarks on Saturday, I would count on slogans and banners.

Know of someone else who should get this daily briefing? They can sign up here

Negotiations so far seem to have gone relatively smoothly. Delegates made reasonable progress on implementation guidance for the Paris Agreement. Parties provisionally adopted a Gender Action Plan, seen as an important piece of ensuring gender equality proceeds in tandem with climate action. Others details — like how the Paris Agreement should deal with “differentiation,” the recognition that countries have different levels of capacity and therefore ought to have different responsibilities — still need to be worked out.

A few items appear stalled and could provide fuel for a battle between negotiating blocs if one does break out during week two.

“Loss and damage” financing is one such item. Fiji’s presidency of this round of the climate talks has shone a spotlight on countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. Small island developing states say climate action is needed immediately — but also point out that some negative impacts from climate change are still going to happen. For some Pacific islands, climate-related displacement is a clear and present danger. For other climate-vulnerable regions, intensifying storms and droughts already threaten people’s assets, safety, and livelihoods.

Climate-vulnerable states want strong recognition in the Paris Agreement of the need to deal with loss and damage — and they particularly want to see some kind of financing plan. Civil society observers have accused developed countries including the United States of trying to remove references to financing from the language about loss and damage. That is hardly surprising given reports from well-placed sources that the U.S. delegation is operating under strict instructions not to tie itself to any new funding obligations.

On Tuesday a high-level event will detail new efforts to increase climate-vulnerable people’s access to climate risk insurance. Some developing country advocates have complained that selling people insurance is not a replacement for fulfilling obligations to provide them with compensation for losses and damages they did little to bring about

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

The U.S. Climate Action Center opened on Saturday, featuring speeches by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Vice President Al Gore, a number of American politicians, and U.S. business leaders. Housed inside a giant inflatable igloo and largely funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies after the federal government announced it would not support an American pavilion at COP23, the action center has emerged as a sort of resistance headquarters for people committed to maintaining a U.S. presence.

Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon has been leading efforts in Congress to fulfill U.S. commitments for international climate finance. Merkley said Saturday that the U.S. will meet its $3 billion commitment to the Green Climate Fund — though not likely on time. Merkley also pointed to U.S. funding for the Global Environment Facility, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation., which de-risks investments in developing countries, and to U.S. contributions to international development banks. He said what’s needed is to build more grassroots support in the U.S. for the idea of climate finance.

People from low and lower-middle income countries are five times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters, this report from Oxfam documents. The majority of those displaced by climate-related events remain in their own countries.

In addition to urgently mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, this report calls for linking discussions of climate-related displacement to ongoing efforts to forge a Global Compact on Migration.

“The negotiation by September 2018 of two new Global Compacts — one on safe, orderly and regular migration, and one on refugees — offers a critical opportunity to help ensure safety, dignity and lasting solutions for those who are displaced, or at risk of displacement, in the context of climate change,” it reads.

  • The high-level event on Global Climate Action kicks off Monday. GCA showcases work that is already happening to combat and adapt to climate change, as a practical parallel to the ongoing negotiations. Monday’s Global Climate Action theme is finance.
  • The Caribbean Development Bank and the European Investment Bank will sign a $24 million agreement for post-disaster reconstruction in the Caribbean on Monday. Following a signing ceremony, the institutions will participate in a discussion on adaptation and resilience in the Caribbean.
  • The U.S. will host its hotly anticipated and highly controversial side event on fossil fuels on Monday evening. Representatives from the Trump administration and energy sector will share their views… as will protesters, we’re pretty sure.

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