Civil society has been left with little choice but to spend the last three days camping out in the basement of the conference centre. Despite the strong objections of the G77+China and Mexico—that’s 135 Parties out of a possible 195—the co-chairs have still barred observers from the negotiations. Rumours abound when all that can be done is wait for scraps of news, often delivered third- or fourth-hand.
The decision to exclude observers is troubling for three reasons. First, the co-chair’s justification rewrites history. They stated that this is the process we agreed to in Doha. Some Parties repeated this due process argument. In reality, the SBI in Doha did not consider the participation of observers. The only relevant decision of the SBI actually encourages public participation; it recommends, at a minimum, that where no contact group exists, observers attend the first and last meetings during informals. It provides a floor for observer participation, not a ceiling.
Second, excluding civil society runs counter to the international principles and norms surrounding public participation. The Convention itself provides that Parties: “shall … encourage the widest participation in this process, including that of non-governmental organisations.” The negotiations leading to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, a supplement to the UNFCCC’s sister convention, the CBD, involved stakeholders through the entire process.
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The EU seems to be resorting to silence worryingly often, ECO wonders if this is a new negotiations tactic.
ECO first noticed this practice on Tuesday, when the EU failed to offer support to the G77+China group’s call for observers to be allowed in the spin-off groups.
Later in the week, the EU again fell silent over the Umbrella Group’s proposal to remove loss and damage as a standalone article in the agreement, which would leave already vulnerable countries even more vulnerable.
In Latin, there’s a saying: “Qui tacet consentit.” And for those not fluent, that’s: “silence gives consent“. But it’s not too late to find your voice, EU! Clearly state your support for loss and damage and engage with Option 1. And say loudly and clearly, for all to hear, that observers should be allowed into the negotiations.
And remember, when you vocally stand up for what’s right, ECO won’t be silent in our praise.
September saw a relatively positive environment on loss and damage. It left ECO optimistic coming into this session that Parties would continue to work together constructively. Alas, this meeting has seen Parties move further apart with two diametrically opposite options, in the one text. Is this an all or nothing approach?
Option 1 offers comprehensive assurance to vulnerable countries that the world is taking this pressing issue seriously. Option 2, which deletes reference to L&D, is an absolutely unacceptable option to enter Paris with—and places the whole agreement at jeopardy. Parties should work today to remove option 2 and ensure the L&D is properly and adequately reflected in the agreement, so that it doesn’t damage the approach to Paris.
ECO hears rumours that Parties have discussed the possibility of having a Technical Examination Process (TEP) on adaptation, and we’d be delighted if this was true. After all, there are more gaps in these negotiations than even ECO can keep track of, from gigatonnes to dollars. Adaptation appears to be one of the victims of process, and seemingly never has its time to shine. Finance for adaptation remains grossly insufficient, and more action is needed to increase the resilience of vulnerable communities and ecosystems.
An adaptation TEP might just be the match made in heaven to ensure that there is both a technical conversation with concrete recommendations and political commitment, which would in turn increase adaptation actions. It’s high time to kickstart action on the ground.
However, while Workstream 2 can be a great vehicle to get adaptation off the ground, it needs to be done in earnest. An adaptation TEP has a lot to offer to vulnerable people by engaging experts and catalysing action. But it must not become a topic that slows down the good pace of WS2 that has been evident this past week. Nor can it become a delaying tactic for the remaining thorny bits, including the many pivotal mitigation elements.
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Transparency is good, as it is clarity because it can help countries direct policy and allocate resources appropriately. The co-chairs’ non-paper includes MRV and accounting-related provisions throughout, highlighting the cross-cutting nature of this issue and its overall relevance to the deal. This is vital for success. To increase ambition, the Paris agreement should set the status quo as an absolute minimum to ensure progression and prevent backsliding on rules and requirements. A common transparency framework must acknowledge different stages of development, capabilities and national circumstances and set the direction to improve over time. It is essential to create a balance between action and the need for adequate support, as well as support for capacity building and technology transfer.
ECO is always willing to help, and here are some proposed improvements:
Highlighting and strengthening the concept of independent, international review or verification in the text.
On the current information provision, the frequency and standard of reporting should not backslide.
The accounting rules need to be clearer, as they currently lack even basic principles such as a ban on double counting.
The text should be clearer on methodologies for estimating greenhouse gas emissions and removals, using data from the latest IPCC assessment report.
Environmental integrity principles should be enshrined now.
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Symphonies are works of genius. Composing them requires foresight, precision and consideration of the role of every individual within the orchestra. In the context of ambition and climate change, ECO has been thinking about how we can all play from the same music sheet. Ideas like a global review strike the right chord, but Parties remain out of tune. Bonn’s slow staccato of progress is not moving toward the great symphony where the world moves to close the gap in ambition that the Parties have put forward for up until 2020. But that’s not all—the INDCs don’t sound any better. By Paris, Parties need to be in harmony.
A Paris Ambition Mechanism (PAM) must conduct all of the right sounds in this global orchestra. Here’s a three point plan:
1. A strong process agreed, in COP decisions, to review the implementation and sufficiency of the Kyoto targets and Cancun pledges, as well as the level of support. Parties, particularly developed countries, must check their efforts and ensure that they scale these up to close the pre-2020 ambition gap. The WS2 decision must also build a process that can unlock additional mitigation and adaptation action through continuous collaboration between Parties.
2. The COP21 decisions on INDCs must require that Parties assess their proposed efforts and come back with greatly increased NDCs before 2020 to get on at least a 2°C pathway, or better, 1.5°C.
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ECO is heartened to see that language on emissions from ships and planes is back in the negotiating text. If these sectors are left out of the Paris agreement, they have emissions that are not only large enough but, also growing fast enough to undermine global efforts to stay below 1.5°C.
In the words of one developing country active on the issue, these emissions have the potential to create major loopholes in the global emissions limitations and environmental integrity. Under a 1.5°C scenario they could count for up to 42% of allowable emissions.
Left to their own devices, the UN bodies regulating these sectors, the IMO and ICAO, show little willingness to seriously tackle GHG emissions. The IMO refuses to even think of a cap and ICAO is happy with the idea of offsetting emission increases after 2020. Both industries show little concern for the climate needs of the developing world.
The Paris agreement needs to address this issue explicitly and send a clear message to IMO and ICAO: now is the time to start reducing your sectoral emissions.
ECO nearly had a heart attack when it saw that Total and other fossil fuel companies were allowed into the NAZCA platform and LPAA webpage. Maybe this is just a fever dream brought on by nights spent lying awake, thinking of polluters. ECO is hopeful that the LPAA partners will apply some fundamental rules to this party before it gets out of control.
Yes, ECO is aware that some vague participation “criteria” have been decided already, but the door is still wide open to gate crashers. Existing participation rules must be strengthened and strictly applied, so they can act as a bouncer at the door before everybody gets in.
Before we pop open the champagne, the basic rules and principles written on the invitation card must be significantly strengthened. They include: a transparent selection process; compliance with international human rights law; environmental and social integrity; safeguards on land and resources tenure; and the promotion of food sovereignty.
Then there’s the guest list needed for the party that will continue until the sun rises. The LPAA must take a closer look at the RSVPs and invite independent party chaperons from civil society to help review and evaluate the process from which invitations were made.
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Pop quiz time. Question one: Do you remember when G20 leaders pledged to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies? That bold and necessary pledge took place in 2009 and was greeted with much rejoicing. Question two: Do you remember the date when those fossil fuel subsidies actually got eliminated?
ECO doesn’t know, either—because it’s never actually happened.
Six years on, it’s time to stop sitting around and waiting. On November 14, citizens around the world will mobilise in the streets and online, calling for world leaders to #Stop Funding Fossils.
The momentum and pressure to stop funding fossil fuels has been growing globally in response to rising concerns about the damage carbon pollution is having on the people and places we love. Businesses, local governments, faith organisations, pension funds, and other public institutions are jumping on board as part of the wildly successful divestment movement. And yet, even with all this support, national governments have failed to act.
But it’s not too late! Between now and Paris, whether through new, substantive commitments at the G20 or by ending export credits for coal through the OECD, there are opportunities to achieve real victories. Not the kind of wins that depend on vague promises for the future, but the kind that involve the actual removal of all fossil fuel subsidies..
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Setting up a first date is a nerve-racking process. ECO has been there: spending hours overanalysing the details of what your crush did or didn’t say, writing vague texts that don’t express what you really mean, trying to play it cool by acting non-committal…
Always keen to give out relationship advice, ECO couldn’t help noticing that Parties’ discussions on the first date of the global assessment (still called a “stocktake” for the moment) are in dire need of a helping hand—not to mention their caginess around further developments for the ambition mechanism. Here are ECO’s top tips for Parties on setting a date with destiny for a long-lasting relationship based on mutual understanding and trust:
Don’t delay! It might seem scary, but someone has to initiate and suggest a clear date for your first get together. Why wait? You’re only delaying making your dreams of a fossil fuel-free future a reality! Don’t let all the intensity that’s been building up before Paris go to waste. ECO reckons the first date for an assessment to raise ambition should happen well ahead of 2020. Who’s going to seize the day and suggest 2018? Don’t forget, you need agreement on this in Paris to avoid being stood up!
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