Category: Current Issue Features

Upcoming Political Moments

It feels like only yesterday COP21 gave birth to the Paris Agreement and now it’s out in the real world — making change, and delivering a low carbon resilient transition. As Bonn draws to a close, implementing Paris is set to be a hot topic during a number of upcoming star studded events: the Petersburg Dialogue, G7, the Ocean Conference, and the G20, just to name a few.

 

The Petersberg Dialogue is first up, and it seems that Germany is keen to focus on what really matters: climate action. After doing a stellar job this session, Fiji will be making its mark once again when Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Bainimarama come together during this auspicious meeting to speak about climate action.

 

 

After that, the G7 countries will meet up. This is the first Summit for four of the G7 leaders — President Macron, President Trump, Prime Minister Gentiloni, and Prime Minister May. Each will be in the spotlight from May 26-27. ECO expects the G7 to send a strong signal of unwavering support to implementing Paris, which is good for the climate, good for the economy, and supported by citizens and voters. One country should not be allowed to spoil the party.
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“Without Increased Climate Action, No Country Can Ever be Great Again”

ECO would like to alert you to the exceptionally exciting highlights of several statements made by the CVF leadership. Not only did they reaffirm their commitment to the Marrakech vision, they laid out concrete steps for implementation. ECO agrees that the Paris spirit is not only alive and kicking, but is also being implemented.

 

CVF supports the need to trigger, in 2018, the revision and enhancement of climate ambition by 2020 if the Paris Agreement’s goals are to remain achievable. It is also refreshing that several CVF members have already started revising their NDCs. They highlighted that increased climate action is not only necessary but also desirable for economic growth and job creation. As H.E. Emmanuel De Guzman, the Philippines’ Climate Change Commissioner said, “without increased climate action, no country can ever be great again”.

 

This statement comes at a crucial time as G7 and G20 countries prepare for two summits where climate change will be on the agenda, and the new American administration will be tested on the subject. As the CVF leads in climate action, and challenges others to do the same, it is up to the major economies in the G7 and G20 to prove that they stand with the most vulnerable countries and communities, not the interests of an elite few.

 

Let’s Talk About Adaptation Communication

Last week, Parties spent a lot of time and energy discussing adaptation communication under Article 7.10 of the Paris Agreement, as well as Article 13, related to transparency of actions. ECO is pleased with this and sees it as a step towards an effort to allocate adaptation an equal status with mitigation in the Paris Agreement.

 

The adaptation communications also provide a welcome opportunity for countries to share their adaptation efforts, achievements, and good practices, as well as challenges and gaps in a coherent and coordinated way. A new adaptation registry could serve as an entry point for the learning and sharing of best practices and results to help improve the impact of adaptation efforts.

 

After this week’s negotiations, a consensus is emerging on the purposes and elements of the adaptation communications and we are indeed pleased to see many delegations recognizing its usefulness. The talks seemed to be stuck, for some time, on the issue of flexibility: some countries seem to suggest that flexibility means no guidance on the elements and information that should be part of the adaptation communication. ECO believes there should be agreement on common elements to be addressed, leaving enough flexibility for Parties to provide the information that is available and useful to communicate.
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How UNFCCC Can Co-pilot Aviation’s Climate Deal

Airlines face a big problem with numbers when it comes to the sector’s Carbon Offset and Reduction System for International Aviation (CORSIA) — the planned global measure to offset the sector’s emissions growth above 2020 levels.

 

That’s because we’re not quite sure how CORSIA’s numbers will add up. As airline emissions continue to grow, airlines will need to buy an increasing number of offsets from other sectors. But the Paris Agreement makes this tricky, as all states have submitted pledges which aim to be economy-wide, and increase in ambition over time. So, when an airline buys an offset, how can it be sure that the emission reduction isn’t being claimed by a state or someone else?

 

There are many ways that CORSIA can screw up the numbers: for example, if the same emission reduction is sold to two different airlines, or sold once but claimed elsewhere. This is worrying because: given the sector’s major and growing climate impact, it badly needs a working mitigation measure that can assure who should claim what reduction.

 

The good news is that states, airlines, and civil society are hard at work trying to fix this problem. However, the UN agency running this measure, ICAO, can’t solve this problem on its own.
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Warming up to Transparency

ECO wants to congratulate Parties for the (mostly) constructive, (mostly) forward looking and (mostly) honest discussions seen in the multilateral assessments and the facilitative sharing of views. And while some Parties might have liked to see the heat turned up on the US, the collegiate nature of the discussions showed the true value of transparency – it’s all about building trust. That’s not to say that some did not deserve a bit of sizzle.  With uncertainty over the US administration’s commitment to climate action, China made a strong point questioning the United States on the public health cost of retreating from the Clean Power Plan. However, many more Parties took it at as an opportunity to share success stories, best practises and lessons learned.

 

In the Multilateral Assessment, countries largely reported being on track to meet their 2020 targets, and both Canada and France stood out by highlighting an increase in non-state actor and local authority engagement. Perhaps even overachievement of some of these targets might be on the table. ECO hopes countries will be coming back to the table to tell these stories and energise the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018.

 

The facilitative sharing of views, meanwhile, was a space to reflect on the benefits of starting reporting early, with many countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia, reporting MRV and capacity development needs resulting from reporting under ICA.
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The CDM and Article 6

Dear Delegates,

 

How are those SBSTA Article 6 negotiations going?

 

Since ECO is not allowed in the room, we cannot be sure. We heard that headings were being thrown around, so at least there might be an outline of things to talk about.

 

While discussions continue about the future of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs), the Sustainable Development Mechanism, and how non-market approaches might function, we’re giving some thought to the future of the CDM.

 

The news that a comprehensive study for the European Commission found 85% of CDM projects lack environmental integrity (i.e. don’t really reduce emissions) and only about 2% of projects really delivering a mitigation benefit is distressing. This on top of the news from a few years back that JI wasn’t very good either. For the sake of the climate, we have to do better – especially when these credits are used to increase emissions beyond commitments.

 

There is a lot to learn from the CDM and it was a valuable experience. But as we approach the end of the last Kyoto commitment period, it is time to learn, move on, and make Article 6 fit for the climate purpose. In the Paris Agreement world, we need to build on good building blocks and delete undesirable parts (projects lacking environmental and developmental integrity) – we can’t adopt a copy-paste approach.
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“In The Light of Equity”

The importance of the Global Stocktake for enhancing the ambition of future climate action cannot be overstated. Since equity and ambition are two sides of the same coin, the Parties decided to conduct the Global Stocktake “in the light of equity.”

It is important to review what “equity” in this context means. It is very clear from the context of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement that it refers to the right to development and eradication of poverty. Hence, the Global Stocktake needs to be conducted in a manner that reflects these notions of equity between countries. Parties have already put forward, in their NDCs and in their APA submissions, very interesting suggestions regarding how equity has and could further inform the national determination of their contributions. This information is by no means sufficient, but it’s a start, and it should be used as the basis for future consideration of the role of equity as an overarching principle informing all streams of the Global Stocktake. In addition, further creative thinking about how to conduct a Global Stocktake that is informed by the principle of equity between countries is badly needed.

Additionally, we know that the Global Stocktake must assess collective progress towards the long-term goals of the UNFCCC in a comprehensive manner.
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Inflated, shiny figures versus new and additional, climate-specific support

While the APA discussions on transparency of support had a bit of a difficult start, it’s good to see that the SBSTA negotiations on accounting modalities for the provision of climate finance have already entered the stage of detailed discussions.

 

There seems to be general agreement that better accounting of the climate-specific components of committed funds is desirable. However, ECO wagers that some developed countries may hope to get away with rather generous methodologies when counting projects or programs where climate is only one of many objectives.

 

A solution suggested by one Party is that the receiving and the providing country mutually agree on the proportion reported as climate-specific. This could help developing countries in assessing support received, another post-Paris concept that should move forward.

 

Other useful ideas have been tabled, such as the proposal to count loans and other non-grant instruments on the basis of their grant equivalent – this is a better proxy for fulfilling UNFCCC Article 4.3, to cover the incremental cost of action. But delegates should not be swayed by the US’s attempts to shoot down the idea by insisting that loans are a valid instrument under the Paris Agreement’s Article 9. That may be true, but accounting for loans on a net basis does not negate their validity at all.
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TEMs: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

ECO has long supported the Technical Expert Meetings (TEMs), even though discussions haven’t yet translated into accelerated action. TEMs provide a useful space to discuss real-life sectoral and technological climate solutions, and recently more opportunities have been given to observers to engage in the Q&As. However, this week’s events on “Cross-cutting issues in urban environments and land use” have been a mixed bag.

 

Starting with the Good; the mitigation TEM event on “Partnerships that deliver technical and financial support for accelerated implementation of actions in Cities” got straight to the point. Looking at the role of financial institutions in providing access to financial support to deliver on sustainable urban development, this TEM had key strategies and sectors, including  a useful discussion on simplifying processes for accessing finance.

 

Next, the Bad. Thursday’s “Collaboration Forum” was supposed to be an interactive session between national, regional and city governments, international organisations, and private sector. Full points for the city representatices who turned up early, eager to engage and with  materials in hand. But with no apparent organisation, facilitation or icebreakers from the Secretariat, the process was chaotic, and frankly, rather awkward.

 

Then there was the downright Ugly. The event on “Attracting private sector engagement for ambitious mitigation actions in land use” may be one of the most blatant greenwashing efforts ever hosted by the UNFCCC.
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ECO-lateral Assessment

ECO is looking forward to the exchanges during the Multilateral Assessment, which will provide a great opportunity for Parties to quiz one another on the details of their progress on implementing their targets. What’s not on the table, though, is a discussion on the adequacy of those targets itself. Which, of course, is an important concern given the substantial mitigation gap that remains relative to a 1.5°C or even 2°C trajectory.

 

ECO has solicited questions from civil society organisations for several of the Parties undergoing Multilateral Assessment today and tomorrow.
Belarus: Given that your renewable energy target is only 9% by 2030, do you really believe that the Ostrovetskaya Nuclear Power Plant is the best mitigation solution for the 21st century, rather than increasing your renewable energy target?

 

Canada: Your general statements regarding the need for a just economic transition away from fossil fuels and keeping them in the ground are well received. How do you reconcile this long-term vision, and the domestic policies you implement to achieve it with your continued domestic support of long-lived fossil infrastructure (such as new LNG, pipeline, and tanker projects) and plans to increase fossil fuel exports?

 

France: You committed to a 2020 target of 23% of renewable energy in final energy consumption.
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