Reflections from COP20, Day 3

Serena Boccardo and Edoardo Quatrale, Youth Press Agency

Bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and community awareness is one of the challenging tasks of COP20. The common feeling is that often scientific results are so complex and difficult that there is a strong need for training and translation: not only amongst civil society, but also media representatives, politicians and the academic community. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is aware of these difficulties, which is why it is pushing for a better dissemination of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), including via their most recent initiatives, the launch of a new website and Wednesday’s side event, where diverse stakeholders gave their feedback.

A crucial issue is that the AR5 is not translated in local languages, and this deeply undermines a comprehensive understanding of it, especially in non-English speaking countries.

“Scientific brain drain and shortage of financial resources are often the main causes of an inadequate preparation of our national focal points” says John Kekana, national representative for the Republic of South Africa. The dissemination process should start from politicians, then. A good practice in this regard has been the launch of national outreach two weeks before the release of the AR5 report. According to Kekana, this practice was “very instrumental in building capacity” among civil servants, as well as among media representatives in South Africa. At the end of the debate, a politician expressed his concerns about how the Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) Mechanism could affect underground water networks. A clear example of lack of knowledge of engineering procedures, since CCS, being a gas storage mechanism, is an in-depth process that in no way can affect pollution.

Tom Harrisson, Goldsmiths College, University of London

At a side event on Wednesday The Green Climate Fund (GCF) announced triumphantly that they are open for business and very nearly fully operational. The long awaited financial flows will be available by June next year at the earliest, providing the National Designated Authorities (NDAs) – the bodies designated to administer funds – have passed the accreditation process and have submitted applications by mid January 2015. The UNFCCC's stated target of matching the political parity of adaptation with mitigation is certainly reflected in the GCF, as the funds have been split 50/50 for these two approaches. Crucially, of the 50 per cent allocated to adaptation, half of it is to go to Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and the African Group.

Within the mitigation funds, NDAs can apply for a $15 million "readiness fund" in order to improve infrastructure, such as smart grids, to attract private investment. Furthermore, NDAs who have already been accredited by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Adaptation Fund or the Directorate General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid of the European Commission (EU DEVCO) can have their proposals accelerated under the fast track stream.

However it was revealed today that Japan used what was meant to be climate finance to fund a coal plant in Indonesia, prompting a letter signed by 250 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to the GCF board demanding it make it clear in its policy that it will not directly or indirectly fund "fossil fuels and other harmful energy projects or programmes".

With the question of how this was allowed to happen left unanswered, I moved onto the IPCC's side event on its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and its use by a range of stakeholders. Messages were restated: human induced climate change is undeniable; lack of short-term action will be very costly in future, nothing new there. However Nebojsa "Naki" Nikicenovic of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis seemed to suggest in his presentation that, having run the numbers, the recently announced US-China deal could be in line with a 2˚C target.

Still reeling from this revelation, Shell's David Hone went on to steal the show with his presentation, in which he at once acknowledged the achievements of AR5 but stated that a massive up scaling of carbon capture and storage (CCS) would be essential to achieving the 2˚C target. With so many highs and lows, Lima is going to be tricky one.