Reflections from COP21, Tuesday 8th December

Anne Leidreiter, World Future Council

While national negotiators work on a climate deal, mayors from around the world are showing that a global movement of local climate action is already underway. Cities from around the world have set 100 per cent renewable energy (100% RE) targets and are proving that this transition is not only an environmental requirement, but a tool for social and economic development. What they urgently need now is national governments to leverage their action.

Cities are uniquely positioned to combat climate change in a way that it serves the need of the people. However, mayors can only act in the context of the broader national framework. This was one of the outcomes of a policy dialogue with 13 cities from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia hosted by World Future Council, Renewable Cities and ICLEI on Monday in the Transformative Actions Program (TAP) Pavilion.

By sharing their experiences on successes and failures, local policy-makers from cities including Vancouver, Cape Town, Medellin, Paris, Byron Shire and Kaoshiung outlined how national frameworks can either empower or slow down city-level action. Supportive national and regional policies and incentives are required to ensure that local transformations to 100% RE have sufficient resources and the potential to effect meaningful change.

The dialogue showed that with the 100% RE movement gaining momentum, new questions arise: What does 100% RE actually mean? How do we measure success? And, how do we ensure that the transition to 100% RE is an instrument towards wealth redistribution, creation of social wellbeing and the protection of our ecosystems?

With around 1000 mayors signing a declaration last Friday at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders in Paris, the global 100% RE movement of local governments has reached a stage that national governments cannot ignore anymore. It is highly encouraging to see this dialogue among city governments taking place at COP21. One can be hopeful that policy-makers from different governance levels start talking to each other. Because only then, can we actually achieve our common goal – to limit global warming to 1.5oC and save the lives of millions of people across the planet.

 

Jeff Hayward, Rainforest Alliance

An exceptional number of pledges have been made to eliminate deforestation from places of raw material supply. Yesterday, the Rainforest Alliance and partners discussed the critical needs for companies and governments to halt deforestation due to agricultural expansion. As reducing emissions caused from forest loss is vital in addressing climate change, the Rainforest Alliance is pushing for robust ambition in the land sector, primarily by halting deforestation.

In Paris, we identified several implementation gaps that impede corporate actions to stop deforestation. These problems include lack of consistency in monitoring, verification, reporting, and communicating about progress. We noted that there is no existing international framework to bring credibility to these actions. Rainforest Alliance introduced an Accountability Framework that provides common principles to approaches that can level the playing field.

Importantly, an Accountability Framework will foster agreement on best practice guidance for means to monitor, document, and report on sustainability outcomes. This harmonisation is essential for furnishing comparable, credible information on key indicators that track progress towards targets related to deforestation, restoration, equitable development, and the fulfillment of future commodity demand.

In developing this harmonised framework, the project will work closely with existing and incipient monitoring, verification, and reporting initiatives such as Supply Change, Forest500, and Global Forest Watch. By defining a clear normative and operational guidance for such mechanisms, the Accountability Framework will help ensure that the diversity of solutions devised to address commodity-related sustainability challenges all meet basic standards of rigor and credibility, contributing to the ultimate goal of safeguarding natural ecosystems, fostering equitable development, and sustainably producing food and fibre.

 

Connal Hughes, Friends of the Earth Scotland

On Monday, environmental and development justice groups held the event, ‘Deal with it! People, Rights, Justice’, to look at the potential consequences of a bad deal in Paris. How would such a deal worsen inequality and affect people's rights to dignified and sustainable lives?

Invoking the event title ‘Deal With it’, Asad Rehman from Friends of the Earth spoke of how the poorest around the world were already dealing with the impact of climate change. 10 per cent of the richest people are responsible for 50 per cent of global emissions. He said that every citizen has the right to clean energy, the right to food and the right to life and any deal that fails to meet these criteria and fails to meet what the science demands is not a deal worth having. He called on rich nations to back up their warm words by doing their fair share and guaranteeing support for developing countries.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon spoke of her pride at their own national emission reduction targets and how she wanted to see an ambitious and binding deal here in Paris. She announced that her Government has doubled their climate justice fund supporting clean energy and water projects in Malawi and Zambia. This 12 million pound fund was ‘a small step but an important statement from a country determined to do the right thing’.

Many in the crowd were moved by Julianne Hickey of Caritas New Zealand who showed how the Paris agreement is a matter of life and death for many in the Oceania region. People on the islands there who have had no part in creating the climate crisis are fending off already rising sea levels with little more than sticks and stones. Many families there have been forced from their homelands and others were waiting on even basic financial support to relocate them.

This powerful event brought the human stories of climate change right into the room and reinforced the point that solutions must be just, centred in human rights and ensure that those most responsible do their fair share of the work and provide finance.