Reflections from COP20, Day 4

Atâyi Babs, Climate and Sustainable Development Network of Nigeria

As the climate negotiations enter a frenetic pace, one cannot help but notice the coordinated and orderly comportment of the African civil society groups at COP20. Coalescing under one umbrella known as the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), this group makes no pretence as to their objectives in Lima: climate justice for Africa!

With this background, a few colleagues and I decided to follow the activities of this group with a view to having an enhanced understanding of their activities, disposition and relevance to the climate negotiations. At a press conference organised by PACJA on Wednesday, the group was unequivocal in its demand for a better deal for Africa.

African CSOs at the press conference warned that climate talks in Lima could trigger an even greater climate crisis in Africa, if they were not careful to protect the rights of the most poor and vulnerable in the continent, and those most impacted by climate change. “Negotiations on a new climate deal are struggling due to trust issues – but we will not be hoodwinked by technical or procedural tricks,” Mithika Mwenda, General Secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) said.

Another interesting aspect of the conference came when it was announced that Japan wished to count the funding of coal power plants as climate finance, and that the African proposal for a renewable energy partnership is yet to be approved by developing countries. The litmus test of Lima will be: does it see pre-2020 climate action increase? Thus far, the silence has been deafening.

“We were promised that emission cuts would be strengthened this year; they weren’t. Instead African countries are been saddled with the additional load of paying for climate debt which they least contributed to” – said Rev. Dr. Tolbert Jallah from FECCIWA, an umbrella body of faith-based organisation based in Lome, Togo and PACJA member.

“We cannot have a situation where because of the pressure from developed countries, agreement on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) is hurriedly entered into by developing countries without a clearly defined outcome on the elements. It would open the door to compromising African strong demand for adaptation. ” – said John Bideri, Rwanda Climate Change Network, based in Kigali and a PACJA member.

At the end of the press conference, my colleagues and I left the convention centre better-informed and challenged to expect the best from the on-going talks, especially as they concern Africa.

Daniele Savietto and Sara Cattani, Youth Press Agency

“Our lives are not for sale”. These were some of the words in the song that opened the “Intergenerational Inquiry – Youth as Agents of Change” on the fourth day of COP20. Thursday was the Young and Future Generations Day. Having a voice in the 2015 agreement is an important achievement for young people.

The day began with an opening session in the presence of Emmanuel Dumisani Dlamini, Chair of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), Amena Yauvoli, Chair of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and representatives of the G77+China. It was followed by several events, including a Flash Mob, where Pachamama (Mother Earth) died and rose again, thanks to the union of youth. In the afternoon, at the Intergenerational Inquiry event, a lot of young people took part in a debate about the problems caused by climate change. Israel Maldonado, the General Coordinator of the Conference on Youth (COY10),which took place last week, emphasised the hard work that was undertaken during the three days at the COY10 to achieve the first Youth Declaration. The main statements of this Declaration are: solidarity between people, inclusiveness and intergeneration action.

The interaction between young people, decision-makers and indigenous youth – which rarely occurs and was one of the main purposes of this panel – was constrained by the fact that the speakers didn’t really manage to keep track of their time as it was scheduled. Being perhaps one of the few opportunities of intergenerational interaction, it was a shame that this event was not as successful as expected. Youth participation was minimal compared to youth needs, due to the fact that UNFCCC accreditation for young people is a rare exception.

In summary, it is necessary to build bridges between generations and to build an agreement in 2015 where everyone is heard. Moreover, the real purpose of the final agreement ought to be life and land defence, rather than the protection of political and economic interests. We, as youth, have the energy and hope to change paradigms and lifestyles, and we are aware that this planet was loaned us, so we have to leave it exactly as we found it.

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.

Reflections from COP20, Day 2

Daniele Saguto and Chiara Zanotelli, Youth Press Agency

Among the many side events today, we were amazed to find an unprecedented level of enthusiasm towards a great example of synergy between knowledge, expertise and concrete proposals in problem solving: the Technology Mechanism. This mechanism was established in 2010 at COP16 in Cancun, with the aim of creating a network of all the stakeholders committed in the implementation of enhanced action on technology development and transfer, to support action on mitigation and adaptation. This instrument has a policy soul, the Technology Executive Committee (TEC), and an implementation one, embodied by the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN).

The main idea of the project is to provide helpful Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs) and corresponding Technology Action Plans (TAPs) to all countries willing to use these tools. TNAs identify, prioritise and highlight technology needs, while TACs address specific barriers, identify targets, strategies, budgets and responsible stakeholders for prioritised technologies. Technology application has always been an enduring and complex process, of fundamental importance, in order to produce a complete assessment and to ensure political, economic, ecological and social factors are all considered.

This all-encompassing mechanism managed to coalesce into a well-structured network with all the essential components – presenting itself as an open system that invites contributions from stakeholders, from both the private and public sectors. Another interesting element is that the process may include the consideration of a variety of approaches – linking relevant factors such as development and transfer of hard and soft technologies – and spur progress on other factors such as knowledge, diversity and employment. Having a broad scope, it has all the credentials to succeed in its mandate if countries trust it, both in submitting the requests and accepting the linkage between the Technology Mechanism and the Financial Mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Reflections from the 10th Conference of Youth

Soscha de la Fuente, Dutch Youth Representative on Sustainable Development

After being elected as youth representative for the Netherlands just three weeks ago, this past Thursday I found myself on a plane to Lima, Peru to attend the 10th Conference of Youth (COY10) and the COP20 climate negotiations. The COY opening ceremony, with speeches from UNFCCC Executive-Secretary Christiana Figueres and the Peruvian Minister of the Environment, had one clear message: get together, work hard, and learn from each other. Make sure your voice is heard!

Not knowing what is ahead can be scary, and on my way to the first day at the COY10, I felt small and intimidated. On day two we started working on our Declaration of Youth in small groups, mine consisting of young people from France, Taiwan, Barbados, Peru and many other places. We were educators, activists, representatives and students; but mostly we were all concerned citizens. We got the chance to share our experiences, our worries, our success stories and our ideas. And because of all our differences, we were able to create a statement on education that is innovative and diverse; and can be used by our governments, as well as each other.

At the end of COY10 on Sunday I felt strong and empowered, and had connected with young people from all over the world. I was no longer just one person fighting against climate change, instead I now had an entire army next to me. In just those three days, we managed to prepare a Declaration of Youth that has inspired us all to work even harder. And we promised each other the following: “We, as the youth present at COY10, will share our knowledge and information of sustainable development, climate change and climate policy, and the environment with our peers and communities both formally and informally. We will share our experiences and lessons learned, as well as our educational tools, as teachers and as students.”

Reflections from COP20, Day 1

Cristina dalla Torre and Luciano Frontelle, Youth Press Agency

“We must put adaptation at the same level as mitigation”. Those were the words of Christiana Figueres at the opening session of COP20. This relates to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which states that with the current rise in temperature, there have been visible effects on the health of the planet. The gap between the causes of the climate change and its effects is tightening, meaning that impacts are becoming more and more real. One of the impacts that is already being felt is that of food shortages, due to the impacts climatic changes are having on agriculture.

But today at COP20 we didn't just have speeches on this issue, we also had an action. Fast for the Climate, which aimed to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on food and the lack of ambition to cope with them. This action gathered people at the central court at lunch time, sitting around a table with empty dishes. The message that participants wanted to deliver was that they were voluntarily fasting to remember those that are forced to, due to food shortages.

Both speeches and real examples of action play a positive role in the COP, since in their own way they can both lead to decisions being taken at the Conference. By that we mean that public opinion demands to see governments reach an agreement that tackles the challenges of climate change in an ambitious way, and addresses the effects that are already being felt but that have so far been ignored.

This first day has much to teach us about the fact that even though the topics at the centre of the negotiations are very complex and positions are controversial, there are people that in many fronts are working to take us out of the comfort zone and lead to the future that we need.

Reflections from the Third International Conference on SIDS, Tuesday 2nd September

The Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO)

Getting the perspectives of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) into UN processes to influence the post 2015 development agenda, is very important. This was the view of Helen Clark, the UN boss addressing the Major Groups and other Stakeholders during a parallel plenary of the Third International Conference on SIDS, yesterday.

Ms Clarke said that it is very important to ensure that the SAMOA Pathway and the Major Groups Outcome Statement, presented to the Conference the previous day, find their way to the negotiation tables of the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and advised the Major Groups and CSOs to ensure that their respective governments get to hear the whole canopy of issues raised.

As a woman and the UNDP Administrator in New York, she can identify with many of the issues raised in the Statement, which include gender equality, violence against women, comprehensive sexual education, indigenous people’s rights, the rights of people with disabilities, climate change, good governance and other cross cutting issues.

Ms Clarke said that the SIDS Conference addresses a range of issues which are very important areas for women, including non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the new global development agenda, financial inclusion and sustainable energy for all.

She praised the Prime Minister of Tonga who spoke about ‘foresight’ and how his government had capitalised on this to look beyond their horizons and plan for the future, developing strategies to address emerging issues. Tonga’s strategy is encouraging, Ms Clarke said.

The UNDP Head went on to speak on the important role of information, communication and technology in connecting people, saying that ICT is very important to link remote communities, enhance interaction between civil society and make interventions during disasters.

Ms Clarke noted the relationship between poverty and the environment, which is reflected in a new UNDP report on the State of Human Development in the Pacific. The report highlights that poverty is growing in the Pacific region, and the most vulnerable are women, youth and those living with disabilities. She also said that women have less access to employment and the unemployment rate for young people is 23% in the Pacific.

Ms Clarke said that it is disturbing to learn from the report that life expectancies in some of the Pacific SIDS are lower than those of developed Pacific countries such as Australia and New Zealand, in which life expectancy is 20 years greater than in Kiribati, for example.

She said that States must give priority to economic and social growth, to strengthen budgets for education and social services.

Ms Clarke said that Samoa has graduated from being a Least Developed Country and this is a sign of great improvement in its national development. However, this does not mean that problems will disappear overnight, but rather it is a process that may require time to arrive at its full potential.

UNDP is therefore trying its best to assist Pacific SIDS by placing an office in some of those countries, including Samoa, PNG, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands; with oversight from the UNDP Multi Country Office in Suva, Fiji.

All Major Groups and CSOs were reminded by Ms Clarke of the vital role they play in promoting sustainable development in SIDS, saying that without the engagement of civil society, no national or international agenda can reach its full potential.