Category Archives: Posts from Shannon Gibson

It’s beginning to feel a lot like…..Copenhagen

As the High-Level Segment begins, COP officials take informal consultations with select governments to push through ‘sets of decisions’

By: Shannon Gibson

Researcher

Ph.D. Candidate

University of Miami

Sitting in on Observer Organization briefings today on the two-tracks (LCA & KP) of the climate negotiations, we learned that COP President Patricia Espinosa Cantellano will be convening multiple closed, informal consultations with various parties on multiple issues, including shared visions on long-term cooperative action, mitigation, and other mechanisms such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and LULUCF (land use, land use change, and forests) later this afternoon. The countries invited and the subjects addressed will be determined at the President’s discretion.

As expectations lower around the outcome of COP16, it appears that the President is making moves to begin consolidating decisions around a few select issues so as to save face.  Though barely more transparent than the COP15 President’s attempts to usher in a “secret Danish text” during Week 1 of the 2009 negotiations, these tactics are not nearly as democratic as the more open and participatory consensus-building procedures historically pursued by the UNFCCC which take place in plenaries with all 192 member parties.  According to the Chair of the AWG-LCA, following the consultations, the President will bring all outcomes back to the drafting groups to be presented for full consideration by all parties before being entered into drafting text.  (This was not the case in COP15, where the Copenhagen Accord was forced in as an alternative to, not complement to, either of the LCA or KP texts).

Expectations for a second commitment period or some other version of a legally-binding Kyoto successor were equally downplayed in the briefing with the team from the AWG-KP.  The Chair confirmed that, “This afternoon there will be small group meetings around political issues. Certainly not all 192 countries will be sitting in those rooms working on text, rather they will have representatives.”  Though the schedule, participation and content of these consultations are currently unknown, the Chair said he expected to have clearer details by 3 pm today.

Finally, from both Chairs we heard that progress has been made, albeit limited. In general, there is consensus that there is momentum towards garnering a balanced set of decisions (within and across both tracks) that will hopefully be made available for all parties’ consideration early Friday morning.  Just how ambitious this ‘balanced set of decisions’ will be, is certainly TBD.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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Limited Access and Crack Downs on Civil Society

Civil Society members and guests of GJEP punished for chanting in UN Conference Center

By: Shannon Gibson

Researcher

Ph.D. Candidate

University of Miami

The Secretariat issued a new Information Note to Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organizations today which details the access restrictions for IGO and NGOs as the High Level Segment commences this afternoon.  Reports from our own members (the Climate Justice Now! constituency within the Environmental NGO’s delegation, indicate that we’ll have a whopping 2 passes for plenary access (mind you there are hundreds accredited under our network).  As I type this now, I myself am sitting in a plenary hall watching the Opening Ceremony of the High Level Segment via a live feed over closed circuit televisions.  Additionally, the Note ominously states, “Participants are however reminded of the building fire regulations, and that it is the responsibility of the secretariat to ensure implementation of policies for the safety and security of the participants on the UN conference premises.”  Last I checked, not that many high-level ministers were coming this week….maybe a few dozen.  How an extra few dozen high-level ministers (even with their entourages) justifies the exclusion of hundreds/thousands of civil society members sure beats me.  But then again, they used that same logic on us last year in Copenhagen…..

In terms of action crack downs, following a GJEP-hosted press conference inside the Moon Palace, United Nations security confiscated badges and forced activists engaging in an ‘non-sanctioned’ verbal chant into buses which transported them back to the Cancunmesse (the convention location where most NGO side events and meeting spaces are located…notably a 15 minute bus ride from the main plenary locations).  Below is an excerpt from an email sent by a member of Climate Justice Now! on what she witnessed (names removed to prevent future UN access restrictions):

Today following the CJN press conference in the Moon Palace, 3 of the activists…were very vocal and leading the chants, speaking to eager reporters who taped their speeches.  Then the UN security got a ‘deportation bus’ to usher them out of the Moon Palace, back to Cancunmesse and then out (presumably), after first confiscating their badges.

I was standing near the three of them, behind some reporter, and holding up the back of my badge which had the anti-REDD sticker on the back.  I reminded the speakers to announce their contact info to the media, so they could track them down later.  At that point a security officer asked to see my badge…I said he could see everything printed on it very well, without removing my badge.  He then snatched it from me by force.  I shouted to the media, who were still witnessing the ‘deportation’ of the 3 activists.  I told them my badge was taken without grounds, because I asked a simple question.  One journalist pressed him for an explanation, he said “I don’t have to explain, I am UN security”.  The journalist said of course you have to.  I guess eventually he decided it was bad PR, so after taking down my info, he returned my badge to me.   [A colleague] from GAIA saw when the guy snatched my badge, and came to ask him why he did it.  Immediately another security went after her!  He took down her info, but didn’t take away her badge.

Tomorrow, those of us whose names were taken may find ourselves blocked out.  But in front of one of the remaining secret service person, I told the reporters that I will let them know if I got excluded in later days because of today’s incidence.  Hope that deters them a bit.

For a photo essay of the inside protests by GJEP Director Orin Langelle, click here.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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Civil Society Stepping it up in Cancun

Shannon Gibson

Researcher

Phd. Candidate

University of Miami

Civil society and activist presence is ramping up in Cancun as the city prepares for the second week of the United Nations climate negotiations to begin on Monday.  In addition to those civil society members accredited as official observers to negotiations, there are three alternative civil society spaces being hosted in the city: Diálogico Climático / Espacio Mexicano (ESMEX), the La Via Campesina space and 1000 Cancun’s campaign, and Klimaforum 2010.

While the history and individual politics of each of these spaces vary, what is unique is that they are all grassroots initiatives geared at providing space for civil society outside of the security constraints and power struggles of the negotiation center, where they can convene, network, debate, strategize and search for consensus on international action in the face of impending climate change.

The benefit of such outside spaces is that it provides more room for radical action, planning and discourse, particularly from Indigenous, landless and peasant voices, which have been marginalized and oppressed for centuries. Of particular concern for these impacted communities are the so-called “false solutions” to climate change, primarily the commodification of natural resources and geo-engineering as mitigation and adaptation solutions.

“Indigenous peoples are demanding change to models of production and consumption that produce climate change. As social movements, civil society, and Indigenous persons we must challenge an economic system of capitalism that is not sustainable,” said Tom Goldtooth, Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

These spaces will provide ample ground for communities and organizations from around the world debate tough issues, such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), a matter of some contention amongst Indigenous organizations and signatory countries to the Kyoto Protocol. They also aim to generate a statement at the close of the Forum and to campaign for a global climate referendum and global climate justice tribunal.

“I feel strengthened by you the grassroots people of La Via Campesina, the social movements, the youth, the woman, and Indigenous Peoples,” concluded Goldtooth. “You must recognize yourselves, clap for yourselves and recognize the power you have.”

Note:

Each of these spaces will convene panels and workshops throughout the week.  Additionally there will be two marches on Tuesday December 7th (details forthcoming).

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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“Balanced Package” or nothing at all, says lead U.S. Climate Negotiator

By Shannon Gibson

Researcher

Phd. Candidate

University of Miami

United States takes another strong stance at international climate negotiations

Todd Stern, the U.S.’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, indicated in his first COP16 press conference today in the Moon Palace, that the United States would not compromise on their stance that if negotiations are too move forward, they must move forward on all issues simultaneously.

“What we’re seeking now in Cancun is a balanced package of decisions,” Stern stated. “Rather than insisting on a legal treaty before anything happens, we should move down the pragmatic path of concrete operational decisions.”

This “balanced package” rhetoric has been the United States’ main talking point for some time now, and it is in conflict with proposals by countries, such as China, who have argued that due to so many unsettled issues in Cancun, negotiations should focus primarily on mitigation commitments and the legal status or form of a future protocol and leave other issues, such as monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV, a major issue for the United States) to COP17 in Durban.

Stern took issue with countries who advocate this piecemeal approach (or what is sometimes referred to in negotiations as the “form before content” approach) stating, “that none of these issues are too difficult and none of them should be put off any longer.” He also said he simply doesn’t buy the rationale that roadblocks in some areas of interest to developed countries should be left to linger and progress be made on other issues of particular interest to developing countries.

Instead, the United States is still trying to force the operationalization of the Copenhagen Accord, a climate deal ushered in last minute at last year’s COP15 that does not currently enjoy unanimous consent under the UNFCCC.  Whilst this has so far proven unsuccessful, many of the Accord’s elements have been integrated into the AWG-LCA draft text; while elements from the People’s Agreement designed in Cochabamba have been withdraw from a text by the working group’s chair.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

 

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Carrot, Stick or Both? – The Role of Finance in Climate Negotiations

By Shannon Gibson

Researcher

Phd. Candidate

University of Miami

Examining the quandaries of Fast Star tand Long Term Finance under the Copenhagen Accord

Finance has long been an issue of contention in climate negotiations.  What it basically boils down to is that developing countries request (even demand) funds for mitigation and adaptation, including capacity building and technology transfer, while developed countries tend to use their mass capital reserves as a bargaining tool – first promising it to get agreement around an issue, then toying with the details and distribution of the funds as it suits their needs.

It has been a full year since the Copenhagen Accord pledged to provide “new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching $30 billion for the period 2010 to 2012 with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation.”  For countries deeply in need of funds for adaptation to already occurring climatic changes, this is quite an incentive for enhancing their participation with the Accord.  However, recent reviews of the promises made are less than stellar.

First, the whole “new and additional” part is rather questionable. Already countries, such as the United Kingdom, have admitted that much of their pledges may have to be ‘recycled’ (no pun intended), which means that to fulfill their promises, funds will be diverted away from existing overseas development aid (ODA).  This presents quite a conundrum as the receipt of this climate finance also means divestment from existing overseas aid programmes that work to improve health and education in the developing world.

Of additional concern is the form of the finance. Most developing countries were led to believe this would be granted money, however some contributions have been made as ‘concessional soft loans’, according to the website, Climate Fund Update.  Some sources report that as much as 50% of financing from the European Union will be channeled as loans.  For those groups who advocate the full and unconditional repayment of ecological debt and demand that the World Bank be kept out of climate finance, these are troubling signs.

Further, the Copenhagen Accord also states that countries will begin to work to raise $100 billion annually by 2020.  Though this sum falls short of the estimated $275 billion the World Bank says is needed to tackle climate change by 2030, the UN requested an advisory group to work on a report detailing where that money could be raised.

That report was issued in November this year to mixed reviews.  While the report does advocated that substantial revenue could come from the redeployment of fossil fuel subsidies in developed countries and an international financial tax (that’s right, a mechanism akin to ATTAC’s Robin Hood Tax or the Tobin Tax), they argue that the success of mobilizing the full amount rests on the ability to stabilize carbon prices at $20-25 USD.  In their assessment, those prices could generate $100-200 billion of gross private capital flows, of which 10% could be used to satisfy the promised FSF and long-term amounts.

Given that the majority of credit-generating schemes under the Kyoto Protocol occur in the developing world, this puts developing countries that are against certain market-based mechanisms in a bind. In essence if they wish to receive the promised funds, they have no choice but to continue to allow market mechanisms if they have any hopes of receiving climate finance.

And here comes the stick. Those not agreeing to the Copenhagen Accord, such as Bolivia, have already had some of their previously promised adaptation funding revoked for rebuking the United States’ offer and refusing to associate with the Accord.  After a year of review, it appears that the fast-start and long-term finance promised under the Accord has been used both as incentive to participate and punishment for noncompliance.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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Future of Kyoto Protocol No Laughing Matter at COP 16

Brazil, China, Saudi Arabia refuse to issue full support on future of CDM without second KP commitment period

By: Shannon Gibson

Researcher

Ph.D. Candidate

University of Miami

Despite calls for goodwill and a congenial discussion by co-chairs, tensions ran high over the future of the Kyoto Protocol in today’s Contact Group meeting on issues relating to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

In response to interventions by Brazil, Saudi Arabia, China, and Bolivia, who demanded that the contact group could not consider continued support for the CDM without a clear signal of the continuation of the Protocol for a second period, the Co-Chair Eduardo Calvo of Peru quipped that from his experience studying life sciences it is “still possible to keep the organ alive even if the body dies.”  While the crowd snickered in response, the perhaps ill-time joke exposed the very real sensitivities that developing parties feel towards the future (or perhaps lack thereof) of the Kyoto Protocol.

The initial discussion arose in response to consideration of the first item listed in a “list of issues for discussion at CMP on Agenda item 6” which read, “Signal of the commitment to the continuation of the mechanism.” Following the comedic input, Brazil intervened to condemn the unfortunate joke and to reiterate its stance that it could not accept the chairs’ list with that statement intact.  Papua New Guinea and Bolivia chimed in to support Brazil’s demand and the chairs eventually agreed to place that statement in brackets (meaning it is not agreed upon text) and would consider its removal.

Some parties, such as Japan (who recently signaled their decision to not pursue a 2nd Kyoto Protocol commitment period), attempted to avoid this discussion, by arguing that this body was not the correct forum in which to discuss the future of the Protocol.  While the discussion was brief, its content is particularly telling for the future of the climate talks.  Where developing countries wish to extend mitigation commitments for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, many developed countries (such as Canada, Japan and the United States) are arguing for a new and separate agreement under the Convention.  It appears that disagreements such as the one in today’s CDM contact group are occurring in other contact groups related to carbon markets and offsets. It will surely be interesting to see how far this strategy – the withholding of support for market-based mechanisms by developing countries – will go in these talks and if it will have any effect on ensuring a 2nd Kyoto commitment period.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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Developing Countries Demand More Funds for Adaptation

Small Island States cite project backlogs and lack of funds as barriers to adaptation

By: Shannon Gibson

Researcher

PhD Candidate

University of Miami

In today’s Contact Group meeting on the Adaptation Fund, a representative from Jamaica commended the work of the Adaptation Fund Board on their progress this year, but repeatedly noted that the Fund itself was “woefully inadequate.”

The Adaptation Fund under the UNFCCC is mandated to provide funds for concrete adaptation projects and programs in developing countries that are party to the Kyoto Protocol.  Its funds come from shares of proceeds from clean development mechanism (CDM) (2% of issued credits) as well as from voluntary pledges from developed governments. As of November 2010, the total amount deposited in the Adaptation Fund, including CDM proceeds, is USD 202.11 million, with the majority coming from Germany and Spain.  To date, the Adaptation Fund has approved 2 adaptation projects, endorsed 6 and has 22 in its pipeline for review.

Many in the developing world argue that this amount simply isn’t enough; commonly World Bank estimates that adaptation in developing countries will require $60-100 million per year through 2050. These sentiments were evident in today’s contact group, as were concerns over the long time periods for project consideration and approval (similar concerns were raised in yesterday’s Subsidiary Body on Implementation meeting, see the Third World Network’s recap for more).

At this time it does not appear that significant extension of the fund will occur, particularly due to the introduction of the Green Climate Fund, a new fund proposed at COP15 under paragraph 10 of the Copenhagen Accord.  Regardless of the site or structure of the funding, one thing is sure, finance for mitigation and adaptation in the developing world will continue to be major point of debate in this and future COPs, particularly as it is tied to US demands for transparency and oversight.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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CMP Plenary Discussions on Clean Development Mechanism

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) all the rage in today’s CDM talks

By: Shannon Gibson

Researcher

PhD Candidate

University of Miami

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and equitable distribution of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects were the main topics of today’s two hour discussion on CDM in the second meeting of the CMP (Conference of Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol) at COP16/CMP6. (Plenary webcasts available here).

The CDM under the Kyoto Protocol (KP) is deemed a “Flexible Mechanism” in that it provides alternatives methods to domestic mitigation (i.e., states enacting domestic carbon taxes or legislating carbon caps for industries) for developed countries aiming to meet their KP emission reduction targets. Through the CDM, developed countries are allowed to purchase emission offset credits from carbon reduction projects conducted in the developing world.  Theoretically, the CDM is to provide mutual benefits to developed and developing countries – developed countries receive a more politically attractive method for reducing emissions (i.e., by doing so where labor and services are cheaper and in a way that doesn’t require action from their own industries) and developing countries receive financial cash flows, infrastructure investment and a degree of technology transfer.

In today’s plenary discussion, the majority of interventions, from both developing and developed countries, showed strong support for the continuation and extension of CDM projects in the post-2012 era.  One proposal, supported by Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Qatar, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, Granada and others, is the inclusion of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as an accepted CDM project (it is not currently allowed under the KP).

CCS (also commonly referred to as “Clean Coal”) is the process of separating CO2 from industrial and energy-related sources and transporting it for storage in geological formations (ex., depleted oil reservoirs), the ocean, in mineral carbonates or for use in other industrial processes.  While CCS could provide a cost effective manner for mitigating or sinking carbon emissions, concerns include human and ecosystem concerns related to the possibility of future leakage of CO2 from storage facilities and other gaps in scientific knowledge concerning the potential negative externalities of CCS (For review of CCS and relevant issues, see the IPCC’s Special Report on CCS and Greenpeace’s The Case Against Coal).

Also, in todays plenary there were multiple calls, for example by Niue, Senegal, Jordan, and others, for fair and equitable distribution of CDM projects.  While the CDM was designed to benefit all countries simultaneously, many argue that only a select group of developing countries are consistently recruited by investors and approved for CDM projects. For example according to the UNFCCC, as of 2006 more than half of CDM projects were conducted in Asia and the South Pacific (over 75% of these were in India and China), 30% in Central and Latin America (with half of these projects in Brazil), and only 7% in Africa.

Today’s plenary clearly indicated support for the extension of current CDM projects and expansion into new projects, such as CCS, by member parties. However a rousing dissenting viewpoint came toward the end of the plenary in an intervention from a delegate representing the Global Forest Coalition, an environmental non-governmental organization. The delegate declared that the CDM is inherently flawed and results in bogus carbon credits (a comment on current ‘additionality’ requirements under the mechanism).  He called on delegates to thoroughly consider the environmental integrity of all mitigation baselines and targets and demanded that emissions cuts should be made at the sources rather than in developing countries. Additionally, rather than pitching CDM as a trickle down financial stimulus for developing countries, perhaps countries could reallocate the approximately 1.7 trillion dollars spent per year on world militaries in order pay ecological debt back to developing countries, whom have bore the majority of resource extraction and effects of climate change.

While many argue that the future of mitigation efforts hinge on the outcome of COP16 and COP17 next year in Durban, the future of the CDM seems sound.  Despite legally binding treaties, trends in the implementation of other non-Kyoto market mechanisms such as REDD, indicate that market-based mechanisms will surely be pursued via bilateral agreements and at the behest of international financial institutions and development banks (Note: the World Bank made a whopping 7 minute intervention in the plenary…the time limit is 3).  Stakeholders must pay attention to these developments here in COP16 as well as other multi and bilateral venues.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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From Copenhagen to Cancun: Recapping Progress and Stumbling Blocks in 2010

North-South Divides on Mitigation, Adaptation, and Process

By: Shannon Gibson

Researcher

PhD Candidate

University of Miami

It has been a year since the COP15 UNFCCC climate talks ended amid mass controversy over North-South stalemates, secret texts negotiated behind closed doors, and the failure of a last minute push by President Barack Obama and a select group of UNFCCC member states to enact the Copenhagen Accord.

Due to disagreements on differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing countries, enforcement mechanisms, and oversight (not to mention the non-democratic process by which the Accord was developed), COP15 ended with the Accord merely being ‘taken note of’ due to lack of consensus (the current rule of decision-making in the UNFCCC) among member parties.

Thus the majority of the UNFCCC’s 2010 work has been primarily procedural, as it was unsure of how to deal with this ‘non-agreement’ as well as other submissions from developing countries and civil society. Despite the Accord not being adopted as an UNFCCC decision, the Executive Secretary allowed member parties to submit their intent to ‘associate with’ the Accord along with their national mitigation plans in early 2009.  According to Climate Action Network’s Copenhagen Accord climate tracker, 138 countries have since associated themselves with the Accord, accounting for nearly 90% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  However, Nature reports that current mitigation commitments under the Accord are simply too weak and insufficient to prevent global warming of 3 °C or more over pre-industrial levels.

Recognizing the failures, both in process and in content, of the Copenhagen Accord, Bolivia convened the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in mid-2010 to provide a space for civil society, Indigenous Peoples and grassroots movements, to discuss their visions for alternative climate change solutions.  The conference culminated in the creation of the People’s Agreement, which provides alternative proposals such as increased mitigation targets, recognition of the rights of Mother Earth and Indigenous rights, and the reduction/destruction of market-based mitigation mechanisms, to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.  Elements of the Agreement were officially submitted to the UNFCCC by Bolivia for consideration as negotiating text earlier this year.

This leads us to today, where the UNFCCC is left scrambling with how to merge elements of these two texts, the Copenhagen Accord and the People’s Agreement, into the existing two-track negotiation process established by the Bali Action Plan. Taking one look at the current state of the draft negotiating text of the AWG-LCA (Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Coordinated Action; i.e.,  the negotiation group that includes the United States, a non-signatory to the Kyoto Protocol), one can see that nearly 50% of this dense text is bracketed.  Bracketed text in negotiation documents indicates proposals or text which has not been agreed upon.  The majority of these brackets are the result of divisions between developed and developing countries over three main issues: mitigation, adaptation and what form a future agreement should take.

Mitigation

Countries are largely divided on who should commit to mitigation targets, by how much, on which baseline and by what deadline.  In general, developed countries have submitted mitigation proposals ranging from 17% (the United States) to 50% (the European Union) with a preference for a later deadline (i.e., 2050).  This is in stark contrast to calls for 70-100% reduction commitments from developing countries, such as those a party to AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States).

Additionally, following the lead established by the Copenhagen Accord, many developed countries are calling for a commitments by ‘all large economies’, thus seeking to include countries such as China, Brazil and India, who were not previously bound under the Kyoto Protocol as developing or ‘Non Annex 1’ countries.  Almost all developing countries are resistant to this call citing the long held notion of ‘common, but differentiated responsibilities’ enshrined in the Convention treaty.

Another major debate with regard to mitigation is the use of market-based mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism, which provide economic incentives for mitigation by allowing developed countries to invest in carbon emission reduction projects in developing countries in exchange for carbon credits. The People’s Agreement, in particular, is extremely outspoken it is rejection of these market mechanisms and their expansion into new areas such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and forest conservation (i.e., under REDD).

Adaptation

First there is a debate whether adaptation should even be considered at this point as many argue that a focus on adaptation is an admission of defeat in terms of mitigation efforts.  Beyond that however, the major stumbling blocks with adaptation are finance and the types of adaptation projects to be considered.  First with regard to finance, there simply isn’t enough.  The Adaptation Fund has consistently requested additional funds from member countries and has consistently failed to receive them.  Additionally, the percentage of shares of CDM carbon credits in the Fund has fallen due to the 2008 economic decline’s impact on carbon pricing.

In terms of future adaptation funding, the Copenhagen Accord states that developed countries will provide $10B in fast-track money and work to mobilize $100B annually for the climate change mitigation and adaptation assistance to developing countries.  While this may seem generous, many developing countries are concerned with the structure of this funding.  First, as outlined by President Obama this funding is contingent on countries associating with the Accord and opening themselves up to financial oversight by an external body.  Countries such as Bolivia saw this introduction of “conditional funding” as an attempt at bribery and have thus rejected the Accord.  Other countries, such as China, have indicated that they will not likely open their states to carte blanche oversight – for financial expenditures or mitigation commitments. Finally, countries are divided on who they wish to oversee this new financial mechanism, with developed countries looking to the World Bank and developing countries (many of whom have bad past experiences with Bank) preferring the fund to stay under control of the Convention.

Also of concern are those proposals which look to the geo-engineering of trees, plants and seeds as adaptation measures, a topic which is also heavily debated in the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Where many developed countries are anxious to instigate, or in some cases ramp up, research and development investment in these technologies, many developing countries and other impacted communities are hesitant to accept these adaptation experiments, particularly due a lack of scientific studies on the potential negative effects of GE trees and seeds on ecosystems and humans.

Process and Form of Future Agreement

While policy issues and negotiating differences relating to mitigation and adaptation are obviously important, they may be all for naught if countries cannot work them into a coherent text that can achieve consensus under the current UNFCCC negotiation rules.  This is the preferred path of developing countries as well as some developed, such as the European Union.  These groups, despite the failings in Copenhagen, still argue that parties to the Kyoto Protocol should strive to design a second commitment period for the Protocol, which expires in 2012.  This agreement should be legally binding and enforceable.

On the other end of the spectrum, many developed countries, the United States, Canada and Australia in particular, continue to push the Copenhagen Accord or some variation of a ‘voluntary accord’ (i.e., no binding mitigation targets or enforcement mechanisms), as opposed to a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol.  Indeed, just this week Japan announced that it will not seek to extend its mitigation targets under the second commitment period.  Furthermore, it has been reported that some states are looking to more selective political forums, such as the G20 and G8, as new venues to consolidate climate negotiations and decision-making.  These countries argue that the consensus-based nature of the UNFCCC is simply to difficult to pass decisions in and that efficiency may have to trump democracy at this critical stage.

At this point, the UNFCCC is still the only game in town when it comes to climate negotiations; however North-South divisions are making it difficult for negotiators to begin moving text out of brackets and to begin taking decisions.  How the UNFCCC manages these divisions, be it openly or behind closed doors as was the case in Copenhagen, will surely be telling for the prospects of a future agreement and the Convention itself as a negotiation forum.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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Expanding our Minds and Making Connections

Jihan Gearon (right), Native Energy and Climate Campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network speaking at the Climate Connections: Building the Movement for Social Change workshop. Jacqui Patterson, Co-Founder and Coordinator of Women of Color United also presented at the workshop. The workshop was organized by Global Justice Ecology Project. Both women also participate in GJEP's New Voices on Climate Change program. photo: Langelle/GJEP

Connecting the Dots between Capitalism, Racism, Gender, Oppression and Climate Change

By Shannon Gibson

Researcher, Global Justice Ecology Project

Ph.D. Candidate in International Relations, University of Miami

Normally when people think of ‘climate change’ the stream of consciousness (particularly in developed countries) might go something like this…climate change → global warming → melting glaciers → rising seas → oh shit I live near the coast → I should probably bulk up my insurance policy and maybe do my part and look into buying a hybrid car → let me hop on the internet and do that → well maybe after I watch “Dancing with the Stars.”  It might seem comical, but in today’s “Climate Connections: Building the Movement for Social Change” workshop,  with speakers Anne Petermann (GJEP), Jacqui Patterson (Women of Color United, NAACP) and Jihan Gearon (Indigenous Environmental Network – IEN), the connections made between climate change, race, gender and vulnerabilities were anything but humorous.

Jacqui, an organizer with Women of Color United and the NAACP, told this story: a woman in Cameroon is struggling to survive.  As a result of climatic changes, agricultural patterns are shifting and she is experiencing lower crop yields. In search of a means to make a living, she attempts to leave the country and seek work elsewhere.  Unfortunately she is unable to legally migrate and instead ends up being trafficked to another country, where she is sexually abused and consequently rendered HIV positive.  This connection as opposed to the somewhat comical vignette proposed above is quick and harsh….climate change to gender and race-related abuse and exploitation (with a dash of poverty and food insecurity thrown into the mix) in far less than six degrees of separation.

And that was the point of today’s workshop – taking a step back to take a hard look at the connections between neoliberal capitalism, hyper consumerism, global resource extraction, corporate domination and climate change.   As this web of connections is fleshed out, it is easy to see that it’s not really ‘climate change’ that is the problem.  It is not some ephemeral problem that exists in the atmosphere that people need to conquer or fix.  Rather it is the global system of production, consumption, trade and transport which needs fixing.  It is this system which is the sole driver of climate change and simultaneously the mechanism which has created such inequality, poverty and disenfranchisement that robs many frontline communities of the capacity to appropriately adapt to or even prevent it.  The system is not only the cause of the problem…. it completely disempowers people to act against it.

In their discussion of the effects that climate change is and will have on frontline communities, Gearon and Patterson wove together how heightened vulnerabilities, the result of discrimination, economic underdevelopment, political disenfranchisement, and geographic local, result in disproportionate harm.  Direct links are simplest to make.   For example, Indigenous peoples and people of color often live in geographic locales that are particularly vulnerable to climatic changes.  Deserts, forest lands and the Arctic in the case of Indigenous peoples and coastal and urban areas for people of color.

The indirect links are not as readily apparent – however they are potentially the most crucial.  For example, Gearon spoke to the ways in which Indigenous peoples are affected simultaneously by the drivers of climate change and climate change itself.  In many cases natural resource extraction (of oil, coal and uranium for nuclear power) is the primary source of income for many native communities.  The presence of both resource extraction and waste sites on reservations has resulted in multiple health problems, from increased rates of asthma to cancer, for these communities.  Further, while suffering these consequences – illness, loss of land, etc. – they have little to input on the operation or expansion of these projects.  Nor are they given access to the benefits.  Gearon recounted how on her Navajo reservation electric power lines run directly over houses with no electricity because residents are unable to afford the rates charged by utility companies.

In communities of color, the story is much the same. But beyond the effects of climate change, it’s also important to note how climate change has been used to further exploit vulnerable populations. For example, Patterson drew striking connections between climate change and criminalization in highlighting the mass arrests for ‘looting’ post-Katrina and the killing of a young Haitian boy suspected of stealing rice following the most recent earthquake.  Also many of the proposed solutions for dealing with climate change are disproportionately harsh on already vulnerable populations, from proposals for the commodification of forests under REDD plus and the United Nations which forces Indigenous Peoples off of native lands for the sake of ‘forest preservation’ (see Anne’s post on Boreal Forests) to the discourse of population control, which undeniably places an unfair burden and restriction of reproductive freedom on women of color in developing countries.

These issues are just the tip of the iceberg. The connections are endless.  After all, war, colonization, imperialism, discrimination at their most basic are all about controlling resources – land, energy, water access, etc. – for the purposes of economic benefit of a select few generally at the detriment of others.  And the processing of these resources is carbon intensive.  James Ploeser of Global Trade Watch summed it up nicely, “I was at a rally and saw a banner that said “System Change, Not Climate Change” and it really resonated with me.  Generally I interface with green groups that always claim that carbon is the enemy.  And after listening to all we’ve heard today I don’t think I have to explain to anyone in this room just how stupid that is.”

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Filed under Climate Justice, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Posts from Shannon Gibson