NEWSLETTER ISSUE 70 - DECEMBER 2013 – Warsaw SPECIAL
- Typhoon Haiyan reminds the world of the urgency to act.
- COP19: The most corporate COP ever
- The Greens/EFA counter event
- The Green Climate March
- Irresponsible moves from some governments
- Polish ministerial sacking – Is there a pilot on board?!
- The walk out of NGOs
- COP19, a minimal agreement. Again.
- Some small silver linings?
- The long road to Paris 2015
- Calendar of some key events in December
Typhoon Haiyan reminds the world of the urgency to act.
The 19th round of climate negotiations opened with a tragic reminder of what is at stake, when Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms in recent history, hit the Philippines early November killing up to 10 000 of people and putting millions of people at risk.
Despite charismatic Filipino negotiator Yeb Sano’s strong appeal for ambition at COP19 declaring that it is time for the world to stop this madness, there were few signs of urgency within the negotiating rooms... Yeb Sano´s decision to fast to increase pressure on the negotiation process was nevertheless followed by thousands of people at the COP premises and beyond.
COP19: The most corporate COP ever
This year COP19 will be remembered as being the most corporate COP ever. The destructive role played by dirty corporations was criticised by a lot of participants. Environmentalists have criticised the important presence of big business and polluting industries, which clearly attempted to undermine and subvert effective and just climate action.
Not only did the most polluting industries make great effortsto green wash themselves with their logo visible everywhere around the COP premises and at a lot of side events, the dirty energy lobby – determined to continue profiting from its massive contributions to climate change - also organised its own International Coal and Climate Summit (put on by the World Coal Association and the Polish Ministry of Economy) the very second week of the climate negotiations. This caused a lot of outrage among the NGOs, activists and the Greens.
The NGOs quickly reacted. Greenpeace temporarily shrouded the Ministry of Economy building in a huge red banner asking “Who rules Poland? The coal industry or the people?” held in place by several activists suspended high in the air on ropes while other NGOs organised an action entitled “Cough for Coal”, with a giant pair of inflatable lungs, demanding healthy lungs and planet.
The fossil industry tirelessly repeated that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is the solution to continue using fossil fuel energy sources while reducing CO2 emissions. But CCS is clearly decades away from commercial application, with massive doubts overhanging its safety and effectiveness. It is neither a mature not a proven technology yet, whereas renewables are, and this is where investment is greatly needed for the green energy transition to take place.
The Greens/EFA counter event
The weekend before the opening of the second political week of COP19, the Greens/EFA organised a conference in the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw in order to counter attack the huge dirty industry lobby at the COP but also in Poland in general. The event, organised over 2 days and which gathered about 300 participants, offered a completely different energy, climate and social future scenario to Polish citizens.
In Poland, the Polish government continues to argue that coal can be clean and that shale gas will help in making the transition to a green economy. The reality is far from being like this. Every year, coal pollution kills approximately 3500 people in Poland and shale gas and hydraulic fracking creates a lot of risks to people’s health, not too mentioned a long series of dangerous impacts on the country’s land, agriculture, water etc... Is this really the type of future development we want when other safer and sustainable options do exist?
The Green Climate March
The Greens/EFA event ended on Saturday 16th November with a talk with the representatives of the groups that organised the ‘train to Warsaw’ . About 700 people decided to embark on a journey by train from Brussels to the Polish capital to call for a Green energy transition, climate and social justice as well as real ambition at COP19. The demonstrators were joined by the Greens/EFA group as well as local groups and local citizens. In total, around 3000 people attended the march for the climate.
Irresponsible moves from some governments
Like in previous years, governments continued to diminish the importance of the climate summit, constantly repeating that it is a mere technical meeting at which nothing big can be expected. However, if some participants did not expect a lot of positive signs this year, they certainly did not expect some big countries to simply back track from the whole process!
The official announcement from the Japanese government at the beginning of the COP that the country will slash its emissions reduction target and increase its CO2 emissions by 3% generated shock among the vast majority of participants. The Australian Government, which is experiencing heat waves like never before in recent history and who has parts of her territory literally burning, is nevertheless pushing for an anti-climate agenda at home. The country's attempts to block any progress at this round of UN climate talks and in the area of financing in particular also created a lot of outrage.
These moves are totally irresponsible. A recent report from Global Carbon Project showed global carbon emissions rising to a new record this year. The world is currently on a path to 5°C warming. Reversing this dramatic trend therefore urgently requires major mitigation action both before and after 2020. Backtracking is definitively not an option.
Polish ministerial sacking – Is there a pilot on board?!
On 20th November, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk officially sacked the country’s environment minister Marcin Korolec and replaced him with the former deputy finance minister, Maciej Grabowski. Korolec - who meanwhile continued chairing the COP19 climate summit - was appointed as ‘climate envoy’ and proxy at the prime minster’s office until the COP20 summit in Lima in 2014. In a statement Tusk clearly stated that his minister’s dismissal was about radical acceleration of shale gas operations in the country.
For some, the government’s motives for hosting the conference were not to save the climate but rather to slow down the process of doing so. Many environmentalists believed that the ministerial sacking had the intention to make the summit stall and prevent decisions from being taken in Warsaw, which would have to be vetoed at the European Council in March 2014 (where the EU’s climate position will need to be agreed upon). For the Greens, the decision showed that Poland was clearly not taking the international process seriously at all.
Poland had already vetoed EU climate policies three times in the past between June 2011 and June 2012. According to Client Earth, it has only complied with just one of the 11 EU climate and energy laws.
The walk out of NGOs
With the development of the negotiations going from bad to worse, 800 members of civil society decided to walk out of the talks under the banner 'Polluters Talk, We Walk'. In an unprecedented move, non-government organisations and civil society movements, part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as observers, walked out of the negotiations complaining about the hot air rhetoric and little real action on climate change. Other NGOs decided to stay to exert pressure from the inside, while criticising the importance given to the polluting industries and the lack of ambition and support rich nations are offering to developing parts of the world.
COP19, a minimal agreement. Again.
This year, the so-called ‘Warsaw Climate Pact’ addresses the pathway to Paris, climate financing and of loss and damage.
· The pathway to Paris
On the pathway to Paris, the final text was watered down with the word ‘commitment’ replaced by ‘contributions' 'by the first quarter of 2015', 'without prejudice to the legal nature’, while ‘those in a position’ to make commitments was changed to ‘those who are ready’. For the Greens, it was essential that governments would present their pledges at the Ban Ki-Moon summit to be organised in NYC in autumn 2014 in order to ensure enough time for the review process. The relatively positive note is that the decision taken in Doha to include all parties in the process has been maintained. Countries must now do their homework in a clear transparent and understandable way.
For the Greens it is now important that countries present their offers as soon as possible and in an open and systematic way, and that these commitments are driven by science.
Little ‘new’ finance was pledged in Warsaw. The UN’s Adaptation Fund (created in 2001 to finance projects & programmes in adaptation in developing countries and financed by CDMs) received more money in Warsaw, while the UK pledged £125 million to the Least Developed Countries Fund and the BioCarbon Fund. Japan tried to deflect criticism for dumping its mitigation targets by increasing its funding to $16 billion.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) calls for ‘ambitious and timely’ contributions from developed countries by December 2014. Where that will come from still appears unclear. Leaders from Australia and Canada publically refused to support it at a meeting of the Commonwealth in Sri Lanka in early November. Despite the fact that the Headquarters of the GCF has been running in South Korea since 4th December 2013, there is no clear financial roadmap on how and how much countries will capitalise the fund from now up to 2020.
Finally, the work programme on long-term finance urges developed countries to maintain continuity of mobilisation of public climate finance at increasing levels (100bn USD annually by 2020) from a variety of sources, public and private, and calls the developed countries to channel a substantial share of public climate funds to adaptation activities. It has also been agreed that developed countries should prepare biennial submissions on their updated strategies for scaling up climate finance from 2014 to 2020.
. Loss and damage
The decision on loss and damage was adopted only at the very end of the conference after the developing countries objected to the text that would set the Warsaw Mechanism for loss and damage under the adaptation scheme.
The ‘Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage’ has a grand title, but the foundations are yet to be established. Work will start on reporting to the UN on the costs and possible approaches to dealing with climate compensation next year. It will exist as part of the UN’s adaptation body until 2016, when a review will take place. Its board will meet for the first time in March 2014. The compromise reached includes the review of the Mechanism at COP22 in 2016 (to take place in Senegal).
The 'Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage' is not an institution but could become one after 2016. Rich countries fear that such a new UN mechanism for the damages of global warming would saddle them with new financial obligations. Whether loss and damage continues to fall within adaptation or whether it becomes a separate, third pillar (alongside adaption and mitigation) will remain a central issue in the future.
Despite these baby steps that manage once again to save the process, the Greens continue stressing that a incredibly large gap remains between what the science warns us about and calls us to do and the decisions taken by politicians at each climate summit. Simple but fundamental questions such as “what should a climate pledge say? What should it not say? What sort of data should be in the pledge to enable it to be compared with other countries’ pledges?”… All of this could have been decided in Warsaw to save precious time for the next 2 years to come but wasn’t. All of these have been postponed by a year from now, at the next COP that will take place in Lima (Peru, December 2014). A very tough 2014 now lies ahead for negotiators to ensure that the world agrees on climate deals that meet its objective – to maintain global warming below 2°C…
Some small silver linings?
Despite the huge gap between what science advises us to do and the politicians‘ decisions there are nevertheless some good elements to report upon.
· 'The Warsaw Framework for REDD+' - Deforestation accounts for up to 20% of global emissions. At this year’s COP, some positive developments took place on the UN programme known as 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation' (REDD+) that has been developed over the past decade and under which developing countries are paid not to chop down trees. Rules on the structure and on how to measure and verify emissions reductions were adopted in Warsaw and $280 million was also pledged by the EU, USA, Norway, UK and Germany. According to UNEP officials the programme is likely to be up and running by 2020. The money to be collected from developed countries for this purpose will be managed by the World Bank's Bio-Carbon Fund.
The long road to Paris 2015
According to the UNFCCC, 2014 is to be 'the year of ambition', where all countries will have to do their homework. This is particularly true to the European Union, which will start negotiating on its climate and energy package for 2030 in the next weeks. For the Greens, it is key that the EU remains a leading actor on this file so that it sets itself a high standard to drive the international ambition forward but also because there is a lot to gain from changing to a greener economy and energy system.
In March next year the European Heads of state will have to agree on their climate and energy targets. The Greens will continue to push to ensure that these will be the most ambitious possible in order to ensure a rapid transition to a green economy that will benefit all European citizens, and not a small bunch of big polluting groups.
The key concern of emission reduction has not been addressed at all at this year’s COP. To ensure that the focus on maintaining global warming below 2°C, the EU must rapidly set itself ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2030 to at least 60% but also increase its climate target for 2020, which it has reached already. It will also have to set itself ambitious targets for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency if it is serious about the decarbonisation of its economy: Coal, shale gas and all dirty fossil fuels must be out of our energy mix if we are serious about protecting our climate.
Only if the EU is capable of agreeing on its package in due time will it be able to play a key role on the international stage. By presenting ambitious targets on time, the block will be able to drive the agenda forward. It will also be able to push for what science is calling our leaders to do if we want to prevent dramatic climate impacts. The final IPCC report (Assessment report 5 - AR5) will be published in September 2014, just before the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit in New York on 23rd September 2014 and before the COP20 that will take place in Lima (Peru) in December 2014. If the EU does not want to be sidetracked like it was in Copenhagen in 2009 and if Paris 2015 is to be a success, it is clearly time to set high ambition at home first.
13 December: Environment Council
19-20 December: European Council