Warsaw Conference: Any real progress?

warsaw cop

The Warsaw conference this year once again battle lines drawn between the climate-vulnerable countries and the blocking high-emitters.

Japan announced that their emission reduction pledge would now be an increase, while Australia continued to block, based on domestic dis-interest.  Countries failed to agree on a roadmap to scale up climate finance.

Structural inequalities and geopolitical power dynamics continued to pose a blockage to a fair climate treaty.  But was there any progress?

A corporate COP: A dangerous sign?

This was the first climate change conference to be sponsored by companies.  Was this a decision to ‘save money’ or a deliberate attempt by the Polish hosts to undermine the process?

NGOs heavily criticised the decision of the Polish hosts to hold a Coal Summit in parallel with the conference.  As well as being an awful decision on the ‘PR’ front, the decision shows how little commitment Poland has on climate change. One only wonders why they were chosen to host the conference in the first place.

Poland itself subsidises coal producers with public funds, showing that they choose to commit public funds to fossil fuels, but not for climate action.

The infiltration by fossil fuel lobbyists also led to a prominent stall for the petroleum industry at the front of the exhibition centre. Was this a deliberate attempt to undermine ambition?

Meanwhile research from LSE shows that we need to leave two-thirds of fossil fuels in the ground to have ANY chance of keeping the warming to the level of 2 degrees.

Parallel meetings: A tactic to limit participation

The issue of ‘parallel meetings’ came up in the finance talks. As negotiations went on through the night, developing-countries delegates argued that Green Climate Fund discussions should not run in parallel to Long-Term Finance.  It seems to be a deliberate tactic to limit participation by developing countries.

Developing-countries delegates explained many of them had only a few delegates, and also had to deal with loss and damage.  There were only one or two delegates from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) participating in the finance discussions.

The United States deliberately tried to call for both the finance meetings (GCF and LTF) to run in parallel together.  Why?  Other countries were angry.  The EU took a compromise position, and eventually the talks were held at separate times.

Finance negotiations and the UNFCCC budget

Once again, small island states brought up the issue of the scarcity of funding for participation in UNFCCC negotiations.

However, the issue of the UNFCCC budget was side-lined from the conference. It emerged only quickly at the end, before the final text was adopted.

Fortunately, there is an invitation for the United Nations General Assembly to consider meeting the conference expenses from a regular budget.

This would be a good idea, reducing the opportunity for the climate conference to be taken over by anti-climate interests.

Lack of transparency: a growing issue

Transparency of finance for climate change was on the agenda.  Developing countries highlighted concerns that Fast Start Finance has not been transparent.

A side event by the Overseas Development Institute highlighted a lack of transparency in the finance commitments by developed countries.  Only a few organisations are able to try to track what is going on.

However, the irony is that the finance meetings themselves were also non-transparent.  Most of the important meetings went on behind closed doors so that the high-GHG-emitting blockers can represent their agenda but hide from media and NGO criticism.  Knowledge is power.

Developing countries highlighted the fact that “transparency of decision-making is very important” and that the Adaptation Fund has the highest transparency.  The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) is mandated to review finance.  Philippines, representing G77, highlighted the importance of tracking the transparency of finance “support provided and received”.

Ultimately, countries will only have trust and confidence in the process if there is transparency about what is going on and vulnerable developing countries get support to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.   This will be a key for an effective global climate treaty in 2015.

With little progress being made at Warsaw,  responsibility for action now rests on the Climate Summit being organised by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon next year.

A slice of the broader narrow picture

Last night was UNfairplay’s first ever side event!

Side event = boring, dry, uninspiring? Not necessarily, I know I have been surprised at how engaging issues of participation have been for those involved in UNfairplay, and to those who we try to convey our findings too. Our aim was to draw attention to the report but also to highlight other schemes created to plug participation gaps at the UNFCCC. I think the reason our arguments are gaining traction and interest from all sides is very simply because they are issues of justice, and plain unfairness. My parents always hated my “its not fair” phase at the age of 7, well it’s back.

Continue reading

from under the firewall

The atmosphere at the UNFCCC conference in China seems to be quiet and subdued, compared to the chaos at Copenhagen. Delegates comment that the negotiations are “slow”. One Kenyan delegate commented with frustration that the room full of lawyers had spent 45 minutes arguing about the definition of one word. He said that there were too many lawyers, and not enough scientists in the negotiations.

In addition, the Great Chinese Firewall has blocked access to many NGO websites (including this one!) which may hinder the access to information. Although the UN conference is supposed to be international and independent, even the UN conference computer room is subject to the firewall!Initial results from the ‘Filling Information Gaps’ Survey have found that some country delegates did not know that the ‘webcasts’ of meetings were provided on the UNFCCC website. It seems that access to information is clearly unequal.All delegates interviewed so far have been extremely interested in this project. Some different suggestions have been made for making the UN fairer; one suggested that there should be a limit to the number of delegates that are allowed, and a few suggested there needs to be more translations in the smaller meetings.

Transparency is still an issue, too. Most of the meetings are closed to observers. That means that only government delegates and the observer states are allowed in. Actually, there seems to be more meetings labelled with ‘CLOSED’ than there was at the previous talks in Bonn in June. I do hope this is not a growing trend. Unfortunately, at this crucial stage in the talks, with so many closed meetings it is still difficult to work out exactly what is going on.


One day to go

Only one day to go before myself and Isabel hop on the coach to Cologne then grab the train to Bonn. Its going to be a long one but flying’s an absolute no brainer, not going to happen. Still plenty of time to read and write and get up to date. I’m looking forward to getting there and getting stuck in. Also to meeting all the other youth delegates doing inspiring things.

It seems like there is allot for us to document when it comes to this idea of an information gap. We have been following the talks in a variety of ways. The Climate Action Network newsletters are helpful and give a good feel for the trend of the negotiations, the Earth Negotiations bulletin emails are more informative about actual negotiations but are much more technical in their language and often require some background knowledge (especially of all the acronyms commonly used!). To really get an idea of what the ENB are talking about it’s really worth having a quick gander at the UNFCCC website where beginners guide documents all the way up to the negotiating text may be found. The guides can be found here. I guess its like anything though, if you want to put in some reading you can do it and get up to speed. It’s just knowing what to read and where to get the latest updates when not there personally. At the moment we are trying to create a list of all the different websites that follow and report on the negotiations. There must be hundreds. We think its worth finding them and evaluating their use when it comes to keeping on top of negotiations both for civil society like us and for delegations. We can then hopefully create a guide to getting started, and staying informed.

There was another interesting piece in yesterdays Earth Negotiation bulletin that caught my eye. During the subsidiary Body for Scientifica and Technical Advice ( see http://tiny.cc/04fdn for explanation of SBSTA) RESEARCH DIALOGUE session:

“John Padgham, Global Change SysTem for Analysis,
Research and Training (START), discussed science policy
dialogues aiming to foster better communication between
scientists and policy makers in developing countries, stressing
the importance, inter alia, of: addressing capacity and
knowledge gaps; improving access to data; using integrated
inter-sectoral planning; and enhancing communication pathways”

Remember our project Filling Information Gaps? Well its all about finding out where countries are disadvantaged by lack of information. Yesterday we heard from Kiribati that small island states feel that information is not getting to them fast enough. Today this statement highlights that fact that information gaps are not just related to negotiations, they are also scientific. Different countries have access to different mitigation technology, or different regions may have higher resolution climate models (i.e. rich regions such as UK – Hadley Centre, and the US – NASA) the list goes on. Knowledge affects not only the negotiating position of parties but also their capacity to adapt to climate change. For this reason technology transfer is a big part of these negotiations (more on this in a later post).