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.

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Money, money, money

You may or may not know, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, but the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), which is a stream of the talks, currently has on its agenda a number of important ideas for improving civil society participation in this process.

These ideas include setting up an online consultation system for every major agenda item that is being discussed. This would act as a means of gauging support, recieiving alernatives before they are discussed, and possibly during negotiations, but online so the proposer does not need to be in attendance of meeting (potentially); also for a larger number of meetings to be webcast (although this probably still excludes closed meetings); a voluntary trust fund to aid participation of observers from certain developing countries.

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Passionate Pragmatism


The UNfairplay team for week 1

Hello from Bonn, I’m Sophie and I’m new to Unfairplay.

Coming along to Bonn as my first involvement in the UNFCCC process has been a steep learning curve.

So what has my experience so far been?

This is a world of acronyms. At time it feels almost like learning a new language. It can be rather confusing, but as with learning a new language, it comes with a buzz as you realise you are slowly starting to get your head around it. On that note, here’s an update from Unfairplay and an insight into some of what the team have been up to this week.

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Christiana gets it…

Christiana Figueres reading the report 'Levelling the Playing Field'

I hope we haven’t left you waiting for an update from Bonn for too long. The lack of reporting fortunately does not mean we have been inactive, in fact, the opposite is the case. Conny has been in Bonn since Monday, and Isobel, Isabel , Lena and Sophie have joined her tuesday night.

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The key policy issues here at Bonn 2011

Just to give you a quick update on what the main issues at stake are here in Bonn, the UN climate talks 2011.

1. The extension of the Kyoto Protocol to a second commitment period after 2012.

Developing countries (LDC’s, AOSIS etc) are definitely in favour of a second commitment period, as they see the alternative being voluntary pledges with no legally binding obligations. This would mean we have no hope of reducing maximum temperature rise to 2 degrees C (or 1.5 degrees if we are being very hopeful).

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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).