COP-16 Week 1 Policy Round-Up

Greetings again! It is the second week and things have been extremely busy here in Cancun – sorry it has taken me so long to write again! My fellow actions-oriented delegate and I realized that in light of our substantial work on campaigns and actions here at COP-16 we have sort of neglected updating our respective blog readers on what is actually going on in the policy world here. Thus we bring you the Week 1 policy priorities and updates from COP-16! It is sort of long, so please forgive us; but we think it’s really important for you all to know what is going on here beyond the world of youth mobilization. Enjoy!

While obtaining a binding climate change treaty does not seem to be in the cards for COP-16 in Cancun – based on the need to establish a strong foundation within which to create such a treaty and rebuild trust amongst the negotiating parties after a failure situation at COP-15 in Cancun – there are still a number of important issues being discussed this past week and definitely room for policy progress.

United States Position
The United States continues to have an “all-or-nothing” approach similar to the attitude which they have propagated since they chose not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol at COP-3. Guardian UK explains that the deal the US is pushing for “couples the core issues for the developing world – agreement on climate finance, technology, and deforestation – with U.S. demands for emissions actions from emerging economies and a system of accounting for those cuts.” This position has remained troublesome for advancing negotiations at COP-16, and many feel that besides just calling upon the transparency of climate change mitigation actions by other countries, the United States should be willing to increase the transparency of its own actions and be more open to compromise.

China, who has been positioned by the US as their primary excuse for a lack of action and progress at COPs over the years, has become a leader in clean energy technology, and therefore, “China is in a stronger negotiating position now than they were in Copenhagen because the perception is the U.S. doesn’t have its domestic act together,” said Alden Meyer, head of policy in Washington at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Chinese public believes they are doing a lot more on the ground than the U.S., and they don’t think China should have to make any concessions.” One exciting youth effort to highlight is the collaboration of US and Chinese youth on experience sharing, policy discussion workshops, and combined actions to emphasize the importance of compromise to their respective governments.

Kyoto Protocol
So, to start off, the Kyoto Protocol has proven instrumental in framing discussion around reduction of emissions. The protocol was signed at COP 3 with the signatures of, currently, 121 countries. The agreement sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Union regarding greenhouse gas emission reductions from 2008-2012. Because it is legally binding it has been really instrumental in holding countries accountable for their roles in climate change. However, the Kyoto Protocol has come under serious attack here at COP 16. Japan stated on the 3rd day of the conference that it would not inscribe targets under the Kyoto Protocol in any case. The fact that this statement was made creates serious doubt if there can be a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. Since Japan made that statement, Kyoto has become a huge rallying cry for civil society here. The fact that there needs to be a second commitment period, which means a time where countries would reaffirm their commitment to meet specific targets; is very present in the minds of people who are truly concerned for future generations.

Here at COP-16 there is an increasing sentiment that funding for climate change adaptation should balance out with the amount of funding currently allocated for climate change mitigation – adaptation currently receives scarcely 10% of the overall climate finance portfolio. Additionally, allocation of funds to least developed and most vulnerable countries is a critically important issue requiring a specific framework for financial distribution that considers both climate change vulnerability and poverty/development needs. Recently, committees working on climate change adaptation have made a number of significant draft decisions to be put forward for adoption in the final plenary negotiating session of the conference. These draft decisions include continued, strengthened support to developing countries efforts in adaptation and mitigation and specifically address increasing concrete technology transfer projects to assist these countries in their adaptation schemes.

The program being negotiated at COP-16 to end deforestation is known as REDD (Reduced Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation). A good REDD deal would benefit biodiversity, people, and the climate. A bad deal would allow corporations to use claims of forest protection to hide their refusal to cut their emissions to safe levels. Additionally, there is discussion about focusing on the drivers of deforestation as opposed to the current strategy of just conserving specific areas of forest.

Currently, a rule governing emissions from deforestation is now being negotiated which would allow rich nations to increase logging without accounting for the greenhouse gases that result, in effect hiding emissions increases. This is extremely problematic for preserving the world’s critical forest ecosystems and thus there has been a great deal of activism from youth and environmental groups urging negotiators to remove this loophole in the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) negotiating text.

Discussions around the establishment of a global climate fund are in the works at COP-16, fueled because finance has become a really important issue in all areas of policy discussion. Many of the proposals cannot work unless funding is actively addressed. For example, LULUCF (a sector designed to examine land use as it relates to forestry) has many financing loopholes which youth specifically are attempting to highlight in order to bring justice to those affected by LULUCF policies. It is clear, though, that raising $100 billion or more for funding is entirely possible. This reality is bringing a lot of hope to financing policy. The Chair released a text with recommendations in certain key areas. One area which seems very promising is the section prepared on finance. The way in which she has prepared this document makes everything very easy to understand and lays a strong foundation to build on.

Article 6
This article addresses climate change education and awareness among youth around the world. This article serves as the main conduit for implementing training and educational programs on climate change. On Friday the article was passed by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation and several sections of the final text were taken directly from YOUNGO submissions. Now all we need is for the full COP to approve it – this is a great victory for youth and the constituency!

Looking forward
After a slow first week in Cancun, government ministers from all over the world began arriving in Mexico this past weekend to inject some urgency into the stagnant climate change talks. The big weekend development came from the host country. Mexico published a draft negotiating text that would require countries to try to prevent global warming of more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. While this is a step forward from the weak, non-binding climate change targets set in the Copenhagen Accord at COP-15 (which if enacted would allow for an eventual temperature rise of up to 5-6 degrees Celsius), a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius will still put many island states under water after the associated amount sea level rise.

Scientists are now stating that 1.5 degrees Celsius is the safety limit that we should be fighting to get in the negotiating text. In fact 110 countries, including many with populations most vulnerable to climate change impacts, have already stated their support for the 1.5 degree Celsius target. This important subject has warranted the YOUNGO international youth constituency to create their official campaign for week 2 around working to get 1.5 degrees Celsius in the negotiating text.

References: League of Conservation Voters ‘Act Green’ blog, SustainUS blog, TckTckTck blog, Reuters article, “Logging Loophole Under Attack at Cancun Climate Talks”, Climate Action Network meeting notes, ECO daily publication by the Non-Governmental Environmental Groups.

Note: This blog is cross-posted on: Alex’s Blog, and the SustainUS Blog


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