Apologies for the delayed entry - a long day of travel finds Steph, Mara, and myself back in Missoula. With a long but fruitful 2 weeks now behind us, we are back at the UM and ready to share our thoughts and experiences with all interested parties!
COP19 continued long after we boarded our plane, convening until early morning Saturday, and than reconvening for the day until 9PM on Saturday Nov 23rd, a full 27 hours after the intended closing ceremony.
The outcomes of the conference were quite varied. As discussed in a previous posts, some progress was made on financing and reviewing national programs addressing deforesting and land degradation. Otherwise, much of what was accomplished simply sets the stage for future negotiations. No further commitment or timeline was agreed upon to come up with the $100bn dollars needed to finance the GCF with the drafted text now only vaguely mentioning “increasing commitments”. The draft text concerning the CDM removed any mention of setting price floors for the carbon market and only encourages countries with nonbinding reduction targets to consider the use of carbon credits. It was agreed a new international body and/or mechanism (The “Warsaw Mechanism”) would be created to address loss and damage, and countries agreed to leave and “do their homework” to address these issues by early 2015, pre-ratification in Paris.
Thus, scanning through the actual draft texts for the CMP, the COP, or the ADP, or any of the subsidiary bodies (SBI, SBSTA, CDM, etc) will not yield any international gems in setting norms or global ambition. However, progress was made in developing land use strategies with some level of financing backing the initiative. Discussions on further market based mechanisms were largely halted due to ideological divides on resource valuation. Ultimately, what can be taken out of Warsaw has more to do with conference politics than substantive conference outcomes.
Poland blundered its way through public relations, with COP President Korolec being removed from office while simultaneously not addressing the massive in congruencies in Polish energy policy relative to his lofty commitments at the COP. His very body language during press conferences - dismissive, monotone, hunched over, and no eye contact with the crowd - certainly may have hindered media relations. Throw in a simultaneous coal conference, and the signals from the host country were clear: environmental objectives are not a national priority, On top of PR issues with the host, a massive conference walkout of G77 counties and environmental NGOs received more attention than the small successes in REDD+. Add the politicized typhoon and hunger strike by delegates, and you have a COP which drew more attention for its theatrics than its successes, albeit limited in their scope and intention.
In spite of the above, I believe a substantial amount of material was at least introduced on the global agenda, and bounced around in dialogue amongst parties. Legislative nuts and bolts are not sexy and exciting for the media or for environmental NGOs seeking hard and fast GHG reductions (some of which called for an immediate stop in production of all carbon intensive power plants - not only an unviable goal politically, but a strategy that offers no meaningful alternatives in terms of how complicated procedures of divestment and transition to alternate energy sources should take place). Warsaw was very much a conference in order to set the stage on what major issues need to be incorporated into a new agreement, if they should be incorporated into existing structures or new ones, and what countries need to commit what resources in order to do so. While financial, technical, and technological commitments remain vague outside of the deforestation sector, the draft proposals up on the UNFCCC website suggest a flexible platform for which individual nations may now return to their respective legislators and continue building robust nationally appropriate strategies to be considered under the future framework, and return to the future conferences with specific commitments and ambitions in the following 2 years,
As one youth delegation commented to the COP during a small staged protest, “You’ve been negotiating my whole life.” While I echoed her sentiment morally, I also saw firsthand the massive difficulties in creating comprehensive international treaties. All of the difficult questions we address in academia actually need to be addressed under the UNFCCC for successful adoption and, ultimately and most importantly, implementation. In a discussion with a colleague from the Research and Independent Nongovernmental Organizations (the RINGOs), I pondered on whether a Framework Convention on Climate Change is the most appropriate forum to craft international treaties. Attempting to tackle climate change as a whole under umbrella concepts like adaptation, mitigation, or sustainable development is inherently cross cutting, complicated, and increasingly difficult due to the complex language and definitions associated with such a wicked problem. Perhaps a Framework Convention broken down by “neutral” sectors would produce more tangible results. Perhaps through breaking the conference down into a sectoral approach, ie focusing specifically on water, energy, transportation, etc, rather than generally on adaptation, mitigation, technology, etc, parties could achieve more concrete results . No one is inherently anti-energy, or anti-water; such a framework may allow for integration of more focused scientific data that offers more tangible options to policy makers.
Thanks to all who have been reading, and do not hesitate to contact us with questions, comments, and the like!