People pressure enlivens UN climate talks

The reality of famine in the Horn of Africa. Image: By Oxfam East Africa, via Wikimedia Commons








The august corridors of the UN climate talks in Bonn are resounding to the insistent voices of non-government activists.

BONN, 10 November, 2017 – A largely untold story from the first week of this year’s global climate talks – the United Nations climate summit (COP 23) –  has been the reality of steady, fairly productive technical work going on behind the scenes, while some observers search in vain for a big, controversial story angle that will catch the attention of audiences around the world.

Thursday saw the opening of a US Climate Action Center where states, cities, a handful of US senators, businesses, colleges and universities, and non-profits are delivering the message that #wearestillin– that the country is still committed to global climate action, even if the current occupant of the White House is not.

“The world is not standing still waiting for [Donald Trump] to come to his senses on responding to the threats posed by climate change,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told a news conference.

“Fortunately, they don’t have to. Local and state leaders, businesses, union members, environmentalists, and others in the US are working together to address climate change in smart ways that will create and sustain good jobs in their communities.”

“The delegation represents a country whose people are deeply committed to climate action”

ECO, the daily newsletter produced onsite by Climate Action Network-International (CAN-I), welcomed the coalition as a new delegation to this year’s COP.

“The delegation represents a country whose people are deeply committed to climate action. A country with universities, businesses, cities, and states that are pushing forward with plans to achieve bold climate targets like 100% renewable energy. A country that believes in science, respect, and the importance of the global community,” the newsletter stated. “Meet the US People’s Delegation.”

At the moment, CAN-I says developed countries are blocking progress on pre-2020 action. “This year’s extreme weather events, which devastated communities across the world, show the urgent need for action now – we can’t only have talk until 2020,” it says. “This means developed countries need to also fulfil their previous commitments, including those on finance, which help poorer countries take action.”

Many of the key negotiating blocs onsite – including many of those representing developing countries – also point out that the first COP ever chaired by a Pacific island country (Fiji is chairing COP 23) can’t conclude without decisive progress on loss and damage.

Widespread impacts

Despite a cascade of front-line climate impacts, from the Caribbean, Fiji itself, and East Africa, to give only three examples, developing and vulnerable countries have been waiting four years for action on the Warsaw International Mechanism

A push is on to make loss and damage a permanent topic for the UN working groups responsible for implementing and overseeing global climate action, and to build the topic into the various planning processes stemming from the Paris Agreement.

But it’s also “time to move beyond the mere building of knowledge and collaboration, and towards mobilising much needed finance and action on the ground to address loss and damage,” ECO says.  

There are calls for a two-year process to generate billions of dollars per year, through “innovative and fair sources” like a fossil fuel levy, to deliver the funding countries need.

Paying for damage

One of those creative options was brought forward by a group of organisations and advocates convened by Stamp Out Poverty. The UK-based group introduced the concept of a Climate Damages Tax, described as “an equitable fossil fuel extraction charge” on fossil producers “to pay for the damage and costs caused by climate change when these products are burnt.”

But if there’s one reliable constant at UN climate negotiations, it’s the presence of fossil lobbyists doing what they can to slow the process down. Last week, in the lead-up to Bonn, The Guardian was out with an analysis of fossil influence over key aspects of the COP process.

“Global negotiations seeking to implement the Paris agreement have been captured by corporate interests and are being undermined by powerful forces that benefit from exacerbating climate change,” the paper stated, citing a report co-authored by Boston-based Corporate Accountability

“The report argues that as a result of this corporate influence, outcomes of negotiations so far have been skewed to favour the interests of the world’s biggest corporate polluters over those of the majority of the world’s population that live in the developing world,” in areas as varied as finance, agriculture, and technology. – Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

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