Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WEF: 2016 Year of Implementation on Climate Change, SDGs

23 January 2016: The World Economic Forum's (WEF) Annual Meeting convened under the theme, 'Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution,' with the aim of building a shared understanding of current changes and shaping a collective future that places humans at the center.

Participants reflected that 2016 must be a year of implementation on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The WEF Annual Meeting addressed, among other topics: climate change; environmental protection and resource scarcity; food security and agriculture; inclusive, sustainable growth and security; employment, skills and human capital; and gender parity. It also showcased the private sector's role in achieving the SDGs. The event brought together over 40 Heads of State and government with 2,500 leaders from UN agencies, business and civil society.

'The New Climate and Development Imperative' session addressed the implications of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, drivers for action for development and climate targets, and the role of technology in improving ambition over time. Speaking at the session, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that “The SDGs and climate change must go together.” He outlined five steps forward: conversion of national climate plans into bankable investment strategies and projects; financing for developing countries to use low-carbon sources to meet high energy demands; increased attention and resources for climate resilience; increased climate actions at all levels, including public-private partnerships; and ratification of the Paris Agreement. Also addressing the session, Norway's Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, stated that “We will never manage to reach climate targets if we don't create social fairness in the world.”

Another session on 'A New Climate for Doing Business' reflected on the opportunities and responsibilities for business, entrepreneurship and innovation as a result of the Paris Agreement. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), highlighted the potential for change in developing countries, which she said “represent our biggest opportunity to support…growth in a clean, predictable and safe way.” Observing that the world needs US$5.5 trillion per year to meet the Paris Agreement commitments, Stuart Gulliver, HSBC Holdings, expressed confidence that “there is enough money in the private sector to do this.” Panelists shared their companies' efforts to, inter alia: transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy; advocate for a new climate economy; and put a price on carbon for internal operations and supply chains.

In a keynote speech delivered at the Global Goals Dinner, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Mogens Lykketoft called for a “focus on getting off to the best start possible” in achieving the SDGs. He underlined the importance of signals that “those with power and privilege will live up to their responsibilities” to achieve the Goals and ensure the SDGs gain traction. Lykketoft explained that he will host a high-level meeting in April to showcase implementation. He asked world leaders to come prepared to share their country plans to achieve the Goals and called upon the private sector to align their business practices with the Goals, including on issues such as the environment and taxation.

At a Global Compact event, Ban underscored the business community's “enormous power to create decent jobs, open access to education and basic services, unlock energy solutions and end discrimination…[and] drive global progress.” He stressed 2016 as critical in “turning global promises into reality,” calling on governments to “take the lead with decisive steps” and business to “provide essential solutions and resources that put our world on a more sustainable path.” Ban welcomed the Global Compact's steps to translate the SDGs into action and innovation, highlighting the potential of its 85 Global Compact Local Networks to further mobilize action.

“There is no business case for enduring poverty,” observed Unilever CEO Paul Polman at WEF press conference. He called for tackling poverty, inequality and environmental challenges, saying “every business will benefit from operating in a more equitable, resilient world if we achieve the SDGs.” Polman and former UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch-Brown launched The Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development, which aims to articulate the economic case for businesses to engage in the SDGs. The Commission will present a report in 2017 that: analyzes how business models can align profitability with social purpose; maps financial tools for aligning economic and social returns; shows how collaboration among governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector can build a future where businesses can promote job creation and inclusive, sustainable growth; and examines the risks to business performance and stability from not addressing the SDGs.

In a blog post on the WEF, Paul Ladd, Director of the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), suggests three ways for business leaders to commit to the SDGs and increase resilience to future shocks. Ladd describes the positive feedback loops between technology and taxes while cautioning that advances in technology can exacerbate inequalities and the politics of tax reform “are slow and difficult.” He highlights universal social protection as critical in supporting people through their active working lives and beyond, including ensuring a minimum level of income to support socially acceptable standards of living, access to essential services and opportunities for lifelong education and training.

On business and growth, participants called for a new model of growth beyond a country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Economist Joseph Stiglitz stressed, “What we measure informs what we do. And if we're measuring the wrong thing, we're going to do the wrong thing.” Similarly, MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson said GDP does not measure “how well we are all doing” but “counts the things that we're buying and selling.”

On gender equality, a panel convened on 'Progress Towards Parity.' Sheryl Sanberg, Facebook, described the “toddler wage gap,” saying gender inequality starts very young. Actress Emma Watson observed that full female participation in the workforce would be “the single biggest stimulus to the economy” and stressed that the world will never achieve gender equality unless everyone—women and men, girls and boys, are involved.

“Women are chronically under-represented in leadership roles and in formal employment overall,” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said at the launch of the inaugural ‘HeforShe Parity Report,' which finds that the proportion of senior leadership roles held by women ranges from 11 to 33% among the world's ten leading companies. The report presents data on gender diversity in the workforce, including data on board membership, leadership roles and new hires among ten companies.

Sessions also convened on, inter alia: financing and operationalizing the SDGs; the global science outlook; and regional and national economic outlooks. Briefings took place on WEF Issue Briefs, including on the plastics economy, the gender gap and jobs. Ban appointed 17 SDG Advocates and launched a panel on women's economic empowerment. More

WEF 46 took place in Davos, Switzerland, from 20-23 January 2016. [UN Secretary-General Statement] [WEF Press Release on A New Climate for Doing Business] [UNFCCC Executive Secretary Reflection on WEF] [UNGA President Statement at Global Goals Dinner] [UN Press Release 20 January/ on Global Compact] [WEF News on Gender Parity] [WEF Press Release on Watson Statement] [Sandberg Statement] [UN Women Press Release 22 January] [UN Women Executive Director Statement] [WEF Recap] [WEF Press Release on Commission Launch] [IISD RS Story on Launch of SDG Advocates]


Monday, January 25, 2016

Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment

Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment


The Caribbean region stands at a crossroads, faced with several critical challenges associated with the generation, distribution, and use of energy. Despite the availability of tremendous domestic renewable energy resources, the region remains disproportionately dependent on imported fossil fuels, which exposes it to volatile oil prices, limits economic development, and degrades local natural resources. This ongoing import dependence also fails to establish a precedent for global action to mitigate the long-term consequences of climate change, which pose a particularly acute threat to small-island states and low-lying coastal nations.

While onerous, these shared challenges are far outweighed by the region’s tremendous potential for sustainable energy solutions. By acting on this potential, the Caribbean can assume a leading role in the global effort to combat climate change while promoting sustainable regional economic and societal development. Representing a geographically, culturally, and economically diverse cross-section of the region, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) provides the ideal platform to construct the legislative and regulatory frameworks necessary to achieve this transition.

CARICOM represents 15 diverse member states: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Although these states vary widely, they face many common energy challenges.

CARICOM has already begun to play a crucial role in the regional transition to sustainable energy. Recognizing the need to develop a coordinated regional approach to expedite uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions in the Caribbean, CARICOM adopted its regional Energy Policy in 2013 after a decade in development. The policy charts a new climate-compatible development path that harnesses domestic renewable energy resources, minimizes environmental damage, and spurs social opportunity, economic growth, and innovation.

To translate these intentions into action, the CARICOM Secretariat commissioned the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS), designed to build on existing efforts in the region and to provide CARICOM member states with a coherent strategy for transitioning to sustainable energy. In this C-SERMS Baseline Assessment and Report, the Worldwatch Institute provides an analysis of the region’s current energy and energy policy situation, evaluates regional potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions, and recommends regional targets for energy sector transformation in the short, medium, and long terms.

Download Report: http://www.worldwatch.org/system/files/C-SERMS_Baseline_10.29.2015.pdf



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Swapping national debt for action on climate change could be the solution we've been looking for

Last month’s global agreement on climate change was a remarkable gift to the world and to future generations.

One hundred and eighty-eight countries have submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, setting out what they are prepared to do to reduce emissions and build climate resilience. Developed country governments have reaffirmed their commitment to raise $100 billion a year for climate action, with small and vulnerable countries first on the list for assistance. As the Prime Minister of Tuvalu - a Pacific nation threatened by catastrophic sea level rises - said during the Paris summit: "If you save Tuvalu, you save the world."

Now the New Year has arrived and it’s time to act on these resolutions. A rapid and sustained flow of climate finance for the vulnerable developing countries is central to managing the climate challenge. Thus far the flow of climate financing has been less than satisfactory. This must change. Climate financing should not lead to a reduction in traditional official development assistance.

That’s why global warming was a top priority of Commonwealth leaders at their recent meeting in Malta. Their Statement on Climate Change provided timely, important political impetus to the Paris Conference. And they generated some good ideas to free up funds for climate action.

Here’s one: swapping national debt for climate change action. Many vulnerable countries are so burdened by debt they simply can’t afford to address global warming. Jamaica, for example, is struggling with a public debt to GDP ratio of 140 per cent. For the Seychelles, it’s 65 per cent. Think what could happen if countries like these lowered their burden by taking action on climate change: they could expand marine protected areas, strengthen coastal defences, reform fisheries policies, promote water conservation, manage coastal zones, invest in renewable energy and create institutions to advance their plans — working their way out of debt at the same time.

The Commonwealth’s proposal for a Multilateral Debt Swap for Climate Action has been recognized by the United Nations as a promising option to address the twin challenges of unsustainable debt and climate change. Swaps could be supported by the Climate Finance Access Hub that’s just been launched by the Commonwealth to help small and vulnerable countries access climate finance and build institutional capacity.

It doesn’t end there. The Paris agreement has given markets the clear signal they need to scale up investments that will generate low-emission, climate-resilient development. With the ambitious results emanating from Paris, what was once unthinkable is now unstoppable. The private sector is already investing increasingly in a low-emission future. Climate solutions are increasingly affordable and available, and many more are poised to come, especially after the success of Paris. More


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Climate Change Diplomacy and Small Island Developing States

While multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognize the enormous global challenges posed by climatic changes, these agreements often fall short on pragmatic financial and other mechanisms to assist the most vulnerable countries in addressing these challenges.

Shyam Saran, Special Envoy of the
Prime Minister of India for
Climate Change

“As internationally acclaimed Professor of Environmental Law, Daniel Esty, stated: “Simply put, in a world of ecological interdependence, there can be no free riders. Of course, poorer countries can and should expect, as a matter of equity, that richer ones will shoulder a larger share of the cost burden”


Contemporary climate change diplomacy mirrors this phenomenon, as science and global politics interact and converge to confront the vulnerabilities of small island developing States (SIDS) where sustainable livelihoods are threatened by climate change-induced food, water, health and other insecurities.

Science (climate scientists) and politics (diplomats and Foreign Ministry officials) may not always speak the same language, but climate change diplomacy (inter-governmental negotiations on climate change issues) inevitably brings them together into a “marriage of convenience”. In order to address the special needs of vulnerable countries like SIDS, there is consensus between science and politics that the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” offers the best paradigm and institutional framework to understand and confront the asymmetries in the international system.

Paradoxically, within this consensus lies deep-rooted disagreements as to the best ways to finance mitigation and adaptation programs in SIDS — including, among other issues, how to diffuse the emerging climate-friendly technologies as widely and as fairly as possible. To effectively address these issues, the peculiar developmental and technological challenges facing SIDS must be assessed in the context of the gaps, failures and limitations of present and past global environmental funding facilities such as the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

“Common but differentiated responsibilities”

The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” recognizes the asymmetries of the international system, especially the differential levels of technological, financial, economic and human capacities between industrialized/developed and developing countries in international environmental negotiations. Despite these asymmetries, every nation has an obligation to participate in joint efforts to tackle shared global environmental problems according to each nation’s capacity and level of development. However, industrialized countries have an obligation to bear a greater burden of these shared problems.

As internationally acclaimed Professor of Environmental Law, Daniel Esty, stated: “Simply put, in a world of ecological interdependence, there can be no free riders. Of course, poorer countries can and should expect, as a matter of equity, that richer ones will shoulder a larger share of the cost burden.”

Multilateral environmental agreements (at least since the decade of the 1970s) have recognized this principle as an accepted norm in global environmental governance. For example, Principle 9 of the Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (held in 1972) calls for “the transfer of substantial quantities of financial and technological assistance as a supplement to the domestic effort of the developing countries”.

Principle 20 of the Stockholm Declaration states that “the free flow of up-to-date scientific information and transfer of experience must be supported and assisted” and “environmental technologies should be made available to developing countries on terms which would encourage their wide dissemination without constituting an economic burden on the developing countries”. Similarly, twenty years after Stockholm, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992) reaffirmed “common but differentiated responsibilities” in Principles 7 and 9.

On climate change specifically, Article 3(1) of the UNFCCC, provides that “the parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities. Accordingly, the developed country parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.”

Article 3(2) states that “the specific needs and special circumstances of developing country parties, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change… should be given full consideration”.

The repeated and unambiguous codification of this principle in many MEAs is evidence that it is now widely accepted by the international community as a fundamental principle in climate change diplomacy. The principle, according to the Shyam Saran, the Indian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, is “based on the acknowledgment of historical responsibility; that is, climate change is taking place as a result of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that have been accumulating in the earth’s atmosphere as a result of over two centuries of fossil fuel-based industrial activity in developed countries”.

This is not to suggest that the obligation to mitigate climate change should be borne exclusively and solely by developed countries. Rather, developed countries must show leadership.

Saran also stated that “developing countries also have an obligation, and that is to pursue a path of ecologically sustainable development consistent with their goals of economic and social development and poverty eradication…. There is the concept of respective capabilities; that is, a recognition of the diverse levels of economic development and incomes among the parties, and, hence, a differentiated contribution to the global effort”.

“Common but differentiated responsibilities” thus raises very complex questions of obligation, equity, technological capacity, fairness and the universal participation of “all nations” in climate change negotiations.

Does science drive climate change diplomacy?

Climate scientists, activists and climate change negotiators often refer to the “overwhelming” scientific evidence of the impact of GHG emissions: extreme climatic events (floods, shorter and warmer growing seasons), sea-level rise (causing erosion and salinity in coastal areas), melting of glaciers (causing water scarcity) and many other phenomena. While all of these are shared global problems, their impact will be much more severe in SIDS.

Focusing on the impact of climate change on small islands, the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found in its 2007 Synthesis Report that by mid-century, “climate change is expected to reduce water resources in many small islands, e.g., in the Caribbean and Pacific, to the point where they become insufficient to meet demand during low-rainfall periods”. Further, global sea-level rise is “expected to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards, thus threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support the livelihood of island communities,” and “erosion of beaches and coral bleaching is expected to affect local resources”. The report also found that with higher temperatures, “increased invasion of non-native species is expected to occur, particularly on mid- and high-latitude islands”.

Corroborating most of these findings, the UNFCC Secretariat, in the 2008 Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing Countries, identified that “all Caribbean, Indian Ocean and North and South Pacific small island states will experience warming”. Moreover, summer rainfall in the Caribbean will decrease, whilst annual rainfall elsewhere (equatorial Pacific, northern Indian Ocean, Seychelles and Maldives) will increase, along with the “increasing intensity of tropical cyclones, storm surge, coral bleaching and land inundation”.

“The impact [of extreme climatic events] is much more severe in the world’s tropical zones — the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States.” – Shyam Saran

Addressing the vulnerabilities of SIDS to climate change

To be sustainable and efficient in the context of the SIDS, as elsewhere in most of the developing world, climate change adaptation and mitigation require enormous financial resources, technology transfer and, most importantly, effective national, regional and global policy and governance frameworks. In order to develop and strengthen the coping capacities of the most vulnerable, adaptation and mitigation measures must be targeted, with the SIDS having clear “ownership” of these measures.

Financing/funding proposals have led to establishment of the Adaptation Fund under the UNFCCC, which currently receives a small percentage (around 2 per cent) of proceeds from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Climate change negotiators, especially those from developing countries, have called for an increase in the capitalization of the Adaptation Fund. While “funding/donor fatigue” is always a serious problem in global environmental funding/financing facilities, the Adaptation Fund, as presently capitalized, will not be sufficient to fund all the necessary adaptation projects in SIDS.

Most negotiators have commended the governance structure of the Adaptation Fund under the UNFCCC for its fair and equal representation of both developed and developing countries. The same can hardly be said of the proposed “climate” or “green” fund as proposed by Mexico, India and other developing countries. If and when such fund is agreed upon in the negotiations, its governance structure should be patterned after the structure of the Adaptation Fund.

For SIDS, it remains to be seen how far contemporary climate change governance architecture will go in codifying core responsibilities and obligations to be borne by the “international community”, especially the worst emitters, towards addressing their peculiar vulnerabilities. How can SIDS be empowered to effectively negotiate this deal, given the asymmetries in the international system? In all of this, technology transfer remains critically important.

“India and other developing countries have put forward the view that 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of the GDP of developed countries should be earmarked for a climate fund under the UNFCCC.” – Shyam Saran.

Will green technology be for the rich?

Numerous proposals have been made in climate change negotiations for mechanisms aimed at diffusing green technology between developed and developing countries. Most of the proposals emphasize a form of “public-private partnership”. Because acquiring the necessary licenses to such technologies would inevitably implicate intellectual property “rights”, making such technologies available as public goods in SIDS and most developing countries would prove exceedingly difficult and raises questions of “who owns the knowledge economy”?

To address this technology conundrum, India has proposed “a global network of innovation centres that could promote local and regional action both on mitigation and adaptation, taking into account local circumstances and particularities”.

To achieve this, says Saran, “we need to create a global platform for such collaboration on certain key technologies, for example, solar energy generation and storage, biomass energy, and a whole series of clean coal technologies…. This must be a publicly funded and government-led effort, but it can certainly draw upon public-private partnerships.”

Because SIDS are mostly under-developed, least-developed or developing countries, they are “technologically and economically challenged” in terms of (i) the scientific sophistication to innovate new technologies, and (ii) the financial resources to access them in fair and equitable terms. As such, pooling scientific and technological capabilities across the globe to generate transformational technologies should be anchored pragmatically on the time-hallowed principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

Climate change and SIDS: The way forward

In a workshop organized by the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) on “climate change diplomacy and small island states”, in partnership with the Universidad Catolica de Santo Domingo (Catholic University of Santo Domingo) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on 14 and 15 July 2011, participants — mostly from the Caribbean region — explored the way forward for SIDS in climate change negotiations.

In his keynote address, Carlos Fuller, Deputy Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize, posed the question: “Why should small island developing States be concerned about climate change?” In responding to this question, Fuller argued that although “SIDS have been very effective climate change negotiators since 1990 and have maintained this stature for the past 21 years, they have not reaped the benefits of their endeavors”.

“How many adaptation projects have been supported by the financial mechanism of the Convention, the Global Environmental Facility? Relatively few, given the acknowledged vulnerability of small island States,” he said.

Furthermore, Fuller explained that there are many reasons why SIDS have not attracted the interventions required to combat the adverse impacts of climate change: First, many of the officials involved in addressing climate change have other duties and responsibilities in their home countries. (Climate change is usually another task that was appended to their jobs). Second, climate change interventions are usually in sectors over which the climate change focal point has very little or no influence (e.g., diversification in the agricultural sector requires the active involvement of the Ministry of Agriculture), and relevant authorities may not always heed the warnings of the local climate change experts.

This raises the need for capacity building and policy coherence in SIDS. Related to this is the capacity of SIDS, because of their “smallness”, to negotiate climate deals effectively in global forums.

As Fuller observed, “when SIDS delegates attend the climate change negotiations, they could easily be overwhelmed. The annual sessions of the Conference of the Parties now attract between 10,000 and 15,000 participants, and this exploded to over 40,000 in Copenhagen two years ago. It is easy for small island delegations consisting of one or two persons to wander around from plenary sessions to side events to booths, and be presented with a series of decisions at the end of two weeks which they had no input in developing and whose very language seems irrelevant to their concerns”.

The creation of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has enhanced the negotiating capacity of SIDS. AOSIS is a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries that share similar development challenges and concerns about the environment, especially their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change. The alliance functions primarily as an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice for SIDS within the United Nations system. AOSIS has a membership of 42 States and observers, drawn from all regions of the world: Africa, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Pacific and South China Sea. Thirty-seven are members of the United Nations, close to 28 per cent of developing countries and 20 per cent of the UN′s total membership. Together, SIDS communities constitute some 5 per cent of the global population.

In conclusion, in order to be sustainable, climate change diplomacy must address the technological, financial and policy needs of SIDS in pragmatic ways. This is not a matter of “charity” or “aid”. It is an obligation owed to them by the international community as a whole.

While global resources are never in short supply to achieve this, only a fair, equitable and distributive multilateral governance facility stands to protect and promote their needs and meet their expectations as vulnerable societies in a global village characterized by asymmetries and socio-economic inequalities between nation-States. More

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This article is based on an ongoing research project funded by the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) entitled “Climate Change Diplomacy: ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibility’ — Past Lessons, Challenges, and Future Directions for Small Island Developing States”. The first project workshop, on the theme “Climate Change Diplomacy and Small Island Developing States”, hosted by the Catholic University of Santo Domingo in July 2011, was attended by researchers and policymakers from Belize, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Timor-Leste, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Suriname. The workshop was coordinated by Obijiofor Aginam, Academic Officer and Head of International Cooperation and Development at UNU-ISP in Tokyo, and William Onzivu, Lecturer, School of Law, Bradford University, Bradford, UK.