Brussels School of International Studies Conference 2017: The Disappearing State

The YEL Delegation was generously sponsored by the Brussels School of International Studies

The BSIS 2017 Conference in review: Storify Day 1 and Day 2

YEL Delegate Aimee Feeney interviews Dr. Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, NATO

Read Aimee’s article “Boosting Intelligence Capacities and Sharing to Strengthen Counter-terrorism in Europe“.

YEL Delegate Agnese Ciliano interviews Dr. Ali Wardak, University of South Wales


Boosting Intelligence Capacities and Sharing to Strengthen Counter-terrorism in Europe

by Aimee Feeney, YEL Delegate to BSIS 2017 Conference

It has been just over a year since the European continent was shaken by two terrorist attacks at its symbolic heart. On the 22nd March 2016, two bomb blasts occurred, one at Zaventem airport and the other at Maelbeek metro station in the centre of Brussels, one of the centres of the European Union. Claimed by Islamic State, the blasts killed 32 people from more than 10 different countries including Peru, China and the United States. These events were a tragedy for the city of Brussels and Europe as a whole. However, investigations following the attacks highlight that this was more than a tragedy. It was a severe failure on the part of intelligence services.

“One of the attackers who detonated a bomb at Zaventem airport…should have been on the intelligence services radar long before the attacks ever happened”.

Investigations triggered by these attacks brought to light key problems in intelligence sharing practices of European security services. One of the attackers who detonated a bomb at Zaventem airport, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, should have been on the intelligence services radar long before the attacks ever happened. Eight months earlier, he was arrested near the Syrian border by Turkish police forces. Upon learning that he was a Belgian citizen, the Turkish police force contacted the Belgian consulate in Istanbul to inform them that El Bakraoui would be expelled from the country and sent back to Belgium. When the Belgian police appealed for further information from the consulate, the request was never processed. As a result, El Bakraoui’s name never made it onto the terrorist watchlist. No one in Europe was aware of the threat he posed until the moment he detonated the bomb in Zaventem airport. While this can be seen as an case of gross negligence on the part of the intelligence services, this oversight demands an examination of where intelligence sharing needs to be strengthened in order to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future.

Building Capacity

“…it takes 36 members of any intelligence service to monitor, on a 24/7 basis, 1 individual” – Dr. Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, NATO

A key issue which stands in the way of effective intelligence sharing lies in the capacity of intelligence services. According to Dr Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO, “…it takes 36 members of any intelligence service to monitor, on a 24/7 basis, 1 individual”. The amount of staff required creates a problem for the intelligence services who struggle to recruit enough people to meet the growing demand. Furthermore, there is the problem of ensuring that staff have the requisite skills to adapt to the evolving landscape of dealing with terrorism threats. The increasing use of the Internet in recruiting for and planning terrorist attacks is widely known. To this end, there is a need for intelligence services to develop the skills of existing staff in the realm of cyber security and recruit more people with digital skills to effectively deal with this problem. As part of the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Programme, students of technical subjects such as Computer Science, are eligible to receive bursaries for their studies as well as employment upon graduation. This practice should be encouraged in order to attract skilled people to the intelligence services. Without the capacity to obtain valuable intelligence, security services will have nothing meaningful to share in the first place.

Need for Cultural Change

The organizational culture of intelligence services has long been centred on a ‘need to know’ basis, according to Dr Shea. While maintaining secrecy and discretion is vital for the success of intelligence gathering, there needs to be a cultural shift to a ‘need to share’ principle which encourages intelligence sharing. Limited examples of the practice of ‘need to share’ already exist, namely within the Anglophone community. The Five Eyes is an intelligence sharing alliance between the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. With origins in the Cold War, this alliance was initially set up to share signals intelligence between these countries. However, with the expansion of the internet, the remit of the Five Eyes has also expanded to include digital intelligence. However, this cooperation is largely lacking at a European level. While Europol provides a platform for intelligence sharing within Europe with the creation of the European Counter Terrorism Centre in January 2016, there is still a reluctance among some countries to share information. Therefore, in order to promote intelligence sharing between European countries and effectively counter terrorism, it is necessary to develop a common organizational culture which is based on this ‘need to share’ principle.

A Long Road Ahead

While the attacks in Brussels highlight some fundamental flaws in the sharing of intelligence between European states, it also illuminates some key areas where progress can be made. Building capacity and adapting the organizational culture of intelligence services are not quick fixes. They require investment and effort on the part of states and the intelligence services themselves. However, progress is already clear. For every successful attack that is carried out, countless more are prevented as a result of good intelligence sharing practices. Reforming intelligence sharing practices will not be easy. But with strong will and good governance, it is possible.

See also: YEL Delegate Aimee Feeney interviews Dr. Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, NATO.

Aimee Feeney was a YEL delegate at the BSIS 2017 conference. She is currently pursuing an MSc in Crisis and Security Management at Leiden University in the Hague.

The Effects of the Emergence of Renewable Energies on Business Models in today’s Power Industry: A Primer

by Romy Abou Farhat and Alexander Pfeiffer

The rapid growth of decentralised renewable energy (RE) technologies, such as wind and solar has already influenced change in the traditional centralised power supply business models around the world. It has complemented fossil fuel generation to meet the increasing electricity demand in some regions, and disrupted traditional energy markets and business models in other regions where electricity demand is stagnant.

Renewable energy and centralised generation

The world’s centralised electricity systems are under pressure to stimulate change in the way they operate by balancing the growing challenges that form today’s Energy Trilemma. They are required to decarbonise their energy systems as countries have agreed to do so under the 2015 Climate Change agreement in Paris. At the same time, however, they are committed to provide a constant and reliable supply to meet the growing global energy demand and to increase energy access by addressing affordability.

This growing pressure on traditional utilities has given rise to a wave of profound changes. Many utilities are currently undergoing a phase of transition by splitting up, consolidating, or restructuring their entire business models to keep up with the market and regulatory challenges and and adapt to these ongoing changes in the power sector. One transition pathway many utilities choose is to gradually move their operations to new markets by increasingly acquiring renewable energy assets, whilst at the same time reducing their fossil fuel portfolio. A striking example for such a complete change of business model emerging from the deeply altered energy markets is the split and spin-off of the German energy giant E.ON’s operations into a clean energy and a fossil fuel operations division in January 2016. What triggered this separation is the former company’s fossil fuel assets being deeply affected by the country’s government’s energy transformation strategy (“Energiewende”), which gives renewables priority access to the grid at fixed prices (feed-in tariffs).

The increased share of renewable generation in the mix, however, has been creating challenges both in their grid-integration, as well as in building more-flexible systems that are able to balance variable sources of energy whilst reducing costs. A couple of countries such as Denmark and Portugal have addressed these challenges and successfully achieved the large-scale integration of renewable energy to their grid, thereby increasing penetration of renewables to up to 43% of wind power in Denmark and 24% in Portugal in early 2016.

They are not alone: other countries have also responded to these challenges and incorporated a set of new strategies and technologies into their policy agenda, including:

  • Development of smart grids

  • Construction of new transmission and interconnection grids

  • Increase in flexible electricity consumption and generation

  • Improvement of energy efficiency of current transmission and distribution

  • advanced forecasting of supply and demand

  • Implementation of cogeneration systems

  • Integration of heating and cooling systems

  • Innovation in energy market structures and financial flows

  • Implementation of policy drivers and regulatory incentives

  • Integration of the power industry with the transport industry

1280px-BANGUI_WINDMILL,ILOCOS_NORTE_2Bangui Windmill, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. Photo credit: Obra19

Renewable energy and decentralised generation

Typically, with the growing liberalisation and diversification of electricity generation sources, traditional centralised power systems are being transformed into more complex and interconnected systems. The most recognised example of decentralised generation is microgeneration, small-scaled distributed generation of electricity through renewable energy technologies (i.e. solar photovoltaic, or PV) with capacity of usually less than 50 kW. This type of electricity generation directly empowers consumers to choose and control the way they consume electricity. Key drivers behind these innovative business models include advances in clean technology, declining costs, policy and regulation incentives, and even changes in social behaviour and perception. Together, these factors are driving energy entrepreneurship and filling some of the gaps and defects of traditional systems through models that ensure security and affordability of energy supply and a decarbonisation of energy systems.

Microgeneration has started to take off in markets around the globe, especially in countries that traditionally lack access to electricity for a large share of their population, such as Bangladesh, which is currently the world’s largest market for residential solar PV. Several other developing countries (such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in Africa; China, India and Nepal in Asia; Brazil and Guyana in Latin America; small islands in Australia, Malaysia) are also experiencing strong growth in the deployment of distributed technologies, as such technologies can offer consumers affordable and efficient low-carbon electricity and increase energy security where the electricity from the grid is unreliable or inaccessible.

Developing and least developed regions are not alone in experiencing a large increase in the uptake of residential microgeneration: developed regions in Australia, Europe, Japan and North America are seeing similar trends. In these regions, such trends are driven by the emergence of new retail pricing policy frameworks and business models that turn microgrids into profitable energy service providers and not only technology solutions.

Solar valley
Credit: Marygrikas


Industrial investment in renewable energy

The industry sector in all regions of the world has long been generating large portions of power onsite with an increasing use of renewable energy technologies for heating, cooling and electricity generation, using mostly bio-energy sources such as waste from agriculture, forestry and livestock. To encourage the further uptake of such renewable energy technologies and increase the competitiveness of industrial businesses, in 2015 the European Commission initiated “IndustRE”, a project with the aim of identifying innovative business models and regulatory needs for the market uptake of renewable electricity to increase flexibility in energy intensive industrial electricity use.

Beyond the EU, large corporations across the globe are strengthening their commitments to renewable energy. Today, an estimated 2,000 companies have publicly pledged to reduce their carbon emissions using renewable energy and energy efficiency. More than 50 of the world’s largest companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Apple, are part of the global business initiative RE100, where the participating companies commit to purchasing all their power from 100% renewable energy sources.

In the United States especially, large companies have been moving beyond social responsibility and have been viewing renewables as business opportunity. Interestingly, corporate buyers are driving the market for renewable energy today by acquiring growing shares of renewable energy power or contracting their own large-scale renewable energy projects. For instance, in 2015 Apple constructed two solar farms of 40 MW combined in southern China. The output from these installations exceeds the electricity used by Apple’s offices and retail stores in China, making its operations carbon-neutral. Other large renewable energy purchasers around the world include municipalities, the US military, and mining companies.

Accelerating a transition towards a sustainable energy future

Renewables are already seen today as mainstream sources of energy. They have been experiencing a rapid growth that has created new markets for both centralised and distributed renewable energy across the globe. This has been driven mainly by reductions in costs of renewable technologies, improved policy initiatives and access to financing, and a growing demand for energy. Growing numbers of companies, investors, cities and citizens that have set renewable energy targets are driving change in the market.

These are all signs that a global energy transition is underway. Renewable electricity provided an estimated 23.7% of global final energy consumption in the beginning of 2016, a growth in capacity and generation that is still ongoing and expected to increase in the future.

Flexibility is a key component of a power system that incorporates large shares of intermittent renewables – particularly wind and solar – since it ensures that these energy sources can be leveraged whilst keeping the lights on. Another core aspect for accelerating and widening the horizon of the low carbon transition are future policies and regulation. Policies should be designed to discourage investment in fossil fuels and reduce risks from investments in renewable energy. Policy support is also key for driving cost reductions and supporting flexibility and innovation. It is therefore crucial for scaling up renewables, which can help to close the energy access and security gap.

Romy is an Imperial College London M.Sc. student in Sustainable Energy Futures.

Alex is the head of Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School.

Read more analysis from Young European Leadership’s COP22 delegation here

Goodbye Marrakech – Breakthrough or Business as Usual? COP 22 Daily Blog – Days 13-14 (Week 2)

by Alexander Pfeiffer

In the early morning hours of Saturday morning the 22nd COP came to an end with some final declarations. Unfortunately, we, the YEL delegation, could not attend this final plenary, as it was closed to observers so only official negotiating parties could attend. Instead, we followed the process of the plenary via live stream and news ticker.

What came out of these 2 weeks of intense negotiations?

Overall I must say that I am slightly disappointed by the progress that has been made during the conference. Yes, there are some encouraging results, but especially on the technical side and the open questions that have kept the COPs busy for so many years – in particular Adaptation and Loss & Damage – there was a lot of debate and confusion but little tangible progress.

One of the success stories of this COP was certainly how countries have reacted to the US election early in week 1. While the Trump victory came as a surprise to many of us, it didn’t have the effect so many observers feared. Neither China nor other countries showed signs that they were planning to drop out of the effort. Quite the opposite seemed to be the case when, on the penultimate scheduled day, the conference adopted a call for nations to honour the promises made in Paris and to renew their attempts to avoid planetary disaster.

Other good news can be reported on the ratification effort of the Parties regarding the Paris Agreement. Over the course of the conference, 11 governments ratified the Paris climate agreement (Australia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Finland, Gambia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, and the UK), bringing the total to 111. Since the beginning of September, a staggering 88 nations have ratified the agreement. To become legally binding, which the Paris agreement did in the week before the conference began, only 55 nations representing 55% of global emissions would have been necessary.

COP22 1 and 2 day 13

Ambition level

On the ambitions side no big developments have been made. The Paris agreement acknowledges that current pledges by the parties to cut GHG emissions will not be enough to bring us even close to the agreed target of 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius. Nonetheless, parties did not manage to bring forward adapted INDCs with steeper emissions cuts, and instead focused on reinforcing existing plans.

The small positive spin on this overall frustrating result is that some countries have agreed to review their 2020 targets, notably the ‘Climate Vulnerable Forum’, a 47-strong coalition of developing countries, which declared it “will strive to lead” the green transition and aim to go 100% renewable. Furthermore, some countries – the US, Canada, Mexico, and Germany – published roadmaps for cutting their GHG emissions through 2050. 22 other countries, as well as 15 cities and nearly 200 private sector companies backed the “2050 pathways platform.”


Progress on the much-needed rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement has been postponed as politically charged decisions on the balance between national sovereignty and global uniformity were deferred to later meetings. It has been re-confirmed that 2018 will be the next major meeting for negotiations under the Paris Agreement so the rulebook must be ready in that year at the latest. In that context, it appears inconsistent that governments agreed to more consultations but there will be no new or extra meetings.



Adaptation was one of the main reasons why the COP didn’t end on the Friday evening as initially planned, but instead went on until long after midnight on Saturday morning. One of the questions that needed to be solved was whether the Adaptation Fund, started under the Kyoto Protocol, would be continued under the Paris Agreement. Recipients of the funding generally favour a handling of adaptation finance via the Green Climate Fund (GCF), as it is relatively small compared to the flagship climate finance initiative announced in Paris and supports also small and medium-sized adaptation projects. However, its major source of funding, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is currently drying up. Despite the COP Presidency’s call at around 7 pm on Friday evening to find an agreement on this issue before reconvening at 10 pm parties did not manage to find common ground on this issue and postponed a decision on this issue for another 6 months.

Loss & Damage (L&D)

Being always one of the trickiest topics at the COPs, a satisfying solution on Loss & Damage has, yet again, not been found at COP22. The answer that will eventually have to be found to satisfy affected parties and observers is how to compensate small and vulnerable countries for the loss of land and the damage that is being caused by already ongoing and future climate change. This is mostly caused by the historic emissions of developed nations like the US, Europe, and increasingly also China. The result that has been achieved at this COP was that parties agreed on a framework that will provide the basis for the next five years of talks about this topic. Overall a rather unspecific negotiation result.

(Climate) Finance

Being usually another difficult topic at the COPs, climate finance was less controversial this year. It wasn’t expected that this would be the COP of major financial commitments so it can almost be seen an unexpected success that some donors (such as the US, UK, and Germany) pledged some $50 million to improve carbon accounting in developing countries and $23m for a centre to share clean technology expertise. Moreover, Germany almost single-handedly replenished the Adaptation Fund, which had asked for $80m.

However important these pledges may be, they are only a drop in the ocean compared to the $100 billion per year developed countries have promised by 2020. Nevertheless, developing countries cautiously welcomed a roadmap, prepared by the UK and Australia, on how to get to the $100 billion figure by 2020, with some reservations about the accounting methodology.

Other news

Fossil of the Year Award

Fossil of the Year Award

As the final plenary was not open to observers and the conference ended on Saturday morning, the YEL delegation had the opportunity to attend the ‘Fossil of the Year’ award on Friday evening, also known as ‘Colossal Fossil’. This year’s Colossal Fossil went to Russia for several ‘crimes’ against the environment and climate, such as oil and gas exploration, subsidies, and arctic oil drilling.

Delayed action, again

Looking back at these past two weeks I can say that they yielded some invaluable experiences for me I would not want to miss. I had the chance to speak to many interesting people; ministers, ambassadors, scientists, negotiators, activists, and business professionals. While many of them work hard on scalable and innovative solutions to this global problem I can’t help but notice that many seem to lack the sense of urge they should have. Climate change, while already visible in many parts of the world, still seems to be a problem that many locate in the future.

While I am writing this, news run the ticker that the North Pole is an insane 20 degrees Celsius warmer at the moment than it should be at this time of the year. In this context, hearing that many of the questions that so urgently need an answer and bold action have been postponed, yet again, by several years leaves me with a bad feeling in my stomach.

I have the feeling that this ‘COP of Action’ as it was labeled in in the run up to the conference is yet another COP with impressive declaration but little concrete action. If we really want to limit global warming to any level that leaves us with a realistic chance of survival, non-state actors and businesses need to take over now and push the effort forwards.

Alex is the head of Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School

See also our daily video blog from the COP: Young European Leadership at COP 22 days 13-14

Youth at the COP22 – Change Needed: COP 22 Daily Blog – Day 12 (Week 2)

by Casey Catherine Miller and Alexander Pfeiffer

Coming to my first COP I am pleasantly surprised by the amount of passionate youth dedicated to making an impact in their world that I have met at the conference. It’s difficult to go to a side event without making contact at least once with a young person who has developed a project in their local community or created a youth climate advocacy organization. The passion and dedication of my generation is alive and well at COP22.

Yet is this passion being utilized as it should? I for one don’t believe it is. From what I’ve seen this week at COP22, youth involvement here seems to come in two forms. First, there’s the meetings where youth discuss youth issues with other youth. These are important tools for organization and development of a strong common message, yet discussion in a closed circuit of youth will not influence much outside of these meetings unless combined with action.

Second, there’s the token involvement of youth from high level officials, an issue brought up by Siamak Loni, Global Coordinator of SDSN Youth. Ministers and representatives from various countries will come to an event, give an impassioned speech on the importance of involving youth and then leave when their speech is over. They do not listen to the presentations and speeches of the youth. This form of involvement may make the high level official look good, but what real impact does it have?

At a side event on intergenerational equity and youth empowerment hosted by the Italian Climate Network and the Taiwan Youth Climate Network, Ronny Jumeau, the climate change ambassador of the Seychelles, called for national delegations to include the active participation of youth. This inclusion shouldn’t come through token speeches with little weight behind them, but through actually giving youth the coveted pink badges and including them as official members of the national delegation.

By relegating youth to youth-focused side events and discussions we are allowing youth to be seen as the “other.” When youth are allowed to participate directly in the negotiations through national delegations the idea that youth are a vital and necessary part of all climate change talks is solidified. Until more countries follow the example led by the Seychelles, the Philippines, and other countries with involved youth delegates we can’t state that the passion and dedication brought by youth is being utilized as it should.

As COP22 winds down talk is turning towards COP23. Let’s hope in Bonn we see more youth actively included in national delegations in a way that allows for their active involvement in these vital negotiations.

Casey is the media delegate for Young European Leadership at COP22 and is finishing her joint masters studies at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences as part of the ELLS EnvEuro program

Alex is the head of Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School

See also our daily video blog from the COP: Young European Leadership at COP22 day 12. Follow the delegation’s analysis here

COP22 Daily Video Blog

Catch up with the delegation and highlights of the negotiations from November 7-14 2016. Get the background on COP22 here. Follow all the YEL delegation activities and analysis at COP22 here.

COP22 in review: highlights from the conference

Monday 7: Youth, Capacity Building

Tuesday 8: Forests, Land Degradation, Water

Wednesday 9: Resilience

Thursday 10: Energy

Friday 11: Oceans, Transport, Energy

Saturday 12 – Sunday 13: Half Way

Monday 14: Gender and Education

Tuesday 15: Low Emissions Solution Conference

Wednesday 16: Innovation 

Thursday 17: Low Emissions Solutions Conference (ii)

Friday 18: Wrap up of the COP22


Sustainable Infrastructure, Chinese Cities, and the Marrakech Partnership for Climate Action: COP 22 Daily Blog – Day 11 (Week 2)

by Alexander Clark and Alexander Pfeiffer

Good afternoon from Marrakech! It’s Thursday of Week 2 at COP22, and it has been quite a whirlwind so far.

China and Sustainable Infrastructure

Lord Nicholas Stern, esteemed economist and author of the infamous Stern Review, joined the Chinese pavilion for a discussion on sustainable infrastructure over the next two decades. According to Stern, sustainable infrastructure spending is fundamental to the economic transformation challenge facing the world’s large economies, and most urgent of all in China. The policymakers of today have a huge responsibility on their shoulders to avoid being locked into a congested, polluted future. Speed and decisive, credible action by governments on infrastructure decisions matters enormously at this stage. Billions of dollars will be invested in such assets over the coming years and these investments decide which path our economies will go.

Stern presented infrastructure spending as a “fourth way” out of the stagnant growth that has been plaguing many key economies since the 2008 crash. The other three options – monetary policy, fiscal policy, and structural reform – are either reaching their limits, politically unfeasible, or too long-term to be of use. Simply to meet the energy and emission needs of a 2 degree Celsius climate scenario we will require 30% more investment in power production, and a 37% increase in efficiency.

In China’s case, stable and credible policy making by the Party’s central committee gives it a great advantage in moving towards the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, revolutionising city design, and implementing carbon pricing. These are all prerequisites to making smart infrastructural investment decisions in an environment of what Stern termed “predictable flexibility.” This is a world away from how policy making on renewable energy is being conducted in the West. Stern concluded by underlining the immense costs of getting the transition wrong. As YEL’s lead delegate at COP22 Alexander Pfeiffer has written at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, we have little room for manoeuvre on high-carbon infrastructure and risk locking ourselves into a much higher emissions path, with disastrous consequences for our planet’s climatic stability.

The Marrakech Partnership for Climate Action

The focus on state-to-state negotiations at the COP conferences too often neglects the role of non-state actors – and yes, this means business. It has taken so long to reach any sort of agreement on climate, that the global economy is now in a position where any hope of keeping temperature rises below 2 degree Celsius requires full participation from every actor able to contribute. This ranges from consumer goods firms to religious groups, pension funds to advocacy networks. Unifying all these actors under one banner, and helping them collaborate with states, is one of the primary challenges that COP22 must address. Earlier this morning, the UNFCCC released a draft edition of the Marrakesh Partnership for Global Climate Action, the aim of which is precisely this: making interaction between countries, businesses, cities and other sub-national governments, civil society, investors, faith groups, and other actors as effective as possible.

An exciting week will come to an end tomorrow with the closing plenaries and it has been a very exhausting week so far. The Partnership declaration seems an appropriate way to begin the last days of this historic conference.

Alex Clark is the Henry Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, having graduated from Oxford University with an MSc in 2015. He is currently working on energy policy, climate change and global health and is also project leader for operations with SDSN Youth

Alex Pfeiffer is the head of Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School

See also our daily video blog from the COP: Young European Leadership at COP22 day 11. Get more analysis on COP22 from the team here.

Cooperation is the Only Choice: COP 22 Daily Blog – Day 10 (Week 2)

by Yanzhu Zhang and Alexander Pfeiffer

Greetings from the Young European Leadership’s delegation at COP22 here in Marrakech! It is Wednesday of the second week of COP22 conference.

After the first week of the negotiations and well into the second week there are some good and some less encouraging news about these issues. However, while it is probably too early to call it already a success, things are looking promising. On further ambitions in the ratchet mechanism, for example, China stated that it would continue with its ambitious climate policy and try to accelerate decarbonisation despite a potentially unwilling US presidency.

In the aftermath of the US election many negotiators and experts now look towards China and hope for a Chinese leadership in climate actions. At China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Press Conference, many European journalists, particularly the Germans, seemed to be very interested to learn more about the potential of China-EU collaboration to take over the future climate leadership and ramp-up climate actions.

The High Ambition Coalition, a group of 35 states including Pacific island, African and Caribbean governments, EU member states, the US, Mexico, Canada, and Brazil, gave a similar statement, alas without the US. In the second week’s negotiation, however, the pace will have to pick up as current technical discussions around NDCs, baselines, and methodologies progress slowly and many countries criticized the COP Presidency for the slow progress.

Furthermore, negotiators from developing countries said that the Moroccan government’s first draft of the so-called “Marrakech Call” lacks political balance and favours the interests of rich countries. Some observers argued there would be a backlash if the “Marrakech Call” could not reflect the political balance that has been achieved in Paris Agreement. Then and now, the “principle of equity” and “common but differentiated responsibility” is still of high relevance and fought for by the groups of developing countries.

Given this continued pressure, the first draft of the “Marrakech Call” has been further revised and renamed “Marrakech Action Proclamation for Climate and Sustainable Development” which states major solutions offered to combat climate change. In this proclamation, 196 governments call on non-state actors to take climate action. It reads as “We, collectively, call on all non-state actors to join us for immediate and ambitious action and mobilization, building on their important achievements, noting the many initiatives and the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action itself, launched in Marrakech.”

In other news, the High Level Champions announced the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, which clarifies how countries and other actors will work together to drive immediate, transformational climate action.

Later today I went to the press conference of China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Liu Zhenmin, and asked Mr. Liu about China’s policy support for climate actions of non-state actors. Mr. Liu confirmed that governments and the public sector cannot deal with climate change alone and the private sectors have a tremendous role to play in combating climate change. He explained that China is supporting the private sectors’ innovations and are incentivizing its investments in low carbon solutions.

Towards the end of the day I attended an event with Professor Nicholas Stern from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Professor Robert N. Stavins from Harvard University, and Mrs. Teresa Ribera from the Institute for Sustainable Development. The panelists gave interesting presentations on climate finance and low carbon scenarios at the NCSC Think Tank event hosted at the China Pavilion. I felt extremely intrigued by the presentations and also inspired by John Kerry’s talk later  in the afternoon.

As the negotiation is getting to the fiercest and most contentious point, it is seems to me that all negotiators have a common understanding that we all only have one earth and “cooperation is the only choice”. We very much look forward to the final declaration on Friday!

Yanzhu is is a member of Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP, an alumnus of the Blavatnik School of Government (MPP Class of 2015), and alumnus of EU Climate-KIC fellow and EU Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme

Alex is the head of Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School

See also our daily video blog from the COP: Young European Leadership at COP22 day 10. Get all the analysis on COP22 from the team here.

Can Marrakech COP22 solve the unfinished tasks of Paris COP21?

By Yanzhu Zhang and Alexander Pfeiffer 

In December 2015, the 21st conference of the parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had made a decisive turning point in the world’s endeavor to avert dangerous changes in our climate. 195 nations pledged to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The COP21 in Paris was a historic moment for reaching an international agreement of limiting climate change. It sets a 1.5 degree target, which requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response.

What are the achievements of COP21?

The Paris climate conference adopted the “ratchet mechanism” and called for countries’ continual ambitions in its pledges. The concept of “intended nationally determined contributions”, or INDCs, was used for the first time in the history of UNFCCC COPs. The Paris agreement was different in many ways. It included a human rights approach in its preamble, a strong ambition mechanism, and a collective stocktake of emissions reduction actions coupled with a ratchet-up mechanism to ensure the INDCs of each country will be scaled up. Moreover, the agreement emphasized capacity building in developing countries, which in many ways will also benefit the most vulnerable population groups. As Barbara Hendricks, German Minister for the Environment, put it: “For the first time all the countries in the world came together on the path to save the planet (…) we fought for a long time and today we’ve reached a solid agreement. It is a historic turning point.”

The year 2015 also evidenced the adoption of United Nations General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/1, “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have clearly set the outlook for a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable future. The Paris agreement is not the end of story but the beginning of rigorous enforcing and implementation efforts. The COP22 happening now in Marrakech is a new battlefield of climate negotiation and at the same time a new window to translate commitments into actions.

What is unfinished in the Paris Agreement?

While the Paris Agreement has been declared a success by many policy makers, criticism of the outcome of COP21 has been expressed by many as well. Taking the INDCs as an example, the current level of commitments will not bring us anywhere near the desired 2°C warming goal (not to mention the even more ambitious 1.5°C goal). At their current ambition level the INDCs will leave us with approximately 2.7 to 3.0 degree Celsius global warming by the end of the century, well beyond what experts such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consider ‘safe’ levels of climate change. Bernie Sanders, a US Senator, summarized this critique saying “While this is a step forward, it goes nowhere near far enough. The planet is in crisis. We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that.” Critics have also argued that only some parts of the agreement are legally binding while others, such as the national pledges by the countries to reduce emissions, are not and hence not enforceable.

While developed countries agree on a legal obligation to provide climate finance to developing countries, the $100bn a year financing goal is most likely not ambitious enough and also not sufficient to provide poor countries with enough support to manage the transition towards a low-carbon economy. In addition, while the $100bn already existed as promises for several years prior to Paris, recent reviews of the activity of the fund shows, that in the past only a small percentage of the pledged money has actually been employed. This is partially due to the fact that damages caused by climate change related events are not eligible to benefit from the fund. Moreover, the agreement explicitly excludes liability and compensation payments for loss and damage (L&D). L&D is the UNFCCC’s nomenclature for damage from existing and future climate change such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events and was one of the most controversial debate topics during the conference.

Can Marrakech COP22 solve these problems?

The COP22 in Marrakech is said to be the COP of action. “It is all about implementation, implementation and implementation”. President of COP22, Salaheddine Mezouar, described COP22 as “opportunity to make the voices of the most vulnerable countries to climate change heard, in particular African countries and island states. It is urgent to act on these issues linked to stability and security.” These opening remarks indicate that COP22 will take the L&D debate to a new level and give significant priority to the lives at highest risk or strongest suffering from climate change. Yet, in order to achieve the priorities of The Paris Agreement, this COP also needs to address a few important technical issues during the remainder of these two weeks.

  1. 1.5 degree target requires further ambition in the ratchet mechanism
    It is unlikely that, during this year’s conference, countries will modify their INDCs substantially from what has been announced at COP21. Yet, there is also no reason why a country cannot update their INDCs. The ratchet mechanism takes into account sustained contribution from non-state actors by outlining how INDCs can be updated to include contributions from grassroots as well as niche mitigation innovations such as China’s futuristic “straddling bus.” Policy instruments are needed to realize further ambitions.

  1. Ratification of the Paris Agreement
    These two weeks around COP22 are the peak time for countries around the world to ratify the Paris Agreement. As of November 7, the beginning of the conference, 103 parties out of 193 signatories ratified the Paris agreement. We have seen major powers such as the US and China ratifying the Paris Agreement during the G20 Summit in Hangzhou and also Ministers from EU countries approving the agreement. Yet, Russia, Australia, countries in the Middle East and many African states had not yet ratified the agreement by the time their delegations flew to Marrakech. It is hoped that the negotiations in Marrakech will augment the momentum of ratification and nudge some of these countries to take their share of responsibility.

  1. Translating international agreement into domestic legislations
    There have been questions around the “legally binding” aspect of the Paris Agreement. While it is not legally binding on an international level, it will be legally binding at domestic level once countries implement domestic regulations to enforce their INDCs. The Paris Agreement had to be carefully worded considering the diversity of national interests and different political situations in the participating parties. It didn’t come as a surprise that some of the language in the final agreement had to be somewhat softened and that only parts of the agreement could be legally binding. The language and ambition level in the agreement reflects the upper limits of what was possible to achieve in Paris under existing individual national political conditions. The task of translating the Paris Agreement into national legislations will not be an easy one as it needs to balance efficiency and equality in government regulations.

  1. Public sectors cannot do it alone
    How to finance the actions needed to achieve the 1.5 or 2 degree goal was not clear by the end of COP21 and policy makers are aware that public money is not sufficient to support all transition activities. The private sector is the key partner in international development, particularly when activities need scaling up or replication. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation has provided about $15.3bn. in long-term financing for renewable power, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, green buildings and private sector adaptation to climate change. The COP22 will feature a platform to further leverage private sector money and promote bottom-up innovations driven by private sector business motivations.

  1. Different interests in the Loss & Damage debate
    When it comes to L&D, it is important to explain the different points of view of developing and developed countries. The major difference is whether L&D should be addressed within the framework of climate change adaptation. This will ultimately influence the responsibility and magnitude of financing. Developing countries in general request to separate the L&D from the adaptation debate and call for new mechanisms and financing resources to address L&D as a matter of compensation. In their view, the developed countries have a liability to compensate developing countries for the unavoidable impacts that have already materialized as a consequence of historical and ongoing greenhouse gas emissions largely from developed countries. Nevertheless, the developed countries are reluctant to accept this appeal and argue the L&D should be addressed within the scope of adaptation. In previous COPs, we have seen money flowing mainly into mitigation technologies and activities while adaptation remains severely under-financed. This might remain a problematic issue unless the countries agree upon how to collectively address L&D.

How well is the COP22 negotiation going so far?

After the first week of the negotiations and well into the second week there is some good and some less encouraging news. However, while it is probably too early to call it already a success, things are looking promising.

During the first week another 7 countries signed ratified the Paris agreement raising the total number to 110 countries that ratified the agreement out of 193 signatories. Amongst the latest countries that ratified the agreement where e.g. Australia (November 9) and Finland (November 14).

On further ambitions in the ratchet mechanism China stated that it would continue with its ambitious climate policy and try to accelerate decarbonization despite a potentially unwilling US Presidency. Formed during the Paris COP, the High Ambition Coalition, a group of 35 states including Pacific islands, African and Caribbean governments, EU member states, the US, Mexico, Canada and Brazil gave a similar statement, alas without the US. In the second week, however, the pace will have to pick up as current technical discussions around NDCs, baselines and methodologies have been progressing haltingly and many countries have criticized the COP Presidency for this.

The progress on the facilitative dialogue (FD) 2016 has been quite limited so far. The FD describes a process in which parties will reconvene regularly to take stock of their collective efforts. The FD will review progress made towards the long term Paris Agreement goal to peak emissions and achieve net-zero emissions and based on the respective outcomes parties will either submit new NDCs or update their existing ones. During the first week of the COP22 in Marrakech many parties seemed to be quite unprepared for this debate (FD 2016), especially in technical discussions. For the Paris agreement the most important FD will be the one in 2018 as it depicts the key moment to raise ambition levels. However, the rules and guidelines on how this FD 2018 will be conducted will be a direct result of COP22 and COP23 next year and hence preparations will have to improve.

On the adaptation and L&D debate unfortunately not much has happened. Since Paris adaptation is a central part of the UNFCCC regime and it is part of the FD 2018 draft. However, there are concerns who will step up to finance adaptation should the USA under Trump decide to cut their funding. On L&D the discussions are expected to get far more political in the second week. As good news can be seen that a new roadmap was introduced shortly before COP22, and early in the conference it was agreed to deploy the $100 bn per year pledged by the developed nations.

As Ministers and heads of states arrive for week 2 of the negotiations, some major pain points will need to be addressed in the coming days. Some remaining countries still have to ratify the Doha Amendment, NDC partnerships will be announced and CMA1, the first conference of the Paris Agreement signatories, will take place. While the COP officially ends on Friday, other side conferences, such as SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice), SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation) and APA (Ad-hoc working group on the Paris Agreement), close later so prolonged negotiations are expected well into the night on Saturday and Sunday.

Last but not least it is unclear how the parties will react to the “Marrakech Call.” This call is a declaration that has been prepared by the Moroccan COP Presidency without consultation with the parties. It doesn’t contain any references to gender equity, Just Transition, or human rights. It is currently unclear how the other parties will react to this declaration and whether they will accept this lack of inclusiveness.

Week two looks set to be exciting!

Yanzhu is a recent MPP graduate from Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford and alumnus from EU Climate-KIC program and EU Erasmus Mundus program

Alex is the head of Young European Leadership’s delegation to the COP and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School

See also all our COP22 daily video blog entries and get more analysis from the team here.

Why should climate change be top of mind for young people – and especially in Europe?

by Selina Leem

A dear friend of mine expressed her anger about how not only our country, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, but also the rest of the world is only responding to climate change now. She was skeptical about our country’s attempt of banning Styrofoam and about those who do not know what climate change is and therefore cannot explain the disasters that are happening. But there was one thing she said that really hit me: “It is already too late, there is nothing we can do about it anymore.”

I am telling you, however, that when our country joined the global movement to fight against climate change, this was not an act of desperation or a sign of vulnerability. It was the move of a fighter. This significant effort means that there is hope still brimming amid these wave-raddled islanders. Corruption, greed, and poor governance have brought us where we are today. Now we, the youth, as leaders of today and of tomorrow, have a duty to take a stand in this fight against climate change.

My country, even with all its efforts to address climate change, will only have a small effect on the reduction of carbon emission in the atmosphere for we contribute so little of it. However, Europe and the rest of the world contribute a huge amount to the carbon emissions into the air. As youth of your country, your continent, you have a duty to push your leaders to prioritize this issue.

We are already facing climate change and we are at a critical point now. In 2050, my islands are predicted to be submerged by water. But it will not just be us, it will also be our neighboring sister nations and other nations around the globe. Many other parts of the world are already affected by climate change and especially minority groups, the groups without a loud voice, such as children, women, and indigenous people are suffering immensely.

We want global justice and we ask that you join us in ensuring we get what rightfully should be ours.

There is little time left and we urge you to act!

Selina Leem is a small island girl with big dreams from the island of Majuro in the Marshall Islands: “Sometimes when you want to make a change, then it is necessary to turn the world upside down because it is just not for the better, but it is simply for the best.”

See also: Selina’s closing remarks to the UN at COP21

Selina Leem. Photo credit: Hasan E. Muhammad

Selina Leem. Photo credit: Hasan E. Muhammad