Looking Back at COP23

This November, a group of six young leaders passionate about working for climate change solutions traveled from six different countries on three continents to Bonn, Germany for COP23, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. During our two weeks at the conference, we observed negotiations and plenaries, attended side events and talks, and even hosted an event of our own — a first for the YEL delegation to a COP! Now COP23 has ended, and the world is already looking towards COP24. The delegates are using this time to reflect on their experience in Bonn and answer two questions: what will they take away from this conference, and what are their next steps?

Casey Miller

As I look back on my two weeks at COP23, I feel two things — disappointment and hope. During the conference, the idea that nothing was moving fast enough was prevalent. There was a frustrating distance between side events with experts discussing the urgent need to ramp up ambition and the slow-moving negotiations. As our delegation spent every morning going over the previous day’s negotiations, the idea that some developed country was dragging its feet, slowing down progress in areas such as pre-2020 action and loss and damage happened so often that discussing it felt somewhat redundant. Looking at the results of this year’s conference, I wonder what else could have been achieved if all countries took scientists’ warnings to heart and negotiated towards stronger climate action like our lives depend on it — because they do.

Luckily, I didn’t leave the conference filled only with thoughts of disappointment and hopelessness. The people I’ve met during the conference, both in this delegation and as part of other organizations, have left me with one very hopeful thought — with so many passionate, intelligent and innovative people working towards solving some of the world’s greatest problems, I’m sure there’s still hope to reach the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Even if you look solely within the YEL delegation to COP23, you’ll find many different types of people — entrepreneurs, activists, academics, development experts, and inventors — all working towards one common goal while utilizing their personal and unique expertise.

Now that I’m back home in Vienna, I’m taking some time to find ways to keep the passion and drive I feel with at the COP alive all year long. I’ve been inspired by the rest of my delegation to find out what the most pressing climate change issues we’re facing are and then work on innovative ways to fix them. Most importantly, I’m actively looking into events where young professionals get together to discuss inventive ways to solve these issues. Fellow delegate Shrina and I spent a lot of time during COP23 discussing what positive results could come out of groups of young professionals coming together to work towards a common goal. I’m looking forward to put those ideas into action.

Sian Evans

This was my first COP, and given my background in environmental management and current work on sustainable development, it was a real privilege for me to attend an event I’ve heard so much about. The volume of people and sheer energy at the event struck me – it really felt like a place where things were happening, and progress could be made. The presence of the US Climate Action Center, representing the many American leaders committed to upholding the Paris Agreement, demonstrated that while Trump may be u-turning on climate action, the rest of the world is moving ahead – with or without him. Although there is still so much to be done, with developing countries dragging their feet, and many key issues being kicked down the road to COP24, I still left Bonn feeling hopeful.

YEL delegates at COP23

When I returned to Jerusalem and got back to work and my daily life, COP23 suddenly felt very distant. Many of my friends and colleagues didn’t know what COP 23 was, let alone the issues being discussed there. Climate change is such a difficult issue to communicate, and it’s hard to engage people (including decision makers) with something that feels so distant, particularly in regions fraught with their own challenges. The UNFCCC process – with its acronyms, articles and terminology – does not make this any easier! One of my key takeaways is that more needs to be done to ensure that the energy I experienced at COP 23 translates to action on the ground, by engaging the communities, businesses and decision makers that aren’t at these events or a part of this process. I think that youth have a big role to play here, so I’m looking forward to continue to work on these issues and hopefully be in Poland in December 2018 for COP 24!

Katja Garson
COP23 was full-on, contradictory, baffling, inspiring. My six days inside the Bonn and Bula Zones were characterized by a consistent inconsistency: a buzz of activity; of interviews and listening; of moving from meeting to press conference to civil society action. This was the ‘technical COP’ of working out the details relating to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as well as the Fijian COP of openness and welcome. I bring away some thoughts on access and voices. Most people do not have the privilege of entering the COP space, many groups are underrepresented once there, and many were denied visas to attend. I took part in ‘Pass the Mic’, an action which provided a space for indigenous peoples to speak out. This should not have been necessary — all voices must have the same space and stage, always. COP is not only an international conference. It is an event which demonstrates the many inequalities and injustices of everyday life on Earth. It is a model, small-scale, of tensions, divisions, and, thankfully, of collaborations and celebrations.

Going forward, I will draw on the great energy which I gained from being surrounded by people working for environmental justice and sustainability around the world, especially the younger generation who will continue to be impacted by climate change. Although the policy outcomes of COP23 were less than impressive, with many of the details of the Paris rulebook still undecided, it is the raw determination and creativity of NGO and grassroots campaigners, researchers and activists which inspires me. The walkout from a White House press conference on ‘cleaner’ fossil fuels was a key moment of action which stated that ‘we, the people, reject your false claims.’ As the UK government prepares to leave the EU, I will work alongside friends at the UK Youth Climate Coalition to make people aware of the environmental implications of the government’s decisions. We will call for appropriate and binding legislation, and will support allies across borders. And I will continue to value connection, organizing and communication as tools for resistance and rebuilding.

Shrina Kurani
Take aways:
This year, COP23 took me on a ride. While updating my climate science, I simultaneously recognized the climate elite for the first time, which fed my continued frustration with the process, and led to me to my final takeaway: that I need to be brave. Last year I still held the perspective of a naive student and budding entrepreneur, in awe of meeting my climate heroes in the flesh. It took a year, and evolving into the critically optimistic perspective of an investor, to identify the inefficiencies and have my wonder fade into frustration. And I realized that the best thing I could do was to play to my strengths and be opportunistic. Landing YEL a press conference just took sending an email – and now thousands of people have heard our message. I’m so excited about that!

Next steps:
So now that COP is over and the excitement is approaching a normal state, I need to take my own advice. I need to have the courage to stand up for what I believe in, and then be open to convinced otherwise. Just as we need to emphasize adaptive climate policy, we also need to be adaptive in looking for best practices and working together as a community to move forward as a united front. There is strength in diverse perspectives, and strength in community – and that’s what I’m looking forward to continue building. My climate community!

Alexander Pfeiffer

My main take-away is that hope is not lost yet. Attending COP 22 in Marrakech last year and witnessing the Trump election was a pretty discouraging experience and following his climate policies since then did not improve my mood and attitude. Being at COP 23, however, proved that there are still many Americans and, perhaps more importantly, American leaders out there that will uphold the U.S.’ contribution to the Paris Agreement. Trump clearly does not speak for the majority of mankind — in fact, not even the majority of U.S. citizens — and will therefore fail to block climate progress. This COP has clearly showed this!

Going forward I think much more needs to be done. While the parties are fleshing out the rule book to figure out how the Paris Agreement can be implemented global emissions have risen again by 2-3% in 2017 and are expected to continue to rise. At the same time coral reefs die, wildfires destroy California, Africa still suffers from a multi-year drought and extreme weather events wreck havoc in many parts of the world. Overall our planet sends us clear signals that we are running out of time. I think over the next 2 years it will be important to push for a lot of pre-2020 action and especially avoid further lock-in by building even more dirty infrastructure.

As a German I will do my best to push for a clear statement of the German government by which year they will have exited the dirty coal-fired power generation (#exitCoal). I believe such a statement must be communicated before the next COP in Poland in 2018 if Germany wants to continue to be a leader in the climate effort. Being the organisational host of this COP it was cringeworthy to witness the disgraceful failure of Germany, represented by Steinmeier and Merkel, to showcase good climate leadership.

Lastly it was great to meet so many old friends again. I didn’t realise it but after now three COPs I already know many people in this realm and it was great to see many of them again (including three quarter of my delegation). I hope to be able to stay part of this delegation and effort.

Working Towards a Positive Change by Fighting Negativity with Quality

How the Digital Communications Workgroup on the Digital and Communications Affairs Council is Tackling Fake News

By Claudia Scandol

The main focus of one of the workgroups at this year’s Young European Council in the Digital and Communications Affairs Council was fake news and digital communications. This topic has been extremely salient of late in policy making circles due to the potential impact it has on the wider European populace and our delegates were excited to investigate the policy options and current actions. During a meeting with the carefully selected council advisers Mr. Joran Frik, Mr. Joe McNamee and Ms. Iva Tasheva, the delegates were able to get valuable feedback about their policies thus far, discuss further ideas and ask questions to experienced experts in the field.

The workgroup developed a policy draft in order to counter fake news where they focus on rewarding legitimate news sources as opposed to punishing and banning fake news sources. Team representative Catarina Burstoff was presenting the policy and emphasised one of the most important factors in this matter, being the people’s perception of fake news as real. The workgroup, led by Magdalena Surowiec from Poland, proposed a certificate based system whereby honourable journalists are given a sort of rating to indicate the reliability of their news sources. They proposed that the ratings should be given by an EU level expert group with as much independence as possible, and national and local scholars in order to overcome language barriers in smaller member states. The workgroup also suggested the utilisation of celebrities and media personalities in an influence campaign due their exposure and following to combat questionable sources.

When these proposals were presented to the expert advisers, they had many compliments and suggestions to give to the delegates which have helped to improve and streamline their work. Mr. Joe McNamee emphasised two of the major factors that influence the perpetuation of fake news – the prominence of “clicks” on bad news as opposed to good news and the speed at which fake news spreads and is believed by people.  Mr. Joran Frik added to McNamee’s thoughts on the propensity of and dissemination of negative and inflammatory headlines. On the other hand, Ms. Iva Tasheva focused her comments on the importance of education of the populace. The special advisers were also able to give some valuable criticism, which for delegate Antonio Božić from Croatia only helped to increase the validity and quality of their work. He sees their policy as not only realistic, but also feasible if they can take the adviser’s considerations into account.

Mr. Božić also shared the disagreements and challenges that his team faced when developing their policy, such as discussions on how to best address the problem (through a punishment of fake news sources versus promotion of legitimate sources) and how to best implement their grading system – how is it granted? Who is in charge? Ms. Tasheva also took this chance to advise caution on certificates as a policy solution – who polices the police? The delegates need to address this in order to create trust in the public, something which is vital to the issue of fake news. They decided to focus on promoting positive new sources as opposed to attempting to blacklist and ban fake news sources, as they are too easy to replicate. Instead, they want to public to engage with trustworthy and credible sources.

The team presented their final communiqué with the rest of the Digital and Communications Affairs Council on Thursday morning.

Youth and internships: Why it is now time to move away from them

By Frida Hoffmann at YEC17

During the negotiations at the Labour Affairs Council of the Young European Council 2017, the issue of unpaid internships surfaced and became one of the leading motives of the Council.

We are in the age when sacrificing time to have valuable experience is the only way to get a well-paid job. I know it, you know it and the delegates know it. One negotiation after the other the participants gradually got into a sequence of heated debates on alternative solutions and possible outcomes. The working groups presented a Framework Agreement that defines trainees and interns as two separate entities both entitled of  “monetary salary or in kind”.

The problem is, as flagged by Max Uebe (who is the Head of Unit “Employment Strategy” in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) that these issues have to first be resolved on the domestic level of each member state.

The European Union has no power to enact binding legislation based on Article 153(5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Any regulation regarding pay is strictly in the realm of the member states. Consequently, only non-binding forms of EU action is available that enables the needed cooperation and communication. However, this still does not place enough pressure on the Member State, but only removes the latter from the Commission. An empty promise that never will be implemented? Yes, most probably.

If the EU has no competence over what Member States are doing, they could at least address this by paying their interns. As it happens, an estimated half of the current EU internships are full-time and unpaid.

After witnessing the different proposals and their barriers, I came to the conclusion that the best solution would be to abolish internships once and for all. The whole phenomenon of internships is faulty and full of errors. The EU will not legislate on it because it cannot. The Member States have more pressing issues and they are under no legal obligation from the EU and employers are generally glad to have unpaid workforce. The real problem is that ensuring that internships are paid positions would not even solve the situation. While paid internships look wonderful from the intern’s point of view, it would be a major financial setback for the employer, and would eventually result in no internships at all. Something that would definitely not look promising for those student, who would like to try themselves in the professional environment.

Instead of having lengthy internships, a shorter (maximum 2 weeks) unpaid, but more intense “work experience” might be a solution. This would provide an opportunity for students to get insights on specific fields, and still be eligible to apply for a job that actually pays during the holiday season.

 My personal experience is that a week-long unpaid internship is not as burdensome financially as running on no salary for 3 months and living up non-existing savings from my student loan.

One would argue that the concept of a short “work experience” would not guarantee the opportunity to learn. On that point, I strongly believe that the goal of a work experience is not to gain extensive knowledge about a job position. It is for the students to gain an insight,  and decide whether they would like to get more involved and apply for a graduate role or not. Work experience is quite frankly for experience that can be manifested in a variety of ways. This would require more effort from the employer to shift the focus from coffee making activities to more exciting tasks, that focus on personal development and learning new skills in an alternative way.

The problem of unpaid internships and the painful fact that these positions are only open for students with very stable financial background is more extensive and complex than most of us think. Like every single EU employment topic, it is in fact just as fragile and specific as unemployment, working condition or social security for every Member State. Getting to the end of it would surely require bold and clear actions. Can we really expect it to be happening in the near future though?

Smart City Expo World Congress 2017 in Barcelona

‘Cities are essential to our survival as a species in the 21st century’ – this statement voiced by Robert Muggah at the Smart City Expo World Congress highlights the daunting challenges that policy-makers, experts and citizens are facing in transforming our cities into smart, sustainable, and inclusive urban habitats. The Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, as the world’s leading event for smart city projects in the context of urban development, provided a platform to debate these pressing questions. YEL delegates Natalia, Natasa, Ania and Philipp had the opportunity to listen to and engage with smart city and technology experts from all over the world between the 14th-16th of November in Barcelona. After three days of enriching debates and discussions at the conference, five main insights prevail:

COP23 Day 2

1. Interdependence: As the world is increasingly interconnected, there is a need for cities to act together across borders. Challenges such as climate change, air pollution, migration and questions of social hardships are most effectively addressed if cities work together and share their visions as well as best-practices.

2. Inclusion: Smart cities cannot be built without involving citizens in the process. Modern technologies allow us to connect different demographics within cities and empower previously less-privileged segments of our societies.

3. Leadership: Strong leadership is essential to make smart city projects work all around the globe. Many policy-makers and experts get preoccupied with technology, but they should rather focus on outcomes and act as role-models.

4. Technology: Technology provides the tools to make cities smarter, but needs to be incorporated into sound strategies. Emerging technologies such as the blockchain could radically alter the way we think about business transactions in the future and open-up entirely new use-cases in the field of urban governance.

5. Vision: Thinking about smart cities means thinking about complete holistic change. It is not enough for cities to simply procure and apply digital technologies, but rather about crafting a new paradigm of how we want to live in our cities in the future. We need to envision our cities in a different manner if we truly want to make them smart.

COP23 Day 2

In addition, the trade fair that formed part of the event allowed to explore the newest technologies and smart applications that stand behind the transformation of our cities. From industry leaders that offer intelligent air traffic management systems to a start-up that allows pet owners to ‘park their dog’ and supervise via app – many companies, cities and institutions exhibited their innovative solutions that constitute the technological basis for smart cities. Altogether, the YEL delegates agreed that it is encouraging to see how the topic of smart cities is increasingly gaining traction. As the potential of applying smart technologies in our cities is receiving more political attention globally, it is imperative for young people to shape the agenda on the future of our cities. The YEL delegation in 2018 will hopefully continue on this path.

COP 23 Day 11: Transformation by Education – Education day at the climate conference

by Alexander Pfeiffer

Today was Education Day at the COP. Just like Gender, Farmer’s, and African Day, the theme day today was heavily structured around its leitmotif with side events, high level panels, and actions. It kicked-off in the morning with a high-level event with UNFCCC Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco. Both stressed the importance of education for climate change. They also re-emphasized that much more must be done to make sure that countries and organizations work together to achieve a widespread awareness and understanding of climate change in the broad public. As Patricia Espinosa put it: “Transformations don’t happen in isolation, they require education and they require partnerships.”

High-level event with Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco, UNFCCC Secretary Patricia Espinosa, and the choir of Bonn’s young climate ambassadors

Education has a special and important role in fighting climate change. In fact, it is important enough to be mentioned in a dedicated article (one of only 26 articles) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Article 6 (‘Education, Training, and Public Awareness’) states that to effectively fight climate change, participating nations (parties) shall “promote and facilitate […] the development and implementation of educational and public awareness programmes […]; public access to information […]; public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses; and training of scientific, technical and managerial personnel.”

To understand the reasons for and impacts of climate change, it is important to grasp the urgency of why we must act to reduce CO2 emissions decisively, and why we must work on adapting societies and economies to prepare for the climate change that we can no longer avoid. Article 6 emphasizes the role education, training and public awareness play. Climate change is the entry point for a global transformation to a sustainable future. Everyone has something to learn and to contribute to that transformation. Education and training enables society to be a part of the solution.

Alex is a delegate in 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.

Follow the COP23 delegation’s daily video blog here!

COP 23 Day 10: A Healthy Planet for Healthy People

“We’re only as healthy as our planet.” Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, spoke those words at a COP23 side event on the connection between health and climate change. Climate change is a complex issue, with fingers impacting everything from agriculture to political conflicts. When it comes to health, climate change is greatly impacting something important to everyone : the ability to live and lead a healthy life.

The impacts of climate change on health are many. Rising temperatures alone will lead to heat stress, more air pollution, and more frequent and stronger extreme weather events. Changes in weather will allow diseases and disease-carrying insects to travel to further. A recent study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is clear about this topic : heat-related deaths alone will increase mortality in all regions if actions are not taken. The World Health Organization has stated that these impacts will target women more than men, and children will be particularly affected.

Credit: World Health Organization

There are a few benefits of climate change’s impact on human health. In terms of climate change communication, many people see climate change as a serious issue, but one that does not, and will not, impact them. The threats of climate change can seem like problems that may impact people on a small island in the Pacific, or future generations. By focusing on the health impacts of climate change, we can exemplify how climate change is not a problem for people in another location or future generations, but everyone, everywhere, right now.

Our focus now needs to be threefold. There needs to be work done to reach the goals set out by the Paris Agreement to lessen the impact on human health. For those impacts we’re already facing or can no longer mitigate, we need to increase public health outreach. Lastly, we need to use the knowledge of climate change’s impacts on health that we have to show people that climate change is a problem that is here now and can, and will, impact everyone.

Casey Catherine Miller is a the delegation lead for Young European Leadership. A recent Environmental Science MSc graduate, she is passionate about environmental education and communication, youth capacity building, and sustainable development. www.caseycatherine.com.

Follow the COP23 delegation’s daily video blog here!

COP 23 Day 9: Gender and Climate Change: what is that all about?

by Alexander Pfeiffer

Many days at the COP have a theme. Depending on the theme, several side events take place on that day, discussing topics concerning that subject. There are, for instance, Africa Day, Education Day, Farmer’s Day, and our theme for today, Gender Day. But what does gender have to do with climate change and why is Gender Day even a thing?

Climate change often most affects the weakest members of society. That applies to the global context, in which developing and least-developed nations bear a disproportional share of the negative climate impacts, as well as in the national and communal level. Women and children are in many communities amongst the most affected by climate change. Poor sections of the population that depend most on natural resources, such as water, for their livelihood and who have the least capability to withstand natural catastrophes, such as droughts, floods, and landslides, are suffering most from climate change. Most of the world’s poor are women.

Women often bear most of the negative impacts of a changing climate on livelihoods. At the same time, however, women are often excluded from participation in decision-making processes and the labor market. This makes it hard for them to take control over their own fate and prevents them from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation.

Credit: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

Women have a lot to contribute – and, in fact, do contribute a lot – to fighting climate change. They often possess significant knowledge about sustainable resource management on the local and communal level. At a political level, the involvement of women has led to a greater responsiveness to the needs of the population and has often increased the co-operation across parties and ethnicities. On a global level, there are many inspiring and successful female climate leaders, such as Sunita Narain, Angela Camacho, Bridget Burns, or Reem Al-Mealla.

The UNFCCC has recognized the importance of involving women and men equally in the process, e.g. by acknowledging in the Paris Agreement that “Parties should when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, […], as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

In particular, the parties have two goals to achieve this wider involvement: 1. Improving gender balance and increasing the participation of women in all UNFCCC processes, including in delegations and in bodies constituted under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, and 2. Increasing awareness and support for the development and effective
implementation of gender-responsive climate policy at the regional, national and local levels.

The progress to achieve this goal, however, has been slow. During the COP in Lima (COP 20) the parties agreed to develop a Lima work plan on gender (LWPG), which is currently scheduled for the COP 25 in 2019. During this year’s COP, an action plan for this was supposed to be adopted by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). While this topic seemed to be a bit stuck in negotiations it was indeed adopted today. The technical paper on achieving gender balance under UNFCCC is available here.

To sum it up: Climate change will overly affect women and children. Furthermore, women have much to contribute to make the fight against climate change successful. At the same time, women are often excluded from decision making that affects climate change (or is effected by climate change). Therefore, the parties should develop (and have decided to do so) a plan that further involves women into the process. A first success on the way to this was achieved today with the adoption of the gender action plan. Over the next COPs this needs to be further detailed and reviewed.

Alex Pfeiffer is a delegate in Young European Leadership’s delegation to COP 23 and a doctorate student at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at the Oxford Martin School.

Follow the COP23 delegation’s daily video blog here!

COP 23 Day 8: Acronyms, Agendas and More: Resources to Help You Navigate COP Negotiations

By Casey Catherine Miller

At the start of the second week of COP23, negotiations are starting to ramp up and the urgency of the fast approaching end of the conference is setting in. Following the various negotiations, side events and more can get complicated and leave anyone that doesn’t consider themselves an expert in climate change negotiations a bit lost.

Luckily, there’s a wealth of resources that can help you follow along these final days of the conference, from technical recaps of Bula zone meetings to opinion pieces on various COP23 topics.

Climate Tracker Daily Track Live Stream

This resource should be the first stop for anyone with an interest, but almost no previous knowledge, in climate negotiations. Representatives of Climate Tracker organize an informal, and often times fun, daily presentation of the previous day’s negotiations, with frequent interjections to clarify some points that may be a bit tricky for a negotiation newcomer. Climate Tracker’s Daily Track takes place daily in the Bonn Zone meeting room 10 at 10:30 am, but anyone around the world can follow along through the Climate Tracker’s Facebook livestream.

Credit: NASA

IISD Reporting Services’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin

For those who like to truly dig into the gritty details of negotiations, IISD Reporting Services produces the daily Earth Negotiations Bulletin, which gives an in depth summary of the previous day’s meetings. ENB goes past a short explanation of the main topics, and is useful for those who either have an interest in a topic typically skipped by other COP23 reporting sources or just prefer to know everything that’s going on.

Eco

Written in a more playful manner, this daily newsletter gives a basic overview of the main topics coming out of the previous day’s negotiations. Filled with puns and the always popular “Fossil of the Day” award, Climate Action Network has created a resource for everyone who wants to get a cursory knowledge of the negotiations through the eyes of one of the largest environmental NGOs while having a few laughs (or sometimes, groans).

Climate Tracker Infographics

Anyone who has spent any time following a negotiation has most likely spent a significant chunk of that time scratching their heads, asking questions like “What’s the difference between COP, APA, SBSTA and SBI?”, “Why do they keep referring to Article 6?”, and, most commonly, “Why are there so many acronyms and what do they mean!?”

Climate Tracker works to break down these complex topics in order to make the technical aspects of negotiations more accessible. While they also focus on writing various articles during the conference, these infographics are where Climate Tracker shines. The recent infographic on loss and damage, for example, is especially relevant during this COP.

Most importantly, the infographics on COP 23 Bodies should be everyone’s go-to resource when following negotiations. With not only a brief description of the various negotiating bodies, such as APA, SBSTA and COP, this infographics also digs into the most relevant agenda items of these various bodies. Think of it as your COP Acronym to English translation dictionary and keep it handy.

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With one more week to go, we hope that the negotiations pick up speed and current stalemates over topics such as pre-2020 action and loss and damage finance will eventually lead to solutions. As these complicated negotiations continue, make sure to keep an eye on the multiple resources available.

Casey Catherine Miller is a the delegation lead for Young European Leadership. A recent Environmental Science MSc graduate, she is passionate about environmental education and communication, youth capacity building, and sustainable development. www.caseycatherine.com.

Follow the COP23 delegation’s daily video blog here!

COP 23 Week 1 Recap: Where Have We Been, and Where Are We Going?

High level events are taking place on a regular basis, the crowds are getting bigger, and sightings of Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and various government officials have increased, which can only mean one thing – the second week of COP23 has begun. As we look ahead to the final week of the conference, let’s look back to see what was discussed during the past week.

Pre-2020 Action

Although the Paris Agreement was born at COP21 in 2015 and has been the topic of negotiations since then, it won’t come into force until 2020. For some, mainly developing countries, waiting till 2020 to start ramping up international climate action is too late. During the past week developing countries have claimed they need pre-2020 action to have a chance of minimizing catastrophic climate change impacts. Developed countries, on the other hand, have yet to get behind the idea of discussing pre-2020 at COP23. In fact, the topic has been taken off the formal negotiation agenda all together. The United States has claimed there is simply not enough time to discuss pre-2020 action during this conference, while the European Union claims they have every intention of meeting their 2020 pledges yet do not see any need to discuss the issue formally at COP23.

As we look ahead to the final week of COP23, many are beginning to fear this is one issue that will end in a stalemate, threatening to turn Bonn into another Copenhagen. Many civil society members now wonder whether they should push for pre-2020 action to be put on the formal agenda, or whether this topic needs to be brushed over if we’re to have any hope of moving on and creating productive work by the end of COP23.

Loss and Damage

Debates between developing and developed countries is a significant trend at COP23. In addition to strong disagreements over pre-2020 action, there’s also debates on loss and damage – or more precisely, loss and damage finance.

Loss and damage does not have an official definition, making it all the more difficult to work with, but it typically refers to compensation for events that can’t be easily mitigated, such as extreme weather events and rising sea level. This topic is especially relevant at COP23, which closely follows recent significant weather disasters that many countries are still recovering from.

Developing countries are working towards the inclusion of loss and damage finance as a way to promote equity. Their argument lies in the fact that developed countries are responsible for altering the global climate while developing, and now developing countries both need to bear the brunt of these impacts while missing out on the opportunity to develop in the same way already developed countries have in the past. Developed countries, on the other hand, say there’s no way to prove if an extreme weather event is caused or exacerbated by climate change, so developed countries can not be held financially responsible. These discussions bring up issues of climate justice and equity, and in the coming week we will see whose version wins out in the end.

Global Stocktake and the Talanoa Dialogue

Despite frequent praise for the Paris Agreement, there’s still one bleak reality — the current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are not ambitious enough to reach the 2 degree, let alone 1.5 degree, target. In order to increase ambition, the Talanoa Dialogue will use a global stocktake to assess what has been done so far to work towards the goals of the Paris agreement. This stocktake will be discussed in a Talanoa Dialogue, named after the Fiji act of using and open dialogue and storytelling to increase inclusivity and trust. This will hopefully allow countries to create more ambitious NDCs by 2020.

COP23 is when questions regarding the details of the Talanoa Dialogue must be answered – What is the scope of the global stocktake? Which factors will be included? In which ways will data be collected? Answering these questions now will give countries a stronger foundation when the Talanoa Dialogue officially starts at COP24.

Non-Party Actors

When President Donald Trump shocked the world by announcing the United States’ intention to leave the Paris Agreement, many followers of climate change negotiations wondered who, or what, would fill the gap left by the United States. A coalition of United States’ city and state leaders, as well a businesses, answered this concern with the creation of the US Climate Action Center. Many events and discussions have been held to let the world know that many parts of the United States are “still in.”

The increased involvement of non-party actors, such as non-governmental organizations and civil society, was also discussed in the first even Presidency’s Open Dialogue. While this dialogue intended to create solutions to increase non-party actors’ involvement in the COP process, it functioned more as a short forum for prepared speeches, with little true
dialogue taking place. Still, it was a good first step in the process to truly include non-party actors.

Casey Catherine Miller is a the delegation lead for Young European Leadership. A recent Environmental Science MSc graduate, she is passionate about environmental education and communication, youth capacity building, and sustainable development. www.caseycatherine.com http://www.caseycatherine.com.

Follow the COP23 delegation’s daily video blog here!

COP 23 Day 6: ‘We Are Still In’ – Two American Faces at COP 23

by Casey Catherine Miller

With Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement earlier this year, all eyes have been on the role of the United States at COP 23, and the impact Trump’s decision will have on negotiation progress.

There are two distinct faces to American representation at the conference this year. One is the usual negotiations team, which although smaller than usual, is nonetheless present. The process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement won’t be completed until November 4, 2020 (interestingly, just one day after the next Presidential Election), so a delegation has been sent to represent American interests in the implementation of the agreement.

Although reports suggest that this team has been fairly constructive so far, Trump’s position is certainly being felt. The negotiating team has not stepped into the leadership role it once assumed, and for the first time in 20 years, the United States’ government does not have a pavilion at the conference. Furthermore, the administration is set to host an event at the COP next week promoting coal, natural gas and nuclear energy as an answer to climate change. This is expected to provoke strong reactions here in Bonn.

In contrast, over one hundred American state, city and business leaders are participating at COP 23, as part of the We Are Still In movement. 2,500 American leaders have signed the We Are Still In Declaration, committing themselves to delivering on the promise of the Paris Agreement, and showing the world that US leadership on climate change extends well beyond federal policy.

We Are Still In has established the US Climate Action Center, a pavilion and forum where dozens of American leaders are convening throughout the negotiations. Activities have kicked-off in the past couple of days, with events being led by Governor Jerry Brown from California and Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City.

The jam-packed venue, widespread American presence, and sheer energy at the US Climate Action Center this morning (even on a rainy Day 6 at COP!) showed that the even in the absence of federal leadership on this issue, Americans are continuing to play a central role in the climate change agenda. From Senator Jeff Merkley’s ‘100 By 50 Act’ – which lays out a roadmap for a transition to 100% clean and renewable energy in the US by 2050 – to the City of New York’s commitment to climate resilient planning and development, this morning proved that there’s still plenty of reason for optimism.

Follow the COP23 delegation’s daily video blog here!