By John Carl T. Alonsagay/Philippines
Article edited by Judy Nguta/Kenya
Graphics by John Carl T. Alonsagay & Chee Siang Teoh/ATO-ClimatEducate Project
You probably heard that in 2015, the world finally came up with a comprehensive international agreement in Paris, France to curb climate change. There was a lot of hope everywhere after it was announced.
Almost three years later, progress is slowly being made, including compliance by developed countries to offer financial assistance for developing countries to adapt to the changing climate and for the “big polluters” to start cutting their carbon emissions before everything is too late.
Here’s the progress so far:
Note: I used the word “countries” to refer to the countries that signed and ratified the Paris Climate Agreement.
1. This year (2018) is the “moment of truth” for the climate talks
The Paris Climate Agreement can’t really “force” countries to comply but rather it hears out their pledges with a “cry of urgency”. It also acknowledges that action should be developed over time by giving reports of their progress.
The agreement gives the world a “plan of ambition” for the next few decades to maintain and fulfill goal of keeping global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels (term used to refer to the levels of carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century) and limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This “plan of ambition” under the Paris Climate Agreement which is also referred to as “Facilitative Dialogue”, and in 2018 it was renamed as “Talanoa Dialogue” (I know! A lot of climate change jargon sometimes bugs me), will give countries a chance to take stock of their progress and further enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs before the year 2020.
Countries are required to formulate their NDCs, which should have written plans on how to cut their carbon emissions and adapt to the effects of the changing climate. We will know more about this on December 2018 when Poland leads the 24th Conference of Parties (it’s the 24th annual climate talks, may the odds be ever in our favor!)
2. 2016 US Elections actually shook the climate talks
Well, this is a side story. I was a youth delegate to COP22 back in 2016 (I was a climate rookie then) when I saw everyone’s face stunned after hearing the news.
Donald Trump won the US Presidential Election. He was quoted issuing the threat of “pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement” during his campaigns and finally announced his intention to do so in June 2017. [Reference: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/trump-paris-climate-agreement.html ]
The United States is one of the top 3 polluters in the world when it comes to its carbon emissions (other two are the People’s Republic of China and members of the European union, check the reference here: http://www.wri.org/blog/2017/04/interactive-chart-explains-worlds-top-10-emitters-and-how-theyve-changed)
In the agreement, the US had pledged to cut their carbon emissions by 26-28 percent by the year 2025. But let’s see how that can be achieved as the world is still determined to pursue action.
Note: Check out statements from our regional teams as they joined other civil-society organizations in expressing their disappointment with the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement:
For ClimatEducate Project in South Asia, click here.
For ClimatEducate Project in Africa, click here.
3. Fiji’s leadership in 2017 led to the “Talanoa Dialogue”
The Republic of Fiji’s leadership of the 23rd Conference of Parties in November 2017 was interesting. It was the first small island developing state to host the climate talks, however due to its limited location, the climate talks were held in Bonn, Germany, where the UN Climate Change headquarters is located.
The conference was an interesting “diplomatic show”: There were two US delegations, China took the climate leadership as a global power. Gender and the plight of Indigenous peoples were included (Gender Action Plan and the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform) and then the Talanoa Dialogue. Talanoa refers to the traditional approach of discussions used in Fiji, which embodies principles of “inclusiveness, participatory and transparency”.
4. Promises should never be broken – Paris Rule Book
Because the Paris Climate Agreement is not that “tough” yet to make countries fulfill their promises under the agreement, it needs a “rule book”. Talks were held to formulate a concrete draft during the 48th Intersessional meetings (SB48) held in Bonn (May 2018), and will be continued in Bangkok this September. (The Rule Book has its deadline before COP24 in Poland this December 2018).
5. The question on “Loss and Damage”
Loss and Damage, aside from Mitigation and Adaptation in my perspective, is one of the three important elements for global climate action. The term might be synonymous with countries liable (due to their excessive contribution to carbon emissions that have worsened climate change) and compensation (giving finance to developing countries in building up their “climate defenses”).
Loss and Damage has been a critical agenda especially to most developing countries. Although the Paris Climate Agreement included a section about Loss and Damage (See Article 8), plans to create the Paris Rule book does not include it (and in addition, there’s currently no available financing for it).
Loss and Damage is actually included in the Warsaw International Mechanism (a technical group created in 2013 after COP19 in Poland). There has been progress recently during the SB48 in Bonn which created an “expert-led dialogue” (which was named as Suva Expert dialogue on Loss and Damage).
6. Should “polluters” join the climate talks?
Another question for the organizers of climate conferences is: Should fossil-fuel companies or “polluters” be allowed in the climate talks?
Check this YouTube video from the Associated Press:
In this video held during a coal-focused side-event in COP23 titled: “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation”, demonstrators distracted the event by singing. Recently, the issue was brought up in the Intersessional meetings (SB48) in Bonn.
It was referred to as “Conflict of Interest”, calling to kick out “polluters” out of the climate talks. As of now, there was no progress made about it.
7. Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)
“Action on Climate Empowerment” or simply ACE, was a term used to refer to the Article 6 of the UNFCCC (See the original convention text here) and to Article 12 of the Paris Climate Agreement, which is climate change education.
ACE aims to encourage countries to develop and formulate educational and public awareness initiatives and also increase public participation and access to information about climate change.
Just recently, YOUNGO, the youth constituency of the UNFCCC organized the ACE Youth Forum before the SB48 and ultimately made “Education” as the first draft decision of the Paris Agreement Work Program.
For almost two decades, the world has created agreements to help save our species and the planet. Not much progress has been made yet. But it is important to continue pursuing the ultimate goal, even with small deeds.
We all can make the difference.
John Carl T. Alonsagay is the Director for Graphics, Design and Creatives of the ATO - ClimatEducate Project. He is also a Board of Trustees member of the Alpha Team Organization (ATO). He is currently engaged in policy advocacy particularly matters related to climate change education, research and environmental policies in the Philippines. He is also a licensed professional teacher.