So, where are we at now? The statements coming from various delegates indicate that states are, more or less, going with their various representative blocs. The Umbrella Group wants LDCs to commit to something binding and meaningful; the G-77 wants HICs to take the lead (especially the US), and to actually pay for the costs of transition; the US is not particularly interested in a binding agreement – and wouldn’t be able to commit to one anyway; the EU is trying to get people on board a binding commitment; the NGOs are mad at everybody.
The Green Climate Fund and the Financial Mechanism?
On the plus side, there does seem to be movement towards creating a meaningful Green Climate Fund. One of the more cited decisions of COP-16 in Cancún was Decision 1/CP.16 (PDF), which pledged the creation of a financial mechanism – modeled on the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol – to build the capacity and will among poor countries to transition away from high emissions practices. The EU has been vocally supportive of the idea, and it’s certainly one appreciated by the G-77 + China, as well as the NGO community.
Among some of the issues being discussed by the Transitional Committee on the GCF include a submission by Malawi that the fund consider gender issues (PDF) in allocating resources, observing that women are disproportionately affected by environmental vulnerability. Very good. As discussed in the Millennium Development Goals, women are disproportionately affected (PDF) by poverty, which is exacerbated by the land degradation, erosion, and unstable agricultural conditions that will mark the changing climate.
In the interest of improving the link between local community needs and climate financing, Climate Action Network (CAN) also issued a recommendation to the Transitional Committee that the proposed GCF Board include, as non voting-observers, representatives from affected communities, civil society organizations, and the private sector. This may be ambitious, but perhaps institutionalized financing may be one saving grace of COP-17.
Proposals and Changes?
Something potentially interesting: Papua New Guinea and Mexico have issued a proposal to the COP to change the voting rules. In short, the proposal would allow amendments to the Convention to be adopted by a 3/4ths majority vote (PDF), if all attempts to achieve consensus have failed. Intended to avoid the gridlock that characterizes international regime creation, this proposal is currently being debated in informal consultations under the COP.
At the COP: Science, Hot Air, and the CDM
Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, starts off the 3rd meeting of the COP, observing that 20 – 30% of observed plant and animal species are likely to be negatively affected by climate change. A further downer – melting ice-caps threaten low lying islands (so, what we already knew), but notes that in some places, things aren’t so bad: “…[In] some regions, droughts have become less intense, or shorter,” particularly in Central and Northwest America, and coastal Australia. Moreover, Pachauri emphasizes that climate change is primarily a problem for developing countries – measured as loss in GDP, loss of life, and other metrics.
Poland, speaking on behalf of the EU, promotes the further utilization of the CDM, such that LDCs can “leapfrog” over dirty industrialization, but calls for greater top-down methodologies in calculating emissions reductions – ideally, this would reduce the capacity for states and corporate actors to cheat, gaining credits for minimal or no action.
Kazakhstan proposed an amendment to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol, which would effectively give the country a binding obligation to hold its GHG emissions to 100% of its 1992 levels (PDF). While keeping emissions at 1992 levels would probably be a good thing for, say, the US and Canada, Kazakhstan is currently emitting slightly below its 1992 levels, thus 1) encoding activity in which Kazakhstan is engaging anyway; 2) allowing that country to participate in Joint Implementation projects, or selling its ‘excess’ emissions, thereby gaining access to potentially lucrative investment and markets, while doing nothing to curb overall emissions. This, of course, illustrates the ongoing problem with creating regimes – legal rules that violate the entire spirit of the endeavor.
The Civil Society Speaks
To highlight concerns associated with environmental injustice, Conrad Feather from the Forest People’s Programme raised the specter of disenfranchisement caused by the application of REDD projects. While using forests to curb global carbon may be a worthwhile goal in the abstract, it is decidedly not, if doing so requires the coerced relocation of rural and agricultural peoples.
Roberto Espinoza, an indigenous Peruvian from an indigenous rights advocacy organization and Jorge Payaba from the Madre de Diós federation discuss the problem of afforestation policies as a climate change strategy. Espinoza, in a presentation on the “…piracy, abuses, and scams against indigenous people under the name of the REDD program,” argues that it is a piracy that is a “…design of the REDD program in its entirety.” In short, the concern is that international assistance to the state of Peru is not translated into concern and well-being for local populations – the state benefits from hundreds of millions of dollars in international and financial capital, but it is a state that engages in land grabs, forced relocation, and the centralization over land tenure. Thus, strengthening the state in the name of environmental green behavior obscures local injustice and unsustainable practices.
So, yes, OK, somewhat depressing. Nevertheless! Will there be meaningful financial commitment at the end of it all? Will indigenous concerns be taken seriously? We’ll see…