From Each According to His Capability... As the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UNFCCC closed in mid-December 2014 in Lima, Peru, some returned to their homes feeling cautiously optimistic regarding the potential for a strong, ambitious outcome at the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015. Despite slow progress, the Lima conference was conducted in an overall positive spirit, and some advances were made on the crucial and controversial issue of differentiation through recognition of the special needs of vulnerable States, and the compromise language on the differentiation of countries' responsibilities, both included in the key conference outcome, the Lima Call for Climate Action. More pessimistic observers suggested that the UN climate negotiations are heading towards agreement on the lowest common denominator, namely that commitments by countries to action and support will be based on what each country subjectively determines as the maximum effort it can make, based on its national capabilities and circumstances, which most likely would not add up to staying below the 2°C target. Still, the Lima conference left a large amount of work for the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), which is expected to agree on a draft negotiating text at its meeting in February 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland. The COP is the main annual event of the UNFCCC (and, to a certain extent, of the entire climate policy community), and the high expectations that precede it often translate into post-meeting disappointment among a range of parties and stakeholders. Apart from the numerous decisions taken at this key forum of global climate governance that slowly but surely move the international climate regime forward, a number of promising developments took place in 2014 outside the UNFCCC that also merit attention and cautious optimism. Explaining the dynamics of global efforts to tackle climate change through a top-down versus bottom-up dichotomy has become commonplace. In general, the former consists in (legally) binding rules, and even absolute caps, on States' emissions under an international or regional regime, while the latter refers to voluntary actions by State or non-State actors, or among a smaller group of States. Disillusioned with the slow progress and lack of ambition under the UNFCCC, some have called for more emphasis on actions outside the Convention, and how these can accelerate and support climate action. To remedy the negotiation gridlock that stems, among other factors, from the consensus principle applied under the UNFCCC in the absence of agreement on voting rules, some have gone as far as to suggest the establishment of a “club,” assembling “countries that are willing to move faster than the rest.” While most agree that neither top-down or bottom-up approaches alone are enough to keep temperature rise below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, a clear roadmap for how these two can work together in order to bring about action that is in line with science has yet to emerge. While the UN Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015 is expected to provide some kind of an answer to the top-down side of the equation, making sense of developments outside the UNFCCC (the bottom-up) is becoming an increasingly complex exercise, pointing to the need for a collective, aggregate force to bring “everything” together in a meaningful way. This policy update reviews the year 2014 through the eyes of IISD Reporting Services, whose work comprises daily feeds published by the knowledge management project ‘Climate Change Policy & Practice' on the climate change activities of UN and intergovernmental organizations, and coverage of international climate change negotiations and conferences through its Earth Negotiations Bulletin and other publications. This update focuses in particular on activities by diverse actors outside the UNFCCC process, and how these actors are supporting collective and cooperative action on climate change. It argues that, in order to stay relevant and fulfil its objective, from Paris onwards, the UNFCCC will need to reinvent itself to go beyond an exclusive focus on States. It is this broader scope – reviewed in this update – that will enable unlocking climate action beyond individual States' capacities under an umbrella of international governance. For the complete article, please see IISD.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous parallels have been drawn between this health crisis and the climate crisis. Science plays an important role in advising decision makers on how to ensure sustainable crisis management and a precautionary approach to avoid harmful repercussions, particularly where we do not yet know all the consequences of our actions. [...]
Decarbonisation won’t come as fast as the pandemic. But if fossil fuel exporters are not prepared for it, they will face an enduring crisis. The EU can help.
Stories of clear skies and wildlife conquering urban areas might provide much needed comfort during these uncertain times as the health crisis unfolds. But in Brazil, where climate and environmental issues already lack attention and resources, the pandemic underscores the next crisis.
Solutions to the current COVID-19 crisis need to be aligned to those of the climate crisis for a global transformation towards more sustainability, resilience, equity, and justice. Climate diplomacy has the tools to achieve these objectives simultaneously.