Hefty speed bumps to landing zone at Paris Climate Talks

Youths protest_COP21
Youths hold protest at Paris Climate Talks.

With just over 24 hours to go before the official end to the Paris climate talks, it is unclear how parties will reach consensus in order to ensure an outcome document with teeth and which assures security for the Caribbean, as others most vulnerable to climate change.

At a just-concluded press conference of negotiators from China, EU, and the G77 — put on by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and where Caribbean journalists supported by the ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ campaign were represented — they said all the right words about optimism and needing to get to an outcome document that packed a punch.

But what also rang through is that getting there — if, in fact, we do — will be a climb. For one thing, there are parties that seem unwilling to make trade-offs, which for some — including the Caribbean and other small island states — may, in fact, be ill-advised.

Take the reported twinning of the 1.5 degrees Celsius ambition and loss and damage, for example. The Caribbean and their counterparts in the Alliance of Small Island States require a 1.5 degrees Celsius cap in increases in global temperatures, given the potential fallout — from biodiversity extinction due to rising sea levels and sea surface temperatures, etc. to the proliferation of diseases like dengue due to rising temperatures; and economic and social losses, given that most industries and key assets are sited along the coast.

Yet, earlier this week, the US is reported to have indicated a need to have compensation and liabilities excluded from loss and damage with a precise proposal on the language. In exchange, it was rumoured they would get behind the 1.5 ambition.

James Fletcher
Senator James Fletcher. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)

“What I can tell you is that of now, I know G77 [which includes the AOSIS membership] has rejected the exclusion clause that was posed by the US to exclude liability and compensation. That was our negotiating position the last time I heard,” Dr. James Fletcher, head of the CARICOM Task Force on Climate Change said Wednesday, following the release of an updated draft text.

“I know G77 will be meeting at 6 or 7 o clock. Maybe then there might be a shifting of positions but, as of now, our position is that we do not agree to an exclusion clause for compensation and liabilities because of what it means, not just for loss and damage, but what it means for the agreement itself. And the advice we have from our legal people is that that would be a dangerous thing to do in the formulation that has been proposed by the US. That is and remains our position,” he added at the time.

It is important to note that since that time, negotiators have been locked in a series of meetings — until 5:30 am this morning (Thursday) and then again since then.

It does make well the point though. If there is to be no trade off, then how are parties to get to a final outcome document?

Among other issues in contention is the inclusion of human rights in the text, given concerns that national constituencies could likely bring lawsuits against their governments for the climate change impacts they suffer personally.

One example that has been used is the recent case of drought in Jamaica, where hundreds were denied access to water for weeks. The UN General Assembly explicitly recognises the right to water and sanitation. And this is perhaps the least of it.

There is contention, too, over finance — ‘additional, adequate and predictable’ quantities of which Caribbean islands, again as others most vulnerable to climate change impacts, are calling for.

Of course, finance, as Dr. Mariama Williams of the South Centre has indicated, is usually one of the last things to be negotiated since it is contingent on most, if not everything else on the table for negotiations.

This brings us back to the essential question: If there is to be no trade offs, how is the world to get to a final agreement? And if there are to be tradeoffs, what is to be bartered?

 

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Caribbean stays the course on ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’

 

1point5_Gladding
The painting done by Jonathan Gladding as a contribution to the ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ campaign of the Caribbean. (Photo: Contributed)

 

THE Caribbean is intent on securing a 1.5 degrees Celsius target as a cap in global temperature increases, with the start of the 2015 international climate talks in Paris.

The region’s position was repeated in the speeches of a number of presenters on this the opening day of the global negotiations — reflecting the statements of Dr. James Fletcher, chair of the CARICOM Task Force on Climate Change last week.

“The conversation has been about two degrees Celsius. And we have said, ‘two degrees cannot work for us’. With two degrees Celsius, we will have major ecosystem collapse in many of our countries,” he said.

James Fletcher
Senator James Fletcher. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)

Fletcher, also Saint Lucia’s minister of sustainable development, energy, science and technology, was speaking at the announcement of the winner of that island’s ‘Media Climate Change Challenge’ — won by journalist Alison Kentish of Helen Television System — on November 26.

“You will have extinction of some of the biodiversity that is so rich — both marine and terrestrial biodiversity — that makes us who we are. Two degrees Celsius will unleash major diseases on us, will cause our coastal defences to be majorly challenged,” added Fletcher, who is also Saint Lucia’s minister of sustainable development, energy, science, and technology.

According to the minister, patron of the ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ campaign, launched in October to bolster the Caribbean’s efforts in Paris, “It has to be 1.5 degrees Celsius”.

“Now, there is a cynicism among developed countries who say ‘two degrees, 1.5, 2.5, what is the big deal? It is just numbers’. And we keep saying to them, it is not just numbers; we have to leave Paris with an agreement that recognises 1.5 as a threshold for small island developing states like ours,” he said.

1.5 profile pic
A profile shot created under the ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ campaign for use by all interested stakeholders.

Since its October launch, the ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’ campaign has gained momentum, with the implementation of a range of activities — from the launch of its Facebook page (www.1point5.info) and Twitter account (@1point5OK) that have attracted hundreds of followers to the ‘1.5 Selfie Video’ challenge (http://www.1point5.info/actscentral).

These are in addition to a range of creative outputs from artists, including Jonathan Guy-Gladding, out of Saint Lucia, who has done a painting titled ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’. A number of artistes have also been producing songs on the issue  all of which can be found at eh website — www.1point5.info.

Meanwhile, it remains any — and everyone’s guess really — whether, in fact, the region will realise its goal given the level of greenhouse gas emission cuts that countries the world over would have to make to reach such a target.

Still, Caribbean islands are tenacious and appear ready to do battle in order to ensure what they consider the survival of the region and the Caribbean way of life.

 

 

Miami conference could offer answers to Jamaica’s water woes

THE Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) Conference and Exhibition in Miami could offer up solutions to Jamaica’s prevailing water woes.

“This CWWA is coming at a very crucial time and serves as a great opportunity for exchanging experiences, learning of new and more appropriate water and wastewater management technologies and options, and fostering new partnerships among private sector, donors, intergovernmental agencies, academia, NGOs, youth groups, utilities, and the public sector,” said Christopher Corbin, programme officer for

assessment and management of environmental pollution and officer in charge of communication, education, training and awareness at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit.

UNEP is a partner in the conference.

“It also offers, through the Ministerial HLF (High Level Forum), an opportunity to raise these issues at the highest political level (CARICOM) and to explore how linking to climate change can help further the water and sustainable development agenda in the region as we lead up to the next Climate Change COP (Conference of the Parties),” he added.

The conference, which kicked off Monday, is being held under the theme “Improving the Quality of Life with Water and Waste Management Solutions” at the InterContinental Hotel.

Among the issues being explored is wastewater as a resource. To inform those discussions, the Global Environment Facility-funded Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (GEF CReW) project held a regional “Resource Valuation Workshop’ on the fringe of the conference this past weekend.

The workshop was intended to share experiences from the development and application of a resource valuation methodology for use in wastewater management planning based on case studies in Trinidad & Tobago and Panama.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) conducted the studies in collaboration with local agencies.

Chris Corbin of UNEP (Photo: Contributed)
Chris Corbin of UNEP (Photo: Contributed)

“Coastal ecosystem valuation has contributed to better-informed and more holistic decision-making about resource use, has helped in the justification of policies and investments that protect coastal ecosystems or promote their sustainable use, and has helped with the identification of sources of finance for coastal conservation,” noted a UNEP release.

“WRI proposed a valuation methodology based on typical economic analyses used by infrastructure decision-makers, but tailored for water resource managers and updated to consider ecological and health co-benefits from wastewater treatment. The valuation methodology used is a cost-benefit analysis, which evaluates the marginal improvements to ecosystem and human health as a result of improved wastewater management, and compares these with marginal costs,” it added.

Wastewater, a valuable resource for Jamaica. (Photo: Contributed)
Wastewater, a valuable resource for Jamaica. (Photo: Contributed)

Among other things, the studies aim to improve local and national capacity for wastewater management, in line with project objectives to:

  • identify infrastructure investment options for wastewater management, for both green and grey infrastructure;
  • value costs and benefits of possible wastewater management options, including both direct and indirect benefits; and
  • develop a greater understanding and capacity for valuing coastal ecosystems and wastewater management options and improving regional understanding of the connection between wastewater treatment and coastal ecosystems.

Meanwhile, Jamaica has set itself a target for the use of wastewater, as reflected in the new draft Water Sector Policy and Implementation Plan. The plan, states: “The Government encourages the re-use of treated wastewater where it is safe and economical. Wastewater that is properly treated at sewage treatment plants may be safe for activities such as irrigation and some industrial processes.”

“Over the longer term and something we definitely have to give more consideration to is reusing treated water for irrigation purposes and that would free up more of the freshwater that currently goes to irrigation for domestic purposes,” said Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change.

The island has been hard hit by unusually low levels of rainfall, which have prompted water lock-offs by the National Water Commission.

 

Jamaica’s Cockpit Country back on the front burner

A section of the Cockpit Country (File photo)
A section of the Cockpit Country (File photo)

Last week in the news, there was much talk about Jamaica’s Cockpit Country and the threat of bauxite mining in the area — a matter that has remained unresolved for too long.

Civil society stakeholders — among them the late, great journalist and environmental advocate John Maxwell — have, as far back as seven years ago, called on Government to declare a boundary for the Cockpit Country — which teems with life from an abundance of flora and fauna while providing some 40 per cent of the Jamaican population with freshwater, among other things.

This, so as to inform any development, if any, within the area, once officially designated. Government, in turn — recognising the value of the Cockpit Country — gave the undertaking not to allow any mining in the area, pending the designation.

But last week a civil society actor in the person of Mike Schwartz, head of the Windsor Research Centre, caught on camera some activity indicating that mining was underway in the area or would be in short order.

His organisation, in tandem with the Jamaica Environment Trust, issued a press release (see full text below) denouncing Government for secretly trying to begin mining in the area.

Other stakeholders are in full agreement, noting that no one is truly served by the failure to designate a boundary.

Hugh Dixon (Photo contributed)
Hugh Dixon (Photo contributed)

“It is a classic case of state deception… But as I had suspected long ago, they have been pussyfooting around this issue of declaring the boundary because they literally want to get into the Cockpit Country before there is any clear demarcation,” said Hugh Dixon, head of the Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency.

“…The outcome is that we will all feel the consequences of the error of our poor government ways,” he added.

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether, in fact, the company — Norando Bauxite — is mining or preparing to mining. However, whatever they are doing, they are legally permitted to do so, as reflected in their own press release on the matter (see full text below).

To get caught up on developments with this story, here are a few links:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20150520/cockpit-country-stakeholders-brace-resist-mining#.VV0WCUKLKyg.twitter

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ministry-calls-off-press-conference-on-Cockpit-Country_18982094

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cockpit-Incursion-_18971087

WINDSOR PRESS RELEASE

Issued: Monday, May 18th, 2015

Headline: NORANDA INVADES COCKPIT COUNTRY: 

Windsor Research Centre (WRC), which is located five kilometers inside Cockpit Country, is appalled to discover that Noranda Bauxite Ltd has invaded Cockpit Country. 

“No Mining in Cockpit Country”!  That is what the public has been saying since 2006 and it is what Government of Jamaica (GoJ) has been promising us.  But… within the last two weeks, Noranda has crossed the Cockpit Country boundary with a Haul Road in preparation for mining.  How can this be?

 Here is what we know so far:

  • This breach is taking place right now, near Bryan Castle in St Ann at the Madras / Caledonia crossroad.  We observed it yesterday (17th May 2015) and took photographs (see attached).
  • Noranda has a Special Mining Lease (SML) # 165 inherited from St Ann Bauxite Ltd and dated October 2004. This allows them to mine up to the eastern boundary of Cockpit Country (see attached map) and it is valid until 2030.
  • The new Haul Road is outside the SML 165 and is penetrating so-called “Special Reserves”, which are inside Cockpit Country. According to SML 165, these reserves are to be used only if it turns out that there is less bauxite than predicted within the said SML.  In this case the Minister must grant the Lessee a new SML.

We therefore ask GoJ to clarify the basis upon which they are allowing Noranda to mine the Special Reserves. 

  • Is the bauxite in SML 165 finished?
  • If so, how could it be that the bauxite in SML 165 is already finished after only 10 years out of a 26-year Lease?
  • Was a new Special Mining Lease issued? 
  • If so, what account was taken of the importance of the Cockpit Country’s natural and cultural heritage and the still unresolved issue of the boundary?
  • Was an Environmental Permit requested or obtained?
  • Was an Environmental Impact Assessment carried out?

WRC calls upon GoJ to refer to its own study, “Public Consultations on Defining The Boundaries of Cockpit Country” which was commissioned from University of the West Indies (UWI) and published in 2013; we call upon the Minister of Land Water Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Robert Pickersgill, to declare the boundaries of Cockpit Country, as recommended by the Public Consultations and we ask that Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, the Hon. Phillip Paulwell, close Cockpit Country to mining in line with GoJ’s assurances.

– END –

ORANDO PRESS RELEASE

Issued: May 19, 2015

Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners has not conducted mining operations outside of St. Ann or outside of areas authorized by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) and the Commissioner of Mines.

The company has received all necessary permits for the area that we are mining. Other areas may require different permits, but Noranda has not conducted mining operations in those areas.

Noranda has and continues to comply fully with its agreements with and authorisations from the Government of Jamaica, the Commissioner of Mines, and the JBI.

— END—

A Short Tribute to The Likkle Lizard

Salute to the beautiful Jamaican Iguana; you are impressive in both size and demeanour.

Petchary's Blog

I was inspired to share these photographs with you, my dear readers. As you are no doubt aware, Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area remains threatened by a mega-port, which the Jamaican Government wants China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to build in this beautiful area on Jamaica’s south coast, consisting of pristine mangroves (and yes, I have seen them for myself), fish sanctuaries, dry limestone forest and other increasingly rare and important wildlife habitats). For more about Goat Islands, and to join the campaign against the destruction of this area, go to savegoatislands.org and visit the websites of the Jamaica Environment Trust and the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM).

The Jamaican iguaua, Cyclura collei, is a critically endangered species from the Hellshire Hills in Portland Bight Protected Area, Jamaica. (Photo: Robin Moore) The Jamaican iguaua, Cyclura collei, is a critically endangered species from the Hellshire Hills in Portland Bight Protected Area. Here are babies getting to know each other! (Photo: Robin Moore)

The always casually dismissive Transport and Works Omar…

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Lima Climate Talks: Failure or Game Changer?

Attendees to the global climate talks in Lima, Peru go about their business during the negotiations.
Attendees to the global climate talks in Lima, Peru go about their business during the recent negotiations.

THE last two weeks of negotiations in Lima have not been dubbed a failure. However, it is widely regarded as not having gone as far as it should have, if a new and substantive international climate change deal is to be successfully brokered in Paris next year.

What has emerged from the talks is a draft decision document characterised by weak language — the adoption process for which has been deemed questionable, given reports there was little or no time given for any objections.

Among other things, the five-page document states that the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “Decides that the protocol, another legal instrument or agree outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties shall address in a balanced manner, inter alia, mitigation adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and [sic] capacity building, and transparency of action and support”.

But there is no mention of loss and damage, which developing countries, and particularly small island developing states, including Jamaica and others of the Caribbean, have long lobbied for as a key element of any new agreement — given their vulnerability to extreme weather events.

The document, which is being called the Lima Call for Climate Action, also said the COP: “Underscores its commitment to reaching an ambitious agreement in 2015 that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances”.

The problem here is that there are no stated ambitions, though the inclusion of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ is a plus.

A group of indigenous people at the recent Lima Climate Talks. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)
A group of indigenous people at the recent Lima Climate Talks. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)

Further, among other things, it “Urges developed country Parties to provide and mobilise enhanced financial support to developing country Parties for ambitious a mitigation and adaptation actions, especially to parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change; and recognises complementary support by other Parties”.

The document goes on, using words like ‘acknowledges’ ‘requests’, ‘reiterates’, ‘invites’, prompting some raised eyebrows from stakeholders, still trying to make sense of precisely what has been achieved toward a Paris agreement.

Still, all is not lost.

Some pundits, while making it clear that the draft decision has not gone far enough, have said that, if nothing else, it has helped to lay the foundation even as the dialogue continues.

“Another year of increasingly extreme and destructive weather and new political momentum were not yet enough to boost the ambition of UN climate talks in Peru. The decisions made in Lima do not foreclose the possibility an agreement in Paris, but do little to improve the odds of success,” said Oxfam, for example, in a release to the media.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, added: “negotiators have managed to get the boat in the water from Lima’s shores without sinking, but choppy seas are ahead before they reach Paris”.

“This outcome can only be read as a call to action for people around the world. Governments will not deliver the solutions we need unless more people stand up to make our voices heard. We must continue to build a stronger movement to counteract the narrow interests that are preventing action,” she said further in the release.

Calls for climate change to be treated as a human rights issue have been made repeatedly during the recent talks. (File photo/Environment Etc)
Calls for climate change to be treated as a human rights issue have been made repeatedly during the recent talks. (File photo/Environment Etc)

Nicolas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science, was slightly more optimistic in his assessment. But even he admitted that there was some way to go.

“This is an important step towards a new agreement at the climate change summit in Paris in December 2015, but it still leaves a number of important issues to be worked out between countries over the next 12 months,” he said, also in a release to the media.

“There has been a constructive atmosphere in Lima, and the Peruvian Government deserves great credit for creating such a positive environment for the negotiations. The countries of the world are increasingly recognising the urgency of the action required to tackle the immense risks of climate change, but must focus on the big issues of scale of action and of building mutual confidence and support in the months before Paris,” he added.

Still, Stern, also President of the British Academy, said it was essential that countries continue their efforts in order to ensure success next year.

“All countries must continue to engage in a collaborative way with each other to build mutual confidence. Rich countries must accept the responsibilities that are associated with their greater wealth and historical contribution to the rise in greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere,” he noted.

“They must help in tackling the effects of climate change that are already with us. And they should also work to create and unlock much greater public and private investments in clean economic growth in the developing countries, and not just re-label overseas aid budgets,” he added.

So were the talks a failure or a game changer?

While perhaps not a failure — depending on ones perspective — it certainly may prove a game changer. This, in so far as it makes clear the level of hard work that countries, and perhaps more so those among them who are especially vulnerable to climate change.

What is more, civil society will have to be mobilised — within the developed and developing world — so that the point can be well made, based on the science, of the necessity of action in the way of a legally binding agreement characterised by significant commitments to the greenhouse gas emission cuts and mobilised financing for adaptation and loss and damage.

Adaptation Fund gets new lease on life

A copy of the Adaptation Fund overview document.
A copy of the Adaptation Fund overview document.

New life has been breathed into the Adaptation Fund, currently the most significant, albeit not the singular, source of capital for climate change adaptation financing in the developing world.

This is thanks to a donation of Euro 50 million from Germany, made during the recent international climate talks, held over the last two weeks in Lima, Peru.

The donation puts the AF within US$19 million of its US$80-million fundraising target for this year.

“The AF got a strong endorsement from this COP (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) when the German Government contributed — and it is not a pledge, it is already a contribution because it is paid…” said Marcia Levaggi, manager of the AF Board Secretariat.

The money, she said, will allow them to clear a number of projects in their pipeline — including from Ghana, Mali and Nepal.

Marcia Levaggi, manager of the Adaptation Fund Board Secretariat. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)
Marcia Levaggi, manager of the Adaptation Fund Board Secretariat. (Photo: Petre Williams-Raynor)

At the same time, Levaggi said the donation to the AF was an indication of its continued relevance, despite having struggled under the weight of a slump in the carbon market — reliant as it is on financing through two per cent of proceeds from projects under the Clean Development Mechanism.

This is also despite the scheduled coming on stream next year of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which some anticipate will subsume, if not replace, the AF.

“I think the GCF is becoming operational but the AF still has role to play. The AF has pioneered [direct access funding for adaptation financing for developing countries] and there is a lot of interest still in getting accreditation with the AF and with submitting projects to the AF,” Levaggi told Environment Etc.

“The NIEs [national implementing entities, so designated under the AF to implement approved country projects] appreciate the network that has been built through the Readiness Programme of the AF and they appreciate the interaction they can continue having through the fund. So we are confident that next year, we will continue with this programme and that we will get more projects,” she added.

Since 2010, the AF has allocated some US$232 million to assisting 40 countries adapt to climate change.

Projects to date have included disaster risk reduction as seen in Colombia and Pakistan; agriculture and food security as seen in Mauritania and Djibouti; coastal zone management as seen in Samoa and Jamaica; and water management as seen in Honduras and Mongolia.

In addition to being the first to allow direct access financing for developing countries, the AF is also celebrated for its active engagement of civil society. This it does, according to a September 2014 overview of the fund, through “soliciting comments for all proposed projects, maintaining an active dialogue with civil society and globally webcasting all Board meetings”.

“At the last meeting, we got 13 applications from the NIEs. We approved six. But the remaining seven will come back. So we will have more projects for NIEs and we are exchanging a lot of information and knowledge with the GCF Secretariat,” Levaggi continued.

Meanwhile, she said that the first step toward harmonisation between the GCF and the AF was made “when the GCF Board have decided to approve the decision to fast track the accreditation of the AF NIEs with the GCF”.

“That’s also an acknowledgement of the procedures of the AF, that they are sound and good and so we expect to continue building with the GCF, some kind of linkage that allows the two funds, at least during a transitional period, to interact and to find a way of working together and in coordination,” the AF Board Secretariat manager said.

She added that the AF Board has also requested of the secretariat that it write a paper outlining options on possible linkages.

“We are working on that and we expect to submit it to the board inter-sessionally,” Levaggi said.

She could not provide precise details on options but suggested that “at least some small and micro projects that are up to US$10 million, that could be where the AF could make a difference and would complement the work of the GCF, if the GCF aims at scale, at bigger projects”.

Beyond that, Levaggi said the plan was to continue to fundraise for the AF, which has increasingly become reliant on contributions from donor countries, including Sweden, Finland, Belgium, and France, to continue its work.

“The plans are keeping the contacts with donors, trying to sensitise them and also our recipient countries, which many of them have been vocal in the plenary, advocating for more resources to the AF,” she said.

The AF’s fundraising target for 2015 remains US$80 million.