Count down to the final 48 hours of COP21

Neoka, our Policy & Research intern, writes from COP21 in Paris.

Climate summit cartoon

As we enter the last 48 hours of negotiations, I wanted to focus today’s post on some of the people and solutions that have inspired me on this journey through COP21. 

1) Bringing down fossil fuels 

The day before I left for COP21 I had the privilege of watching Naomi Klein’s documentary  “This Changes Everything“. I must admit I have seen my fair share of documentaries, and for some reason they motivate me to try and do my best at my endeavours. I watched many people work together to make changes in their communities the best way they could. One of these inspiring people was Crystal Laymann from the Beaver Cree Nation, who is standing up against the tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada.

Her community mobilized and fought against the destruction of their entrusted land. The tar sands are not only devastating, but it increases the amount of fossil fuels available to burn when we should be moving towards renewable energy. This cartoon above sums it up quite well. 

Neoka with Crystal Laymann

 2) The climate effects on vulnerable Kenyan farmers

Neoka with Kisilu Musaya (1)

Kisilu Musaya is a young farmer from the east of Kenya who is here in Paris. He made a conscious choice to change his farming practices after experiencing a huge amount of variation of weather and subsequent crop failure. With determination, he started a voluntary learning space within his community to share ideas, and plans to maximize the next crop after a drought. The community decided to plant drought resistant crops and using mulching techniques to stop evaporation from the soil.

Unfortunately, despite all that planning came yet more uncertainty, with the biggest flood they had ever seen. Paw paw trees that had taken five years to grow were obliterated in one night. As Kisilu said after a screening of ‘Kisilu Climate Diaries’, a documentary that followed his struggle over four years, “climate change has no privacy, so neither do I”. As he says, he is just one of many that are going through these drastic unpredictable events that threaten people’s very livelihoods and dignity. I found his story inspiring because of the innovation and resilience that he and his community have shown in the face of such terrible odds.

3) Renewable energy: the change that is necessary 

Neoka with Costa Rican head of delegation

I accidentally met the Costa Rican Minister of Agriculture and Environment yesterday. To date, Costa Rica has been able to use 100% renewable energy for 255 days of this year. Sceptics suggest that renewable energy cannot yet meet all of our energy needs, and yet with breakthroughs in battery storage and the cost per kilowatt from solar now cheaper than coal in some countries, this is questionable. Costa Rica proves the power of a just transition that many countries are going to have to accelerate if we are to hold to a 1.5 degree or even 2 degree future temperature rise.

 4) People, not politicians, must and will have the final word

As much as the UNFCCC is about the formal negotiations in which the diplomats, politicians and business are the principal actors, it is the energy in grassroots social movements that will be key to holding these leaders accountable for their decisions.

While this agreement is being negotiated, the variation in weather patterns is driving citizens (as well as progressive governments) to act now. The COP negotiations has another side to it that has produced an unintended consequence. Change is happening all around us, within our climate, within our communities, and within us all. It is the actions of social movements happening over the next few days outside of the negotiations in Paris, as well as the sit-in yesterday by civil society actors in the corridors themselves, that are critical to keeping pressure on the leaders over these last 48 hours in order to secure a better agreement.

In Paris this Saturday there will be mobilisations. The people will have the last word.

Carbon footprint: Letters versus emails

Christmas card debate_08Dec2015

When I was a little girl, each December I would excitedly wait for my Christmas card from my Granny Esther. It always had a two Rand note in it, and with that I could buy a lot of sweets! My parents would string up all our Christmas cards in the lounge, our mantelpiece overflowing with snowy nativity scenes.

Gone are days of receiving letterboxes full of Christmas cards, now with e-cards and emails being so quick and easy. But although sending an e-card or an email means less paper is being used, did you know sending emails also has a carbon footprint?

The average letter has a carbon footprint of about 29 grams of CO2. The carbon footprint of a normal email footprint is much less, about 4 grams of CO2. But add a 1 Megabyte (MB) attachment and this goes up to 19 grams. The bigger the attachment, the more energy your email uses – a large attachment could have a footprint of up to 50 grams!

Currently, the information technology and communication industry is responsible for around 2 percent of global emissions. The good news is that some companies are already using renewable energy to power their data centres and others have set goals to do so – but there is still a long way to go.

Christmas cards aside, the best way to reduce your e-footprint is to unsubscribe from newsletters that you never read, and only “reply all” if it is really necessary. My inbox gets clogged with pictures of cute puppies, celebrities in embarrassing situations, free computers… you name it, I get it! Around 62 trillion spam messages are sent every year, requiring the use of 33 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and producing around 20 million tonnes of CO2e per year.

Storing all of these emails uses energy so remember to delete spam, joke and hoax emails as soon as they arrive.

Also beware of “click bait”. Those sensationalist links which go something like: “guess what happened when this boy saw Santa Claus for the first time” which lure you into clicking on the link. Before you know it, you have wasted a whole hour watching ridiculous videos. Viewing a webpage (with pictures) or watching a video online emits about 0.2 grams of CO2 per second! A Google search is about 0.2 – 7 grams per second.

So the next time I am tempted to forward that cute fluffy kitten picture to everyone I know, I might give it a second thought. And I will definitely try not to get absorbed into watching junk videos – although you must definitely watch this one: “you’ll never guess what he discovered”.

Olivia is the Project 90 Operations Manager.

 

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COP21: where to from here?

Three weeks ago as the South African government negotiating team prepared to leave for Paris, a coalition of civil society organisations sat down together to draw up their ideal mandate. This consisted of a series of non-negotiable, climate ‘red lines’ that would help create the kind of ambitious and fair deal on emissions reduction and financing for mitigation and adaptation that would deliver climate justice for the most vulnerable communities of the Global South including for people in South Africa.

The first week is over and at the weekend, the draft text of the agreement was handed from the negotiating teams to the arriving government Ministers who are now tasked with shaping a final legal agreement. So how does the draft text measure up against our climate red lines?

Well clearly there is a lot of work still to do. The text has hundreds of bracketed sections each denoting an element still to be agreed upon. Some concern the position of a comma yet still carry more than grammatical significance whilst others like the annual percentage reduction Greenhouse Gas levels show that agreement on some the fundamentals has still to be reached.

One passage that should be in the legally binding agreement explicitly acknowledges that the fight against climate change is rights based and that any deal must ensure “the respect, protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights for all, including indigenous peoples. Yet somehow this is the subject of pressure from countries including the US and Norway who want to relegate these rights to an appendix.

It seems that at the heart of every component debate are the principles of fairness, integral to realising climate justice for those people living in poverty who face the worst excesses of climate change.

On MITIGATION and ADAPTATION, the fossil fuels that developed countries burned to power the growth of their industrialised economies are the root cause of climate change, and so theoretically they should make the largest cuts in emissions and finance climate adaptation for the countries who have done the least to cause the climate crisis.

It comes down to reaching consensus on differentiation, or the different roles that developed and developing countries should play in tackling climate change.  One of the implications is whether or not South Africa and other emerging economies are considered as eligible for climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation.

On FINANCING there is as yet no great progress on how much of the target US$100bn a year in public financing by 2020 will be made available for the implementation of mitigation and how much for adaptation projects. For the Global South we need to see at least a 50 / 50 split.

On the LOSS & DAMAGE MECHANISM we have been calling for clarity, in particular to avoid double counting additional funding promised here but counted under the overall US$100bn figure. Once again this relies in part on the differentiation issue, as countries like the US will not give any ground that may open up historical liability and compensation. In other words how far back is their responsibility measured, and how is that measured? 

A lot of talk is going on in Paris and certainly the narrative from the COP presidency team has been about the agreement here being the beginning of a new chapter. This is not-too-subtle code for ‘definitely do not expect a 1.5 degree Celsius deal or indeed 2 degrees.’ This back-sliding from a temperature target that would limit the worst excesses of the climate crisis started happening at COP17 in Durban when it was agreed that countries could submit voluntary emissions targets, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The extent of the slide became clear in October when the UN released an assessment of all these INDCs showing that the sum total of the proposed cuts puts us on track for at least a 2.7 degree increase. 

Instead of pushing for increased action right now, too much of the proposed financing and therefore implementation is being pushed back to 2020 and thereafter. In effect, Paris is about getting a low ambition text agreed and therefore it is critical to avoid locking this in for the next 15 years and driving temperatures higher still. That makes a robust and frequent REVIEW MECHANISM absolutely vital. We want to see an external expert structure and mechanism established, which includes civil society input and integration and enables the review and holding to account of governments regarding their commitments to the UNFCCC.
Talk has been of a racheting mechanism that could increase future commitments to cut emissions.

As the pace picks up this week, the Project 90 team will be updating each day as we join with our colleagues and comrades from across civil society to ratchet up the pressure on leaders inside the corridors and meeting rooms. 

From Paris, the Project 90 Policy & Research Team

The risk of misaligning strong words with weak actions

If the opening session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) session on the 29 November was anything to go by, COP21 was off to an inspiring start. But the question still remains how will this Conference of Parties pan out? If we are committed to avert creating an unliveable Earth, we must understand that we are all in this together. We have one planet with huge diversity, but the effects of climate change are not separated by our ever-changing invisible political boundaries – they affect all of us.

With soundbites like ”our very future as humankind, hinges on this”, “ambition is key” and “everyone is responsible but respective capabilities are imperative” – what does this all mean when it comes to down to the implementation of any climate deals? Personally I think that as much as economics and politics play a huge role in trying to solidify a fair and ambition climate deal, it is time to put aside our differences, and begin to collaborate..

With the spin-off groups closed and less than 24 hours left for the contact group to meet before the draft streamlined text goes to the COP assembly – we need speed, but more importantly, precise and ambitious interventions. The commencement of the High-Level Segment on the 7 December will see ministers arrive to make final decisions in the COP negotiations.

For the sake of the millions of people, most of whom are in developing countries, already fighting the worsening climate crisis, COP21 can’t be a cop out. We need ambition on all fronts and mechanisms that allow for frequent reviews of the emissions cuts and financing pledged by countries if we are to have any hope of holding future temperature increases to a ceiling of 1.5 degrees, and therefore allowing us to continue to inhabit this planet for years to come.

As the Venezuelan delegation was quoted as saying “If we aren’t ambitious, we will clap in December (when the climate deal is signed) and cry in 2020 (when we feel the effects of our non-action)”. I sincerely hope, we will be crying happy tears with an ambitious global climate agreement in hand.

Neoka Naidoo (Project 90 by 2030 Policy & Research Intern) writes from COP21 in Paris. 

 

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Biennial Report 2013-2015

It is hard to imagine how quickly the last two years have gone by. To recap our activities of the past two years, we are sharing with you our latest organisational report: Project 90 by 2030 Biennial Report 2013-2015.

 

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