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What’s hot in climate change

By the CIEL Climate Team

Climate negotiations resume in Bonn, Germany this week with a full agenda and against a backdrop of reports that last year’s global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were at record levels despite the global economic downturn.  While the meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Cancun, Mexico last December failed to resolve a number of fundamental outstanding issues (such as the inadequacy of GHG reduction targets Parties have put forward and the ultimate legal form the negotiations will take), Parties will be busy this week and next elaborating a number of fundamental building blocks of the climate regime that were agreed in Cancun.  A quick overview of the issues CIEL is actively working on this week and next in Bonn follows.

Accountability (otherwise known as MRV):

In Cancun, countries took a few steps down the road towards building a robust MRV system.  MRV?  What’s that? No, it’s not some sort of vehicle. It’s technical-speak for the overall process of monitoring country commitments/actions under the climate framework and their effects. The term itself is short for Measurement, Reporting, and Verification, and we’ll dive into the details of that another day.  (There are some more lovely acronyms we’d love to introduce you to!)

Monitoring GHG Emissions and Finance:

On this front, what’s important for Bonn is that countries will be designing work plans to develop MRV guidelines.  These guidelines will obviously be different for developed countries and developing countries. But for both, we need complete and accurate information on what Parties are actually doing – and cannot not just rely on promises.  And let’s not forget that once guidelines are in place, developing countries will need support to develop their national MRV systems.  In Bonn, we imagine Parties will debate the structure, timing, and content of the work plans.  We hope that a few workshops and meetings later, they will be in a position to make some key recommendations on reporting and review to the next COP in Durban (December 2011).

Monitoring Safeguards:

A close cousin of MRV is monitoring non-carbon impacts of climate-related activities, particularly when  financial flows are involved.  It is important that climate activities do not cause environmental and social harms.  This is most acute in the context of financing REDD+ activities, in other words financial flows associated with activities to reduce emissions from deforestations and forest degradation.  Back in Cancun, Parties agreed on a set of key safeguards intended to protect against potential negative impacts of REDD+ activities on indigenous peoples, local communities, and the environment.  They also agreed to build a system for monitoring REDD+ activities.  In particular, Parties tasked SBSTA (the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) with providing guidance on a system of sharing information on implementing REDD+ safeguards.  Bonn will be a key moment for this because Parties will be deciding how to develop this guidance in time for the Durban negotiations.

On a safeguards-related note, the newly established Green Climate Fund is also expected to have social and environmental safeguards.    A Transitional Committee is tasked with designing the Fund, including its safeguards.  At present, it meets separately, however it will ultimately report back into the main negotiations in time for the COP in Durban.  CIEL and our partners are pushing hard to ensure that comprehensive and robust MRV provisions apply to the implementation of safeguards in both the REDD+ and Green Climate Fund contexts.

Public Participation in the negotiations:

Another important issue that will be addressed in Bonn is the participation of civil society observers (including environmental groups, indigenous peoples, and youth among others) in the negotiating process.  Full and effective participation of non-Parties is essential to the successful development, legitimacy and implementation of the UNFCCC framework.  Without such participation, vulnerable peoples and communities will not have a voice in the decision-making processes that are affecting their homes, livelihoods, cultural traditions, and even survival.

As you may remember, civil society observers who attended the Copenhagen negotiations faced many obstacles with respect to participation – thousands were denied access despite the fact that they were registered to attend the conference, thus limiting the influence of civil society on the negotiating process.  This experience prompted the Parties to take action to address these and other participation issues.

In Bonn this week, the Parties will hold a one-day workshop to consider ways to enhance existing means of participation and consider new way to engage observers in the process.  In collaboration with other environmental NGOs, CIEL will advocate for increased opportunities for active civil society participation in formal negotiating sessions, fewer “closed” negotiating sessions, a dispute resolution process to consider problems arising with respect to participation, and increased transparency and accountability when the UNFCCC places restrictions on access to the negotiation venues and sessions.
CDM and Access to Justice:

Along these lines, CIEL has identified several opportunities where civil society should, at a minimum, be able to provide input into UNFCCC processes and mechanisms.  In particular, we will be closely following the development of an appeals process for decisions made by the Clean Development Mechanism’s (CDM) Executive Board (briefly, CDM is a mechanism established under the Kyoto Protocol that supports projects in developing countries that result in emission reductions, thereby generating carbon credits that industrialized countries can use to offset their own emissions).  At present, the Executive Board and several Parties have recommended that only project developers and relevant government authorities should have the ability to appeal.  However, standing to appeal must not be limited to industry and government interests, but must extend more broadly to project-affected peoples and communities.

Stay tuned for more updates from Steve, Niranjali and Alyssa!

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