2017: A Year in Review with La Ruta del Clima

 

2017 review


Trump administration reverses course

Within minutes of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the climate change webpage on the official White House website disappeared.  This foreshadowed a crackdown on climate science and Obama-era policies and signaled a seismic shift in policy under this new administration filled with climate deniers and fossil fuel advocates.  

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have helped lead a regulatory rollback of Obama-era policies.  Since January 20, Trump has signed executive orders approving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and expanding offshore drilling, Zinke has lifted a moratorium on coal leases on public lands and Pruitt has announced his intention to scrap the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.


The United States withdraws from the Paris Agreement, while Syria and Nicaragua join

In a widely criticized move, which Trump claimed was a “a reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” he announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on June 1.  Trump blasted the agreement as a “massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries,” announcing his intention to end the United States’ implementation of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and its payments to the Green Climate Fund.  The United States cannot officially withdraw from the agreement until November 4, 2020.

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On October 25, Nicaragua’s Vice President Rosario Murillo stated that her country would be joining the Paris Agreement.  Nicaragua had previously opposed the accord on the grounds that it was not ambitious enough.

During the second day of this year’s climate summit in November, Syrian delegates announced their intention to sign the Paris Agreement, leaving the United States as the only nation opposed to the Paris Agreement.

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Natural disasters dominate news cycle

2017 was not a normal year for natural disasters.

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most destructive in history, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate causing devastation in the Caribbean, southern United States and Central America.  Nate led to 22 deaths in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras.  Hurricane Maria crippled Puerto Rico’s power grid and fresh water supply, sparking a humanitarian crisis. The United States suffered more $200 billion dollars from storms this season, making it the most expensive hurricane season ever.

Increasing sea level temperatures and changing atmospheric conditions from climate change in the Atlantic have helped intensify the hurricane season in recent years, with 2017 ranking as one of the seven most intense ever recorded.  

More than 1,200 people died this summer in India, Nepal and Bangladesh from massive flooding during monsoon season.  Rising sea temperatures in South Asia and changing atmospheric conditions have also helped intensify storms in this region.

Wildfires in northern California resulted in over 40 fatalities and billions of dollars of damage.  Countries such as Chile, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Croatia, Greece, Russia, Greenland and Canada were also heavily impacted by wildfires in 2017.  Scientists have speculated that there is a climate component fueling these fires

 

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One of the hottest years on record

As 2017 winds down, it is on track to be one of the three hottest years on record.  This is coming off the warmest year ever in 2016, with the ten hottest years having all occured since 1998.


COP23 held in Bonn, Germany

This year’s climate negotiations in Bonn, hosted by the island-nation of Fiji, led to a resolution helping advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as the launching of several initiatives and alliances, including:

Talanoa Dialogue:  This inclusive and participatory process will facilitate the “sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling” among governments on how to implement the Paris Agreement and enhance action in countries’ nationally determined contributions.  

Gender Action Plan: This initiative seeks to increase the role of women in climate change governance.

InsuRelience Global Partnership: The InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions was launched with the financial assistance of Germany and the United Kingdom, to help provide insurance and financial protection to populations vulnerable to climate change.  

Powering Past Coal Alliance: Canada and the United Kingdom announced the formation of this alliance, which includes more than two dozen nations, two U.S. states and several Canadian provinces.  The alliance’s members, which include Costa Rica, committed to “phasing out existing traditional coal power in their jurisdictions, and to a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations without operational carbon capture and storage within their jurisdictions.”

America’s Pledge – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown held a launch event at the U.S. Climate Action Center for the America’s Pledge initiative, which brings together members of the private and public sectors in the United States committed to remaining in the Paris Agreement.   


France and the United Kingdom make strides

Under a draft bill submitted in September, France will no longer issue new oil and gas exploration permits on its mainland and territories, and current concessions will be phased out by 2040.   This bill is largely a symbolic move, as France imports the vast majority of its hydrocarbons used for consumption.  Hulot also announced France will ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and has been vocal about reducing France’s dependence on nuclear energy.

Following France’s lead, the British government announced its intention to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040.  

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced an effective ban on fracking after a public consultation demonstrated overwhelming opposition to the technology.


Tesla and Volvo make advances in electric vehicles

In July, Volvo announced that all new vehicles from 2019 onwards would be hybrid or fully electric.  In a historic move, the Swedish car company announced that it would produce five fully electric models between 2019 and 2021.
Elon Musk revealed an electric semi-truck produced by Tesla in November, promising production would start in 2019.  This new truck can travel up to 500 miles in between charges. 

Giant iceberg splits from Antarctica

An iceberg roughly one-ninth the size of Costa Rica and weighing one trillion tons, split from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica.  While it was unclear the extent that climate change played, this event was symbolic of the urgency of the threat global warming poses.

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America’s Pledge: Filling the Void at COP23

During the COP23 Conference in Bonn earlier this month, a group of leaders from state and local governments, the business world, colleges and faith organizations established the U.S. Climate Action Center, a giant pavilion where they reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement.  High profile figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Vice President Al Gore and California Governor Jerry Brown spoke about the importance of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and meeting the two-degree climate target established in Paris.

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IMG_2995During COP23, Bloomberg and Brown held a launch event for America’s Pledge, an initiative that brings together public and private sector leaders committed to meeting the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement. This broad alliance sent a message to the rest of the world that much of the United States was willing to move forward, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord.  Governors, senators, mayors, corporate executives, university presidents, and religious leaders pledged to do their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support renewable energy.  

 

“The group of U.S. cities, states, and businesses who remain committed to the Paris Agreement represents a bigger economy than any nation outside the U.S. and China,” said Bloomberg in his remarks about America’s Pledge at COP23. “We should have a seat at the table – and the ability to work with peers in other nations. And that’s the aim of this pavilion.”

Bloomberg went on to say: “The Trump Administration did send a delegation here to Bonn, and this might be the first climate conference where coal is promoted as an example of sustainability – but it will also likely be the last. The world is moving on, and so is the U.S.”

Leaders of America’s Pledge initiative were not without their critics who pointed out that many of these leaders have often been at odds with environmentalists.

Governor Brown, who was targeted throughout his appearances in Bonn, presides over the country’s third largest oil- and gas-producing state.  And while Brown has been hailed by some as a climate hero for helping extend California’s cap-and-trade program to 2030 and signing green energy agreements with partnering Chinese cities, he has often been criticized by “keep it in the ground” activists for embracing fracking and urban drilling in California.

Bloomberg has also been a proponent of fracking and was critical of New York’s decision to ban the technology, coauthoring an op-ed piece in The Washington Post entitled “Fracking is too important to foul up.”  Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who spoke at COP23, has been criticized by environmentalists for backing natural gas pipelines and championing off-shore drilling.  

Corporations and banks represented at the U.S. Climate Action Center, such as Walmart, Citigroup, Inc., and JPMorgan Chase, also have mixed environmental records.  While Walmart has pledged to become 100 percent supplied by renewable energy and create zero waste, only about 13 percent of its energy use in the United States comes from renewable energy.   Citigroup, Inc. has committed $100 billion to finance sustainable growth over a 10-year period, but has spent billions of dollars financing coal power plant operators.  JPMorgan Chase financed billions of dollars in extreme oil projects, such as Arctic drilling and tar sands extraction.

While many of the leaders of this initiative have far from immaculate environmental records, their defiant stand at COP23 helps fill the void in U.S. climate leadership that was left by the current administration.  As Bloomberg pointed out, this coalition represents more than half of the U.S. economy and would constitute the world’s third largest economy.  

“Cities, states, regions, and businesses can help to lead the way. Around the world, we need to empower local and regional governments to take action – and to work with business leaders to leverage their resources and expertise,” said Bloomberg. “America’s Pledge seeks to do just that – and we hope the UN will continue working on ways to incorporate non-state actors into the international process, in every country in the world.”

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If America is to meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement, it will require an all-hands-on-deck strategy. With the current administration turning its back on climate change, other players must step in.  As the world continues to fall short of the Paris Agreement targets, this new coalition of U.S. politicians, corporate executives, religious leaders and university presidents must take leadership in denouncing fossil fuel extraction and committing to carbon neutrality.

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Notes from the Bonn Zone: Days 9 and 10

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WWF waiting for Emmanuel Macron to visit the #PandaHub

Days 9 and 10 of COP23 marked the arrival of several high profile figures such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and UN Secretary General António Guterres as the conference nears its end.  

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Tuesday afternoon featured a side event on Migration as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: A Gender Perspective at the Talanoa Space.  The event featured a panel of women speakers from the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Women’s Bureau of The Gambia.  Panelists spoke about the vulnerabilities women face from climate change and the connection with migration in their respective regions.

Ndey Fatou Jobe of the Women’s Bureau of The Gambia spoke about the role women play in her country’s economy, where they comprise 50 percent of the labor force and account for 40 percent of total agricultural production.  Women, she said, are often marginalized in the Gambian economy with limited access to credit.  She also pointed out how climate change has affected agricultural production and compounded struggles faced by women.  Ndey Fatou Jobe believes economic empowerment is the key to reducing women’s vulnerabilities faced by climate change.

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Panel discussion on Migration as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: A Gender Perspective

“When you are empowered economically, you become strong,” said Fatou Jobe.  “The most important part is to educate women and provide the necessary finance.”

Later in the afternoon, a group of Democratic and Republican U.S. officials from state governments committed to the Paris Agreement spoke on the importance of meeting the 2°C target, demonstrating that combatting climate change is not a partisan effort.  Democratic governors Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington delivered powerful speeches on the need for states to take a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while a bipartisan panel of state officials from New York, Maryland, Colorado and Massachusetts reaffirmed this message.

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Panel discussion on bipartisan efforts to combat climate change with state officials from Maryland, Colorado, Massachusetts and New York

“Donald Trump cannot stop us.  Let’s get on with whipping climate change.  It’s the destiny of our peoples,” said Inslee.

Jared Snyder, the Deputy Commissioner of Air Resources, Climate Change and Resources of New York, paraphrased a famous Mark Twain quote to describe New York’s response to the current political situation: “Support your country all the time. Support your government when it deserves it.” And she added,”On climate change, it is something that we feel differently from our government.”

French environmental minister  and renowned nature documentarian Nicolas Hulot arrived at the French Pavilion on Wednesday morning to talk about the work of the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS), an initiative developed by the French government, Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction from the World Bank, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and World Meteorological Organization.  The CREWS initiative is designed to increase the capacity for Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems in vulnerable nations.   Hulot’s presentation was followed by two panels of representatives from participating countries and partnering organizations.

“In the face of climate change, Everyone must be warned well in advance in case of natural disaster. This is the minimum. This is the purpose of the CREWS system,” said Hulot.  

On Wednesday afternoon, the unofficial United States delegation hosted a Business Showcase series of panels, where corporate leaders discussed their initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at their companies.

Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President of Private Sector Engagement at the World Wildlife Fund opened the seven-hour event with the following message: “The big changes will probably not be coming from government.  Business is our innovation center.”

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Jeff Moe (left) of Ingersoll Rand and Barry Parkin (center) of Mars, Inc. speak on their companies’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The first event, The Audacity of ‘Still In,’ featured representatives from Ingersoll Rand and Mars Inc., who spoke about their company’s investments in renewables and their efforts to transition to a low-carbon portfolio.

“I think the answer for us is very simple,” said Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer of Mars, Inc.  “We are going all out for clean energy.”

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#SamNosCuenta: Notes from the Bonn Zone: Day 8

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Marcus Pratsch of DZ BANK AG Speaking at the Talanoa Space

As negotiations resumed on Monday, there was palpable energy in the Bonn Zone that culminated in a spirited protest at a side event held by the United States on “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation.”

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This event featured a panel of Trump administration members and the vice president of coal generation and emissions technologies at Peabody Energy, marking this the first time that the official United States delegation had spoken publicly at COP23. A huge line of people waiting to attend the event formed hours before the panel discussion started.  Shortly after the session began, a large group of protesters began singing an alternate version of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”:

So you claim to be an American
But we see right through your greed;
It’s killing across the world
for that coal money.
And we proudly stand up and tell you to
Keep it in the ground.
The people of the world unite
and we are here to say.

Protesters quickly exited the event and were joined by a large group of supporters in the Bonn Zone’s atrium, where the lively rally continued.  

Before this protest, numerous side events focusing on investments in renewable energy and other green technologies were held throughout the Bonn Zone.  An early morning session was held on Sustainable Investment, Private Capital and Climate Finance at the Talanoa Lodge, an exhibition area hosted by the German and Fijian governments built for civil society, industry, regions and municipalities.  Representatives for this event included DZ BANK AG, Commerzbank AG, the African Development Bank Group, Shell International, Ltd. and CDP, an international organization formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project that works with market forces.  Participants talked about the experience of mobilizing private capital to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, developing the global green bond market and utilizing the carbon capture and storage process.  

“Ultimately, everyone’s climate portfolios have to be resilient and below the two degree goal,” said Paul Simpson, the CEO of CDP.

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Paul Simpson speaking at the Sustainable Investment, Private Capital and Climate Finance side event.

Another side event on Reducing Livestock’s Long Shadow – Opportunities to Keep Warming Well Below 2⁰C was held later that morning.  The event began with a fiery speech by Ifat Zur of the Green Course, an environmental NGO based in Israel.  Zur blasted the livestock industry for being an inefficient and wasteful sector that is built upon the suffering of billions of animals.  Zur criticized the conference for its decision to offer meat options, pointing out the hypocrisy of a climate change conference serving carbon intensive food.

“Lucky for us, vegan food is delicious.  It is better for us,” said Zur.

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Flyer for livestock side event.

Zur was followed by Dr. Helen Harwatt, formerly of Loma Linda University.  Harwatt also discussed reducing the footprint of the livestock sector, pointing out it contributes to 23 percent of total warming.

“The Paris Agreement will be increasingly difficult to meet if methane reductions are not also addressed strongly and rapidly,” said Harwatt.

In the afternoon, the French government held a side event on Engie, the French multinational electric utility company, and its role in helping reach the 2℃ target.  The panel featured two speakers, Paul Simons, the Deputy Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IAEA), and Isabelle Kocher, the Chief Executive Officer of Engie.  The panelists discussed strategies undertaken by IAEA and Engie to reduce their carbon footprint.

“We have decided to be at the forefront of the way,” said Kocher.

Following the Engie panel discussion was a side event, Ecovillages for Climate Action: Opportunities for Europe,inspired by Asia, Africa and Latin America.  In this event, speakers working in these three regions of the world shared their stories of their work in investing in solar panels, green buildings and fertilizer technologies.

During the Ecovillages event, Thomas Duveau of Mobisol, a German business that works on installing solar energy systems in East Africa, spoke about  the Solar Revolution – the Contribution of Off Grid Solar to Electrifying Rural Africa.   Duveau stated that a $50 billion investment could provide electricity for the entire continent, pointing out that the only thing that is lacking for this is the investors.

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Youth is engaged at COP23

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The 13th Conference Of Youth (COY13) took place before the opening of COP23 in Bonn from November 2 to 4. This meeting brought together international organizations and associations of young people engaged in climate action. It is part of the International Youth Climate Movement, which holds and directs climate actions organized by youth. YOUNGO is one of 9 civil society groups represented in the UNFCCC and has been accredited  as an observer member since 2009.

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I was at the YOUNGO meeting this morning, where young people from all over the world gathered with the bottom-lining team (which is YOUNGO slang for managing team) to discuss and brief the audience about what is happening in the negotiations. The way these people talk and lead meetings is very nice. It is based upon deep transparency and equality rules, where everyone can hold the microphone to share their views.

The meeting began with the famous energizer, a short role-playing game where everyone sings, dances and shakes their body to wake up. Every meeting relies on the some communication rules in order to not to create a mess each time a discussion is brought to the table.  This helps ensure a democratic process. If you fully agree with something being said, turn your wrists above your head.  If you do not, move one hand up and down. To talk after someone, raise your hand above your head. If you want to make a direct response to a long speech, lower this hand towards the ground.

The meeting then continued with a discussion about the results of an internal election of representatives of the Global South. The atmosphere became tense over disagreements resulting from a previous discussion. Voices of speakers, seated all around in the audience, became more and more trembling, aggressive or calming, until a woman said: “We are here to fight against climate change, not to fight against each other.” Her intervention helped bring the discussion to a close.  However a few people remained emotional, as they had spent day and night negotiating these agreements.

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Tears and tensions are part of the will to bring about global change as are smiles and joys. Thanks to these profoundly engaged young people, the agreements signed by the parties incorporate youth interests.

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#SamNosCuenta: Notes from the COP: Days 6 and 7

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As negotiators prepped for the second and final week of COP23, we, at La Ruta, have been covering the events taking place in the Climate Action and Bonn Zones.

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Panelists for Business Case for Advancing Strong Climate Leadership and Policy in California event

Saturday’s highlight was the arrival of several high profile figures to the United States Climate Action Zone.  Former Vice President Al Gore spoke on Maintaining U.S. Engagement in International Climate Finance. He was joined by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Senior Director for Climate Policy and Programs for New York City Dan Zarrilli, Davenport, Iowa Mayor Frank Klipsch and representatives from the private sector.  Participants reaffirmed their commitment to the $100 billion finance goal, despite the recent political developments in the United States, with Gore affirming that the “train left the station in Paris.”

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Former Vice President Al Gore speaking on Maintaining U.S. Engagement in International Climate Finance

“These fast, urbanizing, growing cities, particularly in the developing world, are seeing that the path toward more fossil fuel use is a dead end,” Gore said.  “As a result, investors all over the world are seeing this opportunity open up.  When you cross the threshold, where renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels, it is not a minor change…All over the developing world and the developed world, we are seeing investors poised to put vast new flows of capital into this sustainability revolution, which represents the biggest investment opportunity in the history of the world.”

In a panel discussion with McAuliffe, Merkley highlighted the corrupting role money has had on U.S. politics in relation to climate finance.

“We need to kick the Koch brothers out of every state,” said Merkley.

The session on climate finance was followed by a panel discussion on the Business Case for Advancing Strong Climate Leadership and Policy in California.  The panel participants were Californians committed to the Paris Agreement, including Governor Jerry Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Fetzer Vineyards Cindy DeVries, Steve Malnight, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy of Pacific Gas & Electric, and Kaiser Permanente Vice President and Environmental Stewardship Officer Kathy Gerwig.  They discussed the role of the private and public sectors in California in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“If you get Trump, you get more carbon reduction,” said Brown.  “He gives carbon denial a bad name.  He is the poster boy for climate denial.”

Brown went on to say: “A little bit of Trump will go a long way.  Too much will destroy us all.”

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Governor Jerry Brown speaking on Advancing Strong Climate Leadership and Policy in California 

Brown was highly critical of President Trump, but optimistic about how his presidency has mobilized environmentalists throughout the United States. 

On Sunday, members from La Ruta del Clima joined speakers and panelists for a side event with the International Union for the Conservation (IUCN) on Youth Voices.  Speakers from the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), IUCN’s Environmental Law Center, International Forestry Students Association (IFSA), YMCA’s Resource Group on the Environment and others talked about their work related to climate change and perspectives on this year’s COP.

 

 

 

 

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Ph. D. Student Pananya Larbprasertporn

 

“I do have hope. Or perhaps I am just forcing myself to have hope,” said Anna Pretel, an intern from the Environmental Law Center.   “But I feel that is just talking and talking in the negotiation and not action. If we want to solve this problem we have to act now. We are running out of time.”

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#SamNosCuenta: Notes from the Bonn Zone – Days 4 and 5

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The COP23 negotiations are beginning to ramp up at the end of week one, with high profile figures such as former United States Vice President Al Gore, California Governor Jerry Brown, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley arriving at the conference on Friday and Saturday.   With the climate talks in the Bula Zone intensifying, activity in the Bonn Zone and recently opened U.S. Action Climate Center continues to pick up speed.  

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On Thursday, we had the opportunity to speak with Julio Cusurichi Palacios, the 2007 Goldman Environmental Prize winner from  Madre de Dios, Peru. Cusurichi sat down to talk about his mission here at COP23 and the effect that road construction as well as illicit logging and gold mining have had on his community. He also discussed his inspirational work that led to his award.

In the afternoon, the Adaptation Fund hosted a panel of speakers working to implement the fund’s projects in Fiji, Argentina, Ecuador, Tanzania, Antigua and Barbuda.  The Adaptation Fund, which finances projects to aid developing nations in adapting to climate change, is slated to have a prominent role in the finance negotiations over the next several days.  Participants discussed projects’ guiding principles, highlights and lessons learned for activities in their respective countries.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hosted a side event Friday morning: Strengthening Legal and Institutional Frameworks for Ecosystem-Based Adaptation, a process that helps people adapt to climate change through the conservation, sustainable management and restoration of natural ecosystems.   The event featured a variety of speakers and panelists from Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador and Seychelles, who discussed strategies, impediments and lessons learned implementing ecosystem-based adaptation through a legal lens.  Adrian Martinez, the President of La Ruta del Clima, was one of the featured panelists.  Martinez spoke about the role of public participation in climate change governance and implementing adaptation measures in Costa Rica.

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Adrian Martinez of La Ruta del Clima speaking at IUCN side event

Friday’s highlight was Gore’s arrival at COP23.  Gore spoke to a packed audience at the Indonesian Pavilion, thanking them for “recreating the climate of Indonesia.”  Gore talked about the Climate Reality Project’s work in Indonesia and  thanked the 300 Indonesians who had gone through the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training.  Gore answered a question about nuclear energy development in Indonesia.  While stating that he was not entirely opposed to nuclear energy development, Gore lamented the direction nuclear energy development had taken globally and expressed pessimism about nuclear energy’s economic viability.

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Al Gore leaving the Indonesia pavilio

This week also marked the opening of the U.S. Action Climate Sector, a pavilion located adjacent to the Bula Zone, where university presidents, mayors, governors, and business leaders from the United States are scheduled to convene over the next several days.  At a We Are Still In Welcome Reception, the sector’s hosts reaffirmed their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

“When Donald Trump stepped out, the American people stepped in,” said Anne Kelly, Director of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) Ceres.

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Side Event #COP23: Youth Voices

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Youth Voices: this side event focuses on discussing strategies for addressing global climate change challenges from the youth perspective. The event will promote the exchange of experiences, strengthening interaction between ‘youth voices’ and young environmental leader panelists. The event will encourage the role of the youth community in environmental problems.

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Lugar / Place: IUCN Pavilion – Pabellon #COP23

Date / Fecha: 12 Nov.

Hora / Time: 10.15 -11.45

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Logo Ruta 2016

Indigenous People Battle to Counter the Effects of Climate Change in Honduras

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Recently, I was introduced to the organization CONPAH, the federation of indigenous nations of Honduras.  CONPAH provides a collective front to deal with some of the most pressing issues facing indigenous communities throughout Honduras.

Climate change is an issue of concern to indigenous communities. This is because land and the environment greatly influence the culture and spirituality of many indigenous people. Most indigenous communities make their living off of the land and their spiritual traditions and cultural outlook are closely tied to the land. As such, these communities are often disproportionately affected by climate change.

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Currently, CONPAH is working with the Honduran government in coordination with the United Nations to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on a national level. As part of these efforts, many international organizations as well as non-governmental organizations have been mobilized to carry out the objectives of the UNFCCC agreement. The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership. Honduras is among 197 countries that have ratified the Convention, meaning that they are held accountable to implement the goals of the convention within their national framework.

The Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement both built on the UNFCCC to bring all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

The latest push by the Honduran government to implement measures to deal with the effects of climate change is part of these continued efforts. Honduras is reaffirming its commitment to reduce carbon emissions and develop a national strategy to implement measures against deforestation and environmental degradation. Honduras, in consultation with the international community, has empowered the secretariat of energy, natural resources, environment and mining, to develop a program, REDD or REDD+, for reducing emissions caused by deforestation and environmental degradation.

In order to realize the objectives of REDD/REDD+, the Honduran government, UN agencies, NGOs and other international organizations have rightly realized that they will need to work closely with indigenous people. It is among these communities that climate experts and environmental activists find their greatest allies, since they have a rich history of traditions that honor and intimately care for the environment.

Many indigenous communities have long adopted practices and cultural norms that tend to be in harmony with the environment. This is exactly why many environmental organizations have set out to incorporate these communities’ traditional knowledge and practices in the process of fighting deforestation and environmental degradation.

It was in this spirit that on July 4-7, 2017, the UN, government representatives, and various NGOs held a conference in collaboration with leaders of various indigenous communities in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. The purpose of this conference was to initiate a dialogue regarding the implementation of REDD/REDD+ as a means of facing the challenges of climate change. This process of consultation and direct communication with the indigenous communities and seeking their participation is essential to develop a lasting alliance with the indigenous nations to help prevent deforestation and environment degradation.

I also joined the conference as part of the Maya Ch’orti’ delegation, braving the nine-hour drive from Copan Ruinas with enthusiasm. After two days of intensive discussions, presentations and negotiations, CONPAH and the government agreed to adopt the objectives laid out by REDD/REDD+. It was decided that the communities would participate in the creation of a national strategic plan to help preserve the forest and cut back emissions to help Honduras meet its obligations.

Throughout the conference, leaders of the communities were among the most vocal advocates for the protection of the environment. The resilience and resolve of indigenous nations to preserve their territories really came through strongly in the meetings. The conference served as a powerful reminder of the connection indigenous cultures share with the environment.

Truly, international organizations, NGOs and governments can learn a great deal from indigenous communities, for they retain a wealth of wisdom and information regarding sustainable resource use and management. Likewise, indigenous territories can serve as a bastion where sustainable development and conservation can be practiced and implemented in keeping with indigenous peoples’ rights. Indigenous peoples’ territories are by law considered to be protected areas and are meant to be kept safe from exploitation at the hands of foreign companies and mining industries.  Although enforcing territorial rights has been a difficult process, at least recognizing them is a step in the right direction. 

DSC02259The struggle of indigenous people to gain recognition for their traditional territories in accordance with Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (ILO No. 169)  is highly relevant to the conservation efforts undertaken as part of REDD/REDD+. It is hoped that by making an alliance with the indigenous communities, community members may be empowered to carry out conservation efforts on their own territories to help respond to the effects of climate change. The UNFCCC and REDD/REDD+ may also give further credence to the indigenous peoples’ right to communal territory. The need to reduce emissions and preserve the environment will give authority to indigenous peoples’ struggle to secure and preserve their communal territories. Therefore, an alliance with CONPAH through REDD/REDD+ may offer a win-win situation to all parties involved.

The process of consultation and participation is a key aspect of the ILO No. 169. The conference in Tegucigalpa incorporated these two very essential elements. The event was a success because the authorities included an effective mechanism for consultation and incorporated the participation of indigenous nations. Due to this inclusive and participatory approach, the leaders of the communities felt comfortable to adopt the objectives of REDD/REDD+ and have agreed to help develop a comprehensive strategic plan to meet the goals of conservation and emission reduction. I am excited to be a part of this historic process.

In the near future, the National Council of Indigenous Ch’orti’ Maya of Honduras (CONIMCHH), the governing body for the Maya Ch’orti’ nation of Copan, will focus on the development of a plan for the preservation of the forest on their indigenous territories. I will also be involved in this process and will continue to advocate for indigenous rights. The best interest of CONIMCHH and the Maya Ch’orti’ nations is my priority, and If REDD/REDD+ can help reinforce indigenous peoples’ authority over their territorial lands, I will be very content. Any initiative or process that concerns indigenous communities and their territories must be entered into with the informed, prior consent of the community members and must incorporate their decisions and participation. All projects that deal with indigenous peoples’ territories must use a participatory process and take into account indigenous costumes, cultures and traditions as a way of developing a strategy that primarily meets the needs of the local communities.

I will end by presenting the following: Historically, in areas allocated as protected indigenous peoples’ territories, forest regeneration tends to be far more rapid, deforestation ceases and cases of extreme exploitation are far less likely. If nations and companies can learn to respect indigenous peoples’ right to their traditional territories, forests would have a chance to regenerate on these very same protected lands and exploitation would be dramatically reduced. It is with this intention that CONPAH and indigenous nations of Honduras moves forward with the program of REDD/REDD+. I am honored to be of assistance in this process.

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Notes from the Bonn Zone: Days 2 and 3

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The climate negotiations in Bonn are off to a promising start in advancing the implementation of the Paris Agreement, with Syria pledging to sign the Paris Agreeement on Tuesday.  Side events and exhibitions in the Bonn Zone on Tuesday and Wednesday highlighted the significance of what is at stake in these negotiations.  

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China opened its Tuesday sessions in the Bonn Zone with a side event on China’s Energy Conservation and its Contribution to Addressing Climate Change.  This talk focused on China’s conservation and emission reduction efforts as well its conservation policies and measures.  Panelists discussed the link between energy efficiency and economic prosperity as well as China’s energy conservation plans for 2050.

 At the same time, the World Wildlife Fund’s pavilion hosted a Spanish-speaking side event, Challenges and Opportunities for Climate Action in Latin America and the Caribbean in the New Political Context. Adrian Martinez of La Ruta del Clima served as the panel’s moderator while other panel members included representatives from Mexico, Colombia and Peru. 

Topics included how to involve local governments in climate action plans, the connection between climate change, development and education, the importance of civil society in climate change governance and the effect of political transitions on climate policy.  

“Climate change is not something that just affects us personally or physically,” said Anne Dunn of Fiji. “It’s something, that as islanders, as a Fijian, affects the very core of who we are.  It affects my identity.”

At the close of the meeting, Fiji’s Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Mereseini Vuniwaq said: “We have seen here today how six people from different countries in the Pacific, who did not even know each other a short time ago, can come together to produce beautiful and insightful videos, uniting as one voice. They are not video professionals and they are not professional entertainers.  They are six very intelligent young people with good ideas and generous hearts.  They are happy to devote themselves to something much larger than they are, much greater than all of us.”

Vuniwag went on to say: “I am thrilled to send these voices forth with a message to the world from the Pacific.  The crisis is now, the solution is now and the commitment must be now.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a panel of British scientists convened at the United Kingdom pavillion for the side event: Ocean Options: Climate Challenges and Science Responses for Seas and Society.  Panelists discussed the effects of ocean acidification, sea level rise, ocean temperature change and oxygen loss.

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Philip Williamson of the University of East Anglia discusses the effects of change in ocean temperature over the past several decades.

They also discussed their projects that included looking at offshore carbon dioxide storage deep below the seabed and studying blue carbon, the process by which plants move carbon dioxide into living biomass.

Late Wednesday afternoon, panelists from various NGOs throughout Latin America discussed their role in challenging the status quo and implementing innovative and sustainable technologies in their respective countries.

 

 

 

 

 One of the panelists was Luis Pérez, who works for Sailcargo Inc., a carbon negative transportation company based in Costa Rica.  

The Sailcargo Inc. team is developing a ship powered by wind and solar that seeks innovative and sustainable solutions to the shipping industry.  Pérez explained that Costa Rica, with its proximity to the Panama Canal, supply of sustainable wood resources and reputation as an eco-friendly country, serves as an optimal base for the company.