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2018 Elections in Costa Rica: A Theme of Climate Governance

2018 Elections

Costa Rica is about to enter the final phase of its electoral process and there is a diverse group of candidates seeking its citizens’ support.  On the issue of climate, the continuity of effort at governance and the increased desire for action are key to achieving the goals we set  for ourselves.  It is a good time to ask the candidates if their government plans and thinking reflect what is needed to confront climate change and change our development model to one that fully embraces sustainability.

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The climate issue has evolved over the 23 years since the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The UNFCCC was the first collective response to combat climate change, which has become a global effort to redefine a viable path for the development of human society and ensure survival in the face of climate change. It is one of the main elements that defined the development of countries under the Paris Agreement.

While this may sound dramatic, climate change affects entire ecosystems and poses a particular threat to our society. Costa Rica, although a small emitter of greenhouse gases, is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  We must look for how to adapt to these negative effects that the current development model has generated.

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Photo: CETAV- UNDP climate change scenario in Costa Rica

Among the risks faced by the country, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) specifically states that Costa Rica will likely suffer from saline water penetration of 150 to 500 meters on the Puntarenas coast, affecting 60 to 90 percent of urban areas.  In addition, amphibians in mountain ecosystems and elsewhere in Costa Rica are particularly vulnerable to extinction from diseases induced by climate change.

More information about climate change

Also, the IPCC points out in a special regional report that the generation of hydroelectric energy and the production of grains and livestock will be especially vulnerable to changes in water supply, particularly in Costa Rica. The changes that the country will begin to experience are well studied and, consequently, a National Adaptation Plan has been designed. To put  the dimension of the challenge in context, the National Climate Change Strategy illustrates how it will affect two basic elements, temperature and precipitation:

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From a financial perspective, the impacts of extreme hydrometeorological events caused by climate change will generate significant economic damage. In the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of Costa Rica, it was estimated that the country has already suffered a total of 1.13 billion dollars in damage from 2005 to 2011. The sectors that have been most affected by climate change are:

  • Road infrastructure
  • Electricity generation infrastructure
  • Farming
  • Housing

It is important to remember these four sectors in analyzing what the electoral candidates in Costa Rica are proposing regarding the climate issue, since we already know what has affected us and how much this damage cost us. In a country where funding is scarce, climate change cannot be left out of the candidates’ government plans, especially because 78.2 percent of the losses mentioned above are public works and will affect the national budget.

The adverse effects of climate change are not fair and will affect the most vulnerable populations of the country.   Women, children and people living in poverty are all disproportionately at risk. The NDC of Costa Rica also tells us an estimate of the damages we can have. It is necessary to emphasize that the development or government of Costa Rica cannot be planned without the climate issue.

“If the country continues to follow its current path, according to some studies, in 2030 losses will amount to more than 7 Billion US Dollars, since 2006, and could reach by 2050 almost 30 Billion US Dollars.”  

Are we going to adapt?

In terms of adaptation, the country has defined objectives that should help us reduce the damage and become more resilient in the face of the adverse effects of climate change. According to the NDC, the adaptation actions of Costa Rica for the period 2016-2030 are defined so that the government plans of the electoral candidates should also reflect a way to attain them. The adaptation actions that we are going to carry out are the following:

  • Develop a National Adaptation Plan
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Community-based adaptation
  • Adaptation based on ecosystems
  • Planning and local management for territorial adaptation
  • Adaptation of public infrastructure
  • Environmental health as an adaptation measure
  • Capacity development, technology transfer and financing for adaptation

The NDC of Costa Rica gives a brushstroke about each point enunciated but its execution and effectiveness depends on the government in power. It is imperative to know how these goals are going to be achieved or if they will be discarded. An important threat to these goals is that they are not a structural part of the government plan and that their value is only on paper.

We can count on the international community to ask Costa Rica about these points when it has formally declared them, but this does not reduce vulnerability or damage in the end. The only thing that does this is real and effective climate action. With this issue, as with others, it is important to seek coherence and continuity of climate governance goals in the government proposals of the electoral candidates.

Climate governance continues

In ratifying the Paris Agreement, Costa Rica was required to participate in an interdependent, transparent, monitorable process with a common objective: to limit the global temperature increase from 1.5℃ to 2℃. This process has certain tools and a defined timeline for its success, so a country cannot get out of sync without affecting others and being asked to do so.

One of the first public and tangible commitments of Costa Rica in this process was to present its NDC. In this commitment, the country establishes the goals that will be implemented to comply with global climate objectives at the national level. Our main commitment is to decarbonize the economy (one step beyond just carbon neutrality) and become more resilient in the face of the adverse effects of climate change.

“Costa Rica will center its climate change actions on increasing society’s resilience to the impact of climate change and strengthening the country’s capacity for a low emission development in the long term. Costa Rica will strengthen its climate action with efforts to reduce emissions, following scientific suggestions of what would be necessary to avoid the worst effect of climate change. Climate action will be based on balanced efforts of adaptation to ensure that communities, especially vulnerable communities, become resilient to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.” Costa Rica NDC

The next big step we must take in this process is to declare a long-term development strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These commitments must be accompanied by a transparent system that monitors the country’s actions. This is where the actions that a candidate proposes for the next four years are relevant, given that if there is no continuity in the goals and process, we can miss our commitments and affect the common effort.

To ensure countries’ climate actions are being fulfilled, a system has been designed: the “Global Stocktake.” Beginning in 2023, an evaluation will occur every 5 years and review the progress of each country towards the objectives it has declared and the common goal. In other words, if the future governors do not incorporate the logic of the Paris Agreement into their government plans, our development model, actions and projects that we develop will not help with the common goal, breaking with the effort of so many years. Climate action must be present both in the electoral discussions and in the political implementation of the new government.

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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 Day 11

Thursday marked the next to last day of COP23 as negotiations edged toward a close.

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On Thursday morning, a side event on the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) was held in the French Pavilion, where the CAFI presidency was transferred from Norway to France.  The CAFI Initiative partners a group of Central African countries with donors to “recognize and preserve the value of the forests in the region to mitigate climate change, reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development.” The CAFI event featured a variety of speakers from Europe and Central Africa, including Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, Vidar Helgesen, and France’s Minister of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Nicolas Hulot.   They discussed the importance and urgency of CAFI and the role their countries have played in the initiative.

“The gluttony of man for the earth can be limitless.  The planet will not survive the loss of its forest resources,” said Hulot.  

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Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, Vidar Helgesen, speaks on CAFI at the French Pavilion.

Hulot stressed the need to be good stewards of the forest: “Our window is getting shorter and shorter.”

Thursday morning also featured a high-profile event on “Uniting for Climate Education Further, Faster, Together through Partnerships.”  The speakers included UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Princess of Morocco Lalla Hasnaa, Saint Lucia Minister of Education Gale Tracy Christiane Rigobert, Italy’s Director General for Sustainable Development, Energy and Climate Francesco La Camera, and climate and education advocate Zuriel Odulowe.

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Climate and education advocate Zuriel Odulowe speaks at high-profile event on Uniting for Climate Change.

In her opening remarks, Espinosa highlighted the important work the UNFCCC is doing in relation to climate change.  However, she stressed that there is much work to be done, noting that only 40 percent of countries have climate change in their education curricula.

“We need to do more to prepare people of all ages for the challenges that climate change poses to our societies and our economies,” said Espinosa.  “I call it the age of renewal. Those prepared to lead it will be the ones who will define this century.”

Following her opening remarks, Espinosa signed  a formal cooperation agreement on climate education between the UNFCCC and Morocco’s Mohammad VI Foundation.

The COP Presidency Event on Integrating Human Rights in Climate Action featured a strong lineup of speakers and panelists that included COP President and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, President of the Marshall Islands Hilda Heine, Former Irish President Mary Robinson and Minister for Environment and Energy for Costa Rica Edgar Guitierrez Espeleta.  Speakers and panelists discussed the connection between climate change and human rights, their frustration with the lack of progress being made on the ground and the importance of the Geneva Pledge on Human Rights and Climate Action.

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Former Irish President Mary Robinson addresses Integrating Human Rights in Climate Action 

Robinson delivered the event’s closing remarks with a powerful reminder of the threat climate change poses to human rights.  

“There is no doubt it’s the biggest human rights threat that we face because it becomes an existential threat to the human race if we don’t deal with it,” said Robinson.  “That existential threat is closer than we think.”

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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