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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#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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La Ruta del Clima is an official Partner

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La Ruta del Clima is an official Partner of UN Climate Change to support the COP23 that takes place in Bonn, Germany.

This is the second opportunity that La Ruta del Clima joins as a partner of the Secretariat of the UNFCCC to support the UN Climate Change Conference in aspects of inclusive communication.

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La Ruta del Clima supports citizen participation and considers it essential to the success and effectiveness of climate actions. 

“Inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue builds empathy and fosters better decision processes for the common good.” Adrian Martinez, President La Ruta del Clima 

At COP23, we support the UNFCCC Secretariat with the Climate Action Studio through communicative products. We hope that these inputs promote a more transparent climate governance and greater access to information for different social actors, including citizens. La Ruta del Clima highly values participatory collaborations to promote climate empowerment.

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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.

Notes from the Bonn Zone: Day 1 

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The United Nations Climate Change conference (COP23) kicked off yesterday in Bonn, with the island nation of Fiji presiding over the negotiations.

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COP23 is divided into two zones: the Bonn Zone and the Bula Zone.  The Bula Zone is where the actual climate change negotiations are being held, while the Bonn Zone is holding an array of climate action events and exhibitions. 

This year, nations such as Fiji, France, India, Korea, Malaysia, Norway, Russia and the United Kingdom are hosting pavilions in the Bonn Zone, as well as international organizations and NGOs such as the World Bank, International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund.  

No where to be seen…

WhatsApp Image 2017-11-07 at 10.58.31 PMA United States pavilion was noticeably absent this year in COP23.  In these pavilions  countries and organizations present on issues related to what happens in the climate negotiations. Unlike what has been seen in the last summits this year there is no visible presence of the United States and leaves a certain vacuum in  COP23.

However, abandoned spaces are soon embraced by new actors such as China and other countries that fill these spaces assuming leadership.

 

COP23 the  Pacific Climate Change Conference

The island-nation of Fiji play a prominent role in the Bonn Zone.  The Fijian pavilion is hosting multiple side events and live Fijian music is heard at the conference throughout the day.

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La Ruta del Clima was fortunate to co-host a side event on the first day of the conference, Pacific COP 23: Yardsticks for Success. 

La Ruta del Clima co-hosted COP23 Yardsticks for Success

invitation-jpg-social-media1-e1509556187939In addition to La Ruta del Clima, panel members included representatives from the Climate Action Network, World Resources Institute, and the Green Education Center. Topics covered were climate finance, public participation in climate governance and environmental education.  Panel members discussed their hopes for COP23, the link between access to climate funding for island nation and justice, key elements to progress at COP23 and the next steps for reaching the $100 billion goal set forth in the Copenhagen Accord and reaffirmed in the Paris Agreement. 

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Role of Women as Healers of the Ocean at the Frontlines of the Climate-Development-Nature Nexus.

Following the Yardsticks for Success meeting, I attended a second side event: Role of Women as Healers of the Ocean at the Frontlines of the Climate-Development-Nature Nexus. It was presented in English and, at times, Fijian by representatives from Fiji, Germany and the Netherlands.  The role different women play along the front lines of climate change was highlighted.  A community leader, professor and WWF representative were among those who discussed the importance of gender sensitivity in developing climate policy and the role of women in the community with respect to climate mitigation and adaptation. 

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Role of Women as Healers of the Ocean at the Frontlines of the Climate-Development-Nature Nexus.

“I ask that we come together in harmony.  One spirit. One heart,” said Penina Moce, a WWF Ocean Climate Witness from Kabara Island, a 30-square kilometer island in Fiji that has already been strongly impacted by climate change.  “We work together so that the future of our children and future generations can be restored.”

Carol Puha, the facilitator of this event, closed with a quote by German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”

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COP 23: Get to Know La Ruta del Clima team

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For the fourth consecutive year, volunteers from La Ruta del Clima will be be attending the Conference of Parties (COP), from November 6 to 17, in Bonn.

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At this year’s conference, we will be co-hosting side events on the role of youth and civil society in climate change governance.  Our team will be providing daily updates of the negotiations and COP-related events on our website and social media.  We will be interviewing  climate negotiators, NGOs and other key players from the COP.  Subscribe to our YouTube page to stay up to date with our interviews and daily video briefings during the conference.  

In addition, we will be providing updates on this year’s negotiations through our weekly radio program, Ojo al Clima, a joint production with the University of Costa Rica and LatinClima.  Tune in on Mondays at 8 a.m. on 101.9 FM.

The following members of La Ruta will be representing Bonn at this year’s conference:

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Adrián Martínez

Adrián is a Climate Policy Specialist and the President of La Ruta.   Adrián is passionate about working with young people in Latin America on climate change and sustainable development projects.  He works in environmental law, providing research on communal adaptation to climate change and promoting informed citizen participation.  Adrián has an M.A. in Environment, Development, and Peace from the University of Peace and a law degree from the University of Costa Rica.

Periodista Valeria Roman
Valeria Román

A journalist and youth rights activist, Valeria serves as the Vice President of La Ruta del Clima.  She is dedicated to communications work with NGOs with regards to sustainability and human rights issues.  Valeria currently lives in Mexico City, where she is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Communications at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma.

Rosa Vásquez Rodríguez
Rosa Vásquez

Rosa is an engineer and environmental consultant.  Rosa has extensive knowledge of environmental issues and the effects they have on vulnerable populations.  She has experience facilitating environmental management projects in the productive sector and has worked extensively on carbon neutrality initiatives.  Rosa’s work focuses on promoting citizen participation and creating cross-sectoral capacities to transition toward a sustainable and low emissions model.  Rosa is currently enrolled in a master’s program in Sustainable Urban Technologies at the University of Buenos Aires.

Msc. Mauricio Luna
Mauricio Luna

Mauricio is passionate about sustainable development, education, and climate change. He has extensive experience working with young people, both nationally and internationally, as well as with environmental NGOs, international volunteers, and educational institutions.  Mauricio holds a Master of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Melbourne and a B.A. in International Relations from the Universidad Internacional de las Américas.

Ing. Cindy Umaña
Cindy Umaña

An environmental engineer and consultant,  Cindy also serves as La Ruta’s Treasurer.  Her interests lie in process innovation and modification to promote sustainability in the context of climate change.  She is committed to encouraging young people to propose, educate and develop alternative low-emission models. She works as a consultant on emissions measurement, environmental impact, and sustainable engineering. Living in Nice, France, Cindy is pursuing a Master of Science in Engineering for Smart Cities at the Institut Méditerranéen du Risque, de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable de Université Côte d’Azur.

MA. Sam Goodman
Sam Goodman

Sam has over ten years of experience working on climate change, natural resource management and sustainable development issues in Costa Rica, the United States, and Peru.  Prior to joining La Ruta in January 2017, Sam has worked with the Department of Interior and Peace Corps for the United States government, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Costa Rica.  He holds a dual Master’s Degree in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development from American University and the University of Peace.

For more information, please visit our website at http://www.rutadelclima.org.  You can also follow our activities at COP23 through social media on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn

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COP23, Climate Finance and the Green Climate Fund

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Green Climate Fund Pavilion at COP23

The issue of climate finance is slated to take on a critical role at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn this November and build upon progress made in previous negotiations.  COP23 President Frank Bainimarama, who is the Prime Minister of Fiji, has made access to climate finance a “key pillar” of his presidency.

Climate finance, in the context of international negotiations, dates back to the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. It was agreed that developed nations should “take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties.”  The Kyoto Protocol advanced the issue of climate finance, by helping to establish the Adaptation Fund, which finances projects to aid developing nations in adapting to climate change.  

In recent years, climate finance has been at the forefront of climate negotiations.  The 2009 Copenhagen Accord calls for developed countries to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.  The 2010 negotiations in Cancun lead to the creation of the Green Climate Fund, a fund for wealthier nations to assist developing nations in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.  The Paris Agreement reaffirmed the $100 billion commitment set forth in Copenhagen.

Leading up to this year’s convention, key announcements about climate finance have been made. On October 16, the Asian Development Bank announced it would increase its financing to over $500 million between 2017 and 2020, more than doubling its previous totals. The following day, Fiji, this year’s host nation, became the first developing country to issue a green bond to finance climate change mitigation and adaption in this vulnerable island nation.

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Joe Thwaites, an Associate in the Sustainable Finance Center at World Resources Institute, told of the significant role that climate finance is expected to play in the upcoming conference.

This is the first COP hosted by a small island developing state, and with the impacts of climate change becoming clearer, a key emphasis of the negotiations is likely to be on support for the poorest and most vulnerable countries,” said Thwaites. “There is likely to be a strong focus on adaptation finance; funding to help countries deal with the impacts of climate change.”

Thwaites went on to say: “There are several concrete agenda items where this is likely to come up. Countries are considering how the Adaptation Fund will serve the Paris Agreement. In addition, they will review progress toward developed countries’ goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year for developing countries by 2020, and will provide guidance on how funding, particularly for adaptation, can be scaled up toward this. Negotiators will also be discussing how countries should account for, report, and review climate finance provided and received, and how developing countries can articulate their future support needs. Every year COP also provides guidance to the Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund.”

While there is a great deal of optimism coming into the conference, this has been somewhat marred by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and his attacks on climate finance.  In announcing his decision in a statement filled with half-truths and factual inaccuracies,  Trump blasted the “so-called Green Climate Fund” as a “scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States.”

Since Trump’s decision came on the heels of a $500 million installment to the Green Climate Fund by President Barack Obama, there was considerable concern that the goal of investing $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation for developing countries could be jeopardized.  Still, the rest of the international community is poised to move ahead this month.

“The situation in the United States is obviously worrisome,” said Donovan Escalante, a Senior Analyst at the Climate Policy Initiative.  “However, I do not think it is sufficient to overcome the progress that has been made in the last decade to combat climate change.  We have seen enormous progress in reducing the cost of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and creating the political will to resolve the issue of climate change.”

The shift in policy by the Trump Administration has in many ways emboldened the international community as well as many local and state governments in the United States in the months leading up to Bonn.

In the wake of Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, 14 U.S. states and over 500 cities have committed to adopt, honor and uphold the Agreement’s climate goals,” said Thwaites. “Several cities and states have expressed interest in a collective effort to contribute to international climate funding. Other countries are also standing firm and delivering on their commitments to the GCF. So even if the U.S. federal government is withdrawing, there remains momentum behind the GCF and climate action more broadly.”

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