The recent attack on far-right candidate and congressman, Jair Bolsanaro, has plunged Brazil’s upcoming presidential election into chaos and enhanced the prospects of a dangerous candidate who has expressed deplorable views and promotes an anti-environmental agenda.
A right-wing populist, Bolsonaro poses a major threat to his nation’s climate commitments, promising to follow President Donald Trump’s lead and withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement.
The first poll conducted after Bolsonaro's stabbing shows him rising to 30%. This is a new poll; more established ones will be out soon. Alone in 2nd place for the run-off is the center-left @cirogomes, who I interviewed last week (with English subtitles) https://t.co/84GxcJBnZYpic.twitter.com/PruVJGZl0n
A Bolsonaro victory would land a devastating blow to Brazil’s democracy. Bolsonaro, who is currently capitalizing on a global wave of right-wing populism, has a history of making derogatory statements about marginalized groups.He has shown a contempt for democratic norms, boasting at a campaign rally that he would like to shoot corrupt members of the popular Workers’ Party (PT) and has referred to the nation’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship as a “very good” period.
“Like Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is a racist,” says Paulo Lima, a Brazilian journalist and Executive Director of the non-profit Viração Educomunicação. “He is also a defender of guns. He is against the rights of the LGBTI population and against the women’s rights movement.” Paulo Lima, Brazilian Journalist.
The Lula Effect
The prospects of a Bolsonaro presidency rose dramatically on August 31 when Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) declared former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or “Lula,”ineligible for a third term. He is currently in jail, and could appeal a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering.
While Lula’s center-left PT differs considerably from Bolsonaro’s far-right Social Liberal Party, Bolsonaro could attract Lula’s populist-minded voters.
“The ‘outsider’ and ‘maverick’ image Bolsonaro tries to project in his campaign has also attracted non-ideological voters who would be with Lula if he was the candidate,” says Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo, speaking to La Ruta del Clima. “That is, voters who like Lula’s style more than PT’s ideological platform and see this style in Bolsonaro. Thus, from the right, Bolsonaro gathers the votes that would traditionally go to a moderate Brazilian Social Democracy Party and manages to capture some of the votes that would go to Lula in normal circumstances.”
To rally support, Bolsonaro has vowed to take on corruption and crime, while attacking marginalized groups in the process.
“Bolsonaro draws heavily on the discourse of Donald Trump, to whom he repeatedly paid public tribute since before his election,” says Toledo. “Like Trump, Bolsonaro wants to project the image of an outsider willing to challenge the political establishment and to end traditional politics, despite the fact that he has been a congressman for almost 30 years, with his sons holding elective positions in all areas of the legislature.” Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo.
A retired captain of the Brazilian army, Bolsonaro also appeals to a militaristic nationalism and accuses the left of being “globalist,” says Toledo. “At this point, he also resorts to xenophobia, rejecting the entry of immigrants into the country since they can ‘steal jobs’ from Brazilian workers.”
Bolsonaro and the Paris Agreement
While climate change has not played a major role in this year’s presidential campaign, and Bolsonaro’s intentions to leave the Paris Agreement have been little more than a footnote in his campaign message, withdrawal would have serious ramifications for both Brazil and the international community. Brazil, which is home to the world’s largest rainforest and ninth-largest economy, is also considered the likely host for the 2019 climate negotiations.
Bolsonaro’s proposed withdrawal was met with harsh criticism from UN Environmental chief Erik Durkheim, who stated:“A rejection of the Paris Agreement is a rejection of science and fact. It’s also a false promise, because politicians who present climate action as a cost to society have got it all wrong.”
However, as Toledo notes, it would be difficult for Bolsonaro to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement because the text was ratified by Congress and the President does not have immediate power to denounce it. “In addition, many Brazilian states also have climate commitments that are independent of federal government action and virtually all large Brazilian companies in all economic sectors are signatories to international declarations in favor of climate actions.”
“My fear here is more practical than legal. A hypothetical Bolsonaro government could sabotage important measures to facilitate the achievement of Brazil’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in deforestation combat and agriculture. If Bolsonaro loosens only land-use change legislation, the effects on national greenhouse gas emissions would be large.” Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo.
Concern has also been expressed by Lima, who is fearful:
“If Brazil were to abandon the Paris Agreement, it would have huge consequences for us and it would be a big setback. First of all, Brazil would cease to be a major player in the international arena and in negotiations within the UNFCCC and the Conference of Parties. Brazil would become a major planetary threat because the Amazon would run the risk of totally disappearing. Bolsonaro wants to further strengthen agro-business and the advancement of livestock in the Amazon. This means more deforestation plus increased carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the principal greenhouse gases.” Paulo Lima, Brazilian Journalist.
Much is on the line when voters in the world’s fourth-largest democracy go to the polls this October. A Bolsonaro victory would deliver a devastating blow to the nation’s social, democratic and environmental prospects.
Mexico is in for a change, with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the coming to power of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party. What remains unclear is what kind of change and how extensive it will be.
On July 1, the former mayor of Mexico City, López Obrador, won the nation’s presidency in a landslide. Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he is often called, ran on a populist platform, promising to clean up corruption and combat inequality.
While his victory was welcomed by leftist politicians around the world such as British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, former Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner, and French politican Jean-Luc Mélenchon, he has also been treated with considerable skepticism. His brand of populism has been unfavorably compared to that of U.S. President Donald Trump and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He has been called many things, such as a nationalist, leftist ideologue, pragmatist, authoritarian and centrist.
In recent years, Mexico has played an important role in international climate change negotiations. Mexico hosted the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancún and has been a leader in climate governance on the global stage.
Under outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto’s leadership, Mexico submitted a bold plan for its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, committing to reduce by 22 percent its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Mexico became an active contributor to the Green Climate Fund and collaborated with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to develop the North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership Action Plan, which seeks to advance clean and secure energy, drive down climate pollutants, promote clean and efficient transportation, and show global leadership in addressing climate change This plan boldly sets forth the goal of 50 percent clean power generation in North America by 2025.
“Mexico recognizes its global responsibility with a solid commitment to mitigate greenhouse gases in order to nourish the new agreement to be adopted in COP 21 Paris, 2015 under the UNFCCC.” – President Enrique Peña Nieto
Mexico further solidified its position as a climate leader with the selection of Patricia Espinosa as the new Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. Espinosa, who served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs under President Felipe Calderón, replaced Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres to lead the Secretariat in 2016.
López Obrador’s critical comments about President Trump also appealed to voters. He has often spoken out against Trump and his demeaning treatment of Mexican people, going so far as to say: “Trump and his advisers speak of the Mexicans the way Hitler and the Nazis referred to the Jews, just before undertaking the infamous persecution and the abominable extermination.”
Despite being critical of Trump, López Obrador and the U.S. President have demonstrated a willingness to work with one another. During the campaign, López Obrador said, “I want a friendly relationship with the government of the United States, but not one of subordination. Mexico is a free country, it is a sovereign nation. We will not be subject to any foreign government.”
Voters responded to López Obrador message by voting overwhelmingly for the candidate. The second-place candidate, Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party (PAN), finished nearly 30 points behind López Obrador. PRI candidate Jose Antonio Mead received only 16 percent, delivering yet another resounding defeat to establishment party politics.
López Obrador and Climate Change Governance
It remains to be seen if López Obrador will build on the progress made by the previous administration with respect to climate change governance. He did not emphasize climate change mitigation and adaptation and the implementation of the Paris Agreement during his campaign.
López Obrador has spoken out extensively on how to manage Mexico’s vast oil and gas reserves, calling for sweeping reforms in energy policy and pushing for greater self-sufficiency in the energy sector. He has also pushed back against foreign investment in Mexico’s extractive sector, at one point declaring that he will make sure that oil does not “fall back into the hands of foreigners.” What’s more, López Obrador and his designated Energy Secretary, Rocío Nahle García, have called for energy auctions to be halted. López Obrador wants to increase Mexico’s refining capacity and exploit the nation’s natural gas reserves.
Earlier this year, López Obrador did meet with former U.S. Vice President and founder of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore. The two agreed to work together to promote renewable energy development and combat climate change.
Muy bueno el encuentro con Al Gore. Hicimos el compromiso de trabajar juntos para promover el desarrollo de energías renovables (solar, eólicas e hidráulicas) como opción ecológica y frente al cambio climático. pic.twitter.com/Tg4nDrcYCE
López Obrador’s party, MORENA, emphasizes the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources and reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement in its 2018-2024 National Plan. According to the plan, “An orderly, but accelerated, transition toward renewable energy…poses the opportunity to draw the country’s roadmap for the next generations from a clear strategic vision of sustainability to move toward a new civilizational paradigm of the future.”
At a recent press conference, Josefa González Blanco, who will serve as Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources under López Obrador, presented an environmental agenda for the next administration that centered on mitigating and adapting to climate change. Agenda items include a zero deforestation goal through the promotion of community forest management, strengthening of Mexico’s international policies to combat climate change, adoption of alternative technologies and raising awareness about climate change.
While there is definitely reason for optimism following López Obrador’s landslide victory, it remains unclear how he will approach climate governance. The world will be watching.
(Reminder: La Ruta del Clima has a neutral position with respect to the electoral candidates and the purpose of this series of articles is to inform and facilitate a critical analysis for our readers.)
In these months, we are nearing a change in government in Costa Rica. The electoral process in this country will bring changes, and it is important to analyze in detail how the issue of climate change is reflected in the main agendas of the presidential candidates.
At the international level, Costa Rica is a leader on the issue of climate governance, with its agenda well defined by its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). When Costa Rica ratified the Paris Agreement, it was required to develop a NDC, a commitment in which the country establishes targets to comply with global climate objectives. It is a short- to medium-term plan in which the country establishes a commitment to decarbonize its economy and become more resilient in the face of the adverse effects of climate change.
Recently, the University of Costa Rica’s Semanario Universidad conducted a poll on the leading presidential candidates of Costa Rica. Three of these candidates received more than 10 percent support in the polls: Antonio Alvarez Desanti, Juan Diego Castro and Rodolfo Piza.
We will analyze the candidates’ proposals based on the political programs they have available on the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) website as well as their campaign websites. Priority is given to analyze what is publicly available and the candidates’ positions or proposals on climate governance.
How do these candidates propose to give continuity to the Costa Rican climate agenda?
Juan Diego Castro – Lawyer and National Integration Party Candidate
Juan Diego Castro has presented his candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic of Costa Rica and his proposal for government has appeared in several publications. Castro’s proposal is derived from different sources such as his campaign website, Government Plan, and information shared by the TSE.
The National Integration Party (PIN) proposes through its candidate a government of reconstruction, seeking to give more importance to spirituality as individuals and as a collective, to achieve sustainable human development. From different posts on his website as well as his Government Plan, we can begin to get an idea of what Castro proposes on the subject of environmental development. Unfortunately, “climate change,” “mitigation,” “adaptation,” “decarbonization,” and “carbon neutrality” do not appear in Castro’s Government Plan.
Why is there no mention of climate change?
This is clearly the main question that citizens should ask the candidate. We must consider that climate change is one of the main foreign policy issues of this country. National projects, such as carbon neutrality, have been in practice and discussion in the country for many years. Climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing humanity and must be included in development models. Climate governance cannot be absent.
Government plan and environmental sustainability
Castro’s campaign site and Government Plan do not appear to directly address climate change, but aspects related to environmental sustainability are included. It is important to analyze them and explore what relationship they could have with the climate effort that Costa Rica has been developing.
The Government Program of Castro mentions that it is open to criticism and discussion. In this spirit, we carry out the following analysis to begin a dialogue that we hope Costa Ricans have with Castro and other candidates about their proposals.
As noted in the Castro Government Program: “The ideas presented in this document are open to criticism and discussion. They are also open to comments and observations for improvement.”
According to Castro, the urgent issues are:
Waiting lists for the Costa Rican Social Security Fund
Training for employment
The strategic themes are:
The structure and functioning of the state
Competitiveness and economic growth
The justice system and security
“And we will work with strategic issues for the future, such as the structure and functioning of the state, competitiveness and economic growth, and environmental sustainability.” Castro Government Plan
Long-term environmental planning
Castro puts forth a proposal to establish long-term planning, looking beyond emergency management situations and integrating strategic issues into planning.
“Short-term planning, without impacts for future generations, becomes detached from the budget process and fiscal policy. This has resulted in decades of delay in the planning of fundamental areas such as infrastructure, housing, security, education, the environment and health.”
Castro enigmatically proposes “solutions instead of diagnostics” in what seems to be a proposal for action. On the issue of climate change, this can have an ambiguous result. Since the uncertainty with respect to adequate solutions for climate change is constant, it is necessary to adapt and continually reevaluate actions. There is a need to mobilize climate actions in a flexible manner, since these actions form part of long-term processes that are constantly being evaluated, constructed and deconstructed. On the other hand, if we already know how to proceed on issues of climate governance, it would be useful to communicate them in the Government Plan.
“We are not going to make more diagnoses. We are going to propose solutions. Since we are going to govern seriously, we are going to make the most difficult decisions, those that require determination and political commitment at the highest level. We are clear that naming problems and making proposals do not fix anything. To solve problems you have to understand how to do it. We already know how.” Castro Government Plan
In the proposed long-term planning bill published on the candidate’s website, the environment is identified as one of the areas lagging behind. It proposes to tackle this problem with several reforms to the National Planning Law, offering a long-term vision and making it binding on the National Development Plan. The bill proposes that medium- and long-term plans will be established every five years.
“A long-term vision will be established in National Planning and the methods for the preparation and approval of national budgets will be changed to consolidate a true public expenditure policy for development.”
This is an issue of great relevance for climate governance given that the Paris Agreement requires countries to develop a long-term development strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These documents must be presented to the international community to complement the provisions established by the Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, which are the cyclical goals that countries adjust to meet climate goals. Unfortunately, there are no references in the proposal to any specific climate or environmental aspect, beyond identifying it as a sector, so what is stated is abstract. This is an important issue given that currently only six countries have submitted their long-term strategies, with Costa Rica’s waiting to be developed.
The other source of documentary information that we found to understand Castro’s climate ideology, were the direct statements from the TSE, where each candidate presents the main points proposed in their respective plans. On the issue of environment and energy, specific actions of Castro’s environmental agenda are laid out. Natural capital, green taxes, the improvement and reinforcement of environmental policies (urban planning, waste, water resources, and unsustainable performance of productive activities), the alignment of environmental policies with businesses and industries and the strengthening of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are all mentioned here. It is also said that the planning of the country will be revised to “consolidate sustainable economic and social development, which fosters business growth, employment and sustainable use of the natural wealth of the country.”
In addition, in the transportation infrastructure section of Castro’s Government Program, there is a proposal to develop a rapid train in Costa Rica’s Central Valley through the public works concession. It would be an electric train for public transport in the greater metropolitan area of San Jose, which would reduce travel times of users and road congestion. This proposal is compatible with Costa Rica’s NDC, which calls for an “inter-city electric train.”
The government program sets forth a vision of environmental sustainability as a necessary condition for development. The use of the word natural capital is important, since it expresses a vision of nature from the economic perspective and values its existence in terms of the ecosystem services it provides to society.
“Priority will be given to existing public policies that promote the country’s strong sustainability, consistent with the management of natural capital to promote economic growth and sustainable development. This is to optimize productive resources and environmental services with a functional institutional environment.” CastroGovernment Program
Another interesting proposal is to revise the governance of Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) on environmental issues, the scope and effectiveness of its stewardship. For a ministry that changes acronyms with each government according to its political vision, it is something that the citizenry should inquire about with the candidate.
What aspects and why do you consider that the governance of MINAE should be revised?
The environmental section of Castro’s Government Program says that it will focus on five areas of political action: “urban expansion and weak urban planning; contamination by solid and liquid waste; the degradation of water resources; the restoration of productive landscapes, and the unsustainable performance of productive activities.”
Other actions that arise are:
Create a national system of environmental and geospatial statistics
Consolidate the water resource integrated management
Strengthen the use of economic instruments for environmental management in the public and private sectors
Design economic incentives for the management of water, forests and biodiversity
“If we live on a treasure of gold or oil, we will exploit it accordingly,” said Castro.
Castro went on to say: “We are not going to subordinate the development and production of this country to the tricks, business and whims of the ecoterrorist groups. I know them, I have confronted them and I have stopped them.”
And climate change?
Unfortunately, there is no mention of climate change in the publications available on the candidate’s website, Government Program or information provided on the TSE website on governance. There is no mention of key instruments that are being developed as a result of the Paris Agreement or the programs – projects of participating countries.
There are proposals that can be inferred or related to necessary climate actions, but there is no systemic approach in the Government Program. For example, Castro refers to the SDGs, of which objective 13 is climate action. However, it would be irresponsible to consider this an adequate alternative to directly addressing climate change.
The climatic actions that the country has been developing over the last two decades and its current commitments are tangible, measurable and have a timetable. Proposals to increase their aspiration or promote their implementation should be in accordance with the reality of climate governance and not ambiguous or abstract. This is what we need to see in the Government Programs or in what is communicated by the candidates in the final phase of the elections.
Climate change governance is not only complex, but is essential for sustainable development plans in any country. Climate governance is currently reflected in a solid planning and legal structure that Costa Rica has developed over the last 23 years. In addition, it is an issue that transcends the national sphere, since the actions we carry out and declare before the international community will be reported and evaluated with respect to the objectives we set in the NDC as the goal of reduction that all countries have. It is a cross-cutting issue but also interdependent with the international community.
The continuity and aspiration of climate governance at the national level is essential.
It is necessary to establish a dialogue about what candidates propose in their programs and the key tools of climate governance, such as the NDC. In this way we can guarantee progress, transparency and continuous aspiration in the climate action that the Paris Agreement asks of us. This is a task that all citizens must undertake in exercising their right and democratic power.
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.
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.
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 Strategyillustrates how it will affect two basic elements, temperature and precipitation:
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:
Electricity generation infrastructure
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
As negotiations resumed on Monday, there was palpable energy in the Bonn Zone that culminated in aspirited 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.