COP19 – Wednesday Blog

I thought the working session I was in last night had run late – after midnight. But in turns out, that was an early COP evening. The buzz in the morning was that the group working on “loss and damage” had gone til 4 AM, abruptly ending when the delegations from developing countries all walked out. The issue called “loss and damage” (first arising at last year’s COP) comes to this: the community of nations, particularly the industrialized world, having failed to reduce emissions sufficient to avoid climate damage (the opportunities that were squandered in the 1990s), having failed to assist developing countries to put in place robust adaptation measures to reduce damage from killer weather events (having squandered the chances we had to do so in the ‘00s), the poorest of the poor are getting hit with massive storms for which they are unprepared.

Round TableWe are now down to having developing countries ask for compensation funds for loss and damage. A World Bank Report on Loss and Damage released today said that by 2030, 325 million people could be both very poor and living in areas very susceptible to extreme weather events. By mid-century, the report estimates the losses due to climate change to the world’s coastal cities alone could come to $1 trillion/year, every year.

So at this COP a deal-breaker has emerged as developing countries ask for some way to develop a plan to deal with compensation for loss and damage. And the industrialized countries are saying “no.” This is like the point on the Titanic when lifeboats were only available for First Class passengers.

The maddening horror of this scenario is that we still have time to reduce GHG sufficiently to avoid all of us going down with the ship. We have time to reduce emissions, invest in adaptation, and – yes – find some way to compensate. But we are negotiating as though we have all the time in the world. Neither we, nor the world, have that kind of time anymore.

Back to the day’s events. I started the day with an annual event at COPs – a gathering of Green Party members from around the world who are here. Elected Green Parliamentarians from Belgium, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and a few others are here at COP and we met to review the state of negotiations and share information. They couldn’t believe I was refused to be on the Canadian delegation. (Neither could the head of the UNFCCC secretariat in Bonn, Christina Figueres. I ran into her in the corridors and had a good chat.)

With the Green Party of France in a coalition government there, and France playing a key role as host for COP21 in Paris and the expected COP for a comprehensive treaty, that gives us hope for a supportive government. We also discussed how we could engage in the Sept 23 Climate Leaders’ Summit being organized by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the UN in New York…among many other topics.

Most of my day was spent back in meetings dealing with the ADP. We started with one text, adjourned and got a new draft by 4:30 and had a further revision by 8. At 11 PM, the meeting resumed. As I squeeze in writing some blog notes, I am also tracking interventions on the draft decision of this group. This is typical of UN meetings. The last few days of climate COPS always end up being marathon sessions. Perhaps it breaks down objections to get very exhausted, but I think the negotiators just keep doing it because it seems to work.

Today Minister Aglukkaq spoke at the COP. All ministers speak in rotation at the plenary. She did not announce any new effort. No new funding, no new reduction commitments. You know the set of memorized lines: Canada is a leader, we are working on our sector by sector approach, we must ensure our environment is balanced with our focus on creating jobs, etc. The reaction to the speech was muted. I have not yet seen her.

One last update, check the website to find the letters Leona Aglukkaq sent after I had left for Warsaw. It just arrived in my office. No surprise, I am not invited to join the Canadian delegation. Interestingly, she sends some helpful suggestions for groups that might offer me credentials. Whoever drafted her letter at PMO didn’t realize that there are deadlines in the UN system for seeking credentials, and it was in October. I only joined the Afghanistan delegation because I had already registered as an NGO, and after arriving the head of the Afghanistan delegation Del left the Plenary to walk with me to the registration area to add me to the government delegation. But no one would be allowed to register after the conference had begun.

All for now.