COP 19: Warsaw Climate Change Conference

The stakes are high


November  27, 2013

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathers every year in an annual Conference of Parties (COP) to discuss the actions countries, organizations, business, and individuals should take to combat the causes and consequences of climate change (mitigation and adaptation). Last two weeks, COP 19 took place in Warsaw, Poland. I was there the second week and here are some insights from my part on it.

During one of the most important climate change conference in Copenhagen back in 2009, the stakes where high, and so should the outcomes have been too. However, this was at the least a disappointing COP since no real deals were closed. Now, everyone aims at Paris, COP 21 in 2015, where the deals should be sealed for pre-2020 and after 2020. In Warsaw, the negotiations were long, longer than expected, which seems to become a regularity within COPs. Next time I will buy a ticket back on Saturday evening, just to make sure. Anyways, so what are the new pledges and commitments? And what happened during side events?

Parties concluded on an important (new) issue: loss and damage, which is set up for countries to deal with loss and damage caused by climate change, such as hurricane Haiyan in the Philippines. In addition, parties provided more clarity on mobilizing funds to support developing countries in adaptation and mitigation actions. Public finance will come from Norway, UK, EU, US, Republic of Korea, Japan, Sweden, Germany and Finland. Furthermore, 48 of the poorest countries will develop comprehensive sets of plans to deal with climate change (like National Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs)).

The Green Climate Fund, the fund for actions on mitigation and adaptation, will start with a board to steer the process and developed countries were requested to contribute by COP 20 in Peru in 2014.

REDD+, the Reductions of Emissions from Deforestation and (forest) Degradation, was discussed and the parties came with a 'Warsaw Framework for REDD+'. Norway, the UK and the US pledged $ 280 million to donate to the REDD+ fund, with the US donating only $ 25 million, while Norway donates $ 135 million and the UK $ 120 million!

But that's not all. I went to several side events to see what is happening already on the ground and how we move forward with certain issues such as 100% renewable energy after 2035, National Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), fair or social carbon market, and the Urban Poor.

100% Renewable Energy (RE) side event organized by REN Alliance

By 2035, the world could run for 35% on RE. This would include electricity (80% RE), heat (60% RE), transport (15% RE). The goal is to reach 100% RE worldwide after 2035. This could consists of hydropower, geothermal, solar, and wind. This would boost jobs. Indeed now already 5.7 million people work within the RE sector. 138 countries have RE targets for 2012. The projections are good, but there is much more potential which could be materialized. A Global Feed in Tariff fund could boost the RE sector and could be included within the Green Climate Fund with up to $ 1 billion. All in all, future of RE is a (political) choice, rather than an economic or technological related one.

Annual Status report NAMAs side event

NAMAs: National Appropriate Mitigation Actions, deal with climate change mitigation initiatives in developed and developing countries. If NAMAs take off, we are then on a road to 100% renewable and sustainable societies. However, till so far, there are only 40 submissions to the UNFCCC registry of which 50% come from two countries (Jordan and Serbia). Three are in the implementation phase. Latin America is the most active region, although it is spread over all sectors.

Social Carbon and other (new) carbon standards

Currently, the carbon market runs as a compliance market and a voluntary market. However, the prices are low and generally, the compliance market leaves out social issues in developing countries. Therefore, there is a need for clearer policies regarding sustainable development and social issues. So ‘Yes! It’s time for social carbon’. But there is always a trade-off, according to a specialist of CDC climat. All innovations in the compliance market come from the voluntary market. There are co-benefits of benefits while there are also risks. Gold Standard (GS), a highly respected carbon market verification standard,tries to influence the costs while focusing on transparency. GS asks how to develop a market with a label for social issues. One should look out for different country schemes (such as NAMAs) if labeled, it creates a sense of consistency. In another side event, W+was presented as a new initiative of WOCAN (Women Organization for Change in Agriculture & Natural Resources). W+ is a women based carbon standard.

Urban Poor side event

There were five projects presented since they were awarded a special prize for their efforts in urban poor areas in developing countries. All had project in urban poor areas in developing countries: from energy, to waste and water, and from general livability to clean toilets. They were all very inspiring, and tap into LES ambition to start up a slum project in Nepal with local partners through crowd-funding. 

In conclusion: there is already much on the negotiation table being discussed and pledged, but much still needs to be done in writing and practice in order to combat climate change and keep temperatures rise below 2 degrees. So, we are on a track towards Paris in 2015/COP 20, were all the final decisions need to be made. With it, not only pledges, but also concrete, bold and ambitious commitments need to be put in practice. Let's act through collaboration towards 100% sustainable societies! And inspire each other while doing! 

Warsaw by night




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