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3 Key Issues to Watch During the Bangkok Climate Talks

The U.N.’s current round of climate change negotiations continues this week in Bangkok. While the last intersessional in Bonn yielded more lows than highs, the Bangkok talks have the potential to make real progress and set the tone for COP 18 in Doha, Qatar later this year.

The Big Picture

As with any U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) session, negotiators will need to manage political controversies while trying to make progress across a large volume of complex, technical issues. The political debates will likely center on ambition and equity, specifically countries’ collective will to speed emissions reductions in order to hold global mean temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The negotiations in Bonn earlier this year were acrimonious, with Parties pointing fingers over their respective failures to cut emissions in line with science. This, coupled with the recent controversial remarks from the United States on the need for a more “flexible” agreement, creates a delicate environment going into this latest negotiating session. On the technical front, the challenge is to conclude talks on three major, long-standing issues before the clock runs out at the end of this year.

Prioridades para el Fondo de Clima Verde 2012

La primera reunión del Fondo de Clima Verde (GCF) se acerca rápidamente y dos de los grupos regionales—Asia-Pacífico y América Latina y el Caribe—todavía no han nominado a sus representantes para la Junta. El GCF fue desarrollado durante los dos últimos años, y ahora se espera que ofrezca financiamiento a gran escala para ayudar a afrontar los efectos del cambio climático en países en vía de desarrollo. Sin terminar las nominaciones, la Junta no puede lanzar “el principal fondo global de finanzas para afrontar cambio climático.”

Priorités pour le Fonds Vert pour le Climat en 2012

Dans le cadre de la première réunion du Conseil du Fonds Vert pour le Climat (GCF) à venir, deux groupes régionaux – Asie/Pacifique et Amérique Latine/Caraïbes – devraient encore désigner leurs membres auprès du Conseil de Direction du GCF. Négocié au cours des deux dernières années, le GCF aura pour but de fournir aux pays en développement des financements substantiels en vue de lutter contre le changement climatique. La désignation de ces membres du Conseil de Direction est une condition essentielle au lancement opérationnel de ce Fonds « instrument central du financement sur les changements climatiques ».

Priorities for the Green Climate Fund in 2012

With the first meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) fast approaching, two regional groups – Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean – have yet to nominate their Board members. Negotiated over the last two years, the GCF is expected to deliver large-scale finance to developing countries to address climate change. Without completing the nominations, though, the Board cannot begin the important task of making the “main global fund for climate change finance” operational.

Earlier this year, WRI and Climate Analytics facilitated a meeting in New York City of representatives from prospective Board member countries and others involved in the Fund’s design (see summary note). Participants exchanged ideas and perspectives on the Board’s program of work for 2012 and priorities for its first meeting. In addition to the basic administrative arrangements – like selecting a host country and establishing a secretariat – the Board needs to do the following in 2012:

The Lows and Highs of the Bonn Climate Talks

Two weeks ago, my girlfriend and I left Washington for two very different dates with international climate action. She headed to Indonesia to work with women farmers who are reintroducing native, drought-tolerant crops in order to build resilience to climate change. I, on the other hand, went to Bonn, Germany for the most recent round of UNFCCC climate change negotiations. The contrast could not have been starker. I spent 10 days watching with astonishment as countries bickered over committee chairs, agendas, and footnotes. There were highs in Bonn, too, as I outline below, but overall the atmosphere at this session was one of mistrust and reluctance.

Climate Justice: Creating Urgency and Safeguarding Rights

This post was co-authored by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and current president of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice, and Manish Bapna, Acting President of WRI. It originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

The United Nations climate change convention is 20 years old this month. As we see from the just-completed climate talks in Bonn, Germany, we still haven't solved the problem, nor even agreed how to solve it. Meanwhile, the impacts of climate change become more apparent, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

Within this statement lies a deep injustice: Those most affected by climate change did least to cause the problem. We need to put a human face on climate change. In the Bay of Bengal, in Bangladesh, sea-level rise, the increased incidence of cyclones, and higher temperatures are causing freshwater ponds to become salty. These are major challenges for families who rely on water for drinking, washing, irrigation and aquaculture. The impacts are so serious that they threaten the very ability of families -- who produce virtually no greenhouse gases -- to continue to live there.

Shedding Light on Fast-Start Finance

How much fast-start climate finance is actually flowing, and where is it being spent?[^1] This question has come up repeatedly alongside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate talks in Bonn this week.

Today the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Overseas Development Institute (ODI) published two working papers examining the fast-start contributions of the UK and US (GBP 1.06 billion and USD 5.1 billion, respectively). These papers seek to shed light on how developed countries are defining, delivering, and reporting fast-start finance. A similar paper on Japan’s contribution is under development, led by the Tokyo-based International Group for Environmental Strategies (IGES). The studies are carried out in collaboration with the Open Climate Network (OCN).

International Cooperation on Climate Change: What Can Other Regimes Teach Us?

Solving climate change is one of humankind’s greatest challenges. Caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels, which currently underpin most of modern society’s energy system, the solutions are economically, politically and socially complex. In addition, the problem’s transnational and transgenerational nature contributes further to the challenge of creating positive coalitions for change and forging agreements among nations to act now for benefits later.

Thus, it is not surprising that the international climate negotiations have moved slowly. Yet, the threat of climate change requires urgent action and creative thinking – in a field where new ideas are often immediately shot down due to one political sensitivity or another.

Returning to Rio to build a more sustainable future

This piece originally appeared in the Guardian Sustainable Business.

In 1992, heads of state converged on Rio for the Earth Summit, a bright moment that seemed to herald a new era for sustainable development. Bold speeches were given, important treaties signed. Saving the planet was cast as a moral imperative. Multilateral institutions would lead the way.

Twenty years later, the world looks much different. The unipolar system of U.S. domination that followed the end of the cold war is now multipolar. The locus of global growth and consumption has largely shifted to developing countries, especially in Asia. And for all the good intentions voiced in Rio, the health of our climate, water resources and ecosystems has been deteriorating at alarming rates.

Beyond Rhetoric at Rio+20 with the “Compendium of Commitments”

As world leaders prepare to converge on Rio in June for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), civil society groups around the world are making demands of their leaders. In India, a broad coalition of environment and development NGOs are decrying state-sanctioned violence during hearings for major projects. In Colombia, civil society groups are calling for training of judges who often don’t understand environmental law. These are just a few of the many governance demands made by NGOs in more than 30 countries associated with the Access Initiative (TAI).

But, how will leaders react? Many may come to Rio+20 with commitments, but how can we hold them accountable to fulfill these commitments?

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