There is nothing like the memory of a devastating typhoon to change global mindset. Countries attending the United Nations COP19 convention (otherwise known as the UN Convention on Climate Change) in Warsaw, Poland and the European Union’s budgetary talks this last week were successful in hammering out several agreements that could have a far-reaching effect on mitigating climate change.
That isn’t to say that all UN member countries played nice together this weekend, or that issues that have been on the table for the last seven years were speedily addressed. But at the end of the weekend, many of the initiatives that were up for negotiation last year were finally being hammered out.
Some of the positive outcomes of this last week of head-knocking included:
After seven years of negotiations, COP19 member countries finalized the text for the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation that would allow tropical countries to receive compensation for protecting their biodiversity. The guidelines however are specific: Applicant countries must demonstrate what steps they are taking, and meet transparency standards that are meant to ensure compliance. This means that countries like Indonesia, which has permitted large tracks of forestland to be converted to palm plantations, would have a financial incentive to preserve its forests.
Warsaw International Mechanism for loss and damage due to climate change
It took more than two days of negotiations at COP19, but an agreement was finally reached to provide increased assistance to countries impacted by climate change. The true hero in this accomplishment, however, was the diplomat from the Philippines, Yeb Sano, who maintained a two-week hunger strike to protest the lack of global inaction in the area of climate change. His plea for change is said to have stirred listeners to tears and eventually helped to break the stalemate in the room.
Commitment vs. readiness
The U.S. and the U.K. wanted to see a defined timetable in which all countries committed to climate change initiatives in the next two years. However, China volleyed with the objection that developed countries should be held to commitments, but developing countries should only be “encouraged” to meet changes.
The final wording resulted in a call for those nations “who are ready” to make “contributions, without prejudice to the legal nature” to join in the fight against climate change.
The surprise of the month may have been the EU’s new budget, which dedicates 20 percent of its finances to climate change. That is above and beyond what the 28 member states individually commit.
The anticipated $244 bn (€180 bn) funding will earmark more money for major programs such as:
- Food security
- Renewable and low carbon energy
- Additional climate change initiatives in member countries such as a new supergrid that would transport green power across the EU
BioCarbon fund: New forests initiative to address climate change
The U.S., U.K. and Norway have joined together to create a new BioCarbon Fund for Sustainable Forest Landscapes that will work in alignment with the REDD+ program. It is supported by approximately $25 million from the U.S., $120 million from the U.K. and up to $135 million from Norway. Other donors are considering joining as well. Managed by the World Bank, the funds will be used to promote sustainable changes in agriculture, better land planning policies and encourage and reward successful reductions in carbon emissions from the land sector. The first designation of funds will go to Ethiopia to help develop sustainable farming practices and improve living conditions for residents through the use of more sustainable cooking facilities. Four to six new programs will receive funding in Latin America, Africa and Asia.