Adaptation negotiations stall as the rift between Rich and Poor grows

~by Graham Reeder

Today's adaptation negotiations took a turn for the worse as developed and developing countries started to disagree about implementation issues. The Bonn adaptation meetings have focused on two important pieces of the Cancun Adaptation Framework: the Work Programme on Loss and Damage and the support for the National Adaptation Plans. The Loss and Damage stream is important for making sure that countries are able to deal with the impacts of climate change related events like natural disasters, sea level rise, and drought. If they don't have help with these impacts, they will incur the costs of something they had no part in creating; this would be a grave injustice. The National Adaptation Plans (or NAPs) are to support developing countries to come up with and implement plans that will integrate medium and long term climate change adaptation into their development plans. The NAPs are supposed to build on the National Adaptation Programmes of Action for the urgent needs of Least Development Countries which are moving towards their implementation phase now.

The 'adaptation community', as they like to call themselves, are a small group of negotiators who work closely together on all the issues. The major players are from the US, the EU, Canada, Australia, Norway; Bangladesh, Bolivia, and Argentina for the G77; Nauru and the Cook Islands for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS); Bhutan and Timor Leste for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs); and Tanzania and Ghana for the African Group. The former US negotiator for adaptation, who has been around for some time, retired this year and her secessor is in her first meetings of these kinds. I haven't been able to gather any information about her, but she seems like an highly competent professional who seems to have a lot of experience in the adaptation field that goes beyond the UNFCCC, though she is a less experience negotiator, she will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. Ever since I started following adaptation negotiations in Cancun, they have moved along quite productively and have worked through disagreements and made compromises together.

Today, however, was a total change of atmosphere. It started off in the consultations on Loss and Damage, where the Canadian and Argentinian co-chairs presented their draft text that quite explicitly excluded calls from the G77+China to develop a mechanism to address Loss and Damage, when COA's very own Juan Pablo Hoffmaister ('07) for Bolivia pointed this out, developed countries retorted that  laying the foundations of a mechanism would be premature given that the work programme still needs to conduct 3 more workshops. This is a common tactic from developed countries: they call for more information, more workshops, and more academic exercises as long as developing countries want action and implementation and things aren't going their way, but as soon as they frame the debate in their own terms (read: more work for developing countries) they call for urgency of action. As developed and developing countries went back and forth on the issue of creating a mechanism, negotiations didn't seem to go anywhere, and the chair ended up proposing that the group meet again immediately before COP 18 in Doha, Qatar. This seems like a desperate effort to accommodate everyone, but is unfortunate given that reports from these meetings are supposed to reflect submissions from all parties, not just developed country parties.

The tension picked up again in the working group on NAPs. Philippines negotiator Bernarditas Castro Muller (one of the best negotiators for the G77 and the biggest thorn in the US' side, she really knows her convention and how to negotiate and has been called the 'Dragon Woman', the US tried to have her fired before Copenhagen, but Sudan hired her right back on) has been sitting in on NAP negotiations, which is unusual for a negotiator of her status. This gives us a clear indication that the issues being discussed are broader than they appear, namely, that they relate to finance. Bernarditas was there to point out that funds for adaptation need to be scaled up and that reform of the way that adaptation work is implemented (or isn't) by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) needs to happen. After noting that, she pointed out that the NAP process needed to not just be for LDCs, but for all developing countries and that developed countries were trying to shirk their responsibilities under the convention. This fight wouldn't normally come up so bluntly, it has been an underlying conflict since Cancun and a compromise of relatively vague language on this issue was reached in Durban, but her bringing it up so aggressively represents larger political manoeuvring at play.

I suspect that the source of this manoeuvring can be traced back to the last year of work on the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA). In today's AWG-LCA plenary, parties went through the agenda and decided what to move into contact groups, developed countries consistently got their way about what was to be discussed, and developing countries got few of their asks for contact groups, one of the larger arguments was whether to have a contact group on 'enhanced action on adaptation'. Developed country parties, led by Norway, argued that this was unnecessary because there were already adaptation negotiations going on (mentioned above) and the new adaptation committee that should be finalised in Doha will take care of the rest. Developing countries were quick to point out that there are all sorts of activities on adaptation that were supposed to be undertaken that have not yet occurred and that the adaptation committee has not yet been set in motion. There are still many significant gaps in adaptation work, particularly adaptation support for developing countries that are not Least Developed Countries, and Bernarditas' joining the NAP negotiations was a signal to developed countries that developing countries are tired of being pushed around on this issue and are ready to play hard ball.

The question for the future will be how well the G77 sticks together, adaptation negotiations are usually characterised by a very solid block of developing countries with the G77, AOSIS, LDCs, and the Africa Group consistently supporting one another's statement and the EU running around trying to figure out their own position, but with Sudan's plea to Bernarditas at the end of the NAP meeting not to hold this important issue for LDCs hostage, it is clear that the G77 will have to work to keep their group strong. Nevertheless, it is important not to blame the Philippines for standing up for all developing countries when the developed countries have done such a pathetic job of financing and implementing adaptation activities. Adaptation and mitigation are supposed to be equal under the convention, but because rich countries haven't figured out a sure-fire way to make money out of adaptation, they have mostly avoided the issue and stalled progress by calling for more and more expert workshops and research papers before anything can be done. It will be interesting to see how this stalemate gets resolved over the next week as parties are eager to have solid outcomes in Doha, it is clear that major compromises will need to be made on both sides.

Equity matters

~by Graham Reeder

Today’s negotiations have almost exclusively been dedicated to the subject of equity. The Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, after spending most of yesterday squabbling over its agenda, got straight into holding their all-day workshop on equitable access to sustainable development.

The word equity in the context of the negotiations decisions has its origins in the Cancun outcomes ( and was further entrenched in the Durban outcomes ( But the concept is much older, in fact, the concept of equity is central to the very core of these negotiations, the convention itself. Contained as core principles of the UNFCCC are ‘Historical Responsibility’—meaning that those who have created this problem are responsible for cleaning it up—‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities’—meaning that developed and developing countries play a different role in tackling and adapting to climate change—and ‘Respective Capabilities’—meaning that those countries who have more capacity (read: money, technology, institutions) to deal with climate change should take on more responsibility.

The concept of equity is extremely important for parties to address right now, as it needs to be the basis for new negotiations on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. The presentations have been lively and, for the most part, articulate. Sivan Kartha from the Stockholm Environment Institute, a senior scientist for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicked the morning off with a highly articulate presentation on how to fairly allocate the remaining atmospheric space as well as the burden for addressing climate change based on science and the principles of the convention. Prodipto Ghosh from the Energy and Resources Institute continued with a highly theoretical and academic approach to defining equity and applying it scientifically to emissions reductions that went over most negotiators’ heads. After that, presentations were given from a whole range of parties and a couple of other organisations (like the South Centre).

The crux of equity is that developed country parties both need to take the lead on cutting their own emissions and finance emissions reductions and sustainable development in the developing world by providing money and affordable clean technologies. This was agreed upon in the convention and has been affirmed countless times, but some rich countries are using the current economic climate and economic growth in China and India as an excuse, saying that they cannot afford what they owe and that times have changed. But have times really changed all that much? China and India’s economies have grown, but their per capita income and emissions have remained small. The US, EU, Canada, and other developed countries however have grown much wealthier, and their per capita emissions are still very far ahead of other countries. Singapore argued that a per capita approach to emissions counting (rather than a gross national emissions counting approach) is unfair to small countries as it exaggerates their emissions. However, Egypt was quick to note that if a per capita approach is taken alongside the other principles of equity, where developed and developing countries are distinguished by capabilities and responsibilities, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Equity will be a central theme of negotiations here in Bonn, as the new Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action begins work here, figuring out how equity will unlock the door to ambition will be necessary to determine how we move forward.

Bonn Intersessionals Kick off

~by Joe Perullo and Graham Reeder

Photo credit:

The sun is shining in the old capital of western Germany as the 36th session of the Subsidiary Bodies (Implementation and Scientific and Technical Advise) kick off on day 1 of the Bonn intersessionals.

Intersessionals are smaller meetings than COPs, they are charged with getting the work done that the annual COPs agree to and preparing for the following year’s work, the atmosphere is more casual and delegates can be seen chatting in the hallway with one another. However, that isn’t to say that the meetings are a vacation; this session has a very full agenda with crucial work to be done that will determine the future of the climate regime (and by extension, the climate).

The Convention’s new body, created last December known as the Ad-hoc Working Group for the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, more simply the ‘ADP,’ will have its very first session during these meetings this Wednesday. This body is what will virtually replace the LCA (Ad-hoc Working Group on Long term Cooperative Action) which will finish its work this year. Like the LCA, the ADP will cover issues of Technology Transfer, Finance, Capacity Building, Adaptation, and Mitigation. Unlike the LCA, the ADP does not contain words like ‘equity’ and ‘common but differentiated responsibilities.’ Their absence from the text is the result of utter stubbornness by developed countries, particularly the US, to not agree to anything that would contain these words and threaten their race to the bottom.

Equity still has a chance though! While it is not mentioned in the ADP text itself, Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) and Historical Responsibility are two foundational principles of the Convention, which the ADP must adhere to. Developing countries claim that, since the ADP is a subsection of the Convention, these rules still apply.

So the battle for equity is ever clear, and as the ADP begins to take form over these negotiations, we will see which interpretation of it prevails.

One clear theme of these negotiations will be ambition. The ADP is all about increasing ambition, a welcome change of tone from the LCA, which has been bogged down in incredibly slow progress and stalling. The question is, ambition from whom? As the ADP is designed, it is important to remember who has already showed ambition in reducing their emissions: the developing world.

While rich countries have complained that the poor are asking for too much and not doing enough work, the developing countries have cut more emissions that the entire developed world, and have done so without being bound to legally binding emissions reductions. Rich countries (the US notably excluded, who couldn’t even muster ratifying the Kyoto Protocol) on the other hand have completely failed to reduce their emissions despite being legally bound to do so. While some, like the EU, have gone about hiding their mess under the rug with loopholes, offsets, and creative accounting, Canada has just gone ahead and stormed out of the room, complaining that it should be up to the world’s poor to clean up it’s mess. Canada is having too much fun playing in their tar sand-pit to stop. It is important that all countries participate in fighting climate change, but we cannot forget who has created this mess and who has the capacity to clean it up. China and India have huge populations and, on a per-capita basis, are neither rich nor major emitters, the burden of fighting climate change cannot be shifted to their shoulders and this meeting will be important for keeping the burden of responsibility where it belongs: with the rich and developed.

Lots of other work will be going on under the different bodies of the UNFCCC over the next two weeks, and we’ll be here to keep you up to date of what is going on.

A Date With History (script) English and Spanish version

This script was writen by a group of us for a video context in preparation to the Rio+20 conference.

by Anjali Appadurai, Nimisha Bastedo, Anyuri Betegon, Graham Reeder, Nathan Thanki, Julian Velez, and Trudi Zundel.

The video can be seen here.

We are Earth in Brackets and the future we want requires radical change.

Radical: Favoring drastic political, economic, and social reforms. Radical: Challenging accepted traditional norms.

Some may write off radical thought and action as unrealistic and unattainable. As dangerous.  But the word “radical,” has its origin in botany: a “radical” is the first root to begin growing from a seed. Radical is tackling the world’s social, economic and environmental problems at their roots, instead of pruning their branches with the same old tools.

Tools like assigning monetary value to nature to create new markets. Greenwashing our old inequitable, unsustainable consumption and production methods. Negotiating for twenty years without making solid commitments.

To us, that’s dangerous.

Since the first Rio conference, our problems have gotten worse. Why? Because our mainstream ideology is dominated by neoliberalism, with its rampant consumerism and boundless exploitation of people and nature.

In the future we want, empathy, respect, and integrity form the basis for global decision-making. Sustainable development becomes the priority in national policies. In this future, small-scale farmers can reclaim food sovereignty from big agribusiness. The best education and health care are given to those who need it most.

Biodiversity is protected, not privatized. All humans, not just the rich, have a right to water, to economic stability, to a clean and safe environment. All humans have a right to be heard. The list could go on all day, but it comes to this: basic rights of people and the Earth are no longer negotiable. They are not just needs, they are inherent rights that cannot be bought or sold.

Countries must fulfill their commitments to capacity building, technology transfer and finance. But that’s not enough. We also need radical changes in the way we choose to live together on this planet.

In the future we want, equity prevails: power is justly transferred from institutions to citizens, corporations to people, developed to developing countries. A shift from a human-centered worldview to one that respects all life: this is the radical change we need.

2011 was the year the bottom shook the top, the year when the radical started to become a reality. Let’s make 2012 the year the top wakes up and finally puts the integrity of humans and the planet before profits.

We are calling for ambition. Not just from governments, but from everyone who wants this future too. The future we want, the one we need, is something we’re going to keep building–and we want you to join us.

Este discurso fue escrito por un grupo de nosotros en preparación para la Conferencia Rio+20 en Brasil.

Escrito por Anjali Appadurai, Nimisha Bastedo, Anyuri Betegon, Graham Reeder, Nathan Thanki, Julian Velez, and Trudi Zundel.

Traducido por Anyuri Betegon

Mi nombre es Nimisha y el futuro que queremos requiere un cambio radical.

Radical: Favorecer drásticas reformas políticas, económicas y sociales. Radical: Desafiar las normas tradicionales aceptadas.

Algunos suelen anotar el pensamiento y la acción radical como irreal e inalcanzable. Como peligrosa. Pero la palabra radical tiene su origen en botánica: radical es la primera raíz que crece en una semilla. Radical es la lucha contra los problemas ambientales, sociales y económicos del mundo en sus raíces, en vez de podar sus ramas con las mismas herramientas desfasadas.

Herramientas como el asignamiento de un valor monetario a la naturaleza para crear nuevos mercados. Greenwashing nuestra vieja insostenible e injusta manera de consumir y producir.

Desde la primera conferencia en Río, nuestros problemas siguen empeorando ¿Por qué?  Porque nuestra ideología principal está dominada por neoliberalismo, con su consumismo desenfrenado y la explotación ilimitada de la gente y la naturaleza.

En el futuro que queremos empatía, respeto e integridad forman las bases para las tomas de decisión global. El desarrollo sustentable es prioridad en las políticas nacionales.

En este futuro, campesinos pueden reclamar su soberanía alimentaria de las grandes empresas de agricultura. La mejor educación y servicio de salud es dada a aquellos que más la necesitan. La biodiversidad es protegida no privatizada. Todos los seres humanos, no sólo los ricos, tienen derecho al agua, a una estabilidad económica, a un ambiente limpio y seguro. Todos los seres humanos tienen el derecho a ser escuchados.

Esta lista podría continuar, pero se trata de lo siguiente: los derechos básicos de las personas y de la tierra no son negociables. Ellos no son sólo necesidades, son derechos inherentes que no pueden ser comprados o vendidos.

Los países deben cumplir sus compromisos de transferir nuevas tecnologías, de promover la capacidad de construcción y proveer financiamiento. Pero esto no es suficiente. Nosotros también necesitamos hacer cambios radicales en la forma en la que decidamos vivir juntos en este planeta.

En el futuro que queremos equidad prevalece: el poder es justamente transferido de instituciones a ciudadanos, de las corporaciones a las personas, de países desarrollados a países en vías de desarrollo. Un paso de un mundo centrado en lo humano a uno que respeta toda la vida: este es el cambio radical que queremos.

El 2011 fue el año en que las bases sacudieron la cúspide. El año en que lo radical empezó a ser realidad. Hagamos del 2012 el año en el que la cúspide se levanta y por fin pone la integridad de la gente y del planeta antes de las ganancias.

Estamos haciendo un llamado de ambición. No sólo por parte de los gobiernos, pero también de todos aquellos que también desean este futuro. El futuro que queremos, el que necesitamos, es algo que vamos a seguir construyendo y queremos que te nos unas.