CLIMATE POLICIES AT THE MID-YEAR CHECK: WHERE DO WE STAND?
The event organised by Italian Climate Network entitled ‘Evaluating policies in uncertain times: pledges and politics between COP26 and COP27’ took place yesterday at the UN campus in Bonn, Germany. The event, an official side event within the UNFCCC interim negotiations towards COP27, was co-organised with United Kingdom Youth Coalition on Climate Change (UKYCC, UK) and Greener Impact International (GII, Ghana). The three partner associations met seven months after the former event in Glasgow that took place on the 3rd of November 2021 as part of COP26, where they had highlighted the main policy priorities at the negotiating and international levels from a youth and civil society perspective. The aim then was to do a mid-year check on the main commitments and pledges contained in the final COP26 policy text, the Glasgow Climate Pact, as well as the individual and multilateral commitments signed off outside the negotiating rooms.
The event, co-moderated by Jacopo Bencini (ICN) and Serena Bashal (UKYCC), featured young activists and experts on the topics of adaptation, loss and damage, finance, fossil fuel exit and energy transition policies, and youth inclusion in governance processes. Speakers included Sandra Isingizwe (Loss and Damage Youth Coalition, Rwanda), Dolphine Magero (Global Youth Climate Action Fund, Kenya), Sarah McArthur (UKYCC) and Beatriz Pagy (Youth Climate Council and Clima de Eleição, Brazil), as well as Bencini and Bashal themselves. The session was highly interactive and the panel managed to exchange impressions and comments with many of the participants who physically attended in Bonn.
The event provided an opportunity to monitor the progresses made by countries on the Glasgow pledges in key negotiating areas, but also to present good practices or, conversely, examples of policies that are not aligned with them.
For what concerns the adaptation policies, it was highlighted that the process of drafting National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) is continuing with UN support in many developing countries – developed countries should not need this support, nevertheless yet to date not even Italy has adopted its plan, which has been at a standstill at the Ministry since 2017. From the 26 national plans that existed at the beginning of COP26, they have risen to 36 plans by mid-2022. Sierra Leone, Chad, Central African Republic, Costa Rica and Madagascar submitted their NAPs in the very first months of 2022 indeed. Overall, this happened in a seemingly positive multilateral context: at COP26, in fact, developed countries had committed to double the resources devoted to adaptation finance by 2025, and the pledges to bring an additional $356 million into the Adaptation Fund and unprecedented contributions of about $413 million to the Least Developed Countries Fund were already visible. Despite this positive news, not much has happened since Glasgow: negotiations on the new Global Adaptation Target (GGA), which is likely to be discussed in Egypt at the end of the year, have stalled; finance for adaptation continues to account for only a quarter of climate finance in general; and it is estimated that, without external aid, the most vulnerable island countries will have to devote almost 1.4% of their GDP to adaptation actions – resources that, globally, tend to go for almost 90% in very expensive infrastructure works. The interaction with the public revealed how governments and investors still see this type of spending very little spendable internationally (also in terms of corporate social responsibility) as generating effects (and thus return and visibility) at the local level, whereas reducing climate-changing emissions has effects of a global nature and thus is better spent.
Concretely, what merged from the event was the proposal to bring the drafting of adaptation plans – both in countries that do not have one yet and in those that will have to update it – in line with the participatory requirements of the United Nations through the contribution of young people, who are more capable than others of mobilising apparently disinterested segments of society in such complex decision-making processes.
For what concerns one of the central themes of these intermediate negotiations, loss and damage, the rapporteurs reiterated the urgency – also manifested physically by some activists during the negotiations – for developed countries to finally provide clear tools and forums on the issue, along with adequate resources. Overall, the Glasgow Dialogues process, whose first session took place just a few days ago in Bonn, did not satisfy anyone and no other concrete prospects seem to be emerging. While the most fragile countries are already witnessing irreparable losses in terms of human lives and strategic infrastructures (both natural and man-made), countries opposing the most the idea of establishing a reparations system are prevaricating and postponing the issue until the end of the three-year dialogue. Interestingly, at the same time, just a few metres away, the G77 group plus China presented a strong declaration of intent in plenary at that time, aimed at creating an instrument on loss and damage as early as COP27, thus attempting to cut the timeframe decided in Glasgow by at least three years.
On climate finance itself, it has been pointed out that not only no progress at all has been made since COP26 with respect to the goal of dedicating $100 billion per year – a goal now established and reiterated since Copenhagen 2009 – but that, on the contrary, no positive news has emerged from the recent G7 Environment and Climate Summit in this regard. This therefore makes the definition of a new global target for the post-2025 period even more distant. In concrete terms, it’s easy to see how the resources available in climate finance continue to be directed mainly towards mitigation at the expense of adaptation. This happens because of the more immediate quantitative tangibility of the results – for an investor or donor, buying a million new cookers is certainly more saleable and visible, in the immediate term, than financing expensive reforestation or warning systems that may not be needed for years. Moreover, as far as resources from international cooperation funds are concerned, still too often the expenditure seems to correspond more to the project concept than to the actual needs emerging from the territory. In general, an issue on which it may be useful to dwell and be activist for at the national level is if the interested own country has the appropriate instruments to receive climate finance. Is there a national adaptation fund? Is there a national coordination mechanism between agencies and ministries? Here, at least on paper, the example of Kenya stands out. Kenya has for some years now established 47 different adaptation funds, one for each county (region) in the country.
Fossil fuel exit policies were discussed as well, perhaps the most widely read and commented on topic after the outcome of the final plenary of COP26. The conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine seems to have quickly and notably changed the energy landscape in Europe and the developed world. In spite of what has been declared by the main European governments, there is a real fear that policies to replace Russian gas with other fossil sources in the short term could become structural according to the lock-in trap, whereby too many years may have to pass before it is possible to invest in different technologies (renewables) from those needed today, in the emergency, to restart fossil infrastructures that until yesterday were on the road to abandonment. In this regard, just this week the German government had announced the restarting of some coal-fired power stations that had been in disuse for some time. Similarly, new investments in fossil fuels are being made by India (especially coal) and China, despite important policies to promote renewables in line with a well-established trend. A step backwards, unfortunately, also by Costa Rica (historical member of the Alliance to Overtake Oil and Gas, BOGA), which in contrast to its historical pro-renewable positioning has recently announced new investments in exploration of natural gas fields under its new presidency.
Finally, regarding the governance of youth activism, following a very positive 2021 with the introduction, alongside the historic YOUNGO/COY process (the United Nations’ constituent group of the world’s youth), of the Youth for Climate process at the initiative of the Italian government, the question was raised as to how to make this multiplicity of opportunities actually useful within the process. In short, how to best channel the energy of young people following the negotiations into the formal process. In this sense, the panel highlighted the need to institutionalise youth participation in the processes even beyond the existing forums at the international level, investing rather in the national levels. In this sense, it is useful to promote compulsory participation quotas for young people in national, regional and local policies on the environment, to stimulate the birth or strengthening of local realities, which can then convey the youth message to governments in a more organic way, also through their own territorial representatives. Numerous examples of bottom-up organisation in this sense were thus brought up.
At the end of the event, the co-moderators recalled that the aim of the event was to compile what had emerged into a document to be handed over to the YOUNGO process via the youth climate conferences of the respective countries. Italian Climate Network and UKYCC will be working in Italy and the UK on this in the coming weeks.
The full recording of the event is available, in English, on the UN YouTube channel by clicking on this link:https://t.co/JV1ljXRlIy
Article by Jacopo Bencini, Policy Advisor and UNFCCC Contact Point