Thursday, April 24, 2014

UN releases 'multiple choice' of options for 2015 climate deal

document outlines various pathways towards global carbon cutting
package due to be agreed in Paris - See more at:
By Ed King

The UN has released a set of options that envoys working on a global climate change deal believe could form the basis of an agreement next year.

These include the potential legal framework behind any treaty, the future role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and possible sanctions against countries who fail to cut carbon emissions.

The 20-page document, written by Kishan Kumarsingh and Artur Runge-Metzger, co-chairs of the negotiating process, aims to kickstart a June round of talks in Bonn.

“It summarizes our understanding of what Parties have elaborated and proposed to see reflected as elements for a draft negotiating text,” they write, stressing that all enclosed ideas are those of participating countries.

The chairs indicate they see the June session as a chance to identify a “limited number of options”. But the huge variety of suggestions outlined by today’s document indicates this in itself will be challenging.

There appears to be no resolution over who expected to take the greatest burden of emission cuts, a key point of conflict between some developed and developing countries.

The proposed legal nature of any deal still seems vague,with options for international, domestic or some form of obligation to contribute all on the cards.

Negotiators also seem undecided over whether they should aim to limit warming to 1.5C, a target favoured by climate vulnerable states, or 2C, a level agreed in 2009.

The UN wants a draft agreement to be presented at the main climate summit of 2014, which takes place in Lima this December.

National and regional ‘pledges’ to cut carbon pollution are then expected to start falling into place at the start of 2015, although it remains unclear what will happen if they are deemed insufficient to avert dangerous levels of warming.

Below are some of the more interesting aspects of the release. You can read a full version at the bottom of the page.

The 2015 agreement is to:

- Be under the Convention and guided by its principles and objective

- Be applicable to all Parties

- Be durable, flexible and effective

- Aim for and incentivize universal/broadest possible participation

- Strengthen the multilateral rules-based regime

- Respect/not compromise the right to development, as well as the right to survival

- Protect the integrity of Mother Earth

Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC):

- To be applied according to the provisions and annexes of the Convention. In the context of historical responsibility and capabilities, taking into account national circumstances

- Bold action is required from all Parties based on their CBDR-RC

- To be applied in a dynamic way; all Parties to participate over time in accordance with their evolving responsibilities and capabilities

- A binary approach is untenable in the light of shifts in countries’ emissions and economic profiles; it might place a ceiling on what Parties could do

What are capabilities?

- Current capacity and responsibilities are important

- Different levels of capacity and resources are to be considered

- Capabilities evolve over time

Who takes the lead?

- To be taken by developed countries, due to their historical emissions and the wide gap of per capita emissions/due to their capacity and historical responsibility

- To be global

- To be taken by those with greatest responsibly and highest capacity

What levels of carbon cuts are necessary?

- Collective mitigation efforts should be adequate for staying under 2/1.5C of global warming and should combine near-term quantified commitments/contributions with long-term ambition

- The 2015 agreement should include a global goal to limit temperature increase to well below 1.5C

- Anchoring the 2C long-term global goal in the agreement to increase its status and to use it for future reviews of the adequacy of countries’ obligations under the agreement

- A long-term mitigation goal for 2050 should be in line with the pathway to 2C based on most recent science

- Identify a global goal for 2025

- Developed countries to identify zero emissions pathways and define a 2050 carbon neutrality goal

- Substantial emission reductions are needed to stay under 2C, with negative emissions after 2080; financial and technology support is required

- Use the Brazilian proposal to look at the global temperature goal in terms of the principles and provisions of the Convention

On legal form – contributions will be:

- The basis for legally binding commitments

- Of the same legal force for all Parties

- Legally binding for developed countries, voluntary for developing countries

Options for legal force to be considered:

- Legally binding at the international level

- Legal obligation to put forward a contribution

- Recognize domestic legally binding character

How can the UN enforce the deal?

- Measures should range from assistance to sanctions

- An enforcement branch/punitive measures for developed country Parties/compelling measures, different set of elements for different sets of Parties

- A facilitative branch/incentive measures to assist developing country Parties/facilitative measures

- Should involve expert review teams to review MRV [measuring, reporting and verification] of mitigation effort and financial support

- Define the relationship of the compliance mechanism with contributions in terms of means of implementation

Who else should be involved?

- Need to consider how the work of local governments, sub-regional entities and the private sector can be taken into account

- On adaptation, the agreement should strengthen the linkages with organizations and institutions outside the Convention, in particular the private sector

- Private-sector resources and action should be leveraged and mobilized by public-sector actions

UN releases 'multiple choice' of options for 2015 climate deal

Sunday, April 20, 2014

International Year of Small Island Developing States

The International Year of Small Island Developing States seeks to celebrate the contributions that this group of countries has made to the world. Small islands are home to vibrant and distinct cultures, and have enriched the world through their music, diversity and heritage.

Islanders are also at the forefront of efforts to protect the world's oceans and their vast biodiversity, and are addressing pressing global issues such as climate change and rising sea levels through ingenuity, innovation and use of traditional knowledge.

For more information on how you can get involved in the International Year go to

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure - FAO

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests as a means of eradicating hunger and poverty, supporting sustainable development and enhancing the environment. They were officially endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security on 11 May 2012. Since then implementation has been encouraged by G20, Rio+ 20, United Nations General Assembly and Francophone Assembly of Parliamentarians.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IPCC Climate Report Calls for “Major Institutional Change” - Inter Press Service

By Carey L. Biron, IPS News Agency

Greenhouse gas emissions rose more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than anytime during the previous three decades, the world’s top climate scientists say, despite a simultaneous strengthening of national legislation around the world aimed at reducing these emissions.

The conclusions come in the third and final instalment in a series of updates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N.-overseen body. The new update warns that “only major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed” two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, an internationally agreed upon threshold.
"The report makes clear that if we’re going to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to get out of investing in fossil fuels." -- Oscar Reyes

The full report, which focuses on mitigation, is to be made public on Tuesday. But a widely watched summary for policymakers was released Sunday in Berlin, the site of a week of reportedly hectic negotiations between government representatives.

“We expect the full report to say that it is still possible to limit warming to two degrees Celsius, but that we’re not currently on a path to doing so,” Kelly Levin, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank here, told IPS.

“Others have found that we’re not on that pathway even if countries were to deliver on past pledges, and some countries aren’t on track to do so. A key message is that we need substantially more effort on mitigation, and that this is a critical decade for action.”

The previous IPCC report, released last month, assessed the impacts of climate change, which it said were already being felt in nearly every country around the world. The new one looks at what to do about it.

“This is a strong call for international action, particularly around the notion that this is a problem of the global commons,” Levin says.

“Every individual country needs to participate in the solution to climate change, yet this is complicated by the fact that countries have very different capabilities to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. We can now expect lots of conversation about the extent to which greater cooperation and collective action is perceived to be fair.”

Substantial investments

The full report, the work of 235 authors, represents the current scientific consensus around climate change and the potential response. Yet the policymakers’ summary is seen as a far more political document, mediating between the scientific findings and the varying constraints and motivations felt by national governments on the issue.

The latest report is likely to be particularly polarising. The three updates, constituting the IPCC’s fifth assessment, will be merged into a unified report in October, which in turn will form the basis for negotiations next year to agree on a new global response to climate change, under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

While previous IPCC updates focused on the science behind climate change and its potential impacts, mitigation goes most directly to the heart of what can make the UNFCCC negotiations contentious: how to pay for the expensive changes required to move into a new, low-carbon paradigm.

In order to keep average global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius, the new report, examining some 1,200 potential scenarios, finds that global emissions will need to be brought down by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent within the next 35 years. Thereafter, they will need to be further reduced to near zero by the end of the century.

“Many different pathways lead to a future within the boundaries set by the two degrees Celsius goal,” Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the co-chairs of the working group that put out the new report, said Sunday. “All of these require substantial investments.”

The report does not put a specific number on those investments. It does, however, note that they would have a relatively minor impact on overall economic growth, with “ambitious mitigation” efforts reducing consumption growth by just 0.06 percent.

Yet they caution that “substantial reductions in emissions would require large changes in investment patterns.”

The IPCC estimates that investment in conventional fossil fuel technologies for the electricity sector – the most polluting – will likely decline by around 20 percent over the next two decades. At the same time, funding for “low cost” power supply – including renewables but also nuclear, natural gas and “carbon capture” technologies – will increase by 100 percent.

“The report makes clear that if we’re going to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to get out of investing in fossil fuels. Yet the way the IPCC addresses this is problematic, and is a reflection of existing power dynamics,” Oscar Reyes, an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank here, told IPS.

“While it’s positive that they point out that renewables are achievable at scale, they also talk about gas as a potential transition fuel. Yet many models say that doing so actually discourages investment in renewables. There are also problems with the tremendous costs of many of the technological fixes they’re putting forward.”

Equity and income

The policymakers’ summary is a consensus document, meaning that all 195 member countries have signed off on its findings. Yet it appears that last week’s negotiations in Berlin were arduous, particularly as countries position themselves ahead of the final UNFCCC negotiations next year.

Debate over how the financial onus for mitigation and adaptation costs will be parcelled out has played out in particular between middle-income and rich countries. While the latter are primarily responsible for the high greenhouse gas emissions of the past, today this is no longer the case.

Even as previous IPCC reports have categorised countries as simply “developing” or “developed” (similar to the UNFCCC approach), some rich countries have wanted to more fully differentiate the middle-income countries and their responsibility for current emissions. Apparently in response, the new IPCC report now characterises country economies on a four-part scale.

Yet some influential developing countries have pushed back on this. In a formal note of “substantial reservation” seen by IPS, the Saudi Arabian delegation warns that using “income-based country groupings” is overly vague, given that countries can shift between groups “regardless of their actual per capita emissions”.

Nine other countries, including Egypt, India, Malaysia, Qatar, Venezuela and others, reportedly signed on to the Saudi note of dissent.

Bolivia wrote a separate dissent that likewise disputes income-based classification. But it also decries the IPCC’s lack of focus on “non-market-based approaches to address international cooperation in climate change through the provision of finance and transfer of technology from developed to developing countries.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Join the Call to Action on Sanitation (+playlist)

The United Nations is leading a call to action on sanitation: 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to basic sanitation. Recognizing that greater progress on sanitation is essential for fighting poverty and disease, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has initiated, on behalf of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a renewed effort to drive progress on sanitation and water goals towards the 2015 target date of the Millennium Development goals and beyond.

To break the silence on open defection and improve sanitation for all, join the UN's call to action on sanitation.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

World Urban Forum Highlights Opportunities for Sustainable Cities | World Resources Institute

By Manish Bapna and Dario Hidalgo

In recent months, popular protests have broken out in cities around the globe. The causes were different: soaring pollution in Beijing; violent, gender-based crime in New Delhi; and access to public services in São Paulo. But, for each, inequality was a significant underlying factor.

Many cities face increasing pressure. The urban population has increased five-fold since 1950. Vehicle ownership is on course to double by 2050, while traffic accidents lead to 1.3 million deaths each year. Cities emit approximately 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. All of this is even more staggering when you consider that 1.5 billion people will move into cities in the next two decades, bringing the total to 5 billion worldwide.

The reality is that well-designed cities can generate jobs, innovation, and economic growth for all. But when designed poorly--with too much sprawl, waste, and inefficiency--they can divide cities and exacerbate pollution, inequality, and political instability. Moreover, poor design has long-term consequences given that urban infrastructure often lasts decades.

Against this backdrop, some 25,000 people have gathered in Medellin, Colombia, for the UN Habitat’s World Urban Forum this week. The key question they face is: How can cities drive growth that is inclusive and sustainable at the same time?

The answer is complex, but three common elements stand out.

1) Design Matters

In order to create well-designed, compact cities, spatial planning needs to be explicitly integrated into municipal and national policies.

Compact cities often carry many advantages. New York City is notable for its highly dense layout that contributes to its using 40 percent less electricity and 25 percent less water, while containing 20 percent more green space compared with other large U.S. cities. In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled PlaNYC, a cross-agency effort to drive innovation and growth, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve life for the city’s residents. Under the plan, New York’s GDP has increased by 13 percent while emissions have fallen by 16 percent in just six years.

Nearly 300 miles east of the World Urban Forum, Bogota’s Master Plan promotes compact, mixed-use, and accessible development. The city is already one of the densest in the world, and planners have proposed to prevent future sprawl by improving the occupation of central areas, enhancing accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists, expanding mass transit, and protecting fragile watersheds and green areas.

Unfortunately, these examples remain the exception. More frequently, poor planning and perverse financial incentives lead to greater sprawl, create congestion, and promote excessive consumption and waste. In order to create healthy and compact cities, deliberate early design that avoids lock in to future problems is crucial.

2) Unlocking Urban Finance

Cities need their own revenue sources in order to avoid selling land that can lead to more sprawl and inefficiency.

Well-designed property taxes and development fees can increase investment for smart infrastructure. Finance can be leveraged through real estate developer fees, value capture taxes, green bonds, and carbon finance. In Hong Kong, for instance, the “Rail Plus Property” model enables the state to capture the increase in property revenues along new transportation routes, rather than have them accrue to private property holders.

Shanghai raised $900 million by implementing a quota system that auctions a license to drive on city streets to the highest bidders—an approach which has been adopted by six other large Chinese cities.

With urbanization on the rise, investment is expected to soar. One potential source of city financing is a 2012 pledge of $175 billion for transport infrastructure by the eight largest multilateral development banks; however, to date, less than 5 percent has been allocated to urban public transport systems. With additional funds, cities can control their growth and resources can be channeled to ensure greater efficiency.

3) Citizens Engage

Finally, citizens, especially vulnerable communities, need the right information and an ability to influence decisions by their city leaders.

Traditionally, many European cities have been at the forefront of citizen participation. For example, in Stockholm, citizens voted to support the nation’s first congestion pricing charges. In Geneva, residents cast ballots to determine how the city should allocate urban space among private vehicles, public transportation, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Meanwhile in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a new open data portal is helping city officials make decisions on mobility, environment, sanitation, and public health. And in Mexico City, citizens are taking matters into their own hands by expanding cycling infrastructure and bike lanes. These examples illustrate how citizen engagement can promote more livable and sustainable cities.

An Opportunity to Put Cities on the International Development Agenda

These issues -- and more -- are being discussed in Medellin. Among the major topics is how the future international development agenda will speak to the poverty, inequality, and sustainability challenges facing cities. As leaders consider what comes once the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, it is clear that cities should be a key element of the agenda.

Near-term decisions by local governments, developers, and planners will determine the resource management and quality of life for billions of people in the coming decades. The World Urban Forum can spur new ideas and drive a deeper commitment to sustainable, equitable urban growth around the world.

World Urban Forum Highlights Opportunities for Sustainable Cities | World Resources Institute

Thursday, April 10, 2014

FAO - News Article: Growing greener cities in Latin America and the Caribbean

A new FAO report finds that urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) is widespread in Latin America and the Caribbean, but realizing its full potential requires increased support from national, state and local governments.

Growing greener cities in Latin America and the Caribbean” looks at the progress that has been made toward realizing 'greener cities' in which urban and peri-urban agriculture is recognized by public policy and included in urban development strategies and land-use planning. It is based on the results of a survey in 23 countries and data on 110 cities and municipalities.

The new report released at the World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia, includes profiles of agriculture practiced in and around cities such as Havana, Mexico City, Antigua and Barbuda, Tegucigalpa, Managua, Quito, Lima, El Alto (Bolivia), Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and Rosario (Argentina).

FAO’s inquiry found that UPA is practised by 90 000 residents of Havana, and by 20 percent of urban households in Guatemala and Saint Lucia. In Bolivia’s main cities and municipalities, 50 000 families are also food producers. In Bogotá, 8 500 households produce food for home consumption.

The main benefit of UPA is improved access to food by low-income families. However, in 16 of the 23 countries surveyed, people practising UPA earned some income from the activity.

A strong trend in many UPA programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean is toward agricultural technologies and practices that produce more, and better quality, food while optimizing the use of natural resources and reducing reliance on agrochemicals.

In Rosario, Argentina, gardeners cultivate high-yielding beds of compost substrate. In Managua, they enrich the soil with fertilizer made by anaerobically fermenting household wastes. In El Alto, a project installed, in small, locally made greenhouses, hydroponic gardens that produce one tonne of vegetables per year.

Another trend in Latin American cities is the spread of farmers’ markets that sell locally-grown organic food. Many urban farmers have entered the value chain as intermediate or final processors of fruit, vegetables, meat, canned goods, dairy foods, snacks and natural cosmetics.

Many urban and peri-urban farmers have been tapped as suppliers of institutional feeding programmes. In Havana, UPA provided in 2013 some 6 700 tonnes of food to almost 300 000 people in schools, public health centres and hospitals.

Government support needed

FAO says that growing greener cities with agriculture needs the support of government. However, only 12 of the 23 countries surveyed have national policies that explicitly promote UPA. FAO’s survey also found that UPA is often excluded in city land use planning and management in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The good news is that UPA has been mainstreamed at a fairly high level within national institutions. In Bolivia, for example, the Ministry of Productive Development and Plural Economy will launch, with FAO’s assistance, a national UPA programme in 2014.

In a growing number of cities, urban and peri-urban agriculture is recognized in urban development planning. In Rosario, the municipality is building a “green circuit” of farmland passing through and around the city. Food production is also recognized as a legitimate non-residential land use, on a par with commerce, services and industry, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

FAO stresses that meeting urban food needs requires not only UPA but performing food systems that supply a variety of food products to - and distribute them within - expanding urban areas, an understanding of their structure, how their activities impact food safety and quality and natural resources, and how they might exclude vulnerable sectors of the urban population.

Addressing short-comings in complex food system requires strong political commitment, regional development plans and effective public-private partnerships.

FAO - News Article: Growing greener cities in Latin America and the Caribbean