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Climate Change

What can make COP27 a success? History tells a sad lesson.

Le 08/11/2022

The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place in Africa, the continent hardest hit by climate change. In 2009 at the annual climate summit in Copenhagen G77 coordinator Lumumba Di-aping lamented to the closing plenary that 100 million Africans would die because of our collective failure to address the adverse consequences of climate change. At every COP since then, inadequate action has been taken, while at the same time the international community has feared admitting failure.

When the UNFCCC was adopted in 1992. Annex I States agreed to undertake a legal obligation to bring their emissions of greenhouse gases back to 1990 levels in article 4(2)(b) and to provide finance (art. 4(3)), especially for adaptation (Art. 4(4)), technology transfer, and capacity building for developing countries (Art. 4(5)). Since then most COPs have be used to back track on these commitments, or one might say to violate them.

In the early COPs the attention was on setting binding standards. COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, adopted a namesake Protocol that included concrete obligations. At COP6 in 2000 held in the Hague, the Netherlands, Dutch COP President Jan Pronk actually had the courage to call the COP a failure after the United States proposals for carbon trading. But instead of leaving it at that it was agreed to reconvene COP6 in Bonn, Germany, in the summer of 2001 where many of the carbon trading proposals were adopted after US pressure. The compromise did allow the Kyoto Protocol to be finalized and opened ratification at COP7 later that year and to include a weak compliance mechanism. In fact, the Kyoto Protocol, which implements the UNFCCC, was probably the most effective mechanism within the climate regime, as Michael Grubb recognized in his 2016 article in Climate Policy (16:6, 673-681) entitled “Full legal compliance with the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period – some lessons.”

Despite the effectiveness of legally binding commitments States drifted away from legal obligations in subsequent COPs, mainly encouraged by the United States that had refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol despite being a party to the UNFCCC. Instead at COP 13 in Bali, Indonesia, States adopted a non-legally binding plan of action. And in COP14 in Poznań, Poland, COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and COP16 in Cancún, Mexico, developing States had resolved to making empty promises that it appears they had no intention of keeping. In Poznan, Annex I countries reiterated their commitment to provide financing to developing countries.

At the end of 2009 at the Copenhagen COP15, US President Obama torpedoed a long and arduously negotiated agreement on extending the Kyoto Protocol's binding emissions limits or commitment period, which was expiring in 2012. In its place he offered a non-legally-binding and embarrassingly inadequate agreement. And in Cancún, Annex I States agreed to a 100 billion USD per year Green Climate Fund.

The financing has still not materialized. Annex I States have not gotten close to this amount, especially if loans and other forms of profit-making financing are not counted as the OECD has repeatedly done to claim that Annex I States are getting close to their commitments.

The extension of the Kyoto Protocol in Doha, Qatar at COP 18, also turned out to be a hoax when it was agreed only by States that account for less than 15% of the greenhouse gas emission worldwide. When the COP19 was held in Warsaw, Poland, civil society actors—who had been perhaps the main drivers of ambition—were so disgusted by the inaction of States, that they walked out of the COP in large numbers. And the subsequent COP20, in Lima, Peru, was overshadowed by the Pre-COP hosted by Bolivia and featuring civil society and leftist South American leaders calls for action, including legally binding obligations by Annex I countries on mitigation, financing, capacity building and technology transfer. None of those materialized, again in large part because the United States blocked any action that would impose legally binding obligations on them.

At COP21 the aversion to legally binding obligations came to a head as the United States chief negotiator John Kerry misled States about the nature of the Paris Agreement. Kerry led States to believe that the Paris Agreement would be a legally binding treaty for the United States, when he knew it would not be ratified and would only be an Executive Agreement, which under US law can be ignored by the government on a whim as actually happened. Moreover, the Paris Agreement includes only de minimus obligations of reporting and no obligation to take concrete action to address the adverse effects of climate change. It is not like the Kyoto Protocol, which imposes has legally obligations to cut emissions.

The Paris Agreement is instead largely an aspirational instrument, and for the United States on which can be ignored without legal consequence. The French COP President, Laurent Fabius, further diluted the already weak Paris Agreement in the closing session of COP21, by disingenuously proposing as a technical correction to the phase “[d]eveloped country Parties shall continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets” in article 4, paragraph 4 that changed the word “shall” to “should”. This 'technical correction' had been agreed with US envoy John Kerry behind closed doors. objections made in the plenary were ignored by the COP President without giving the objectors the floor. Many civil society actors and representatives of the countries most effected by climate change continue to trust in the process calling COP21 a 'success' for its aspirations to keep global warming “to well below 2°C” and “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”. But will this extraordinary patience continue as we see the deadly consequences of climate change for the people of vulnerable countries? At COPs 22 through 26 States merely reiterated the Paris aspirations and worked to try to realize them. It also became apparent, however, that the aspirations expressed in the Paris Agreement were not being fulfilled.

At the same time, the United States, European States, and their allies were using the Paris Agreement to distract attention from their own obligations by calling for false solutions. These false solutions include carbon trading, carbon capture, unspecified future net-zero goals, and geoengineering that threaten the already heavily disproportionately impacted lives of indigenous and local peoples. These false solutions are often used as an excuse for the continued use pf fossil fuels and often shift the burden for action to developing countries at the expense of their right to development. The lack of a commitment to legally binding obligations has been emphasized by last year's COP26 President, the United Kingdom. Its new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak not only threatened not to attend COP27—an insult to the Egyptian hosts—before making a forced U-turn, but has forbidden King Charles III (formerly Prince Charles) from attending COP27 even through the latter's climate credentials are perhaps the most significant of any statesperson in the British Isles. The UK's message appears to be 'we just don't a care about those suffering from climate change'. It is hard to imagine a greater insult to Africans suffering from the adverse effects of climate change, many countries, including Egypt, that also suffered through British colonial rule. It is also hard to imagine a more irresponsible act at COP27, than the leader of the country that holds the outgoing Presidency of the COP refusing to attend.

Unfortunately, the host's Egypt have not shown much more commitment. Instead, Egypt has shown show that it is using COP27 to try to whitewash its massive and serious human rights abuses, to wring foreign currency out of poor Africans and every other visitor to COP27 with price-gouging by hotels and dishonest business practices, and to further suppress the voices of civil society by them participation rights to a greater extent than at any COP in the past. The main driver of ambition at past COPs has been civil society organizations, but at COP27 civil society is being prevented from participating by egregious price-gouging by hotels and intimidation by the Egyptian government. In addition, Egypt seems to have stepped-up its arrest, arbitrary detention and torture of Egyptians who oppose the government that came to power by a military coup. In September, Egypt held a meeting in which it invited American climate envoy John Kerry—who is back again leading the US delegation to COP27. The Egyptian President sat by silently as Kerry declared that paying for climate change (read: meeting obligations to assist developing countries) is just too expensive. At the same time, Egyptian diplomats used the gathering to meet with US and European diplomats in an effort to try to prop up Egypt's failing economy. These actions raise suspicions that Egypt may be planning to sell-out the Africans and other vulnerable countries on climate change to try to prop-up its own oppressive regime at home. These actions also appear to add credence to activist Greta Thunberg's criticism of COP27 to Reuters as a meeting being “held in a tourist paradise in a country that violates many basic human rights … as an opportunity for "people in power ... to [use ] greenwashing, lying and cheating” to maintain their power. Despite the criticism Egypt has pushed ahead. It has setup the Lamborghini Conference Center to host the COP in Sharm el-Sheikh and taken over the tourist designation's public facilities to enlist them in the service of the hosting. It has been holding many behind the scenes meeting with other States diplomats, which despite their lack of transparency or noticeable accomplishments, the Egyptian government has frequently claimed to have been useful. He has also asked Pakistan Prime Minister Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to be a Vice-President of the COP27 to emphasize the horrific effects of climate change, which are exemplified by the devasting flooding that Pakistan recently suffered. The Egyptian officials have also held meetings with civil society, often naively admitting how they will limit their participation, but always ironically stressing that the COP27 will be inclusive. It is within in the above context of a trail of broken promise that COP27 is being held in Africa. The main barometer of success, however, will be what is accomplished. Egypt has emphasized that this will be the implementation COP, meaning that it is time to deliver on promises made, not to merely make new promises that remain unfulfilled. If that is the case, there are at two things that will need to be accomplished if COP27 is to be even a minimal success.

First, Annex I states would have to put finance on the table for developing countries by contributing to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) at least the 100 billion per year they already promised but failed to provide. Today the GCF has less than 10 per cent of the that amount in its coffers. More promises to provide the 100 billion—which is woefully less than the 3 to 5 trillion estimated as being needed each year due to the failure of Annex I countries to meet their earlier pledges—are not enough. That money needs to be transferred to the GCF during COP27. While this is tall order, States reacted quickly and with much more money to the COVID-19 crisis. They can do it if they want.

Second, concrete commitments or at least a way of arriving at concrete and legally binding commitments on mitigation—cutting greenhouse gas emissions—must be agreed in a manner that reflects the much greater historical responsibility of Annex I States. This is an even more difficult task. The G77 and China have been arguing about this with the Western Group and Others (Europe, the United States, Japan, Australia, etc. ) for the good part of two decades with little progress. While the Kyoto Protocol did establish concrete and legally binding mitigation obligations based on a common but differentiated responsibility, the Protocol has not been renewed. The open-ended and largely unfulfilled promises of the Paris Agreement have merely been a delaying strategy. Quite simply rich States do not want to give up the advantages that they acquired by the over exploitation of the atmosphere for over a century; while poor States simply cannot shoulder any more of the burden of protecting the atmosphere without serious harm to their people. This makes the issue one between and rock and hard place.

Will enough States be enlightened enough to give-up their selfish interests for the common good? Can the Egyptian Presidency convince them to do so, despite its own political background? At least these two goals are what the Egyptian Presidency and their government colleagues in Sharm el-Sheikh must try to accomplish. While there will be a few observers there to watch, they really don't have to tell States what they have to do. They have done so repeatedly. Now they can just watch to see if States actually do what is needed.



Le 13/09/2022

Source: The Economist
Source: The Economist 
The upcoming COP27 is being held in a country ruled by a government that came to power by a military coup and has remained since 2013...almost a decade. Originally the African Union's Peace and Security Council suspended Egypt from the African Union because of the military coup as they are required to do under their own rules. However, that condemnation was short-lived and Egypt used its quite competent diplomates to secure approval by the international community of a military coup that violated the right to participate in their own government of every Egyptian.
The right to participate in one’s own country’s government is a right guaranteed by article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. It is also the subject of a communication brought against Egypt that the Commission has refused to address for years claiming that it is still translating the brief submission from English to Arabic as the Egyptian government requested.
As a consequence, COP27 is being held in a country where the government came to power by undemocratic means and then perpetuated its own existence by holding elections after it detained, in some cases murdered, and eliminated all opposition, including from the members of the last fairly elected government in Egypt. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the Egyptian government is propped-up by western governments. The US and EU were allegedly involved in the military coup of 3 July 2013 and thereby contributed to the death of the last fairly-elected President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi in an Egyptian prison in July 2019.

Under these circumstances, one must ask can COP27, which is the African COP hosted by Egypt, be representative of the needs of the people of Africa?

Egypt has skilled diplomats and will undoubtedly deploy them to try to argue for the interests of Africans to some degree. Indeed, in preparation for COP27, even an Egyptian coup leader and still president since shortly after the coup Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, has stressed traditional African concerns like finance for adaptation and loss and damage. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Soukry is a seasoned diplomat and has focused on ‘implementation’ as the goal for COP27, a goal that has not been achieved in any recent COP. In response to a call to open civic space Soukry said protests would be allowed in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh where COP27 is being held, but only those sanctioned by the Egyptian government and the not canceled or postponed by that government.
Sharm itself is already a tourist haven created to bring in foreign currency and to give Cairo’s elites an Egyptian based holiday alternative. It is also a town that already has a heavy security presence to protect tourists and Egyptian elites, with COP27 this security presence is likely to be multiplied several fold. If Egyptian security can suffocate civil society in sprawling Cairo, it can utterly eliminate it in Sharm.
The long-arm control of Egypt’s security forces were on display recently in new Cairo—the new Administrative capital of Egypt that is just a few miles outside of the borders of the sprawling 20 city of Cairo. This new center of government and housing for foreign and Egyptian elites. There was, of course, no civil society demonstrations, not even those calling for the same things the Egyptian government claims to be advocating.
More disturbingly perhaps is the fact that Egypt seemed to give more attention to the message by US Climate Envoy John Kerry. Yes, the very same Kerry that weakened the Paris Agreement to the state of an almost useless instruments by lying to the world that it was a treaty for the USA, when it is not as it is an unratified mere executive agreement that can be ignored whenever the US government wants to ignore it. Kerry’s main message at the secured Egyptian administrative capital was that climate action is too expensive and therefore we can’t expect the rich to pay their fair share. Egypt’s embrace of this message coming from one of its paymasters was not obvious but also not to difficult to discern between the lines of their silence in reaction and their failure to contradict the message.  

Nevertheless, there are other similarly worrying signs. The finance interests advocated by Egypt, while also an interest of the African Union, the G77 and most developing countries, are also in the interest of Egypt's unconstitutionally imposed government. This government has hobbled the Egyptian economy and caused it to survive on handouts from western allies or allowing western allies to exploit Egyptian resources and markets for the profit of western companies and not the Egyptian people. Can such a government be counted on to oppose the developed counties efforts to impose unbearable burdens on developing countries. Or will Egypt sell-out to the interests of the developed countries (USA and EU) to ensure its own economy and foreign currency reserves. Past practices indicates that a sell-out is coming. However, a better question might be will we see it right away or even in time to stop it. The climate talks have been characterized by secrecy, under-the-table deals, elite-to-elite deals, and everything but transparent and inclusive good-faith efforts to achieve the implementation of obligations that the States agreed to in 1992 in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Although at a significant disadvantage at a COP held in a country governed by an unconstitutionally installed government, the real challenge for civil society will be to watch closely enough so as to expose and hopefully stop efforts by the hosts to sell out their own continent and the developing countries. African is poised to lose more than 100 million Africans to the adverse effects of climate change by 2100. This number could increase significantly unless adequate action is taken to increase African States capacity to adapt to climate change. This requires that adequate funds are provided African countries to compensate them for the huge loses already sustained through loss and damage or another compensation mechanisms. The world is long past the deadline for action. Egypt, the G77 and most of the world is correct to point to the good faith implementation of priori obligations as an overdue necessity. But will Egypt have the courage to put its own interests aside for the good to the people of Africa and indeed all of us? Civil society’s efforts to hold the Egyptian authorities to their words, will be crucial.


UN Human Rights Council to Create Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change

Le 14/02/2021

The UN Human Rights Council is poised to create an UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change. This mandate holder would report to the Council on States' efforts to ensure the human rights of their citizens in the face of the adverse effects of climate change.

While the Council has created dozens of mandate holders, the wealthy developed countries have resisted creating the mandate for a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change since 2009, when the overwhelming majority of NGOs from all corners of the globe began calling for the creation of this mandate. Originally they complained about costs and/or redundancy with another environmental mandate, all the while they continued to create country mandates on a politicized basis. Moreover, while adopting several resolutions on the impact of climate change on human rights--acknowledging that the adverse effects of climate change was one of the greatest challenges to human rights in this century--they dragged their feet for predominately selfish and apparently discriminatory reasons.
Finally, in 2019-2020, the developing countries of the Climate Vulnerability Forum demanded the creation of this mandate and found the financing for it. The pandemic in 2020 delayed the creation of this mandate, but in 2021, with the President of the Human Rights Council, Fiji Ambassador Nazahat Shameen Khan, who has been President of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) when Fiji officially hosted the COP (held in Bonn, Germany), it seems inevitable that this mandate will finally be created if developing countries continue to insist. 
The key challenge will now be to find a mandate holder with competence in both human rights and climate change; who is knowledgeable about both the UNFCC climate forum and the Human Rights Council; who is committed to human rights and does not have a record of supporting the views of States who have hampered climate action and climate justice; who has demonstrated credibility in both the field of human rights and climate change; and the who has demonstrated the energy necessary to both advise and encourage States to take adequate action to address the adverse effects of climate change on human rights.

Civil society, particularly in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas, must not only be involved in this process they must lead it. They must put the interests of their people first and ensure that this is a significant step towards the climate justice they have so long been denied.


Letter by Leonardo Boff, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann and Ramsey Clark

Le 01/09/2015

President Daniel Ortega
President Evo Morales
President Rafael Correa
President Nicolás Maduro
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
President Anote Tong
President Abdulla Yameen
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves
Pope Francis
27 August 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The responsibility of humanity for our planet is a moral concern of the highest degree of urgency, as recognized by the compelling encyclical letter entitled ‘Laudato Si’ from Pope Francis. Humanity requires actors with courage and integrity to take urgently needed steps at this year's COP21 in December in Paris to protect all of Humanity. We urge you to act as your conscience dictates and steadfastly resist those willing to settle, or even strive for, mediocrity and political compromise. If you delegates act, together, with courage and conviction, we can achieve some specific common goals and save future generations from the adverse effects of climate change.
Now is the time to act as steps are already underway setting a path for future generations while defining the legacy of our current generation. 
The Third Financing for Development Conference that recently concluded and the Addis Ababa Agenda that was agreed to is the first of three steps towards creating some momentum towards a sustainable and humane world in which all people, especially the most vulnerable enjoy solidarity and development. The Conference agreed to an outcome document that did little to change existing structures. These are structures that the encyclical Laudato Si’ correctly noted embed a current economic system that is both fuelling the climate crisis and preventing us from taking the necessary actions to avoid disaster.
Similarly the Sustainable Development Goals that will be adopted in September constitute another opportunity to move towards a more equal world based on equity and respect for all persons' human rights, including the right to development. Although there is a stronger defence of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and other important principles, there are few concrete commitments to action. Again, it appears that, in general, the lowest common denominator will be achieved in this second step towards securing development for all.
The final step will be the climate talks that will be held in Paris. The two negotiating sessions that will be held in Bonn in August/September and October of this year offer the final opportunity to raise our level of ambition in the new agreement. 
We urge you to coordinate together to call for, at minimum, the following:
(1) To put in the new agreement emission limits that will keep global average temperature rises under 1.5 degrees Celsius;
(2) To ensure respect for the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities; (3) To ensure that Annex I countries take the lead in providing adequate mitigation and adequate financial resources, capacity-building and technology access to developing countries. In this regard we call upon you to support the proposal to allocate 0.5% of the GNI for climate finance;
(4) To ensure that health consequences climate change are clearly identified as a major concern in the Adaptation section of the new agreement; and
(5) To call for the establishment of an International Climate Justice Tribunal.
We are aware that defending these actions is extremely difficult in the current political environment. It will require the courage to stand-up to significant dissent, based on the narrow self-interests of a small minority of specific but powerful States, but meeting today’s challenges and undertaking all these actions are necessary to fulfill our responsibilities towards our fellow human beings, the community of life and towards God.  Our choice is between acting now or perishing as fools.

Leonardo Boff
Member of the International Initiative on The Earth Charter

Ramsey Clark
Attorney General of the United States of America, 1967-1969
Deputy U.S. Attorney General 1965-1967
International Human Rights Lawyer and activist

Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann
President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 2008-2009
Foreign Minister of the Republic of Nicaragua, 1979-1990


Bonn ADP2 and one step closer...maybe

Le 01/09/2015

As States and civil society have begun their discussion in Bonn around the new agreement to implment the UNFCCC some things are now becomign clearer. 

1. Developed States are still unwilling to take adequate action and don't seem like they will budge before December, or soon afterwards.

2. Developing States now face irreversable harm and are focused on loss and damage to try to deal with it, after mitigation to avoid it and adaptation to protect them from the adverse consequenecs of climate change  seeme to have failed to materialize in the needed timeframe.

3. Bolivia is still pushing for a Climate Justice Tribunal and for non-market mechanisms, but both seem distant dreams.

4. Mitigation is a disaster. Less then 50 (of the 194) States have accepted the Doha interim agreement and no developing State seems willing to undertake any thing near the emission reductions that are needed.

5. The talk of keeing global warming under 1.5 degrees Celisus seems like a red herring being perpetuated by the developed countiries as much as by developed countries. The latter see it as a necessity to protect their people. The former see it as a carrot they can use to keep more innovated ideas from getting a hearing. In the end it is likely States could agree on 2 degrees, but even that will be meaningless as there is so little in the new treaty that will help us to achieve this goal. 

Finally, Leonardo Boff (renown theologian), Miguel D'Escoto (former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister and 63rd UN GA President) and Ramsey Clark (former 66th US Attroney General)  joined a letter to about ten world leaders urging them to act with courage on climate chnage. The letter will be posted shortly. 


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