….And, after more than four years of negotiations, the countries formally recognized that how we manage agricultural lands can be a significant part of the climate solution for carbon sequestration, water, biodiversity and other benefits.
At a COP23 panel on this topic, Dr. Deborah Bossio of The Nature Conservancy, reported on a recent publication showing that natural climate solutions could make up more than 1/3 of the emissions reductions needed to stay below the 2°C warming limit by 2030 per the Paris accords. She also reported on a new study she coauthored that better management of cropland soils could conservatively sequester up to 7 billion tons (Gt) of CO2e per year or about 18% of annual global emissions, while also providing food and water security.
COP23 featured multiple presentations and discussions on nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. Barron Joseph Orr of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, spoke about “optimizing your land” and reminded us that “you can’t have biodiversity above ground unless it’s in the soil.” Another panel featured Batio Brassiere, Minister of the Environment for Green Economy and Climate Change from Burkino Faso. He explained how “agroecology can help save the environment, improve living conditions, increase productivity and remove carbon from the atmosphere.”
And, Inger Anderson, Director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature summed it up when she said, “When you invest in nature, nature invests right back into our communities and resilience.”…
It was an inspiring couple of weeks in Germany for the 2017 UN climate meeting representing Point Blue for its first time as an official Observer Organization. COP23 (the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), convened by Fiji and hosted by Bonn, focused on developing the “rulebook” for implementing the 2015 Paris climate agreement to keep increases in global temperature well below 2°C or 3.6°F since the pre-industrial era.
And, for the first-time ever, the countries (parties to the UNFCCC) agreed to work on agriculture and climate change, including how to improve adaptation, co-benefits and resilience; soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility, including water management; livestock management systems, as well as socioeconomic and food security aspects. See here for my blog post for various views on key outcomes of COP23.
On a personal note, it was fantastic to meet so many committed leaders from all over the world who are working towards our common goal of a safe climate and healthy planet. In addition to meeting mayors, other elected officials, business people and top UN leaders from Pittsburgh and Peru to Kuwait and Mozambique, I had the honor of meeting colleagues from conservation non-profits across the globe. Every time I introduced myself as being from California, I was warmly received! And I found that Point Blue really is on the cutting edge of addressing nature-based solutions to benefit wildlife and human communities, although there is much more we need to do.
With Mayor and regional leader, Maria Helena J. Correia Langa of Mandlakazi, Mozambique.
Amidst all of the excitement, I felt that a sense of urgency was missing, not from the many scientists and civic leaders who presented, but from the formal negotiations (perhaps in part due to the lack of committed US leadership).
Leaders of island nations call for urgent action on climate change at COP23. Pictured: Environmental Minister from Dominica addressing closing plenary.
Fiji, as President of COP23, had hoped to light a fire under the delegates to take whatever actions are necessary before 2020 to stay below 1.5°C. They, along with other “small island developing states” (or large ocean states, as described by one of their leaders!), are literally on the front lines of climate change, already experiencing devastating impacts from sea level rise and extreme storm events. Despite the ‘drua’ (traditional ocean sailing canoe) situated prominently at the conference venue, the bigger-than-life island photos adorning walls throughout and other reminders that we are all literally in the same boat, my guess is that they may also have been disappointed with the lack of significant progress.
CA Governor Jerry Brown speaking at one of several COP23 appearances.
As Governor Brown concluded at the US Climate Action Pavilion, “economy is rooted in ecosystems”…. and “we are not where we need to be to prevent catastrophic warming.” He stated emphatically that “we have to create a different consciousness about what it is to be a human being in the 21st century.” He implored us, “Don’t be complacent. We face unprecedented threats to everything we hold dear. Be on the edge of your seat. Push yourself to the furthest degree. Billions of people are depending on us to go even further.”
Powerful… and true.
Hilda Heine, the first woman President of the Marshall Islands, shared the meaning of the Fijian word “chumamich” – tenacity, determination, and resilience on a long sea voyage when tasked with ensuring the safety of the passengers on the journey.
Working together with “chumamich,” each of us must redouble our efforts to secure a healthy future for us all.
After 4+ years of negotiations, countries (parties to the UNFCCC) agreed to work on a series of efforts around agriculture and climate change. Below are some highlights from the draft recommendations. Countries and observers have been asked to submit their views on what should be included in the work by 31 March 2018, with options including how to improve soil carbon and fertility, how to assess adaptation and resilience and the creation of better livestock management systems.
…Invites parties and observers to submit by 31 March 2018, their views on elements to be included in the work referred to in paragraph 1 above for consideration at the forty eighth session of the subsidiary bodies (April–May 2018), starting with but not limited to the following:
Parties should submit their views via the submission portal at, starting with but not limited to the following:
(a) Modalities for implementation of the outcomes of the five in-session workshops
on issues related to agriculture and other future topics that may arise from this work;
(b) Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience;
(c) Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management;
(d) Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and
resilient agricultural systems;
(e) Improved livestock management systems;
(f) Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector.
CO2 could soon reach levels that, it’s widely agreed, will lead to catastrophe.
Carbon dioxide removal technology represents either the ultimate insurance policy or the ultimate moral hazard.
It’s been calculated that to equilibrate to current CO2 levels the planet still needs to warm by half a degree. And every ten days another billion tons of carbon dioxide are released.
….This past April, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record four hundred and ten parts per million. The amount of CO2 in the air now is probably greater than it’s been at any time since the mid-Pliocene, three and a half million years ago, when there was a lot less ice at the poles and sea levels were sixty feet higher. This year’s record will be surpassed next year, and next year’s the year after that. Even if every country fulfills the pledges made in the Paris climate accord—and the United States has said that it doesn’t intend to—carbon dioxide could soon reach levels that, it’s widely agreed, will lead to catastrophe, assuming it hasn’t already done so.
Carbon-dioxide removal is, potentially, a trillion-dollar enterprise because it offers a way not just to slow the rise in CO2 but to reverse it. The process is sometimes referred to as “negative emissions”: instead of adding carbon to the air, it subtracts it. Carbon-removal plants could be built anywhere, or everywhere. Construct enough of them and, in theory at least, CO2 emissions could continue unabated and still we could avert calamity. Depending on how you look at things, the technology represents either the ultimate insurance policy or the ultimate moral hazard…
…still more warming is locked in. There’s so much inertia in the climate system, which is as vast as the earth itself, that the globe has yet to fully adjust to the hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide that have been added to the atmosphere in the past few decades. It’s been calculated that to equilibrate to current CO2 levels the planet still needs to warm by half a degree. And every ten days another billion tons of carbon dioxide are released. Last month, the World Meteorological Organization announced that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere jumped by a record amount in 2016….
…Experts I spoke to said that the main reason C.C.S. (carbon capture and storage) hasn’t caught on is that there’s no inducement to use it. Capturing the CO2 from a smokestack consumes a lot of power—up to twenty-five per cent of the total produced at a typical coal-burning plant. And this, of course, translates into costs. What company is going to assume such costs when it can dump CO2 into the air for free?…
….the United Nations Environment Programme released its annual Emissions Gap Report [that called] the difference between the emissions reductions needed to avoid dangerous climate change and those which countries have pledged to achieve as “alarmingly high.” For the first time, this year’s report contains a chapter on negative emissions. “In order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement,” it notes, “carbon dioxide removal is likely a necessary step.”
As a technology of last resort, carbon removal is, almost by its nature, paradoxical. It has become vital without necessarily being viable. It may be impossible to manage and it may also be impossible to manage without. ♦
…COP23, the second “conference of the parties” since the Paris Agreement was struck in 2015, promised to be a somewhat technical affair as countries continued to negotiate the finer details of how the agreement will work from 2020 onwards.
However, it was also the first set of negotiations since the US, under the presidency of Donald Trump, announced its intention earlier this year to withdraw from the Paris deal. And it was the first COP to be hosted by a small-island developing state with Fiji taking up the presidency, even though it was being held in Bonn…
Carbon Brief covers all the summit’s key outcomes and talking points.
One notable, yet low-profile outcome from the conference this year was the end of a deadlock on agriculture which had lasted for years. Parties agreed to work over the next few years on a series of issues linking climate change and agriculture. They agreed to streamline two separate technical discussions on this topic into one process. Countries have now been asked to submit their views on what should be included in the work by 31 March 2018, with options including how to improve soil carbon and fertility, how to assess adaptation and resilience and the creation of better livestock management systems.
The 195 countries signing the Paris Agreement (yes, that includes the United States, albeit quietly) remain committed to a collective framework on international climate action, and
The international community still has yet to send a strong signal that it is committed to transitioning away from fossil fuels.
True, an alliance of 19 countries, headed by the UK and Canada, committed on Thursday to phase out coal production. (The Guardian, calling the move “a political watershed” in its headline, noted that electricity produced by coal in the UK has fallen from 40 percent to 2 percent since 2012).
But little progress was made defining specific emissions-cutting guidelines. Activists call for a “robust set of rules,” but that rulebook remains woefully thin. (A U.S. talk about the necessity of fossil fuels sparked one of the conference’s biggest protests. Our quick read: “Song, dance and protests at US energy talk.” Ecowatch has a first-person account.)
The Center for International Environmental Law saw “two rays of light:” Governments agreed to integrate gender equality into climate action, and they committed to giving indigenous peoples equal footing in UN climate responses.
It is further sign that the climate talks are also becoming the way the global community addresses environmental and social justice.
“The decisions related to gender and indigenous peoples are welcome developments,” said Sébastien Duyck, a senior attorney for CIEL. The climate talks, he said, are “where theory becomes practice, with real consequences for communities around the globe.
Steady progress on implementation rules for the Paris Agreement, but more work to do
Two years after adopting the Paris Agreement, the global climate policy process is on cruise-control in the race toward a low-carbon, resilient future. We are still headed in the right direction, but since the U.S. took its foot off the accelerator, the risk of global climate action slowing down has increased. the pace of increasing ambitions has slowed down.
We are in the race towards a low-carbon, prosperous and healthy future, being chased by a poorer and less secure one. It’s time to accelerate.
November 20 2017 by Andrew Deutz, Director of International Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy; Read full article here
Over the past two weeks, leaders and representatives from around the world came together to build on the promise of the Paris Agreement.
The conference gets a grade of “meets expectations.” The negotiators got down to the orderly business of working out the rules to implement, assess, and advance the Paris Agreement. The processes did not get overly distracted by the U.S. government’s announced withdrawal from the accord. In fact, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron celebrated the energy generated by the leadership of U.S. governors and mayors. Nevertheless, the absence of national U.S. leadership was evident within the negotiating process this week and for driving more ambitious climate action in the future.
Two years after adopting the Paris Agreement, the global climate policy process is on cruise-control in the race toward a low-carbon, resilient future. We are still headed in the right direction, but since the U.S. took its foot off the accelerator, the risk of global climate action slowing down has increased. the pace of increasing ambitions has slowed down. It’s time for someone to jump in the driver’s seat and floor it.
Outside of the formal negotiations, the climate conference is also the world’s biggest trade fair of innovation and inspiration on climate action, and there were clear signs of commitments:
Every country needs to increase its climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. New science shows that nature can provide up to 37 percent of the emissions reductions necessary to stay on track for the Paris Agreement goals by 2030. Organizations including The Nature Conservancy worked to highlight the opportunities that forests, farms, and wetlands can play to help countries meet their existing climate commitments and accelerate those efforts in the future.
Financial innovation remains key to driving climate action and investment…[to] bring together the world’s richest and its most vulnerable nations to provide insurance solutions for poor and vulnerable people exposed to the impacts of climate change…
Climate leadership now comes in diverse forms. COP 23 saw strong representation from growing state and municipal voices in the U.S., led by the U.S. Climate Alliance. Governors and mayors from across the U.S. highlighted the commitments and progress made in 14 states and hundreds of cities to advance their contributions to the goals set by the U.S. in the Paris Agreement. Currently, those jurisdictions will reach approximately 36 percent of the original American commitment. We look forward to the Climate Action Summit to be convened by Governor Brown of California in 2018 to augment and accelerate action.
In the two years since Paris, governments, companies, and communities around the world have stepped up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the risks they face from climate change. Taking climate action presents huge opportunities for innovation in all facets of human life – in how the world produces and uses energy, designs buildings and cities, and conserves and uses lands and coastlines. Every day, new thinking and science is emerging to contribute to safer communities, stronger economies, and healthier lands and waters.
2017 has shown us in a myriad of places that the negative impacts of climate change are upon us. We are in the race towards a low-carbon, prosperous and healthy future, being chased by a poorer and less secure one. It’s time to accelerate.
That is the summary of the questions to be answered through the “talanoa dialogue”, which officially starts as these talks wrap up. Fiji will convene a year-long process alongside 2018 [UNFCCC COP24] hosts Poland, according to an informal note published late on Thursday.
The plan, which they will ask ministers to endorse this afternoon, takes the UN special report on 1.5C due next September as a key input – anchoring that and not 2C as the target. A draft “Bula momentum for implementation” confirmed the need for an extra meeting next year to make sure the Paris rulebook gets finished….
An interesting experience here at COP23 in Bonn has been to attend some press conferences. See here for the full listing of press conferences and other meetings held at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Convention of the Parties (COP23). I believe they are strictly limited to 30 minutes. Some are scientific presentations with a media Q&A (see example below).
Speakers include renowned climate scientists from around the world as well as leaders of major nonprofits and others. It is interesting just to look through the list (from Nov 6- Nov 17, 2017) and fascinating to watch some of them!
Here is an example of one:
Dr. Johannes Lehmann, Soil organic carbon sequestration and food security
FYI, in case you are interested, here is a link to a short overview video showing the location and layout of the “Bula Zone” restricted to the country delegations, observer organizations (like Point Blue) and IGOs (intergovernmental organization). And here is a link to a 2 minute video showing more of the “Bonn Zone” portion of the UN climate meeting (the Bonn zone is open to many others nominated by those in the first group.
Whither the Paris Agreement? The Future of the Paris Agreement
Thursday, November 16th | 12:00- 1:00 | Fiji Dome [NOTE: this gives a great clear overview of the Paris Agreement and actions needed between now and 2020] Speakers: Todd Stern, former Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Obama Administration and Sue Biniaz, the former principal legal advisor on the climate negotiations for the United States. Hosted by: America’s Pledge
Maintaining U.S. Engagement in International Climate Finance
Saturday, November 11th | 12:00 – 13:30 | Fiji Dome Speakers: Vice President Al Gore; Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon; Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia; Frank Klipsch, Mayor of Davenport, Iowa and Co-Chair, MRCTI; Dan Zarrilli, Senior Director, Climate Policy and Programs, City of New York; Valerie Smith, Director and Global Head, Corporate Sustainability, Citi; Kevin Rabinovitch, Global VP of Sustainability and Chief Climate Officer, Mars, Inc. Hosted by: Center for American Progress; World Resources Institute; CDP; Mississippi River Cities &Towns Initiative (MRCTI)