Archive for the 'Intersessional' Category

International Youth at UNFCCC Call out Emissions Loopholes in Forestry Text

Cross-posted from

UN negotiators from Annex I (developed) countries have been working to push through text on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) by the end of the Bonn negotiations on Friday, June 11. The draft text, however, creates several loopholes that allow developed countries to effectively hide emissions from land use as if they do not exist. By forcing through the text without removing these loopholes, developed countries would be allowed to emit millions of tons of new carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions without accounting for them. This would lead to a major deviation from emissions reductions demanded by science and would have catastrophic consequences for developing countries and future generations. International youth observers at the UN conference responded to the threat of the text being finalized with these disastrous loopholes by launching a campaign to alert negotiators to the irresponsibility and unacceptability of such a decision for young and future generations.

Youth delegate acting as hidden emissions outside UNFCCC in Bonn

To begin the campaign on Tuesday morning, we greeted negotiators arriving for the day with a hide-and-seek game between youth dressed up as greenhouse gas emissions and inept emissions accountants unable to find them for lack of trying. The 12 of us dressed up as tonnes of greenhouse gases and hid behind trees and camoflauged themselves with twigs outside the conference center as negotiators arrived. Meanwhile, two fumbling accountants attempted half-heartedly to find and enter the hidden emissions into the books while engaging delegates to explain their inability to find the emissions, often in plain sight, given the problematic rules in the current text that make accounting voluntary. Continue reading ‘International Youth at UNFCCC Call out Emissions Loopholes in Forestry Text’

U.S.A. Earns 1st Fossil of the Day in Bonn

Fossil of the Day award

<cross-posted on SustainUS’s Agents of Change blog and The Climate Community

The United States earned the 1st Fossil of the Day Award here at the  United Nations climate negotiations in Bonn. Nearly a week had passed where no country had acted badly enough in the negotiations to deserve a shameful Fossil, until the U.S.’s nomination.

The U.S. grabbed the title for blocking a discussion on greenhouse gas mitigation actions. The discussion would have helped build consensus on post-2012 actions to stop greenhouse gas pollution. Lack of a clean energy and climate law is pushing the U.S. to block an international discussion on future climate agreements (sound familiar?).

The discussion had been proposed by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Many AOSIS countries are under extreme threat from rising sea levels and other worsening climate impacts. They also have some of the least capacity to deal with these impacts, and have contributed to climate change pollution the least of most nations.

The Fossil of the Day awards, run by the Climate Action Network (CAN), were created to highlight the countries doing the most to block progress in the United Nations negotiations.

Official press release from CAN:

Continue reading ‘U.S.A. Earns 1st Fossil of the Day in Bonn’

Update From Bonn: The Crazy Killing of the Kyoto Protocol

The only internationally legally binding agreement on carbon emission reductions is being abandoned by its former champion – the European Union.

International negotiations are truly crazy places. In between the ten page daily agenda which ranges from “Item 3 – a shared vision for long-term cooperative action” to “Conference and film festival: toward a new justice tryptch” (you can actually check that – that was the first and last item on the UN climate talks daily programme for 3 June) there are all sorts of personalities and zany ideas at play. For example, outgoing Executive-Secretary of the talks, Yvo De Boer, sparked controversy this week with a leaked memo calling the Copenhagen talks a ‘muffin’ instead of a ‘cake’ for their complete failure to address the climate crisis.

In a discussion about the role of NGOs in the negotiations yesterday, Yvo, as he’s universally known, recounted that he’d always appreciated the ‘fossil of the day’ award, which NGOs give out to highlight the most backward action in international climate policy each day. He particularly appreciated receiving it once when he was just a delegate for the Netherlands and he had the temerity to suggest that ‘the United States would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol.’

That the US would not ratify Kyoto, the only international agreement on legally binding carbon emission reduction targets, is not such a zany idea – the US has a terrible history of agreeing to international standards on anything from the rights of women to the ‘oh so now’ law of the sea. That the US is now undermining the Kyoto Protocol, even though it is not a member, is not crazy but is very disappointing. What’s truly crazy is that in civilised Bonn, in the heart of the European Union, the EU, formerly the champion of both international law and environmental integrity would vacate the field on both fronts.

The two fronts (environmental integrity and legal integrity) converge in the contest between what type of international instrument should be used to reduce carbon emissions – that is to say, how countries will work together, or not, to fight this global problem. One option is a system where countries collectively set a total target that is science based and fair, then negotiate their specific reductions and under a system that makes e sure everybody lives up to their promises. The second option, rather less effectively, allows countries to merely announce on the international stage what they have already decided to do domestically, even if the total effort is woefully inadequate. . Option 1 is represented by the Kyoto Protocol and Bali Action Plan system and option 2 is the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ system.  The latter isn’t global cooperation; it’s a take it or leave it game of chicken that leaves the planet in peril and millions in danger.

On the environmental integrity front the Copenhagen Accord system has just taken a serious beating. The prestigious, peer-reviewed and respected scientific journal, Nature, published an article on the 22 April 2010, which used the very scientific term ‘paltry’ to describe the emission reduction pledges in the Copenhagen Accord. The article concludes those paltry pledges would give a greater than 50% chance that warming will exceed 3 degrees by 2100. 3 degrees is devastating, catastrophic, climate change. It’s the climate change that most people, plants and animals won’t survive. A greater than 50% chance. Would you get on a plane, with your daughter, your brother, your friend, your pet dog and your favourite plant if there was a greater than 50% chance of crashing? Didn’t think so.

But the EU is thinking about it. In negotiations here in Bonn, the EU refused to say whether it would commit to a second round of Kyoto Protocol emission reduction targets. This is despite the Group of 77, (deceptively a bloc of over 130 of the world’s poorest countries) telling the meeting that:

‘The continuity of the Kyoto Protocol is an essential element for the future of the climate regime…failure sends a negative signal [by rich countries] regarding their ambition and contribution to a strong climate regime’

The EU used to be characterised by its ‘ambition and contribution’ to a strong international climate regime, but here in Bonn they are showing a distinct lack of courage, and as the German’s say, when you lose your courage you lose everything (real German saying). Similarly, Australia, whose Prime Minister was elected just 3 years ago on the promise of ratifying Kyoto because it is such an important treaty, was even more direct than the EU in negotiations in indicating that Australia (for a group of developed countries) didn’t think science-based and legally enforceable targets were very important. That in effect, Australia would be complicit in killing Kyoto.

This division over direction in international climate policy is resting on a knife-edge. Just months ago the outgoing Labour Government in the UK announced it could support a second round of Kyoto. Mexico, the host of December’s UN Climate Conference, where the second round of Kyoto targets is supposed to be agreed made clear that despite imperfections, ‘the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding agreement that we have.’ And Norway clearly indicated that it would sign on for a second round. If the EU were to take leadership again perhaps the world could get back on track to a sensible, science based climate policy instead of the crazy-talk coming from countries in Bonn right now.

For more detailed accounts of negotiations see The Third World Network’s daily reports.

You can follow Alex Rafalowicz at Bonn negotiations on twitter @climatedebtorg

Climate Change and Activists Won’t Delay, But United Nations Will

From April 9th to 11th I attended the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change interim negotiations in Bonn, Germany.  This session was the first meeting of the convention since Copenhagen in December and the goal was to create a negotiating schedule for the months leading up to COP16 in Cancun.  It was supposed to be everything that Copenhagen wasn’t: low-key, productive, and inclusive. I wish I could tell you that the meetings were efficient and resulted in an action plan for 2010, but I cannot.  In fact, by 6:30 pm on Sunday when I left to catch a train back home, the plenary sessions for the day had yet to begin (they were scheduled to start at 11:30 am) and no decisions regarding further meetings of the UNFCCC before Cancun had been reached. Despite the lack of journalists, disgruntled Non Governmental Organizations, and activists taking to the streets in frustration, the United Nations could not even get it together to schedule some meetings and come up with an action plan for how to move forward after the failure that was Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, outside of the United Nations territory, climate change is wreaking havoc on communities and youth are struggling to understand why the United Nations feel the freedom to waste our time when climate change is happening now and will not delay no matter how many meetings do or do not happen.  Last week in West Virginia, 29 employees of Massey Energy died as a result of an explosion at a mining site, the worst coal mining tragedy since 1970.  On April 15th, several activists attended a hearing on Capital Hill titled “The Role of Coal in a New Energy Age” and confronted dirty energy CEOs about the human and ecological implications of coal mining.  And all across the nation, youth climate activists are meeting with their elected officials and informing that they need to Show Me Democracy by taking leadership on climate change legislation.  Clearly, activists and climate change are not waiting for the United Nations.

Continue reading ‘Climate Change and Activists Won’t Delay, But United Nations Will’

Is Norway Trying to Say Something?

Hm, So I’m listening to National Public Radio today and I hear that our illustrious President has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As I listen, I learn (ignoramus that I am) that the committee for the prize is located in Norway as opposed to Sweden, home of the other Nobel Prizes. Interesting. As I listen to the story, surprised that a man with few global accomplishments is getting the award, I remember all the way back to yesterday when news broke that Norway upped it’s emissions reductions to 40% below 1990 by 2020 at the Bangkok session of the climate talks.

In their statement on the prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave their reasons, along with seeking to end nuclear proliferation, for choosing President Obama:

“Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.” –Nobel Prize Committee

And they also endorsed President Obama’s statement that:

“Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

Indeed, now IS the time for a global response, a global response led by the United States and other industrialized nations to arrive  at a treaty in Copenhagen that is fair ambitious and binding. And just so you know, Mr. President, Copenhagen isn’t too far away from Oslo where you will be accepting your award on Dec. 10, so how about you hop over and save the negotiations after you are awarded ‘Mr. World Peace.” This isn’t global pageantry, this is survival.

World Compares Apples to Apples. Canada Wants Fruit Combo.

So here’s why I interrupted my frivolous YouTube watching of recent Glee episodes (which I watch primarily to life-plan for the day that climate change is solved and I can finally pursue my dream of amateur Broadway. It’s between that and becoming the Jodie Foster à la Contact):

Compare... what, you say?

It’s that time of month again. Alllll the countries in the world (that can afford it) are in Bankok for a United Nations meeting on climate change. There has been a handful of them this year, about once every 6 weeks. They are discussion and working meetings for countries to talk about their climate change commitments.

The last of this year (where all the decisions have to be made) is in Copenhagen in December. (Kind of like each week of So You Think You Can Dance Canada leading up to the final showdown, and everybody wins in their heart regardless of those who technically come out on top.)

One would think, hope, etc, that the United Nations is an efficient and effective playground for ideas and decisions that ultimately impact the world for the better. Today in “plenary”, the main hall in talks that include all countries, Canada dragged out the conversation for a little longer than I would deem allowable, even by democratic standards.

Continue reading “World Compares Apples to Apples” here…

A Different Tone for Action Factory with Tent City Action

Cross posted from Action Factory DC – by Julie Erickson

Despite the diversity of actions we’ve carried out this summer, I believe the Action Factory has developed a unique ‘Action Factory’ style that rings through nearly all of our actions. Our style is usually comedic and gimmicky, and our message always positive. Rather than highlighting the often dismal political and scientific realities of today’s world, our actions are instead suggestive of the change we desire and the future we envision. At their core, almost all our actions affirm the now-famous cliché, “yes we can”:

Climate change is complex and it’s difficult to talk about complexity in today’s news media, so we at the Action Factory have stayed away from communicating much about the complexities of climate change in our actions. Instead we’ve dumbed things way down for the sake of getting attention and keeping an up-beat tone. This has been very effective and I’m glad that through our actions, we’ve gained a reputation for being optimistic and hopeful — because we are.

Continue reading ‘A Different Tone for Action Factory with Tent City Action’

Protest: State Department Ignores Climate Refugees

Update: Protest begins!  Starting the 24 hour vigil in front of the State Department

Read Kalen’s post on for more details

Climate change is forcing people to leave their homes, and even forcing entire nations to sink beneath the waves.  Yet climate refugees might not even be included in the international climate agreement being developed for Copenhagen.

At last week’s Bonn III negotiations (the talks to get ready for the big Copenhagen negotiations), the one line of text that referred to climate refugees was bracketed.  That means the text is flagged for possible approval, instead of being firmly included.  This slight change makes the US less responsible for the problem.  The United States would rather not even use the word ‘refugees,’ fearing its strong implications, and instead would use the word ‘migrants.’ Why?  Because a ‘migrant’ is someone who decides to move.

Peoples’ homes are being destroyed.  They are not going to be moving voluntarily, and any effort to make it seem like they are is a blatant shirking of responsibility on the part of American diplomats, most notably Hillary Clinton. Continue reading ‘Protest: State Department Ignores Climate Refugees’

Update from Canada’s Lead Negotiator

michael martin zoe caron

Yesterday’s online conversation with Canada’s Chief Negotiator, Mr Michael Martin. Read below for both the actual and the between-the-lines versions of this exchange. If you have questions you would like to ask him, email .

The questions:

  1. What was Canada aiming to achieve with the intervention made in the Finance sub-committee [yesterday]?
  2. What is the primary objective for the Canadian delegation this week?
  3. Is the Canadian delegation going to (or want to) give the chair/facilitators a mandate to revise the text?

Continue reading “Update from Canada’s Lead Negotiator” here…

The UN Read-, Watch-, and Sing-Along

Cross-posted from Adopt a Negotiator campaign.

Governments have before them (in the aforementioned LCA session) anegotiating text: a framework of what the next step after, or within, the Kyoto Protocol will be. This document is public and available for download here.

(Note: this text appears to only currently be available in English. Don’t worry though – I hear that English is becoming the universal language anyway. The United Nations is probably testing the waters for a United Language – and where better than to test it then in practice!)

The chair who is running the LCA session has also written a personal note to set the tone for the talks. (Note: Also only in English, in true United Language fashion).

You may also… Wait for it…  Watch the web-cast LIVE of the UN negotiations. (!!!)

(Warning: This may bring feelings of over-stimulation. Who needs Wii when you have Yvo de Boer?)


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