LIVE IN LIMA – DAY 4: UN COP20 climate change summit



Latest headlines:
China outlines vision for 2015 UN climate change deal
– 65% chance of El Nino, says NOAA
– Super Typhoon heads towards Philippines
– UN deal needs review mechanism, warn NGOs
– Norway agrees to partial divestment

1633 – Christiana Figueres addressed the obvious concern of youth participation. She said she could “fully identify with your frustration” that young people are not being taken into consideration as much as they could. “But you have to understand this is an intergovernmental process; it is a conversation among governments,” and that is never going to change, she said.

Instead, she offered the following suggestions. Youth should make formal submissions on the texts being discussed by parties. “Do not underestimate the power of submissions. Take advantage of that because it is your formal avenue to influence the process,” she said.

She also proposed setting up a section on the UN’s climate website dedicated to young people, called Voices of Youth. The website, she says, has had 10,000 hits a day during the talks here in Lima.

Finally, social media. “You are all born with the chip of social media in your brain. Please exploit that. I have no idea of what is possible but my sense is that you’re not exploiting that as much as you could. Please don’t be so antiquated as to think the only way to participate is in body.”

1616 – Maria Escalante, a youth delegate from the College of the Atlantic brings up the topic of youth participation: how can young people make sure they are fairly represented at the UN climate talks? Another young person wants to ensure there is a forum for youth participation throughout the year, rather than having to wait for each annual COP.

“Participation of youth is definitely a leitmotif” at this discussion, says Christiana Figueres. She is making notes and indicates that she and Manuel Pulgar Vidal will discuss the topics raised here later.

1610 – COP president Manuel Pulgar Vidal has joined the circle. This is turning into some high level youth engagement.

1558 – I’m at a meeting between UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and the youth delegates. She starts the consultation by proposing everyone sits in a circle on the floor, so it’s easier for everyone to see each other.

Figueres is asking for feedback from youth on the talks here. A medical student suggests that there has not been enough focus on health at this round of negotiations in Lima. Another asks how youth from the south can be brought together.

1510 – UN secretary Ban Ki-moon will be at the UN climate talks in Lima next week, the organisers have confirmed. He was also present last year in Warsaw, but since then he has also hosted his landmark climate summit in New York, so it will be interesting to hear how his views have evolved, and whether he can give delegates the boost needed to bring the talks to a successful conclusion.

1504 – In a blog post, Ruth Davis from Greenpeace has spelled out one of the main difficulties that has delayed progress at this COP so far: whether or not the text that countries are working off should be displayed on the screen. Sounds trivial? Here’s why it matters.

“Many countries favour a negotiation process that involves working line by line through a draft text consisting of all the options proposed by countries on every topic.

“This has the great advantage of giving a voice to every nation, whatever their size and wealth, and creates the potential for an agreement that is fully “owned” by all those who sign it. For this reason some would argue that it is also the best way of avoiding a deal that merely rubber stamps the G2 China–US bilateral plan announced last month – a plan which whilst it is of massive political significance, is nowhere near ambitious enough on its own to avoid devastating changes to the world’s climate.

“The disadvantage of this approach is that without extraordinary discipline and a will to come to a conclusion, it can rapidly lead to a text of baroque proportions – perhaps running to hundreds of pages – which is very difficult to whittle down into a document short enough for leaders to agree on and sign. Such a text, along with all the complex individual negotiations it spawns, is also the perfect playground for any country or group of countries wanting to delay action, without being seen openly to do so. Draft text in the run up to Copenhagen ran to nearly 200 pages.”

1450 – All the way back in the UK, the Church of England has made a powerful statement about climate change by taking to task oil giants BP and Shell on their carbon footprints.

The Anglican church, which remains a shareholder in the companies despite pressure to divest, has submitted resolutions challenging the companies to play a more constructive role in the transition to a low carbon economy.

“This is one of the ways in which the Church of England’s national investing bodies are deepening and strengthening their engagement with the businesses in which they invest on the ethical issues that are of the greatest importance to the Church,” wrote Edward Mason, Church Commissioners head of responsible investment.

“Of course oil and gas companies have a particular responsibility because the fuels they produce contribute to climate change when they are burned.”

1441 – Here’s some of the action that’s been going on today from the young people at the talks. In case you’re just tuning in, it’s Young and Future Generations Day today.

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1430 – The Super Typhoon about to hit the Philippines is once again providing the backdrop for this round of talks. We spoke to Filipino activist Denise Fontanilla about what the recurring disasters mean for people trying to celebrate Christmas back in her home country.

But here in Lima the talks are progressing nonetheless. I heard this morning from Christian Aid’s Mohamed Adow that one of the big issues now is getting a review mechanism into the deal, so that once countries’ contributions to the new deal can be assessed for whether they are adequate and fair in the face of the climate challenge.

Our reporter Megan Darby has news from the Chinese delegation. Lead negotiator Su Wei said that China will publish its own contribution to the UN deal at least in the first half of next year. The UN has requested that all countries in a position to do some come forward by March with their climate targets.

There’s been lots of action from youth, in view of the fact that it’s Young and Future Generations Day here in Lima, including a lovely song from some of the youth activists here.

1338 – Hearing voices across the corridor, I’ve moved into another room, where youth and negotiators have come together to discuss why young people will be the ones bringing change to the UN climate talks. I filmed a short extract of the song I heard. Voila:

Rene Orellana, head of the Bolivian delegation here at the talks, is one of the negotiators here to engage with youth. “Here, we people of papers think that issues of life, Mother Earth, happiness, are not part of our agenda, and we start discussing markets, economy and legal issues, instead of thinking what is behind all of this, and what is behind all of this is protecting life,” he says.

1315 – I’m at a side event on the El Nino and how countries can adapt to it. The US weather service NOAA today announced that there is a 65% chance that El Nino conditions will be present in the northern hemisphere this winter and persevere into spring next year. Fortunately, if it does emerge, it is only likely to be weak.

El Nino disrupts weather patterns as surface sea temperatures periodically warm.

El Nino is not caused by global warming, but the fact that this year has experienced record sea temperatures has made the jobs of scientists rather tricky as they try to forecast whether one will develop. It “may explain some of the difficulties we’re having in predicting what the current El Nino effect is likely to do,” says Maxx Dilley, director of climate prediction and adaptation at the WMO.

He adds it is likely that an El Nino will develop between now and February, but that the atmospheric response to this has not yet been established, and until this locks in the El Nino will not be official.

Congratulations to RTCC’s sponsor Celepsa, which has won an important biodiversity award for its work with shrimp.

1229 – In Norway, there has been a limited victory for the divestment movement, which calls for organisations including universities, cities and governments to pull their money out of fossil fuels. A commission appointed by the Norwegian government has concluded that the $870 billion Sovereign Wealth Fund should not fully divest, but will consider pulling out of some of the most polluting companies on a case-by-case basis.

And while we’re on the subject of Scandinavian divestment, something else has just caught my eye. This video, shot last Saturday, shows a flashmob in Sweden aimed at persuading the city of Stockholm to divest.

1219 – Following Germany’s announcement of a new plan to slash further emissions between now and 2020 to meet its 40% CO2 target, Mat Hope at Carbon Brief has spelled out the details. No coal plants are likely to actually close as a result of the new plan, which is based on implementing a carbon market similar to the EU’s struggling scheme. And it may or may not be legal. “A commitment to phase out coal would cement Germany’s position as a climate leader in the long run, and could encourage other countries to do the same,” it writes.

1135 – I’m at the CAN press conference, where Mohamed Adow from Christian Aid and Alix Mazounie from RAC France are updating journalists on the proceedings into the negotiations. Parties must agree on the elements to be included in the Paris agreement and also a ratchet up mechanism to ensure that the deal is ambitious enough. Only once this is done will real progress be possible, he says.

Co-chairs are expected to put forward a new version of the text on Friday. They will be looking for clarity and whether it includes a review process, says Adow.

Mazounie addresses climate finance. Phase down of fossil fuel subsidies is in the text that countries are discussing this week. It needs to be in the text, and be a big part of the Paris deal, she says. $3bn from US is good news, but it’s only one fifth of what the US spends on fossil fuel exploration, she points out. “It’s undermining climate action today and what the Convention is trying to do. It’s the elephant in the room and it needs to come out of the room,” she says.

She points out that G20 countries have already pledged to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, but they’re not doing it. “They’re not feeling the heat. They think it’s okay.” And it’s not like the money is not there to fund a green transition; it’s about shifting the money from one pot to another.

The deal is about a long term vision that will keep fossil fuels in the ground, she adds.

1108 – Last year, as the UN climate talks kicked off in Warsaw, Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines, taking 7,000 lives.

And now, as negotiators meet in Lima, the Philippines is facing yet another Super Typhoon. Hagupit, which means “whip” in Filipino, is expected to make landfall on December 6. It is currently tracking the same path as Haiyan last year, which means it will affect communities still struggling to recover. Peak storm season in the Philippines is around June to October.

I spoke to Denise Fontanilla, a Filipino who has come to Lima with the group Adopt a Negotiator to observe the talks. She spoke about the impact that the typhoons are having in her home country, at a time when local people would normally be looking forward to Christmas.

“I grew up not having to be scared about typhoons at Christmas. I’m pretty sure they won’t have Christmas again. They will spend it in relief,” she said. “In the Philippines, we pride ourselves on having the longest Christmas season. But instead of a festive atmosphere, we’re listening to information about how many lives lost, how many are missing.”

1036 – As most people know by now, Filipino negotiator Yeb Sano is not here in Lima, but he’s just chipped into the discussion via Twitter. He has accused rich countries of holding the process hostage by not letting the draft text be put up on the screen, which is required to start any line-by-line negotiations. Here’s what he said.

0950 – Welcome to day four of the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru. We’ll bring you updates throughout the day from the 20th Conference of the Parties, where negotiations on developing a global emissions reduction deal are ongoing.

After a couple of days of stating positions, countries are starting to move into negotiating mode, so that they can flesh out a draft text by the end of the two weeks. It’s a laborious process that is taking place in primarily overheated buildings. RTCC has heard that the main point of debate in these closed meetings was whether to display the text on the overhead screen. Countries have submitted their suggestions here.

There was also some positive news on the Green Climate Fund, which confirmed that it will soon start the process of approving projects to help poor countries adapt to climate change. I wrote about what this means for the talks here in Lima.

As well as further negotiations, today is Young and Future Generations Day. It’s an opportunity for the youth here in Lima to remind government officials whom exactly they are fighting for.

As ever, get in touch with me at [email protected] or on Twitter at @rtcc_sophie.

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