Loss and Damages

Yesterday afternoon, Jake and I attended a contact group on approaches to address loss and damage due to climate change. This is a very important time to follow this issue because there are currently no modalities and procedures to address loss and damage.

A quick background:

Where mitigation and adaptation fail, people affected by climate change’s impacts may face damages to their property or health or permanent loss of land, resources, other assets, and even loss of life. The idea of compensation for loss and damage caused by climate change was proposed, but then tabled, during negotiations in 1991. Historically, high-emitting, developed countries have expressed concerns about being held liable for potentially unlimited damages and have resisted a firm decision on the issue. There are also significant challenges associated with attributing specific losses and damages directly to climate change and calculating compensation. Last year in Doha, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and island states pushed the issue until the Parties agreed to establish “institutional arrangements, such as an international mechanism” that would help developing countries that are vulnerable to impacts address irrecoverable losses and damages from climate change. Negotiations around loss and damage are expected to include discussions of rehabilitation, reconstruction, and compensation for damages from extreme and slow-onset weather events.

At the contact group, parties shared their views on the mandate from the 38th Subsidiary Body for Implementation which took place in June 2013 and asked parties to identify activities for the next phase of the loss and damage work programme.

The United States’ statements yesterday during this group were interesting and revealed some insights into how the US views the issue of loss and damage. First, the US delegate explained how climate change could affect countries, describing the process of sea level rise, salination, ocean acidification, extreme weather events and other potential impacts.  Next, the US highlighted its commitment to the Nansen Initiative to address cross border displacement issues due to climate change-related disasters and other natural disasters. The US affirmed that it was committed to making significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 in order to achieve its Copenhagen goal of reducing emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The US stated that the impending loss and damage is broad and even with the best risk reduction and adaptation strategies , we will never reduce the risk to zero. Accordingly, there should be a focus on the potential for technical, financial and capacity building support to reduce the severity of and respond to loss and damage.  Finally,  the US also noted its history of providing aid to countries in distress in the wake of natural disasters and called attention to its recently announced  $20 million dollar aid package for the Philippines.

Bolivia, on behalf of G77 and China, declared that an ad hoc response to these events is not appropriate. Bolivia asserted that they would not leave Warsaw without a response that goes beyond cosmetic changes to guidance for future work. They called for a substantive response that matches the severity of the dramatic, drastic impacts they are already seeing. Bangladesh echoed those sentiments in their remarks. Nauru, speaking on behalf of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), highlighted the longstanding need to fill this gap in the UNFCCC and address humanitarian needs after climate-related natural disasters and impacts. Nauru, on behalf of AOSIS, and Timor-Leste, on behalf of LDCs, both declared their support for the position and submission advanced by G77. Other countries present that made comments were Switzerland, Egypt, Tanzania, New Zealand, El Salvador, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The Philippines was one of the last countries to speak and the delegate broke down in tears when discussing the importance of creating a comprehensive and meaningful approach for loss and damages as soon as possible. It was a very intense, poignant moment that underscored the gravity of losses that are already occurring and exigency of the task ahead.

You can read over the three current submissions of proposed approaches  from the EU, Norway, and G77 & China here.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary’s Decision to Speak at the Coal Summit

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, released a letter explaining her decision to speak at the International Coal and Climate Summit. The summit was organized by the World Coal Association and Poland’s Economy Ministry and will be taking place here in Warsaw next week, November 18-19. Her letter was a response to an open letter written and signed by several NGOs, which expressed concern for her presence at the event. It will be interesting to see what happens at the coal summit, as well as whether and how Figueres’ decision to speak there will affect the negotiations next week.

Letter from NGOs to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres

Response from Christiana Figueres

Here are background articles about the coal summit if you would like more background information:



Tuesday: A Day in Review

The last few days have been a whirlwind!

This morning we met up with other students interested in agroforestry. Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, Finland, New Zealand and Australia were all represented in this workgroup. I am expecting these morning meetings to be a good setting to brainstorm and update each other on the status of the negotiations around agroforestry. REDD+ was the topic of a few people’s research; however, many were new to the idea of REDD+ and its variations. Since many of us from this meeting are attending similar events, we ran into each other often through out the day. We are meeting up again tomorrow morning to continue discussion.

Rachel and I tried to attend the Coalition for Rainforest Nations Meeting at 1, but were turned away at the door. That said, Beth heard today that the number of open meetings is evidence towards the idea that these negotiations maybe more accessible for observers than previous negotiations.

Climate Displacements: Rights and Responsibilities was next on my schedule. This was an emotional side event to attend. Many shared testimonials about their impending or experience with forced migration. Over and over I’ve heard Annex II countries plead Annex I countries to take responsibility for their role in creating the climate crisis that displaces whole groups of people. Addressing displacement issues under the loss and damages addition (see Caitlin’s post) is not seen as an solution since forced migration is such a large field of concern that demands an alternative approach. The group called for a revision of rights to ensure equity and dignity to the estimated 200 million climate migrants by 2050 (IPCC). 

Evolving Requirements and Solutions for REDD+ Monitoring, with Community Focus and Indigenous Peoples and REDD+ followed. We road the rail system back to the hostel and just were unpacking when our research teams back home called us to Skype in with updates.



Monday Night and Some Tuesday Highlights

Hi everyone!

Yesterday was the first day of COP19. There is an incredible amount of activity here at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland. Here is a quick overview of some of the most interesting and controversial events from yesterday and today. Blog posts focused on specific issues and impressions are in the works!

Last night we attended  a reception at the Warsaw University Library. There were appearances from Hanna Gronkeiwicz-Waltz, Mayor of Warsaw; Christiana Figueres UN Climate Secretary and Marcin Korolec, President-Designate of the Conference and Polish Minister of the Environment (all pictured below).


The library was a stunning venue for the reception and the Polish government arranged a variety of music and entertainment acts for the evening.


One of the musical acts that performed last night was The Recycling Band who play instruments made from recycled materials.


Check out this video on how they have made their instruments and you can listen to some of their songs here.

This morning, we all attended the Youth in Non-Governmental Organizations (“YOUNGO”) meeting. YOUNGO is very interested in seeing a meaningful agreement come out of the negotiations that is calculated to significantly reduce emissions and move away from fossil fuels. Some of the NGOs represented are: Connected Voices, Sustain US, Young Friends of the Earth, Global Voices and [Earth in Brackets].

There are several working groups operating as part of YOUNGO, including Loss & Damage, Fossil Fuels, Adaptation, Intergenerational Equity, Capacity Building, Finance, and Land Use, Agriculture & Forestry. You can follow YOUNGO through their facebook group.

At the YOUNGO meeting this morning, Sustain US and Climate Action Network (“CAN”) announced that they would engage in a solidarity fast to show their support for the Philippines. This announcement spurred a discussion of possible solidarity fast by YOUNGO, but no agreement was reached on the parameters for how such a fast would be conducted. Sustain US and CAN started their fast this afternoon and it remains unclear whether they will be engaged in a complete fast or whether they will solely be fasting during the hours that COP is running each day. Follow Sustain US on twitter to see photos of the action and CAN’s blog to stay updated.

Jake and I went to an informal consultation on CDM modalities and procedures this morning. We heard from the European Union, Togo, Indonesia, South Africa, China, Brasil, Malawi, Switzerland, Lebanon, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Egypt on what elements of the CDM they think should be reviewed and revised and whether new sections should be added.

CDM discussion

The discussion yielded a lot of interesting ideas and perspectives, but ultimately the parties were asked to focus on whether they actually be expected to create new modalities and procedures in Warsaw or merely guidance for future work. Looking at the schedule for the next two weeks, the CDM group realized they would only meet two other times, once for 45 minutes and once for an hour and half. It was clear how difficult it is to accomplish substantive goals like revising modalities and procedures during the Conference of the Parties itself. Some delegates suggested that an electronic working group be created where parties can write proposals and new language. The co-chairs facilitating the session agreed to try to find time to arrange an additional meeting in the hopes that some substantive progress can be made. However, it was noted that it would have been best if new or revised sections were drafted ahead of the conference that could be re-worked and potentially adopted over the course of the next two weeks. The parties also discussed the possibility of meeting informally if additional time could not be scheduled.

Informative blogs and twitter feeds to follow:

TckTckTck is an alliance of 400 NGOs: https://twitter.com/tcktcktck

Adopt a Negotiator follows negotiators from several key countries: http://adoptanegotiator.org/

[Earth in Brackets] is a group of students from the College of the Atlantic:  https://twitter.com/earthinbrackets

International Youth Climate Movement: https://twitter.com/IYCM

Keeping up with all things COP

If our blog interests you and you want more information….here are links to additional sources:

http://unfccc.int/2860.php – The main conference webpage – you can see the meeting agendas as well as live and on-demand webcasts.  When it is posted – take the time to view the Philippine statement during the COP Opening plenary.  It is poignant and a good reminder of why everyone is here.  It was at 12:25 PM – which is I think about 2 hours into the plenary. Update:  It is now posted.  The Philippine statement is at 1:51:25. http://unfccc4.meta-fusion.com/kongresse/cop19/templ/play.php?id_kongresssession=6852&theme=unfccc 

http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop19/  – the IISD provides daily reporting of the conference events and select side events.

I conclude with a photo I took last night in Park Ujazdowski.  Warsaw is a beautiful city and a welcoming host.

Park Ujazdowski

Exploring Warsaw and Preparing for Day 1

I have been in Warsaw for two days now, and wow! It is an amazing city. Both yesterday and today I took went on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city, and was able to visit the Palace of Science and Culture, the Royal Castle, Oldtown, the National Gallery of Art (a contemporary art museum), and a variety of shops and parks! The city has a rich history, especially surrounding the Second World War and the communist takeover of Poland in the latter half of the 20th century. Many of the buildings are characterized by either being the original buildings or being re-buildings of structures blown up by the Nazis during the war. Stalin was a major influence as well, and there are many memorials constructed to celebrate the Russians– the Palace of Science and Culture in fact was a “gift” from Soviet Russia to Communist Poland. A significant portion of Poles dislike this building because they view it as a sign of Soviet control, yet is still stands as the tallest building in Warsaw.

Tomorrow the COP19 conference begins, and the knowledge and background we have been preparing all semester is put to the test. (For more information on what COP is, please visit unfccc.int) We have been setting up our schedule, and tomorrow we will be attending the Opening Plenary from 10-1 pm (Warsaw time), and following that will be going to a session “What to Expect in Warsaw from the Negotiations”. We hope to explore the exhibits during the afternoon, and hopefully make contact with people interested in sharing their knowledge with our delegation.

I am part of the research team working on the implementation of REDD+ (visit theredddesk.org) in the Amazonian basin.

Here are some pictures of Warsaw! Warsaw - Rachel

Warsaw2 - Rachel Warsaw 3 - RachelWarsaw 4 - RachelWarsaw 5 - Rachel

Headed to Warsaw and COP 19

It is hard to believe that I am actually on my way to Warsaw to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP).  A delegation from Washington University has attended the past several COPs thanks to our amazing students, current and past, who obtained delegate status.  This year I am privileged to attend with nine of our students:  Caitlin McCoy, Caitlin Lee, Rachel Westrate, Jake Lyonfields, Danica Yu, Breanna Swenson, Maggie Beetstra, Ben Perlman and Brendan McIntyre.  Megan Odenthal and Emily Kent are supporting us from St. Louis.

What is in store for us in Warsaw?  That is a good question.  While we are there the students, working in two groups, will be focusing on research projects.   One group will be focusing on how Program of Activities (PoAs) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) can be made more effective (implemented), actionable (moved through process), and just (ethical for all parties involved).  The second student group will focus on specific countries from the Amazon region and their participation at COP 19 in Warsaw. Their goal is to determine how delegations and representatives from NGOs from these UN member countries navigate the conference and advance their objectives.   Both groups will be looking for ways that their topics relate to St. Louis and Wash U and ways that they can bring the impacts and discussions from Warsaw back home.

My goal is to support the students as well as investigate issues being discussed that relate to challenges the St. Louis region is and will face as well as what links there may be to research being conducted on campus.

So stayed tuned…we will be posting at least one daily blog….highlighting the events of our day and progress on research.

On a somber note, as this COP begins in the wake of the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan we are all reminded of the significance and real implication of the negotiations.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted in so many ways by the storm.

Congratulations to COP19 Delegates!

We’ve just selected the Washington University delegates for COP19! Congratulations to:

Margaret Beetstra
Rachel Westrate
Ben Perlman
Emily Kent
Caitlin Lee
Brendan McIntyre
Bree Swenson
Danica Yu
Jake Lyonfields
Megan Odenthal
Caitlin McCoy

We are so excited to work and travel with you to Warsaw this November!


Welcome to the official website of WUSICE, Washington University Students for International Collaboration on the Environment.