COP Pavilions Superlatives

b&js)by Patrick Turevon T’16 

With COP 21 winding down (but slightly extended) and the prospect of reaching an agreement looking increasingly promising, I want to share some of the less covered aspects of the event.

At the compound at La Bourget, there are two main meeting halls for the ratification and voting on the agreement drafts, but there are four other large halls that each host an array of countries and organizations participating in the conference. Each pavilions hold events and discussions throughout the day, have staff to answer any questions, and provide educational materials and pamphlets for interested attendees. The topics of the talks and panels range in scope and subject: some have focused on the scientific effects of climate change and some have explored the market-based solutions and financing needed to help countries and business adapt and respond.

There are several hundred booths and pavilions spread across the four halls. The atmosphere is part convention, part EPCOT. To better share the atmosphere, I present the first ever

COP Pavilions Superlatives

Enjoy!

  1. Most likely to “borrow” the country logo from their tourist ads . . . MEXICO

mexico

 

2. Most likely to miss the point about minimizing your carbon footprint . . . THE GULF STATESgulf states a)

 

3. Most likely to forget their flag and need to improvise with printer and paper. . . CHINAchina flag

 

4. Most likely to forget their flag and need to improvise with printer and paper (but not even try) . . . AUSTRIAaustria flag)

5. Most likely to make their booth look like a discovery zone for kids . . . THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICAus discovery zone)*It should be noted that the US was the only country to have free coffee at all times of the day

6. Best use of a diorama . . . SOUTH KOREAkorea)

 

7. Most likely to make Al Gore feel like he is in a diorama . . . INDONESIAgore diorama)

8. Most gratuitous use of water at an event often highlighting the decreasing access to clean water. . . INDIAindia)

 

9. Most likely to know their demographic . . . GERMANYgermany*That is a bar at the center of the Germany country pavilion

10. Most likely to be completely out of place (but still letting you know what a good job they are doing) . . . FACEBOOKfacebook)

11. Most impressive (aka largest) video screen . . . TIE! MOROCCO…morocco)

 

and THE AFRICA COALITION

tac

 

and finally . . .

12. Most likely to make you feel like you are back in Hanover . . . BEN & JERRY’S!

b&js)

Al Gore Takes the Stage at COP21

by Christine Hou T’15

GoreIn a surprise change, Al Gore became a guest speaker at one of the plenary events on Tuesday in Paris. Nell, Patrick, and I were lucky enough to get in right before he started his speech to a packed house in Plenary La Loire.

His message was clear and appealed to the hearts and minds of the audience. In a series of charts that detailed the earth’s rising temperatures and historical weather events, Gore left little to the imagination of what our future would hold if global leaders continued with business as usual. He then began to illustrate the devastating impact on humanity that climate change brings. Stories of floods and droughts in both the developing and developed world filled the screen, with increasing frequency in recent years. To close, he implored the audience to commit more, and he stressed the momentum that COP21 would bring to the cause.

At first I wondered why he delivered the presentation he did at COP21, to an audience that no doubt already knew all he was reiterating, having flown from all corners of the world to do their part in ensuring a successful Paris negotiation.

But Al Gore’s speech was a breath of fresh air in a week that is bogged down in details. The panels I attended focused on fossil fuel subsidies, “common but differentiated responsibilities” and technical assistance, and on Europe’s nuclear energy future, China’s cap-and-trade system and Africa’s food security. Understanding the disparate pieces helps understand why Paris COP21 is, as Ban Ki-moon said, “the most complicated and difficult” negotiation. Al Gore’s speech, on the other hand, was a sharp reminder of the overarching reason why everyone convened in the first place. And it came at a time when nations refused to cross the red lines they’d drawn, only a few days before UNFCC had to push back the deadline to Saturday due to the inability for all parties to agree. It was a bold but perhaps well-timed reminder that, in light of the situation’s gravity, there may be no better time than Paris COP21 for negotiators to set aside national interests in favor of a global and binding deal.

 

 

Africa Day at COP21

Tumusiimeby Christine Hou T’15

To many developing nations with unstable infrastructure and an agriculture-dominant industry, the changes in weather patterns have significant impact on their livelihoods and economies. In Africa, where droughts and water shortages have led to civil unrest, leaders are pressuring developed nations at COP21 to curb emissions. At the same time, African nations seek financial and technical assistance. As the representative from the African Development Bank stated on Tuesday during Africa Day’s opening session, “The vulnerable should not be made to pay for their vulnerability. This is what leads to perpetual poverty.”

In Sub-Saharan Africa, over 95% of agriculture depends on rainfall, which means food security is completely weather-reliant. For developing nations comprised of smallholder farmers, a few seasons of drought can push families into poverty. Unreliable weather patterns also strain urban infrastructure and change country demographics, as the rural poor who can no longer live off their land must migrate into the cities.

Africa Day was first and foremost a showing of solidarity amongst the 53 African nations who submitted INDCs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, (of which Libya was the only outlier). Their INDCs are also amongst the most ambitious–-despite coming off a small base of emissions, African nations have committed to cutting 86-90% of carbon emissions. At the African Development Bank, a $5 billion USD per year fund has been created to address issues related to climate, which can be leveraged to an additional $20 billion USD for the continent.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, the African nations also focused on the need for common but differentiated responsibilities (a common theme at these negotiations). As a result, in their INDCs, 58% of adaptation commitments were conditional, and 66% of mitigation commitments were conditional.

Overall, all African leaders on the panels, which included the main negotiators on behalf of the African coalition as well as ministers from Ethiopia, Egypt, Niger, Uganda, Namibia, and the East African Community, were adamant on doing what they could to secure a binding Paris agreement. For a continent that may bear the biggest burden of climate change, Africa’s long-term future will be shaped greatly by the outcomes of Paris.

Photo: Welcome Remarks by H.E. Mrs. Rhoda Peace , Commissioner for the Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission

ArtCOP21 in Paris

blue whaleby Nell Achtmeyer T’16

As the COP21 has started, many art installations have appeared around Paris as part of ArtCOP21. Using the break in the negotiations over the weekend, we set out to see some of the more prominent ones that we had heard about.

Lake Parc Montsouris is south of the city center and is the location that artist Pedro Marzorati chose to install a piece called Where the Tide Ebbs and Flows. It is an installation that represents the countries and urban centers that are threatened by sea level rise around the world. From shore, you see an arc of metallic blue statues of the identical human face and torso submerged at different levels in a semi- circle around the lake.

La Baleine Bleue (photo above) is a built to scale sculpture of a Blue Whale installed at Port du Gros Caillou. It is surrounded by other pictures of threatened species and was installed to reinforce the delicate balance of human activities on earth and the loss of biodiversity.

ice watch 1The New Yorker picked up the story of Ice Watch’s installation of 12 pieces of ice that had melted off of the Greenland ice sheet displayed at Place du Panthéon. It was installed in the shape of a clock to symbolize the limited time left to address raising global temperatures. In addition, it was designed to melt throughout the two weeks of negotiations to remind the world and countries attending the COP21 that real impacts of climate change are still taking place and the melting of glaciers is happening daily.

tree behind glassThe Jardin des Plantes, near the center of the city, hosted an installation of a majestic tree placed behind a curtain of grass. Trees obviously play a significant role in climate change mitigation and so this artistic installation celebrates trees during the COP21, but is also part of an ongoing international art project called Radical Action Reaction (RAR) by artists Ackroyd & Harvey.

Hotel de VilleFinally, there are many educational displays that have been installed throughout the city, including one focused on cities for climate outside of the Hotel de Ville, Paris’ city hall. This display focuses on changes to the construction of homes, installations on roof gardens, and other ways to mitigate for climate change within existing urban environments. On Saturday, December 5th, Pont d’Iéna, the bridge across from the base of the Eiffel Tower was closed to cars to direct foot traffic through a display on how we can redesign the world.

Getting out to see these installations around the city was grounding and a great reminder that while the talks and negotiations are taking the spotlight now, it’s going to the understanding and advocacy of the public after Paris that keeps this work moving forward probably far more than the agreement that’s signed.

Climate Change and Financial Markets Press Conference

 

Bloombergby Nell Achtmeyer T’16

Kelsey and I stumbled into one of the most interesting sessions of the week so far–a press conference with Michael Bloomberg and the Governor of the Bank of England, Mike Carney. The press conference was to formally announce the new voluntary, private led task force to determine the right type of information to have to judge a company’s risk on climate. Governor Carney announced that Mr. Bloomberg will serve as the Chairman of the task force and be charged with overseeing the process to determine what comprehensive, reliable and comparable data the investor community needs to understand climate risk. Governor Carney said that he hoped it would be the “one stop shop for information on climate to aid this transition to a low carbon economy.”

Throughout the week, there have been many other indications that this conference is “more of an economics conference than one specially on climate,” as one panelist said the other day, but this afternoon’s press conference only reinforced that with the presence of a Governor from one of the world’s largest central banks. The role of the financial markets is something that has been brought up repeatedly in workshops, breakout sessions, and press conferences like these that outline the work related to understanding climate risk and putting a price on carbon after Paris. While the announcement of a task force might be commonplace at these big types of international conferences, this particular type of task force, which features such a prominent businessman and former American mayor, and looks to boil down the existing standards and metric schemes to focus solely on climate risk, is certainly noteworthy. As Mr. Bloomberg said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” and this climate risk task force will aim to do exactly that– inform the investor community with information to take a view on a company’s risk exposure to climate change and judge the management of these companies and whether they have the strategies to adjust their business model to stand up to this low carbon transition. Furthermore, Mr. Bloomberg and Governor Carney both talked about how the information will be useful for CEOs who will also benefit from this information and the ability to use targeted metrics on risk exposure to climate factors to justify and explain decisions made to their various stakeholders.

While the press have already picked up this story, including a release by Forbes this afternoon, for our Tuck delegation, this reinforced just how many eyes will turn to business and financial market leaders after Paris to help move the work forward to actually achieve the low carbon economy that we are all talking about.

 

 

Day 2 & 3 at COP21: Oh Canada

Kelsey embracing Canadaby Kelsey MacEachern T’16

As a Canadian, there are few events that make me feel truly patriotic and proud.  The Winter Olympics is one.  The World Junior Hockey Championships is another.  However, my patriotic sensibilities have been roused here at COP21, where Canada is taking a stand as a global climate leader.  The new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is showing strength with his bold proclamations that “Canada is back” and initiating broad changes to the country’s current environmental targets.  Specifically, Trudeau introduced the following five-point plan that Canada will use to address climate change:

  • Policies that support the development of a low-carbon economy, including a national carbon price
  • Working groups that include municipal, provincial and indigenous leaders
  • Financial assistance for developing countries for climate adaptation and mitigation projects
  • Utilizing climate change as an opportunity to incentivize and drive an innovative, efficient economy
  • Committing to rigorous science-based decision making

While the details of the plan have not been fully fleshed out, the overall feedback towards Canada’s plan has been positive, both back at home and here in Paris.

Bianca JaggerIn a breakout session that I attended on “the new role of climate finance, policy & law”, Canada made another strong impression. Canadian David Runnalls, distinguished fellow and former acting director for the Environment and Energy Program at the Center for International Governance Innovation, stood out among very strong call-to-action speeches from the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez; the President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno; and Bianca Jagger.  Runnalls proposed four key ideas, detailed below, for tackling climate change from an economic perspective that strongly resonated with myself and the audience, even going so far as to state that “this is really an economic conference”.

  • Integrate climate change and sustainability into the international architecture for financial system reform
    • Runnalls suggests that getting over the short-termism of markets is critical to encourage substantial investments in clean tech and other climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Additionally, in a view that is supported by many economists and climate change activists alike, fossil fuel companies are believed to be overvalued.  This is due to the fact that the companies are valued based substantially on the value of their known fuel reserves and the expectation that these reserves will eventually be tapped and sold.  However, if an agreement is reached to cap warming at 2 degrees Celsius, as is proposed, global emissions from fossil fuels will be capped at a level that will prevent a substantial portion of these reserves from being utilized.  This is the concept of unburnable carbon or fuel, which will never be able to provide revenue for the fossil fuel companies.
  • Claw back subsidies that have been given to the fossil fuel industry.
    • Including permitting the damage caused by fossil fuels, Runnalls suggested that the fossil fuel industry has been subsidized by an equivalent of $6 trillion per year globally. While not proposing to begin fining the industry, he suggested that now is the time to eliminate any additional subsidies.
  • Price carbon properly so as to adequately account for negative impacts.
    • Runnalls does not expect far reaching carbon pricing initiatives to be agreed upon at COP21, despite global leaders and major banks clamoring for it. However, without a price put on the negative externality of carbon emissions, it will be difficult to induce behavioral changes in the market.
  • Introduce government procurement programs biased towards technologies and behaviors that we want.
    • Governments, particularly those in the west, have significant purchasing power, which can be leveraged to help drive changes in the market.

Canada certainly seems to be back, but I will wait until formal agreements have been established until I break out into my usual patriotic (hockey) cheer…. GO CANADA GO! GO CANADA GO!

Photos: Kelsey embraces Canada; breakout session on “The new role of climate finance, policy & law”, with Bianca Jagger is at the podium and David Runnalls fourth person from left.

 

 

 

 

Opening Days at COP21: Will there finally be a binding agreement and a price on carbon?

by Nell Achtmeyer T’16

The American public have likely heard more about the lead up to the COP21 these past couple of weeks than probably any other Conference of the Parties (COP) hosted by the UNFCCC, and for good reason. With the US and President Obama talking about wanting to “secure” a meaningful agreement in his opening remarks and China showing a willingness to participate, points of historical controversy seem to have subsided and it certainly seems as if the stars are finally aligning for progress. Despite the security nightmare they provided, some 150 heads of state showed up in Paris, during the first two days of the Conference, “to show our resolve” as President Obama said. This further emphasizes the climate leadership and commitment to leaving Paris with something to show for, beyond the other 20 talks.

Two themes on what will make Paris a success have emerged during these opening days: producing a binding agreement and having the financial package, at least the targeted $100 billion outlined in Copenhagen, to have the financial instruments to support the needed change. Related to both of these themes is the topic of carbon pricing, and many discussions were conducted on whether it will be a component of having a successful outcome at the end of next week. The opening day supported many conversations on the topic, including a high level press conference with heads of state hosted by the former President of Dartmouth College and now President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim. French President Francois Hollande described his vision for achieving a price on carbon that was differentiated to meet regional and national needs, both for price and mechanism, but comprehensive and worldwide. Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel echoed Francois Hollande’s remarks, but also called out the US specifically on its lack of participation to date in truly utilizing existing carbon pricing instruments extensively. Heads of state from Chile, Mexico, Ethiopia, and Canada also shared remarks at this press conference about their country’s commitment and efforts towards putting a price on carbon, and the need to consider the moral limitations of the market. Justin Trudeau, the recently elected Prime Minister of Canada, described the successful examples of a carbon tax in British Columbia, a cap and trade program in Ontario, and his hope to use these models to implement a price on carbon throughout Canada. Throughout these remarks, the critical role of business was emphasized.

The UNEP followed up on the second day of COP with a side event open to observers that gave a deeper dive into the mechanics of carbon pricing and the role of business. Tom Kerr, Principal Climate Officer at the World Economic Forum, opened the panelist presentation by reviewing a history of emission trading systems (ETS), and noted how their pervasiveness has tripled in the past decade. Specifically on the role of business, Kerr used the example of Microsoft and its internal carbon price that has created revenue for a fund that allocates money to special projects related to innovation and technologies within the company. Yet as the other panelists described, while businesses are taking the lead on carbon pricing and advocating for some type of carbon pricing instrument (tax, cap, shadow price, etc.) to provide market signals, there is less enthusiasm for general and flexible constraints on price and mechanisms across geographies–or the “let 1,000 flowers bloom” approach as one panelist said. Yet despite the acknowledgement that business will play an important role and the example of Microsoft’s pioneering effort, the how business will play a role in a post Paris agreement is still to be determined.

Remarks from heads of state, President Obama’s included, got the press they deserved, but now it comes down to the large plenary meetings, subcommittee meetings, and collectively editing massive documents projected on a large screen with Track Changes on as party leaders scrutinize the details. Panelists and experts providing workshops and holding press conferences are continuing to champion that sense of urgency and reinforcing the hope for a binding agreement, but it seems too early to tell if it will happen.

Day 1 at COP21: Breakout Sessions and Conference Sustainability Efforts

by Kelsey MacEachern T’16

reusable cupArriving at COP21 after a delayed set of red-eye flights through Iceland, I was excited to register and dive right into the breakout sessions available for attendees. The first few sessions that I attended were focused on mitigation strategies, from introducing a carbon pricing strategy to discussing proven carbon capture & sequestration (CCS) efforts.  Most notably from the CCS discussion, the Premier of Saskatchewan and the CEO of SaskPower spoke, declaring Saskatchewan to be at the forefront of CCS technology implementation, something that even as a Canadian I was surprised to hear.

The conference itself has been making efforts to be sustainable, and Nell and I have been entertained by some of the novel ways COP21 has tackled sustainability at the individual level in terms of waste reduction, power usage and transportation.

  • Waste reduction: When you think of combining red-eye flights, jetlag and long days, what do you think as being top priority for conference visitors?  Coffee/espresso should be your first instinct, and there are vendors everywhere happily willing to provide attendees with their caffeine fix. To reduce the massive amount of waste from disposable cups, however, vendors can only serve beverages in reusable COP21 coffee/espresso cups, on which customers pay a euro deposit; return the cup, your euro is returned to you.  This eliminates trash bins full of waste and gives attendees a nice souvenir.bicycle charging station
  • Power usage:  While the lifecycle emissions of some of our favorite, most addictive electronics may be much higher than we would like to acknowledge (iPhone, I’m looking at you!), the electricity used to charge the phones does not have to be emissions-laden.  COP21 has introduced a charging station entirely powered by cycling.  You can charge your phone and get a (very insignificant) workout at the same time!  Beyond just charging your devices, however, the station helps bring attention to what other, more emissions intensive electricity generating activities could be enabling you to charge your devices on a daily basis.
  • Transportation: COP21 has made travel using public transportation almost a necessity for attendees. Hybrid buses take all attendees from Le Bourget to the train station, where you are able to easily take a commuter train into most areas in Paris.  What makes this a necessity, however, is not just the convenience of it, but the overall inconvenience of trying to travel to the site by car.  Two lanes on the highway approaching COP21 have been closed to cars, creating bumper to bumper traffic and making what is usually a short commute into an hours-long journey.  While these lanes have likely been closed due to security reasons, it has had the benefit of making public transit all the more appealing!

I’m very much looking forward to attending some negotiations and more breakout sessions throughout the rest of the week.

 

All Eyes on Paris as COP21 Begins

This week, world leaders, business leaders, and civil society organizations are gathering in Paris for COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

In his opening remarks at the conference, President Barack Obama states “…here in Paris, let’s show businesses and investors that the global economy is on a firm path towards a low-carbon future. If we put the right rules and incentives in place, we’ll unleash the creative power of our best scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs to deploy clean energy technologies and the new jobs and new opportunities that they create all around the world. There are hundreds of billions of dollars ready to deploy to countries around the world if they get the signal that we mean business this time.  Let’s send that signal.” (Find his full address here.)

T’16s Nell Achtmeyer, Patrick Turevon, Kelsey MacEachern, and T’15 Christine Hou are participating in this historic event. We look forward to their reports over the next 2 weeks, as well as opportunities to continue the conversation here at Tuck in the winter and spring terms.

 

Final Day at COP 19 – Tension and Pisco Sours

by Brian McKenzie T’14

As we headed to the National Stadium for the final day of COP 19, we had a feeling it might be a long day. That was an understatement. In fact, the negotiations went on until about 4am Saturday morning.

Much of the morning was spent walking around trying to find sessions that were open to non-governmental parties. There was much consultation going on amongst the parties and many closed-door sessions. There were four primary tracks of negotiations going on in parallel, which included: Advancing the Durban Platform (ADP), Climate Finance, Loss & Damage, and REDD+.

The ADP negotiations were perhaps most controversial because of the goal to create a roadmap toward an agreement at COP 21 (Paris in 2015). At that time, parties are expected to make binding legal commitments on mitigation and adaptation. Difu, Harry and I waited in line from about 3pm until 6:45pm to get a seat in the negotiations. They only let about 30 observers in to witness the discussions.

COP 19 final day waiting to get in

About midway through the session, the Chair took a moment to address the parties. He asked them all to look at their watches and take note of the time, and if their watch had a date function, take note of that too. He said “we are running out of time and we can’t stay here much longer”. He then asked all parties to dispense with “positions”, and focus on concrete changes to the language of the text. There was considerable back and forth over the next 15 to 20 minutes in an effort to wordsmith the document put forward by the Chairs. As an example, there was considerable debate about whether to change the word “facilitate” to “ensure” in one of the paragraphs of the draft text.

At this point, the stadium was beginning to sound like it was the Euro Cup, as a group of youth attending the summit gathered around the stadium’s seats, chanting as loud as they could in protest and out of disappointment that youth were not allowed to participate more fully in the conference. You could hear them loud and clear inside the negotiations.

Things got even more interesting when the Bolivian negotiator was given the microphone and made reference to the protesters chanting “WTF”, which, in this case, stood for “Where’s the Finance?” The negotiator from Venezuela spoke next, and didn’t pull any punches. She started by saying “we’re not here to make friends, and we all need to stop being so naïve.” She then proceeded to call out the lead negotiator from the EU for going to the media with accusations that there was a firewall between the LMDCs (Like-minded Developing Countries). She said “Where is the EU negotiator? I don’t see her around,” – to which a number of the LMDC countries stood up and applauded. The next speaker, from one of the small African nations spoke next, and after the applause had stopped, he said “well… it’s starting to get hot in here!”

COP 19 ADP - US DelegationThe negotiations continued on for many hours. The photo shows the view from my seat. Right in front of me was the U.S. delegation, which was huddling just after their lead negotiator, Todd Stern, entered the room. It was in fact the US delegation that managed to get the negotiations back on track, by conveying a willingness to commit to a roadmap that would require the U.S. and other parties to release emissions reduction targets in advance of COP 21 and lay the groundwork for binding commitments.

The negotiations continued on for many hours, and the closing plenary didn’t take place until roughly 4am in the morning on Saturday.  However, in the end, a number of decisions were reached, albeit not nearly as ambitious as many parties had hoped for.

COP 19 Peru boothDifu, Harry and I all had an awesome time at COP 19. We are all hopeful that meaningful actions will come out of the conference. We’ve a photo of us in front of Peruvian booth, which were handed out Pisco Sours all week to promote next year’s COP which will take place in Lima, Peru. They closed up shop at around 4pm on Friday afternoon, but I can’t help but think that had they kept on serving drinks into the evening on Friday, perhaps the parties might have been able to find common ground a little earlier in the evening!