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!




Day 4 at COP 19: Low Expectations for Advancing the Durban Platform

COP 19 press crushby Difu Li T’14

It’s the 4th day of our stay at COP19, and no good news about the ADP yet (Advancing the Durban Platform, mentioned in Brian’s blog, Day 2).

Enough is enough.

NGOs were worried about the progress and planned to organize a huge protest inside the stadium by walking out of COP.  Leaders from major civil society gathered at level 0 and attracted a huge group of media. Given the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan that almost destroyed the Philippines, they urged the parties to keep their commitment in Durban and to pave the road to Paris in 2015 with ADP agreement. After the statement, 13 NGOs, including Aksyan Klima Pilipinas, ActionAid, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Constryendo Puentes, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Ibon International, International Trade Union Confederation, LDC Watch, Oxfam International, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, Peoples’ Movement on Climate Change, and WWF, walked out of the stadium to show their disappointment about COP19.

The drama in Poland continued after they organized the “Coal and Climate summit” at the same time with COP19. Breaking news announced yesterday that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk fired COP 19 President Marcin Korolec from his day job as Poland’s Minister of the Environment, together with another 8 ministers, to reshuffle his cabinet. The ministry’s foot-dragging on much-awaited regulations concerning exploration for shale gas and other fossil fuels seems to be behind Korolec’s dismissal. When we doubted whether he should continue to lead the COP19, a statement from Mr. Korolec confirmed that he will keep his post as the COP19 president until end of this week, and the dismissal actually allowed him to completely focus on the negotiation process. How much will this affect the final negotiation? I guess we will find out tomorrow.

Subnational initiatives

COP 19 day 4 panel 2The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and EUROCITIES organized events called “COP Presidency Cities and Sub-National Dialogue of the Cities Day” and “Raising the Level of Ambition Through Local Climate Action”. The purpose of these events was to bring together city leaders from around the world to highlight the work that is already happening on the ground in local municipalities. Topics included

  • enhancing adaptation and resilience at the local level;
  • enhancing global mitigation efforts through action at the local level

It’s surprising how concerned the local municipal officers were about the impact to their infrastructure as well as to local business. Insurance companies were actively debating when to increase the rate for compensation from damage due to climate change. Promotion for low carbon emission industries has been shared as good practices. Various incentives for more energy efficient transportation were also discussed. Green building was definitely the low hanging fruit for cities to implement their own climate change strategies. As cities accommodate over 50% of the population and consume 75% of the energy, it’s great to see the initiatives from subnational levels to find the solution. However, cities still need political and financial support from nations. Although negotiation at the plenary is disappointing, the collaboration at city levels gives us hope. Most importantly, they are ready!

Technology transfer

A new Technology Mechanism called the Climate Technology Centre and Network (“CTCN”) was established by UNFCCC in 2010 in Cancun. The mission of CTCN is to stimulate technology cooperation, to enhance the development and transfer of technologies, and to assist developing country parties at their request, consistent with their respective capabilities and national circumstances and priorities. It consists of:

(a) a Climate Technology Centre (CTC) and

(b) a network with the participation of the relevant institutions capable of responding to requests from developing country parties related to technology development and transfer.

After 2 years, a panel of experts announced that the CTCN will become operational upon its adoption at COP19. CTCN’s purpose is using technological and intellectual resources to implement essential technologies and will provide a crucial link between international technology experts and the people of developing nations. At the end of the event, the enthusiastic panel conveyed three main points: CTCN is “open for business,” so name your Non-Carbon benefits, and start submitting requests. It’s exciting to see another mechanism has been formalized to offer help to developing countries, beyond funding.

Low expectation for COP19

Apart from the encouraging side events, the main negotiation seems daunting. Followed by the NGO walk out, representatives of most of the world’s poor countries have walked out of increasingly fractious climate negotiations after the EU, Australia, the US and other developed countries insisted that the question of who should pay compensation for extreme climate events be discussed only after 2015. The closing of ADP scheduled on 6pm has been proposed to 9pm and then 11am on the next day. Grouped as an NGO, we are not allowed to audit the negotiation about ADP due to the limitation of space. The ADP discussion was thought to be the best part of COP, according to a PhD student from Tokyo University who has been to COP 5 times. The only opportunity now is the closing on 3pm and hopefully we can hear some good news.

In general, expectations for COP19 in Warsaw are low. Everyone is looking forward to COP20 in Lima and COP21 in Paris. However, do we have enough time to pave the road to Paris, and prevent the mess in Copenhagen? We will find out tomorrow. Let’s hope for the best.

Day 3 at COP19: Finance, the Private Sector and NASA

  COP 19 hall Ban Ki-Moon speakingby Harrison Kahn T’14

Day 3 was another exciting day at COP19. We explored the critical themes of climate finance and the role of the private sector. We finished a busy schedule with an incredible NASA movie plus a delicious meal in Warsaw’s Old Town.

To begin the day, Difu, Brian and I attended the High Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance. The keynote speaker was none other than Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, who started his talk by announcing, “Climate Change is the single biggest challenge to peace, prosperity and sustainable development.”  Following Ban Ki-Moon was a series of very impressive speakers, including Jakaya Kikwete (President of Tanzania), Naoko Ishii (CEO of the Global Environment Facility) and Hela Cheikhrouhou (Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund). In the audience were finance ministers from all over the globe and representatives from civil society.

Representing civil society in the back of the room, the three of us sat next to Nicholas Stern, Baron Stern of Brentford and former Chief Economist of the World Bank. Stern is famous for his Stern Review, a call to action on climate change that he published in 2006 when serving as second permanent secretary of Her Majesty’s Treasury. The Stern Review takes on the topic of the carbon externality and describes climate change as “the greatest market failure the world has seen…The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay.”

The speakers of the day echoed Stern’s words. All of them pleaded with the ministers gathered to find ways support the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a mechanism founded at COP16 in Cancun as a means to transfer funds from developed countries to developing countries and to finance projects related to both mitigation and adaptation. Unfortunately, the GCF moved beyond its initial fast-track financing period in 2012 and now sits like an “empty shell” waiting to be operationalized with the 100 billion US Dollars the fund is seeking per year by 2020.

COP 19 public private panelAfter our morning with the finance ministers, we attended three panel discussions featuring various combinations of leaders from the public and private sectors. COP19 has made an effort to include CEOs and other members from the private sector in side events. Companies represented today at the COP included Alstom, Dow Chemicals, Philips, Unilever, IKEA and others. During our last panel, which took place at the US Pavilion, we heard opening remarks from Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council for Environmental Quality and Lance Pierce, Executive Director of Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit affiliation of companies founded in 1989 in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The companies walked us through some of their efforts to adopt more sustainable practices. For example, Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer at IKEA, talked about how IKEA’s UK stores have begun selling no-assembly-required PV panels to residential homeowners. I asked several of the private sector participants if their companies have perspectives on whether or not there should be a price on carbon. The majority of the panelists argued that there must be a price on carbon and that the price should take into account some of the issues related to international fairness. They also acknowledged, however, that their organizations lacked the relevant expertise to put a stake in the ground regarding what the fair price of carbon should be or whether it should take the form of a tax or an allowance system.

COP 19 delegation with Dr Bruce Doddridge NASAIn the early evening, we walked over to the NASA exhibit at the US Pavilion to where a crowd had formed to witness NASA’s “Hyperwall” display. Dr. Bruce Doddridge, Head of the Chemistry and Dynamics Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center, curated various high-definition animations of hurricanes and cracking ice shelves. The visuals were gorgeous, but also stark reminders of the need for a meaningful agreement on tackling climate change. In his final animation, Dr. Doddridge showed a simulation of the earth as it might have looked if chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone depleting chemicals had not been banned through the Montreal Protocol in the 1980s. I highly recommend watching the NASA videos. You can access them through the Scientific Visualization Studio’s web site,

Day 2 at COP 19: The High Level Negotiating Begins

by Brian McKenzie T’14

COP19 arena WarsawOur second day at COP 19 was an exciting one. It kicked off of the “High Level” segment of the conference. This is when the ministers from each government arrive and when the action on the negotiating floor really starts to pick up. Up until now, the lead negotiators have handled all discussions and have adhered to the guidelines given to them by their governments. But, now they are able to take key issues to their ministers for approval, so there is a lot more leeway to arrive at agreements (even if it doesn’t always seem like it).

The high level segment kicked off with a speech from the President of Poland, followed by an artistic presentation by a Polish sand artist accompanied by a number of Polish musicians. Then, Ban-Ki Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Christiana Figueres, the Executive Director of the UNFCCC addressed the parties, followed by statements from a number of world leaders.

Below are some details of a few key events that Difu, Harry, and I attended:

United States Pavilion – Session on Climate Adaptation and Resiliency   

The U.S. held an event on climate adaptation strategies for the U.S. It began with a presentation from Dr. Jonathan Pershing from the Dept. of Energy outlining the impacts of climate change on the U.S. A speaker from Johnson Controls then discussed some of the actions that buildings can take to become more resilient, which included a range of efficiency improvements, passive building design, and greater interconnections (i.e. district energy).

COP 19 with Giles Dickson of AlstromLastly, an old friend, Giles Dickson, the Head of Regulatory Affairs for Alstom wrapped up the session. Giles paid a visit to Tuck last year to speak in Professor Sundaram’s Climate Change class. He conceded that while Alstom has a good handle on the mitigation impacts of their products, they are in the very early stages of understanding how their products can help toward adapting to a changing climate. He spoke of new technologies such as dry-cooling systems for steam turbines to reduce their reliance on water, wind turbine blades that each have their own power source, and on predictive maintenance systems developed through analytics technologies. We had a good chat with Giles after the session as well (photo).

Canadian Delegation – Stakeholder Update

COP 19 Canada negotiator Dan McDougallIn the early afternoon, as the good Canadian I am, I attended the daily Canadian delegation stakeholder briefing. Each day, Canada’s Climate Change Ambassador and lead negotiator, Dan McDougall, gives an update on the key issues being negotiated that day and Canada’s position on them. He also answered questions from Canadians in attendance at the conference. (Photo: Dan McDougall, and a member of his team.)

A few of the key issues that are actively being negotiated are below:

1)      ADP (Advancing the Durban Platform) – Negotiations have been focused on creating a binding legal resolution to implement the key items agreed to the 2011 COP 17 in Durban, South Africa. Key issues include mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building. The co-chairs tabled a draft agreement which the parties worked with in negotiations this morning. Kuwait tabled an alternative draft referred to as the “like-minded LDCs” on behalf of a number of less developed countries. Canada and many other developed nations feel the current draft is not balanced. It appears ministers will need to get involved if any agreement is to be reached.

2)      Loss & Damage – This has been a major theme at this year’s COP. This is focused on creating a common categorization of the types of harms created by climate change, determining potential adaptation and response protocols, and putting in place near-term and long-term mechanisms to combat losses due to climate change. One of the key issues debated today was whether the United Nations should take the lead on organizing disaster response. This is particularly relevant given the disaster in the Philippines. Canada and many other nations felt strongly that UN control over disaster response would not be a good outcome (the word “disaster” may in fact have been used).

COP 19 dinosaur and BrianCanada’s delegation is also catching a lot of flack from everyone at the conference (including Canadians) for a statement made by the office of Stephen Harper, Canada’s Prime Minister, which praised Australia’s government for introducing legislation to repeal its carbon tax. Australia currently holds the lead in the “fossil of the day” contest, a tongue-in-cheek award given to the country that demonstrated the most pre-historic view on the issue of climate change that day. So far, Canada has managed to stay off the leaderboard… I’m thinking that might change tomorrow!   Here’s a photo of me with the “fossil of the day” dinosaur!

Global Environmental Facility (GEF) – Film Premiere

In the evening, Harry and I attended the premiere “Planet at the Limit”, a film created by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) focused on climate change. It showed tangible examples of how climate change is affecting the world’s most vulnerable people, and also detailed some GEF-sponsored adaptation projects.

COP 19 Planet at the Limit director and flowersIt was a fun event. Harry and I had a long discussion with two Norwegians who are working on an interesting battery storage technology. We also had drinks with film’s director who told us more about how the documentary was created and how the people and projects were chosen (see photo — the flowers were his idea).

All in all, it was a great second day for us. I’m excited to get back over to the National Stadium for another day tomorrow. Stay tuned for more from Warsaw!

Day 1 at COP: China and Climate Change ~ Progress and Goals

COP19 Chinese pavilion with charactersby Difu Li T’14

After registration at COP19, our first event was the high level seminar on climate change at the China Pavilion. Mr. Zhenhua Xie, head of China delegation and the vice Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China opened the event with a brief review of what China has achieved in the past 8 years, post Copenhagen.

Unlike other countries, which are actually expected to raise their targets from 1990 levels, China will commit to tougher carbon reduction targets in its next five-year plan, due in 2015.

  • Energy consumption goal: The energy consumption per unit GDP has been brought down by 23.5%, equivalent to 2.35B tons of CO2, which is a promising progress towards the 40-45% reduction by 2015.
  • Climate change commitment: The recently ended third plenum of the Chinese Communist party’s 18th Central Committee has confirmed China’s commitment to addressing climate change. The Chinese national adaptation strategy to climate change was also launched during the event.
  • Emission trading system: Shenzhen was among the 7 pilot cities/provinces for a carbon emission trading system (ETS), launching its platform this past June. The trading volume is about 150K ton/day, and the price of carbon per ton is about 85RMB (~$14). Shanghai, Beijing, Guangdong and Tianjin will launch their platforms by the end of 2013.
  • Increased investment in R&D: Converting CO2 to plastics seems a promising technology to bring down the cost of CCS.
  • International collaboration for climate change: China will keep on supporting the South-South Cooperation (the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between developing countries) by providing energy saving products, training and technology to developing countries in Africa. China also urged developed countries to fulfill their promise of providing $100 billion to poor countries between 2013 and 2020.

COP19 Chinese pavilion Difu & mayorOne exciting moment for me was meeting Mr. Jie Tang, deputy mayor of Shenzhen, the city where I came from. He shared the great experience of how Shenzhen was able to successfully implement the ETS system by providing reasonable targets and quote allocations to all the enterprises. Mr. Tang is also very open, positive and willing to share, which gives more confidence about the future of my city as well as the ETS.

COP19 Chinese pavilion Brian caligraphyWe also took in the exhibition at the China Pavilion. My fellow Tuck delegates, Brian and Harry, tried Chinese calligraphy and were interviewed by Chinese journalists. Their images will be included in a documentary describing China’s effort in climate change. It’s great to have Tuckies involved in China’s commitment to climate change.

Tuck Makes 4th Trip to UN Climate Change Talks


COP19 with logo WarsawClimate change and energy scarcity are fundamental issues facing business and society. The Conference of the Partners or “COP 19” is this year’s UN-hosted climate change talks taking place in Warsaw, Poland. The conference continues the work to set an ambitious global agreement to address climate change.

At the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, we believe it is imperative for current and future business leaders to understand the implications of the decisions made today on business and society. Our fourth delegation of students departs soon for the annual Conference. These MBA students — tomorrow’s business leaders — will be faced with the task of incorporating the needs of the planet into their business plans.

This year’s representatives from Tuck, sponsored by the school’s Center for Business & Society, are second year students Harrison Kahn, Difu Lee and Brian McKenzie.

~Carole Gaudet, Communications & Marketing Specialist, Center for Business & Society, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth