Notwithstanding the apprehensions of many observers noted in last week’s blog, we awaited the outcomes of COP 25 in Madrid with anticipation. The following statement from the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres aptly expresses the disappointing result: “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis". His assessment is fully endorsed by most of the reports that GOFAD was able to source. A final set of documents fell short on both the meeting’s main goals. They agreed on only weak and watered down commitments to the drastic cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases that had been promised. And a decision on regulations for new international carbon markets was deferred until next year in Glasgow at COP 26 (December 2020). Despite the disappointments, there are building blocks for future success in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement (2015). Because Madrid failed to clarify so many key issues, the onus now falls on the UK to resolve many of the most challenging questions. In Glasgow, the question of loss and damage, of carbon markets, transparency and many other technical issues will need to be solved. Most importantly, the countries will have to agree on a major boost in their carbon cutting if the world is to keep the rise in global temperatures under 1.5c this century.
Future success will depend on several factors. Chief among these, are a) reducing the disconnect among COP stakeholders, and b) pursuing collective leadership.
Reducing the Disconnect between the Larger polluters and the Smaller, Poorer, Less Polluting Countries
It was generally portrayed that major players including the larger polluters who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations. Yet, the presence and programmes highlighted by smaller, poorer, less polluting countries highlighted the worst impacts of climate change and reminded everyone what is at stake. So too were the expertise and dedication of the many hundreds of diplomats, researchers and policymakers who attended the summit alongside the politicians and the demonstrators who took to the streets for the past 18 months. This disconnect was the difference between the urgency underlined by the latest science, the demands for more ambitious climate targets from school strikers around the world, and the ‘torturous, convoluted nature of the talks’. Sriram Madhusoodanan from Corporate Accountability, a campaign group that monitors the presence of the oil and gas industry at COP said : “It's clear that civil society is at a boiling point, they are frustrated with the glacial pace and they are livid with the presence of polluters and their trade associations.” But for civil society and the persistence of the protestors progress would be even slower. Special reference also must be made to the progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American and Caribbean countries for achieving the best possible outcome against the will of big polluters. Laurence Tubiana from the European Climate Foundation, and an architect of the Paris agreement, described the result as "really a mixed bag, and a far cry from what science tells us is needed." See 'Never have I seen such a disconnect'.
The importance of Collective Leadership
An insightful BBC report reminds us that COP25 in Madrid only happened because the Chilean government, faced with mounting civil disorder, decided to cancel the meeting in Santiago and that Spain stepped in and in three weeks organised a well-resourced and well-run event. However, the fact that it was being run by one government, while hosted by another, gave rise to severe difficulties. The Report stated that “delegates were highly critical of the fact that when it came to the key text about ambition, the Chileans presented the lowest common denominator language first, resulting in a huge number of objections from countries eager to see more ambition on carbon cuts”. At the same time, experienced COP watchers said they should have started with high ambition and negotiated down to a compromise. It is therefore instructive that avoiding these anomalies should be an important outcome of the September 2020 in Liepzig encounter in preparation for the COP 26 Leadership in preparation for Glasgow. The hope is that by then the EU would have formalised its zero-carbon long term goal; updated its 2030 pledge to cut emissions by 55% of 1990 levels; and secure agreement from the Chinese to improve their nationally determined contribution (NDC). Back in 2014 the climate pact signed by President Obama and President Xi Jinping became the lynchpin of the Paris Agreement.
Rays of Hope from Latin America and the Caribbean
There is an opportunity for countries of the south acting in consort to make a difference especially in securing positive commitments to achieving zero carbon emissions, mitigating climate migration and stimulating positive provision for loss and damage in response to catastrophic damage.
Movement to Zero Carbon Emissions
The Zero Carbon Latin America and the Caribbean 2019 Report builds on the first Zero Carbon Report (2016), which called on the region to focus in the full decarbonization of four areas that produce 90 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions: power generation, transportation, land use and industry. It predicts that the transition to full decarbonization in these specific sectors will create further benefits, such as 7.7 million new permanent jobs and 28 million job-years in assignments related to green technologies, infrastructure deployment or transport electrification. The new edition was produced with the support of EUROCLIMA, a programme funded by the European Union, and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).
Prime Minster Mia Mottley’s Call to Action on Mitigating Climate Migration
The call by Prime Minister Mia Motley speaking on behalf of the Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) at the UN Climate action Summit is worth restating. It was for integrating human mobility in the COP and more generally in discussions on climate change as essential to prevent forced migration and support people who will be forced to leave their communities due to phenomena such as sea level rise, desertification, the melting of glaciers, the acidification of the ocean, droughts and hydrometeorological threats. By bringing together all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the COPs represent the ideal platform to advance these discussions and achieve international consensus to address climate migration.
Caribbean Pavilion sponsored by CDB and the Case for a Pan Caribbean Partership for Climate Action
The Caribbean contributes negligibly to global carbon emissions, but still bears the brunt of climate change impacts. As a result the issue of loss and damage that was inconclusive at COP 25, must be in forefront of urgent decisions in light of recent catastrophic damage caused by Category 5 Hurricanes, Irma and Maria in 2017, and Dorian in 2019. The Caribbean pavilion at COP 25 represented a platform for several regional bodies, including CDB, the Caribbean Community and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) as well as extra-regional bodies, such as the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). This
strong presence with areas for debate and information sharing also represents a justification for a Pan Caribbean Partnership on Climate Action advocated in GOFAD’a Blog (October 10, 2019).
In preparing for COP 26 the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre which is responsible for coordinating the Region’s response to climate change, must press for financing a cooler planet, moving beyond business as usual and coming within striking distance of net-zero emissions by 2050. A long-term perspective that accounts for how spending on new technologies today may lower the cost of reducing emissions in the future is provided by Kenneth Gillingham wrestled with in a new 2100-word piece .
Youth Standing up for Human Rights: Demands resonating at COP 25 in Madrid With Apologies to our ChildrenRead Now
This blog is being written on World Human Rights Day (December 10, 2019). The theme, “Youth Standing up for Human Rights“ aptly describes their interventions at the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid, now in its second and final week. Reports highlight the involvement of young people in climate policy making, and demands that their rights be respected. By the time this blog is posted, the decisions from COP 25 should reveal if their demands have fallen on deaf ears. These twin events have triggered some random thoughts about the wide ranging scope of youth, human rights and the future.
Generally, Human Rights Day commemorates the day — December 10, 1948 - when the General Assembly of the UN adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This Declaration, one of UN’s major achievements, stipulates universal values and a shared standard of achievement for everyone in every country. While the Declaration is not a binding document, it inspired over 60 human rights instruments that today make a common standard of human rights. It is the most translated document around the globe, available in over 500 languages. More specifically, under the 2019 universal call to action "Stand Up for Human Rights," the aim is to celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplifying their voices, and engaging with a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights.
Beyond the symbolism of World Human Rights Day, there are several examples of the power of youth in human rights initiatives that have multiplier effects by engaging wider communities. Amnesty International Kenya, for example, is a youth led inter-University Human Rights Debate. It was founded in 2012 to create a culture of human rights awareness and activism and influence knowledge, skills and capacity among young people. Human Rights Watch, that investigates and reports on human rights abuses around the world ranging from Syria's civil war, refugees in Europe, US Immigration and mass killings in the Philippines makes specific reference to the role of young people with political aspirations becoming involved in conflict resolution through participation in civic life. This is due to the fact that civic organizations tend to have lower access barriers, are less ideological, have greater “community focus” and are more “issue oriented” than political parties or other pressure groups.
More focused is Human Rights Day in South Africa that is historically linked with March 21, 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. Then, by coincidence or design, the digitization of the collection of Rosa Parks documents in the Library of Congress in New York was opened to the public on 2019 World Human Rights Day. Among the records highlighted at the launch were documents of Parks' affiliation with organizations and institutions including the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self- Development, an organization she founded with Elaine Eason Steele to promote youth development and civil rights education.
More far reaching in scope is the proclamation by United Nations General Assembly of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. It is to be noted that World Indigenous
Peoples Day, highlighting a population of 375-500 Million, occupying 22% of global land area, is celebrated on August 9th. However, the focus on indigenous languages aims at raising global attention on the critical risks to peoples representing the greater part of the world's diversity and speaking the major share of the world's 7000 languages. Most notable is that UNSECO has promoted the power of Language Technologies (LT) to make sure indigenous languages are preserved and promoted worldwide.
Sanguine reflections triggered by COP 25
Reflections on World AIDS Day and the remarkable efforts of Youth at COP 25 in Madrid have led to a search for the examples of the far reaching effects of human rights that defy the meaning of a one day celebration. The reports from Madrid so far signal the need for relentless all year round activism. Up to half a million people took part in a march in Madrid in support of rapid climate action, but according to observers, 'negotiators haven't got the message'.
This blog is being written when The Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid has commenced. Over the next 2 weeks leaders and technocrats from participating countries will be debating policies and programmes resulting from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Among the key alignments, are limiting carbon emissions, attaining green agendas, supporting geoscience, highlighting clean energy, rationalizing fossil fuel investments, implementing carbon taxes and expediting the Climate Investment Fund.
From COP 25 to GIPEX 2 in Guyana
While we await the decisions from COP 25, it is important to note that a most informative event, the 2nd Annual Guyana International Petroleum Business Summit and Exhibition (GIPEX 2019), was held at the Guyana Marriott, November 20-22 hosted by the Office of the Presidency, Department of Energy in collaboration with Exxon Mobile as a strategic Partner and several other events organizers, supporting partners and lead sponsors. The GIPEX 2019 Summit was complemented by an Exhibition that attracted a wide cross section of the Guyanese public, no doubt sensitizing them to the possibilities of opportunities in the new economy. The event was held against a backdrop of impressive developments with potential for rapid economic growth. Guyana is poised to achieve first oil (production) later this month. Its good fortune according to the Department of Energy is illustrated by 16 petroleum discoveries with an estimated recoverable barrels in excess of 6 billion, foreign direct investments of US500M, the creation of 1357 jobs and the establishment of 70 joint ventures and partnerships. The main focus of the Summit was on streamlining the operations within the oil and gas sector while paying particular attention to the Guyana’s commitment to the Green State as a foundation for its sustainable development.
While the depth of the presentations and richness of the discussions cannot be adequately captured in this brief sketch, it is important to note the wide array of experts that participated. They ranged from geologists, petroleum engineers and senior level managers in oil and gas to specialists in risks, assessment and insurance, digital transformation, economic diversity, and green development initiatives. Their presentations established the complexity of the challenges and prospects for achieving success in Guyana’s new venture. For example, Dr William Heins, Product Ambassador at GETECK, UK, renowned geologist, explained through the “mirror theory” that many more successful explorations are to be expected in Guyana. The experiences of other oil producing countries included officials from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mauritius, Nigeria, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Not only did they amplify the 'mirror theory' but also identified the business models, the new economics of deep water exploration, protection plans to ensure minimal environmental disruption, preparedness and appropriate responses to oil hazard substance and chemical pollution. These lessons to be learned will be of enormous financial benefits for Guyana and its potential to accelerate sustainable development. More specifically so, since Guyana's genetics and mineral heritage imply possible uptakes in gold, diamonds, bauxite and semi-precious stones also.
The Issue of Local Content
The time from exploration to production has been relatively short. Hence there is need to accelerate and put in place, laws, training and capacity building. A very useful set of discussions on enhancing local content, centered around how to use the “big boon” to benefit value chain opportunities for revenues obtained from natural resources to be diversified and invested in other sectors. This included a very interesting exchange of ideas among senior policy makers and innovators on strategies to protect eco-systems and biodiversity, as well as discussions on development of eco-tourism, infrastructure and towns along the river. But to establish a firm basis for these achievements require skilled negotiators, experts in energy law, provision for local companies to be given first consideration, certification and duty waivers for capacity building. In this regard, one outcome from GIPEX was the signing of an MOU between the University of Guyana and Halliburton, US oil and gas provider for US$2M to support the Faculty of Engineering and Technology for skills building.
There is also need for public education to manage expectations. Kwame Jantuah, Ghana’s Head of Africa’s Consortium Limited reflected on the lessons learned from his country on the issue of local content. There was a national outcry that oil companies were not interested in hiring their welders and fabricators, not understanding that these skills in the oil industry are much different from the normal industries and therefore required special training. Among the innovations he referred to were turning fisher folk into divers since they had no fear of the sea, teaching them new skills in underwater fabrication and maintenance of sub-sea infrastructure and training welders to maintain containerized cargo units. Of all the takeaways this one resonates most: “ Be very careful of the big word corruption … The oil and gas industry is big enough to take care of everyone if local content is practiced in favor of people and there must be trust, transparency and accountability and above all a long term development plan that will help invest the revenue equitably “
A critical factor to be further explored is optimizing wealth creation of the petroleum sector for emerging local producers to identify the opportunities, gaps and challenges that hinder citizens from actively participating in the sector. Allied to this are accelerating the growth of national capacity and strengthening the bonds of inclusivity in the context of a Green State.