Day 8 Policy Updates: Coal-land

By Anna Odell and Bohdan Zymka

SBSTA closed early Sunday morning (late Saturday night) and SBI closed this morning before the stock-taking plenary. Overall, the G77 remains unified in the face of growing political pressure, particularly on the issues of loss and damage and finance. The G77 has stated that they won’t discuss post 2020 finance until pre 2020 finance has been addressed, and LDCs have put forward a proposal outlining how finance will be delivered (proposing that at least $60 billion be delivered by 2015). Long term finance is likely to be the battle ground in the upcoming week and achieving an international mechanism on loss and damage has been consistently declared one of the G77’s red lines.

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COP19 Warsaw: The Big Fights, Red Lines and Initial Predictions

by Anna Odell and Maria Alejandra Escalante

Thousands gather in Warsaw as typhoon Yolanda (internationally named typhoon Haiyan) ravages the Philippines, leaving up to 10,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands of people displaced, and destroying entire communities and towns. This catastrophe, the largest typhoon in recorded history, cannot go unacknowledged, and those parties responsible for excessive historical emissions must be called out and assume blame for this tragedy.

It is in the shadow of this disaster that negotiations must continue, and here in Warsaw we must remember the urgency, devastation, and injustice of climate change.

Below are some of the crucial topics to be addressed in negotiations this year, the expected course of discussion under these big fights, and the red lines that climate justice driven groups say must not be crossed.

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The Beginning of the End: Some things to keep in mind when the Doha outcome is shoved down your throat

by Anna Odell

It's becoming about that time where we can see the end of this COP (and with it, perhaps the end of the planet? But that's another blog). While there is so much work left to be done, there is now just a mere day and a half to complete it (though it seems as though delegates are rebooking their returning flights to the end of the weekend). Now is about the time when we will begin to predict the end, whatever that may mean, and the way that it will come about. When thinking about the possible outcome of Doha, there are some lessons that we can learn from our past.

Since the disaster of Copenhagen, the Convention has been very conscious that it cannot afford another failure. For the secretariat, an outcome, any outcome, is essential to ensure the legitimacy of the climate regime. It is the president and chairs' job to make sure that happens.

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What’s that word again…?

by Anna Odell

The following statement was delivered during an [Earth in Brackets] press conference on Wednesday, November 28th. 

The word equity is mentioned a lot within the UNFCCC, and today I would like to expand upon what equity actually looks like and what negotiations must deliver for there to be an equitable outcome in Doha.

Equity is the only road to ambition, and the climate legacy that must be shaped if we have any hope in solving this global crisis.

Currently, what equity there is within these halls is being consistently eroded and undermined throughout these negotiations. The negotiations in Doha are not simply a battle about the future of the climate, this is a battle over the status quo, privilege, and hegemony throughout the world. This is a battle of economic and historical privilege that developed countries have abused for centuries, while taking up stolen atmospheric space.

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Reactions to the People’s Summit


By Anna Odell 

After my first week in Rio, which I spent almost entirely cooped up in buildings, I was ready for a change of scenery. After spending just three days at the PrepComm in Riocentro with UN delegates and negotiators made me crave the sunlight and some fresh air. I was looking forward to feeling some sand beneath my toes and to finding some inspiration at People’s Summit. When I arrived at the People’s Summit, I was immediately struck with the impressive distance between the two spaces. Not only is there 40 km between the two (perhaps to ensure that negotiators won’t have to see the opposition to their work), there was sunlight, colors, grass, bikes, dogs, and a beach. I felt like I was entering a fair, complete with balloons and clowns. 

I had been warned to write down the schedule before attending and to bring a map; there was no visible complete list of side events, workshops, and plenaries and everything was extremely hard to find. When I arrive at the People’s Summit, there seemed to be some small improvement: there was a large map of Flamengo Park and the tents were clearly labeled. Alas, the increase in organization seemed to have stopped there. Every single workshop I attended (or tried to attend) had either been moved, was starting late, or had been cancelled. Throughout the day I grew increasingly concerned with the disorganization of the People’s Summit, and realized that without a unified, strong message, there is no way that their voices would be heard within Riocentro, let alone taken seriously. 

After the initial reactions of the differences between the People’s Summit and Riocentro, I paused to take note of the similarities. Both of the spaces sprawl across large areas, with little organization and communication. In the formal UN space, events are often closed, text must be leaked out, and rooms are often switched without notice. The People’s Summit is similar in the way that the spaces are seemingly disconnected, communication is incredibly difficult, and at times it is difficult to have any idea what is going on. If the People’s summit is to make an impact, it must get it together and raise a voice as unified civil society.

A key difference, however, between the People’s Summit and Riocentro, is the ability to express ideas and thoughts, whenever and however you feel fit. At Riocentro, an action expressing support for the 10 Year Framework of Sustainable Consumption and Production that involved about 5 people holding a poster was shut down in approximately five minutes. On the other hand, the People’s Summit is a space to express fears, disappointment, hope and rage. This is a place for people to come together and speak in a language that they can understand (primarily Portuguese), without the political jargon with hidden meanings. I was refreshed by the genuine sharing of knowledge and emotions, especially after my time in Riocentro, where real action and exchange seems to be stifled by the negotiations or lost in the vast buildings. 

My hope for the People’s Summit is that the energy created will put pressure on the negotiations and have an impact, and that the discontent of the People’s Summit will be heard within the halls of Riocentro. I hope that this will be a place for civil society to tell the world what the future they really want is. I have faith that this can happen, but only with a conscious effort and with this goal in mind. How do we make a clear message and how will that message be heard in Riocentro? 


By Maria Alejandra Escalante 

Of course, the People’s Summit and RioCentro had to be two different places. One is the gathering of people who have preferred to dedicate their efforts building relationships in an informal space. The other is the coucous of domesticated suited individuals who adapt their discourses to hidden corporate interests. We all knew that from previous civic and governmental reunions; we all expected the same dichotomy at Rio+20. 

We also know that the people’s movements at the People’s Summit could greatly be seen as an alternative proposal for the processes owned by the UN structure. By their inherent characteristics, both venues differ.  But their differentiation implies, unfortunately, that one has a greater weight in the balance of what influences society’s structures. 

The media has made the UN organization heavier. The world is expecting that the UN, precisely Rio+20, will come out with a plan for the coming years, a solution for the global crisis, at least a concern on the most pressing issues. By the world I mean all of those thousand of people who inevitably wait for the TV news to inform them of the process and the outcome of “such an important meeting”. The world is attentive to what Hillary Clinton  has to say (in representation of Obama who could not come because of …..who knows). The world does not seem to be open to receive real structural changes out of the dozen of workshops offered by NGO’s and local groups who drive projects for the wellbeing of the communities. 

Given this unbalance of influences, the People’s Summit must mobilize and express their disagreement and anger with the negotiation process. They march, they move, they yell and hope to be heard. Meanwhile, here at RioCentro, no one cares about mobilizing in disagreement with the People’s Summit principles because the ones here, at this cold halls, know the power they hold. 

The civil society at People’s Summit protests, and therefore increases the value of the UN decisions by giving this institution the attention it is craving for. The UN takes advantage in this position to escalate higher in the dreadful scale of powers. What if us, as civil society, turn our backs to the UN and their principles which have failed to represent us, and instead face one another? Would a stronger partnership between civil society members be more powerful than accepting another document of non achieved principles and commitments from the international governmental community? It might be the time to stop feeding these delegates’ ego. Their decisions can reach as far as civil society lets them. If we do not accept their unreasonable agreements then their power falls to the ground. We as civil society are already standing on the ground, we know we have alternative solutions to these global crisis. It might be time to pull the UN down from the air and bring it here, at the same level where we are standing on.