The CWIS Climate Change Monitor continues to monitor meetings of states’ governments and indigenous peoples throughout the year between sessions of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The annual December sessions have been disappointing in terms of their productivity since the failure to establish a treaty agreement in Copenhagen in 2009. Since that failure (mostly associated with differences between China, India and Brazil on the one hand and the United States of America on the other) smaller states and more drastically affected states (island states for example) have shifted their frustrations to addressing aspects of the treaty such as adaptation strategies. We have concluded that insofar as the interests of indigenous peoples are concerned adaptation strategies, limiting states’ government control or influence over indigenous peoples’ decisions and the incorporation of ancient indigenous knowledge systems into the definition of mitigation and adaptation strategies must be the focus of indigenous peoples’ diplomatic and internal efforts. Consequently we will focus our attention on these aspects of the local, regional and global dialogue as we continue to monitor efforts to address the adverse effects of climate change in the Fourth World.
The Government of Qatar to host 18th Conference of Parties negotiations
Soon the 18th Session of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties will be convened in Qatar from 27 November to 7 December 2012 where the Conference of Parties (states’ government delegations) will consider reports from the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action and proposals from participating governments for adjustments in the current draft treaty language.
While the reports of these bodies will be important to advancing the discussions and perhaps move parties to closer agreement…the issues of incorporating “traditional knowledge” and respect for the “free, prior and informed consent” of indigenous populations language urged into consideration by the listed bodies to report to the Conference will probably not see the light of day. At least, the language advocated by indigenous peoples’ representatives over the last six years has not seen the light of day in previous COP sessions.
One possible new light of importance is the introduction of the newly formed Adaptation Committee. The Committee held organizing sessions in September and will report as agenda item #8 in the December Conference. Zimbabwe’s Margaret Mukhanana-Sangarwe and the US government’s Christina Chan sit as the cochairs of the Adaptation Committee.
Margaret Mukhanana-Sangarwe served as the chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (a sub group of the UNFCCC)
Christina Chan is a Foreign Affairs Officer at the US Department of State responsible for representing the US government in climate change negotiations. She is a former Senior Policy Analyst at CARE USA with connections to the Climate Action Network, and AdaptAbility Climate Adaptation Network.
Adaptation to Climate Change is no longer an option, but a necessity
A key task was to start developing the three-year work programme. The COP in Durban has provided the Adaptation Committee with an initial list of activities, which include establishing linkages with other UNFCCC bodies such as the Standing Committee on Finance and the Technology Executive Committee), preparing an overview of regional centers related to adaptation, preparing an overview of the international institutional adaptation landscape, and preparing a periodic overview of issues related to adaptation internationally.
The Adaptation Committee has the opportunity to help raise the profile of adaptation substantially in coming years and also to contribute to a more efficient negotiating process . An important question is how the Adaptation Committee engages with outside actors. Here, the committee had quite an ambiguous start. Publicly, almost no information was available in advance of the meeting on the website of the UNFCCC. The gathering was not even announced the UNFCCC home page, where all the other committees are listed. No background documents and no agenda were published prior the event. This compares to the start-up of the Standing Committee on Finance, where at least the agenda was available before the meeting. The Adaptation Committee’s adopted rules of procedures are another disappointment. For example, the committee could not formally agree to webcast the sessions. This would be an important step to achieve transparency and engagement with outside stakeholders.
Also the adopted rules of procedure lack a clear process to systematically engage with observers. Comparing the Adaptation Committee procedures to the more progressive ones of the Technological Executive Committee, an institution that was also launched in Cancun, this can only be seen as a missed chance. On the other hand, the actual work carried out during the initial meeting was quite open and refreshing. Observers could make interventions and were even consulted as experts in the working groups.
We shall monitor the Adaptation Committee closely in the coming months.