October 2015
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Greetings to the MAHB Community

In 32 days, the highly anticipated COP 21 negotiations will officially begin. From November 30th through December 11th the world will be watching as the State Parties of the UNFCCC meet for the 21st time in hopes of negotiating an international agreement on reducing carbon emissions with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

COP 21 marks a critical point in promoting progress toward a more sustainable and equitable future, and we are excited to use this issue of the MAHB newsletter to share activities, resources, and perspectives relating to the upcoming Conference:

In the autumn issue of the MAHB newsletter, we are sharing insightful updates on MAHB Nodes, Population and Sustainability Network and EcoEquity. We are proud to share the critical work they are taking on to situate issues of equity, fairness and population in the conversation at COP 21.

Want to let COP 21 attendees know you demand bold action? Check out the upcoming Days of Action to find out when and where mass mobilization events are taking place.

For those interested in learning more about COP 21, we have compiled some resources that will help you stay up to date.

Finally, Janto S. Hess from the University College London shares his perspective on what we can expect from the COP 21 in Paris.

Thank you for reading, please contact us with any questions.

© 2008 Kyaw Kyaw Winn, Courtesy of Photoshare

Node | Population & Sustainability Network

Carina Hirsch

Population, Gender & Sustainable Development Messages, Policy Asks and Side Event at COP 21

The Population and Sustainability Network (PSN), as the Secretariat of the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA), is bringing the population and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) agenda into the climate change discussions at the upcoming COP 21.

We will be hosting a side event entitled "Breaking the silos for a healthier planet --addressing reproductive health matters to build climate resilient communities". Panellists will discuss the importance of empowering women and families with rights-based family planning to increase resilience in population and climate change hotspots. Discussants will present evidence on how addressing population and reproductive health issues is a cost-effective yet overlooked adaptation and mitigation strategy, and a win-win for women and climate compatible development. Â 

PSN, together with network members, will be highlighting three key issues at COP 21 where the development community needs a greater focus and understanding, and where we believe we need to see policy changes:

1. Unsustainable consumption patterns and elevated Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from wealthy nations are accelerating and exacerbating climate change and global environmental degradation

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and developing countries are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change --yet they have contributed least to it. Many of the world’s poorest countries face a double difficulty: having to ensure economic growth while already experiencing the effects of climate change. Many identify population growth and a lack of access to SRHR as exacerbating the effects of climate change, as well as outpacing and undermining poverty alleviation efforts.

2. Communities would benefit from men and women’s enhanced resilience and adaptive capacities to climate change

Population growth rates and other demographic dynamics have significant impacts on the state of the environment, intensifying vulnerability and adaptation challenges. Rights-based voluntary family planning programmes represent an integral component of adaptation, mitigation and resilience-building strategies.

3. Women’s human rights are a means to ensure climate change adaptation: a win-win for women and the planet

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognises family planning as a climate adaptation strategy, with family planning projects eligible for climate adaptation financing. Access to SRHR services is an important part of strengthening women’s capacity to adapt. Improved public health, economic well-being and women’s empowerment are crucial building blocks of resilience --a win-win for women and the planet.

In order to achieve improved and sustainable development outcomes for women and the planet, policymakers, in developed and developing nations must:

  • Put gender equality and women’s empowerment high on the international development agenda, and include women in important climate change decision making and achieve gender equality in climate actions by tackling the socio-economic and political barriers;

  • Revise and strengthen National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) and other climate change adaptation programmes to include SRHR; and

  • Acknowledge that the most vulnerable have contributed the least to climate change.

Through our engagement at COP 21, we aim to highlight that improved SRHR (including actions leading to universal access to voluntary family planning information, rights and services) should form part of our response to mitigating the impacts of climate change. This will ultimately empower men and women, improve food security, allow women to engage more effectively in productive income generating activities and increase the possibility of enabling environmental sustainability. As at the date of publication, we are not aware of any other COP 21 side event with such a focus.

Node | EcoEquity

Lisa Coedy & Tom Athanasiou

How will we understand the success or failure of COP 21?

Tom Athanasiou, the director of EcoEquity, has spent no shortage of time pondering this question. In his view, it is likely that the upcoming Paris negotiations will result in an agreement to move us on a path towards reducing global carbon emissions. However, it’s still unclear if Paris will be the major breakthrough that we need. Will it be fair and equitable? Will it provide a plan for supporting developing countries as they face the challenges of both mitigation and adaptation? Will it include a â€œratcheting mechanism” that drives up ambition after Paris, so that we can ultimately hold the total warming below our 2 degree Celsius limit? At this point, we can only hope. Â 

EcoEquity has been focusing on equitable climate solutions since 2000. The bulk of its work has been focused on its partnership with the US Center of the Stockholm Environment Institute, where Sivan Kartha – a senior scientist who co-led the writing of the Sustainable Development and Equity chapter of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group III) – works with EcoEquity to run the Climate Equity Reference Project. The CERP, which grew out of the Greenhouse Development Rights (GDR) framework, is one of only a few groups in the world that is working on the development of “equity reference frameworks” designed to increase understanding of the global climate-equity challenge.

The Climate Equity Reference Project has developed, and continues to develop, online tools that transparently calculate national "fair shares" in the costs of an emergency global climate mobilization. The CERP framework proceeds by calculating a responsibility and capacity index for all countries based on a country's obligation to act upon its climate debt and its capacity to act. This index is applied within an effort-sharing framework and is the basis of the Climate Equity Reference Calculator, which is designed to allow users the ability to specify their own preferred interpretation of national responsibility and capacity for climate action. This interpretation is then used, together with standard demographic and macroeconomic indicators, to determine each country’s implied fair share of the global mitigation effort.

More recently, CERP provided the analytic support for an unprecedented Civil Society Equity Review of the pre-Paris pledges (which are known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs). The summary of this review was released at the October meeting of the negotiations which just ended in Bonn on October 23rd. CERP is extremely honored to have been chosen to support this review, in which a large number of civil society organizations, large and small, from both the global North and South, teamed up to speak with one voice. The full report will be released on November 10th.

Tom is currently writing an introduction to the coming Paris showdown. It will be published in late November in the Earth Island Journal and is designed to introduce the keystone issues that will, in his view, determine how useful Paris is likely to be.

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Days of Action

On October 14th, people from all walks of life across 47 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands came together in over 200 events to demand action on climate change as part of the People’s Climate Movement’s National Day of Action. A broad coalition of local community groups marched in the streets, rallied for clean power and stood up to protect their neighborhoods from the impacts of climate change. Click here to learn more about each event’s story.

Leading up to COP 21 dozens of environmental organizations, trade unions, grassroots and youth movements, faith organizations and other networks are teaming up again to organize massive citizen mobilizations in November and December. Add your voice and join the upcoming days of action:

November 28th and 29th: Join the People’s Climate March and gather in the streets of Paris and every city worldwide to put pressure on political decision-makers, kick-off two weeks of mobilization in parallel to COP 21.

December 5th and 6th: Join Citizen Summit for Climate in Montreuil. Thousands of alternative solutions to tackle climate change are implemented every day by millions of people.

December 7th - 11th: Take it to the Climate Action Zone (ZAC) and join a life-swarming place, full of creative ideas and joyful resistances.

December 12th: Take it to Paris where it’ll be our turn to have the last word! We will be calling for mass action to prove that the climate justice movement has the energy and the determination to make its solutions come true and grow even stronger in 2016!

To learn more, follow People’s Climate on Twitter or find an event near you.

COP 21 Resources

Wanting to learn more and stay up-to-date on news from COP 21? Here are a few resources we have found helpful:

If you are looking for more information on what COP 21 is --the process, the goals, the parties-- these infographics and factsheets can be a great place to start. They are also a helpful and engaging way to share the information with others.

Still unsure about how COP 21 is going to work and what the end goal is? This recent piece from NPR’s Morning Edition explains How U.N. Climate Negotiations Are Like Splitting A Bar Tab.

To stay up-to-date on the latest news from the Summit visit the UNFCCC’s Newsroom and watch the negotiations live via webcast. For another perspective, check out The Guardian's reporting and commentary on the latest news from COP 21.

Wondering how far the commitments move us towards reducing climate change? The Climate Action Tracker and The Climate Scoreboard are both easy to use tools for seeing the projected effect of commitments. You can also access the nation-specific INDCs and UNFCCC Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data for your own analyses.

Finally, find out how Civil Society is engaging with the Summit through Side Events and Exhibits along with the Climate Generations Areas, which will be open to the general public and provide space for debates, knowledge-sharing, and conviviality.

The MAHB would like to thank and recognize volunteers Lisa Coedy and David Belt for their continued work on the MAHB Newsletters!
Previous MAHB newsletters can be found here.
© Flickr/POC21 - Proof of Concept

Perspective | What can we expect
from COP 21 in Paris?

Janto S. Hess, MPhil / PhD Candidate at University College London (UCL)

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) will open its doors in November 2015 in Paris. After historical reduction targets announced by the US, China, and India, as well as pledges for meaningful action against climate change by religious leaders, some news agencies state the conference will be “too big to fail”. But, wait didn’t we hear this phrase before? Yes, at COP 15 in Copenhagen, a conference that ended with no universal legally binding agreement. In which way is the situation different in Paris and what exactly will be at stake at the upcoming conference? 

The main difference is probably the increased international awareness and pressure from civil society, scientists, religious leaders, and the private sector in combination with advanced technologies available at competitive costs. All these factors increase the weight on governments to agree on binding and adequate international commitments to a low carbon transmission.

The main focus at COP 21 will be given to: (i) reach a universal (legally binding?) agreement that leads to meaningful climate action; (ii) incorporate the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) from the member states into the agreement; (iii) create a robust finance agreement in order to mobilise $100 billion of climate finance for developing countries a year by 2020; and (iv) raise the profile of the “Agenda of Solutions”, in which state and non-state actors’ actions are supposed to amplify national commitments. Under these four overarching aspects a tremendous amount of specifications will be discussed. For example, a set of instruments and mechanisms, such as a cap and trade mechanism, as vehicles to reach reduction targets.

Considering the track record of previous COP negotiations, I am highly skeptical that an agreement can be reached that is effective in reducing the overall emissions as well as legally binding in key aspects, such as the national commitments or the financial contributions of different member states. Many experts share these concerns and do not expect that the INDC commitments and plans currently at stake will be consistent with the international goal of avoiding global warming of more than 2ºC.

From my perspective, it will be inevitable to increasingly involve the private sector and financial markets into emission reduction action and as an additional source of funding. It is my hope that a Paris agreement can provide clear guidelines and a regulatory framework that creates some form of an ‘equal playing field’ for the business community. Several private actors demand this clarity to be able to make strategic investment decisions. I personally think there is a huge potential from putting a stable price on emissions and making use of market forces, but these fruits could only be reaped if there are set boundaries and a strict enforcement of regulations. COP 21 will need to show if they can provide such guiding results.

Overall, it is likely that COP 21 will lead to a strong signal and some form of an agreement. However, it is highly questionable if the commitments will be sufficient to avoid a dangerous level of global warming and if key elements, such as national contributions will be legally binding in the agreement. Nonetheless, if you consider the high level negotiations as a form of an awareness raising campaign to tackle climate change and provide some guidance to the general public, then the Paris conference will surely deliver considerable outcomes.


Coordinating Committee

Erik Assadourian: Senior Fellow, Worldwatch Institute; Director of Transforming Cultures Project and Co-Director of State of the World 2013 and 2012

Paul Ehrlich: Bing Professor of Population Studies and President, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University

Marilyn Hempel: Co-founder, Blue Planet United; Editor, Pop!ulation Press

Ilan Kelman: Reader in Risk, Resilience and Global Health, Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction and Institute for Global Health, University College London; Senior Research Fellow, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

Richard York: Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, Director of Graduate Studies for Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of Oregon

Joan Diamond, ex-officio, Secratariat: Chief Operating Officer, The Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability

Advisory Board

Tom Burns: Professor Emeritus, Uppsala University, Sweden; Woods Institute, Stanford University

Tom Dietz: Professor Sociology, Environmental Science and Policy and Animal Studies; Assistant VP for Environmental Research at Michigan State University

Anne Ehrlich: Policy Coordinator, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University

Bob Horn: Visiting Scholar, H-STAR, Human Sciences and Technology Advanced Research Institute, Stanford University

Don Kennedy: Bing Professor of Environmental Sciences; President, emeritus, Stanford University; Senior Fellow, Woods Institute

Hal Mooney: Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology and FSI Senior Fellow, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University

Kirk Smith: Professor of Global Environmental Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley

Joan Diamond, Executive Director | Erika Gavenus, Communications Officer
Peter and Helen Bing | Larry Condon | Wren Wirth | The Mertz Gilmore Foundation | The Winslow Foundation
Copyright © 2015 Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere, All rights reserved.