We’re bleary-eyed, brandishing banners in the early morning light. Rae Bainteiti, a 25-year-old youth delegate from the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, jokes that this might be the first and last winter he’ll wear a puffer jacket in the Parisian cold. Stepping towards the press encircling our demonstration, he addresses the crowd in a suddenly serious tone. “Our lives,” he says, “are not negotiable.” As true as that may be, in the plenary rooms beyond, ministers are putting brackets around his future.
It's the Saturday before the UN climate change negotiations begin in Paris, and AYLI is on the ground and rearing to go!
Our COP 20 delegates have made themselves known - check out this interview with Dewy from yesterday's issue of the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet (it's in Swedish!).
It's the last day of negotiations. To be precise, it's 5pm in the afternoon of the last day of negotiations. One would expect, given the late hour, that some decisions would have been made here - some level of consensus and compromise reached on the various agenda items. In fact, even though it's 5 pm of the last day, the closing session has not even begun, and it's expected that it will be closely and ruthlessly fought. Negotiations are expected to extend into the night, into Saturday, and even into Sunday.
I enjoy a variety of forms of media so wanted to provide a video of what's been going on thus far. It's 6.30 minutes long which is double the length I expected but it is really only a small snapshot of what's happened and happening.
Last week, to be frank, not a lot got done - discussions progressed extremely slowly despite long hours of negotiation. This week Ministers have arrived and things have stepped up a notch; however, with three days to go there is still a lot of work to be done in order to reach a concrete outcome
Behind effective decision making is an effective decision making infrastructure. At COP, like the UN Security Council and many other international organisations, decisions are made through consensus – where there is the no explicit objection. This presents many problems because it means everyone must be content with the decision to move forward. In the context of when states are telling other states to reduce emissions, progress is difficult.
As a geographer I love analysing power relationships within spaces of dialogue and a quote said in this side event sums up my feels on consensus.
“Consensus is the best decision rule, least likely to produce consensual behaviour.” Or in simpler terms, if you want consensus, don’t use consensus voting.
This may sound ridiculous but remember the purpose of consensus is to enable conversations so that agreement can be made which satisfies all parties. However by nature of the consensus voting procedure where one objection means the motion fails, the actor with the lowest ambition gets to dictate debate and get their way if they are willing to block any proposal that is stronger than they desire. Thus consensus creates a process where debate takes place around the purpose of avoiding a block and focusing on the lower end of the ambition rather than the middle or upper end of what more progressive parties desire.
Conversely, majority voting systems create power dynamics and a space where the discussion focuses on a more moderate space. For example when a 51% majority is required, conversation will be centric and when a 75% majority is required, then debate will be less centric and focus on only having a 25% rejection rate although still give a much more open debate than consensus. Voting is therefore far more conducive to directing the conversations to a more moderate position and actually building consensus since discourses will occur that more parties agree with and progressive parties can have more input and relevance.
It is very difficult to decide on what level of majority should be required given there are many types of decisions being made. A really interesting concept proposed by one of the panellists was that of layered voting. Rather than having the same majority required for all types of motions you take a staggered approach. From research, procedural motions are normally the least contentious and financial motions the most contentious. As an example of a layered voting process, a simple majority of 51% would be required to pass procedural motions, a three-quarters majority for substance motions and financial changes require a 90% majority.
There are definitely issues with this system such as agreeing what level and categorising motions but once in place this could definitely shift discussions away from being dominated by those with the least ambition and towards those with more aspiration.
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute.
For official Institute updates, take a look here.
“People aren’t waiting for the international negotiations to get a result. People are adapting now.”
Considering people within science is a tricky balance to achieve. This is a pity because people are at the heart of climate change impacts and it must be kept in mind that when we are looking for solutions and weighting what level of warming to accept and how to adapt. With approximately 250 million people expected to migrate due to climate induced reasons by 2050, these people must be looked after using all the tools possible to ensure adaption is as effective as possible and connecting people and data is a crucial element to successful adaption.
“Platforms of data shape the essence of life and how we can adapt.”
The UNFPA [UN Population Fund] have spent the last couple of years, developing a tool called DECA which connects population data with geographic information systems to make an easy to use, automated programme which can provide all sorts of information such as at-risk geographies. In the context of climate change, this can be used to compare areas where there is high population density versus areas that are flood prone or where agriculture is the main source of livelihood and where drought may be common as two basic examples.
Mobile phones are also an easy tool to figure out population movements and responses to both slow and rapid climate onset impacts. As an example, mobile SIM cards through call data records are used in Bangladesh, in an area vulnerable to flooding to measure migratory patterns. Using call data records is an invaluable tool to easily measure something which is inherently difficult to measure. The records show where populations reside and how they change over time which is very useful for trying to work out where to direct adaption measures and how the population is responding. After one particularly large storm, there was a clear drop in the number of people in the specific area and then afterwards there was a pattern of some people returning but then a slow decline in the population which was later attributed to the people having lost their livelihood which is attributed as a fundamental cause of climate-induced migration. Whilst far from a perfect measure, with access to the records, there is a fast, easy and cheap source of data available to assist resilient adaption measures.
“2C global mean temperature rise means nothing to an individual facing the consequences now.”
The quote above whilst from a different side event illustrates the disconnect between the numbers thrown around in high level negotiations and how for many their livelihoods are already under threat and are having to adapt right now, even though there is no assistance available to them given the lack of climate finance.
Another interpretation of this quote which was from this event is that the thought of this number totally ignores the concept of scale, which is crucial for effective adaption. The magic 2C temp remember is the global mean average and the actual increase varies spatially. For example, NZ is only effected by about two thirds of temp rise [although don’t take too much hope from this as wind patterns and other impacts will have a more than proportionate impact]. Another example is the many Pacific Islands where sea level rise is between three and six times the global average which rapidly compounds the problems they are facing. The urban heat island effect may be more relevant to you. Cities are hotter than rural areas because of their large surface area which absorb more heat and the human activities which collectively generate more heat. Some cities are already on average 2C warmer than pre-industrial levels so it can be expected that urban centres will be my much warmer than the global average.
Overall, people need data and data needs people to have mutual meaning. People need to data to help make informed decisions and the data needs people so that it can be relevant to the people who want to use the data. The next step is connecting it with policy and politics.