COP18 blogs from Doha Print E-mail

Women House2Is ensuring fairness in the UN climate talks down to women?


CARE's Africa Climate Adaptation and Global Gender Advisor,

Agnes Otzelberger, says a small decision in Doha could have big consequences for women facing the impacts of climate change.


Given that women make up half of the world’s population, and often bear the brunt of climate change impacts, it seems logical that the UN's climate talks would ensure equal representation of men and women decision-makers as a matter of course. 


Not so. In fact, women are woefully underrepresented in the only global forum to discuss progress to tackle climate change. On average, they make up just a third of all participants, and often even less than that. At the previous meeting of states in Bangkok, just 29% of delegates and only 14% of the heads of delegations were women. The statistics remain worrying low, especially given the decision to address women's absence from the UN process was taken over a decade ago.


So, on the surface it may seem that a new proposal, tabled by a range of EU countries meeting at the latest round of climate talks in Doha this week, is going to solve the problem. A draft text suggests that the UN climate convention tackles gender equality by including more women in the discussions. In other words, it assumes that by fixing the problem of low representation, all will be well.


Noble though this is, it's not enough. Promoting gender equality in the climate talks is far bigger than just increasing the numbers of women involved. Women deserve a fair chance to shape global climate change policy as much as men – no matter what decisions they make. But even more importantly, women and men worldwide, particularly those who will be picking up the largest share of the human cost of climate change, deserve fair decisions from the UN climate talks. 


This is important because there is a great deal at stake for the millions of women and girls who are far removed from the UN process. It is their lives and futures which will be dramatically affected by climate change. Decisions taken by governments need to be fair for them; they need to address the injustice that climate change inflicts on the world's most vulnerable populations. And, as part of that, decisions must also address the persistent problem of gender inequalities. For example, barriers many women face in accessing finance. Or the high risk that financial burdens on countries tackling climate change impacts may also affect budgets that influence how well women, men, boys and girls are able to cope with climate change impacts, such as health, welfare and education. 


It seems unlikely that one little word could make any difference at all in resolving these issues. But the path governments choose will be determined by a simple but crucial difference between 'and' and 'by'. The tabled proposal could shape the direction of action on climate change for many years to come. "Promoting gender equality by improving the participation of women" falls far short. "Promoting gender equality and improving the participation of women" will ensure a better chance of a well balanced, fair representation of women in the climate talks and a better chance of well balanced, fair policies. If governments get it wrong, women's participation in tackling climate change may well be little more than a tokenistic gesture with consequences that could reach far beyond Doha.



Marching against climate change in Dohaclimatemarch pic


Amidst a backdrop of skyscrapers and hotels, Peter With, of CARE Denmark and the Southern Voices programme, reflects on Qatar's first public demonstration on climate change. 


Today, I marched with the most unusual crowd of people against climate change. The middle Saturday, during the two-week climate talks in Doha, is often an opportunity to demonstrate and put pressure on the negotiators – while providing a few pictures for the press.


This year, in Doha, I get off the bus at the Sheraton hotel, a posh looking, 10-storey pyramid structure. This is the starting point for the first demo in the history of Qatar. I put on my CARE t-shirt and join the many pandas from the World Wildlife Fund and polar bears from Greenpeace. An Oxfam colleague hands me a placard emblazoned with ‘Extreme Weather – Extreme Food Prices.’ This message fits perfectly with our own concerns at CARE. Last year, doubling food-prices dramatically increased food bills for poor people in Africa, many of whom depend on food imports.


It is nice to see so many colleagues, many of whom I haven’t seen for years. Habte from Ethiopia, Vitumbiko from Malawi. Many of us have marched together before. What is new here in Doha is the many Arabs who join us: bearded men in long white ghallabia dresses, many women in black, from top to toe – some with jewels and fancy designer handbags.


Though there are not that many locals, their messages are still important: ‘Arabs, take the lead! Qatar – do the right thing!’ After so many days in the conference centre, it is nice to get outside and join the protest – and join the call for climate action and climate justice. With our present pace of ambition, global emissions are heading towards a 4 degree temperature rise by the end of the century which will bring devastating effects for the planet and human civilization.


Poor people in poor nations will be particularly badly hit. If we do not reverse this trend, I ask myself if civillizations here in Qatar will survive the next 200 years? Will the Sheraton pyramid end up like those of the Atzecs and Mayans – as traces of civilizations long gone?


Photo: Adopt a Negotiator




Bursting the bubble of climate inactionETH-2006-KH-020


A week into the UN talks, Kit Vaughan, Head of Delegation for CARE in Doha says ambition is still lagging far behind what's needed to tackle climate change.


As ministers arrive in the oil rich state of Qatar for the final week of the UN climate talks, two things are clear. One: action on climate change is needed more urgently than ever. And two: we have no time to lose.


This year has been a year of alarming climate impacts. Just weeks before governments arrived in Doha, Hurricane Sandy caused $100million worth of damage in Haiti, $2bn in Cuba and $63bn of losses in the US. And as we sit in Doha, extreme tornadoes are lashing the Philippines.


The climate science paints an increasingly bleak picture. A new World Bank report released in November outlined a ‘doomsday scenario’ of life in a world that is 4 degrees warmer, while new research by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) highlighted that melting permafrost in the arctic could release considerable volumes of methane which have not yet been accounted for in future climate models, spiraling climate change out of control.


Put simply, we are heading beyond just dangerous warming into a world of extreme warming and extreme global climate disruption. But you wouldn’t know it here in the closed bubble of the UNFCCC climate talks with the lack of action and urgency. It’s as if negotiators are on another planet from the rest of our global citizens in a bubble of climate diplomacy. 


Rather than seizing the opportunity to act now and avoid the most dangerous climate impacts, or delay and pay more later, the talks continue to move at a snail’s pace. In some cases, they are even going backwards, and fast. You’d never know that we’re now 18 years into the process with little to show for it.


Perversely, it’s the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people who are increasingly bearing the costs of our global inaction to curb emissions and provide resources for adaptation. It is they who are paying the price for governments’ stubborn positions and unwillingness to compromise.


Just take communities supported by CARE in countries like Nepal, Mozambique and Peru. These people, who are already facing the challenges that poverty brings, are now having to bear the added burden of unreliable and extreme rainfall which reduces harvests, or more frequent storms and cyclones which damage property and infrastructure, or changes in weather patterns which cut off water supplies for livestock.


Sometimes, here in the bubble of the Qatar negotiations, these real, voiceless victims of climate change are too easily forgotten. Let’s not forget that they have done the least to cause the problems they are now facing. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the average person emits just 0.3 tonnes of carbon per year. In the US, that figure stands at 25 tonnes per person. The global climate injustice which is currently unfolding couldn’t be clearer.


Tackling climate change requires a global solution to a global problem, but with the impacts being felt at a local level there is also a need for governments to help support poor and vulnerable communities to adapt, where possible. Solutions that help build people’s resilience to major climate impacts, whether storms, floods or changing rainfall patterns, are vital. Where adaptation fails, compensation and rehabilitation will also be increasingly required.


The inward looking COP 18 ‘bubble’ needs bursting. Climate change is here, it is happening now and negotiators and countries that are consistently failing to take action need to wake up. No more weak promises and unfulfilled pledges but substantial new and additional resources for adaptation and investment to support a new, low carbon and resilient green global economy. Critically, we also need to ensure counties have delivered on their historical commitments and sign up to a second phase of the Kyoto protocol with ambitious targets, setting the direction of travel towards urgently reducing green house gas emissions. Finally, we need to see a roadmap for a new global agreement on climate change to be decided by 2015.


Ministers and negotiators must begin to live in the real world. The responsibility for ensuring a radical shift in ambition and action is now in their hands. 



From Doha to Azagor: Do the right thingNiger


While the nations of the world disagree on the best way to tackle climate change in Doha, people in Niger are already dealing with the reality of shifting seasons and extreme weather. Omar Tankari, CARE's National Advocacy Manager for the Adaptation Learning Programme, imagines what women from the Azagor Touareg Group, in eastern central Niger, would tell Ministers meeting in Qatar.

The latest report from the World Bank, which outlined the realities of life on Earth with an average global temperature rise of 4 degrees by the end of the century, has sounded the alarm: we are now hurtling towards a world of devastating climate impacts.

Nevertheless, the country delegates taking part in this year’s UN climate talks in Doha are struggling to agree on a minimum agenda to keep our climate to a sustainable level for life.

CARE is here as part of the international NGO community pushing for a legally binding climate agreement. This includes recognition of the disasters which are exacerbated by climate change in vulnerable countries, and a sustainable funding mechanism which supports vulnerable populations to adapt to a climate-damaged world. Above all, we need a rapid and urgent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. All of these demands are critical to help provide a strong response to climate change and its devastating impacts.

But are country delegates and their Ministers listening to us? For two weeks, little progress has been made. Several developed countries no longer want a second Kyoto Protocol, which set binding obligations on industrialised countries to reduce their emissions. Discussions on other key issues (adaptation, mitigation, finance, technology transfer) are mired in legal arguments and nuances of wording which do not address the underlying problems. Too many countries are focussing on their "national circumstances" rather than working for a common interest.

What strikes me, as someone who works with communities who are living on the front line of climate change impacts in Niger, is the staggering difference between what is happening here in Doha and the daily tragedies I see on the ground. While sitting here in the halls and corridors of the Qatar National Convention Centre, I imagine what the women from the Azagor Touareg Group, in eastern central Niger, might say if they had an opportunity to address delegates:

"You do not seem to understand what happens in the real world. You do not see the distress we have experienced since the great drought which crippled Niger in 1984. We lost our cattle, we were forced to change our way of life. The pastures we used to roam with our animals have been continually reduced in size as people plant crops for food. Our homeland is continuously threatened, we are forced to make longer and significant efforts to fetch water."


"If only you could imagine the growing difficulties we face to feed our children, our livestock, and to live in dignity. We have been fighting for 30 years against the devastating effects of more extreme weather, including less rain and increased heat. We do not understand your complicated discussions on monitoring, reporting and verification. And we don’t know how you will ever be able measure the enormous losses we are suffering."

"Ladies and gentlemen negotiators, Ministers, for now we ask you one thing: please make the right decisions for people like us. Do what is fair, and do it fast."


Photo: Dan Kada village, Maradi Region, Niger. Credit: UN Photo/WFP/Phil Behan



Doha climate talks: Not lost, but damagedDohaWRI


Although the Doha climate talks failed to make any substantial progress on tackling climate change, there are still reasons to be hopeful, writes CARE International Director of Climate Change and Environment, Kit Vaughan.


Despite the seeming lack of progress at the latest UN climate negotiations in Doha, with many saying the two-week session again failed to deliver any substantive action towards a safer, more climate controlled world, we should not forget that something new and extraordinary took place this year within the walls of the Qatar National Convention Centre.

Sadly, the US did not address its continued and epic failure to lead. Neither did the grandstanding of the emerging super powers, such as China, India and Brazil, come to an end. Nor did developed nations agree to adopt significant new, and urgently needed, emissions reductions targets. New finance to grease the wheels of action on mitigation and adaptation was nowhere to be seen either.

Instead, what we witnessed was an almost unprecedented and united stand by the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries, together with their developing country allies, to demand the establishment of an 'international mechanism' to address the significant and increasing loss and damage resulting from climate change impacts.

To clarify, a recent World Bank report and stark new estimates from science now confirm a trajectory of global warming of at least 4 degrees above the global average by 2100. Such a world is not compatible with sustainable development or equity. It is one of war, pestilence and increasing inequality.

Historic and increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and a collective ongoing failure to take action, mean we are now close to missing the opportunity to avert high degrees of climate change and the many impacts that go with it. Put simply: this is the new, third era of climate change loss and damage.

Clearly, taking urgent action to reduce emissions and help vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change where possible must be front and centre in national and global decisions about our common future. But, at the same time, we can't ignore the scale and portent size of the problem, or that there will be cases where adaptation fails.

That's why, globally, we need agreement on what should be done when a nation state, local community, or ecosystem's adaptive capacity is exceeded, and becomes so broken or damaged by the multiple effects of climate change, such as sea level rise, that they cease to function or become extinct.

Discussion of what to do about such eventualities is not new. The small island developing states (SIDS), best characterized by the low lying and vulnerable islands in the pacific, first tabled the idea for an 'international mechanism' to address loss and damage under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1991. Then in 2008, in Poznan, the issue was raised again when governments presented a more concrete example of why such a mechanism is needed and how it would function.

At the same meeting, and whilst heading the climate adaptation team at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), I worked closely with three distinguished climate lawyers to start looking at these issues in more detail.

Our 2008 report, "Beyond Adaptation: the legal duty to pay compensation for climate change damage", resulted in pressure from my US counterparts and many developed country negotiators. They stated - albeit wrongly - that such a report could drive the US out of the UN climate process altogether. That didn't happen, but neither did the USA or other big emitters make a sincere effort to reduce emissions in order to curb the worst effects of climate change.


Now, some five years later in Doha, the issue of how to tackle climate change loss and damage has returned with such force that it took all of the developed countries almost completely by surprise. Developing countries managed to throw the US and the EU off balance and against the ropes, in part because the US and EU hadn't done their homework, but also because this time, developing countries came prepared and were ready to fight with substance.

Civil society has been incredibly active on this issue. Our new report, "Tackling the Limits to Adaptation", a joint effort by CARE, WWF and ActionAid and produced just ahead of the Doha conference, outlined the moral, legal and technical arguments and options for an international mechanism.


Negotiators used it extensively to frame their own text submissions and, in turn, the recommendations were used to develop an open letter to ministers, calling for urgent leadership to drastically reduce emissions, significantly scaled up support to help poor and vulnerable countries adapt where possible, and then, crucially, also to fundamentally recognize the need to establish an international mechanism to address loss and damage from climate impacts. The letter was signed by nearly 50 key civil society organisations.

These factors all helped the cause. However, ultimately, it was the overwhelming frustration and the united stand of the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries, that have done so little to cause climate change but are being hit the hardest, spurred on by the political intransigence and severe failure of developed countries to reduce their emissions enough to limit climate damage, that finally broke the deadlock.

In the early hours of Saturday, developed countries caved in to the demands of a united front and agreed to text that provides the potential foundation for the establishment of an international mechanism to address loss and damage. Although we don't know what will happen next, it's still a genuine step forward.

As we move on from Doha, still disillusioned with the broader scale of action taken to tackle the root causes of climate change and help the most vulnerable adapt to it, we must remember the UN climate convention is only as good as the sum of its parts.

As such, we would be wrong to blame the process. Instead, we need to focus our attention on those countries that continually fail to take action and live up to their historical and current responsibilities.

Developed countries must now step up their game to kick-start the urgent transition to a low carbon and climate resilient world. It is their duty to invest in creating a safer and more stable world for all.


This blog first appeared on the Huffington Post.


Photo: Inside the Qatar National Convention Centre, Doha. Credit: World Resources Institute.



Loss and damage: An issue whose time has comePakistanAerialFloodsweb


A few weeks ago, 'loss and damage' was a phrase understood by a relatively select group of climate specialists. But, with ongoing inaction to tackle climate change, the issue will soon become familiar to us all, says CARE's Senior Climate Change Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean, Pascal Girot.

Before this year’s meeting of governments at the UN climate talks in Doha, a Google search of the words ‘loss and damage’ returned an eclectic mix of results: insurance for mobile phones, claims procedures for missing airline luggage and shampoos to treat dry or balding hair.

Fast-forward two weeks, after another intensive round of climate negotiations involving 194 states, and the term ‘loss and damage’ now has a Google profile all of its own. But what exactly is it?

In essence, loss and damage refers to the impacts of climate change – namely, the devastating losses and irreparable damage that countries and communities are increasingly sustaining as a result of extreme and slow onset climate-related events. This includes phenomena like increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters which destroy homes and infrastructure or rising sea levels which flood land, crops and, potentially, entire nations.

Loss and damage, although first raised as an issue in the early 90s, has finally made its debut on the international stage. Not only was it discussed at length by governments in Doha, it also attracted considerable media interest and analysis.

So, why now? The debate about increasing climate impacts and what to do about them stems from a growing realisation that, globally, emissions reductions are not happening fast enough. Targets are not being met, not even remotely, meaning runaway volumes of greenhouse gases are rapidly leading us to a 4-degree world. That’s a full two degrees about the maximum recommended threshold advised by science. In turn, this scenario most likely means that efforts to adapt to the changing climate will also fail. The effects – such as the disappearance of an entire low, lying island nation – may well be catastrophic.

It figures that if those countries responsible for current and historical emissions have not agreed to curtail them, and are not providing adequate funding to help poor and vulnerable countries and populations adapt, loss and damage from climate impacts is only set to get worse. That’s why 194 countries have started to discuss loss and damage in earnest and begin to explore solutions.

Here at CARE, loss and damage is something we are genuinely concerned about. We know that climate change is already impacting on many of the poor and vulnerable communities we work with in some of the world’s poorest countries. In these communities, extreme weather such as storms and cyclones and shifting seasons and rainfall patterns pose significant threats to crops, sources of food, homes, incomes and traditions. Above all, this is a matter of social injustice: the world’s poorest, who have contributed insignificantly to global emissions are also set to bear the brunt of the loss and damage climate change is bringing.


That’s why we have been so active on this issue. Our new report, Tackling the Limits to Adaptation, produced with the World Wildlife Fund and ActionAid ahead of this year’s climate talks outlined many of our key concerns. It called on developed country governments meeting in Doha to deliver three key things. First: urgent and drastic cuts in emissions. Second: dramatically increased financial support for vulnerable countries to help them prevent and avoid loss and damage from the impacts of climate change. Third: to provide compensation and rehabilitation for loss and damage caused by past and ongoing inaction.


As the report aptly states: “we have transcended the era of mitigation and adaptation – this is now the new era of loss and damage. To rectify and redress the situation, developed countries have an urgent legal and moral obligation to undertake urgent and dramatic mitigation action.”


Then, during the climate talks in Doha, we took our demands one step further. Working with colleagues at WWF and ActionAid we helped galvanize further support, this time from nearly 50 civil society organisations. In a letter addressed to ministers as they arrived in Qatar, we repeated our calls, generating significant media attention and increased profile for the issue of loss and damage.

After much debate and discussion and many lengthy hours of meetings and negotiations, finally governments came to a common position. They agreed that loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change is threatening the current and future sustainable development, and indeed survival of, the world’s least developed countries, small island developing states and other particularly vulnerable developing countries.

They also agreed to consider the establishment of a process – known as an ‘international mechanism’ – to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change where adaptation fails or is no longer possible.

Though historic in many ways, this is just the beginning of a global discussion about this vital issue. Civil society needs to keep up the pressure, keep banging the mitigation and adaptation drums louder than ever and also ensure that compensation and rehabilitation are now squarely on the table in discussions about loss and damage. We have much work to do too in the next year to help flesh out what a new ‘international mechanism’ might look like.

After so many years of hiding in the shadows, loss and damage is now here to stay.


Photo: A view of flooding in the province of Punjab, near the city of Multan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.