COP23 Day Zero Brief

The COP23 is an interim planning conference, in which the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will explore ways to operationalize and accelerate their national climate-action plans. The nations of the world will also collaborate in the design of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue on progress toward the Paris Agreement goals for 2020.

It can be seen as a launch-sequence coordinating conference. It will help to determine how fast we will be innovating and investing to solve and survive climate change, in the critical landmark year of 2020.

There will be a focus on key accelerators of the climate-smart economy:

And, under Fiji’s COP23 presidency, there will be an emphasis on advancing understanding of the critical ways in which ocean health and resilience interact with human health and wellbeing. The ocean is not only the most unexplored part of our planet; it is also the most under-studied major driver of climate stability, and a resource no area of human wellbeing can do without.

If Earth weren’t a blue planet, human life would not exist.

Major outcomes of the COP23 will determine, in part, whether coastal villages need to evacuate, and how soon, or whether they can plan for a sustainable future lived in the way of their choosing, in their homelands. The unprecedented rash of catastrophic hurricanes that struck islands across the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico coastline in August and September will be a major driver of discussions about resilient future-building.

Climate solvency–the degree to which a nation is able to plan and live through climate impacts and also be fully engaged in the low-carbon future economy–is an emerging area of discussion. Many speculate that the contrary views of the new US government will slow progress, but 13 of its agencies have just issued decisive scientific findings confirming the link between carbon pollution and dangerous climate disruption.

Extreme weather events intensified by that disruption have cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars this year alone. Achieving the Paris goals is not just about protecting the climate system; it is now much more visibly about nations planning together to be viable as institutions that support and protect human wellbeing in a high-risk future.

So, what is at stake?

  1. How quickly we slow and reverse climate disruption.
  2. How much say each of us will have in designing solutions.
  3. What share of overall investment pushes toward that better future.
  4. Resilience of Earth’s life-support systems.
  5. Integrity of our political and economic systems.

Where do we hope to make progress in Bonn?

  1. Mission: Accelerated pathways for keeping warming to 1.5ºC or lower.
  2. Civics: Establish participatory role for non-party stakeholders in design of overall climate response.
  3. Finance: Coalition for aggregating and upgrading the climate intelligence of all finance everywhere.
  4. Realignment: Shift incentives away from the bad bet of climate-disrupting investment.
  5. Firewall: Start moving all resources toward real and shared climate solvency.

Over the last 2 years, the Acceleration Dialogues have worked to produce guiding insights relating to the climate action opportunity. In April, in a diplomatic dialogue focused on Building Fiscal Resilience, high-level participants representing governments, research institutions, policy planning, investor groups, and UN agencies, produced 5 actionable priorities for finance ministries, to adapt their day-to-day business to the work of securing future climate solvency:

  1. Ease structural market constraints that limit low-carbon investment;
  2. Address macrocritical areas of concern;
  3. Decouple future growth from climate-forcing emissions;
  4. Steer incentives toward low-carbon energy strategies;
  5. Align core budget areas with durable climate-smart resilience.

These insights, with added detail and in the specific context of their countries, can allow any finance minister to promote smart, fiscally resilient future-building, simply by addressing what is already on their desk. No nation can afford not to move forward on all five of these priorities.

The COP23 will also see the coming together of multilateral coalitions that include governments, civil society, and intergovernmental agencies–some with support from the private sector and from subnational governments–to mobilize more diverse resources. While new and additional investment is critical to catalyze a global transition, we are now seeing the emergence of cross-sectoral collaboration to mainstream climate-related financial decision-making.

The post-hurricane situation currently ongoing in the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico–where many places still have no access to electrical power, clean drinking water, reliable food supplies, or routine medical treatment facilities–makes clear the need for better energy infrastructure. Specifically, it is now clear that light-weight, rapidly deployable, modular and replaceable solar microgrids build resilience and defend against long-running after-effects of major shock events.

Discussions about investing in future opportunity will have to focus on whether long-term planning builds in this type of resilient infrastructure. The infrastructure spending bill for the world is set to double in coming years, so there will be both a demand for, and a supply of, major finance in the public and private sectors, to deploy climate resilient infrastructure.

There will be many attempts to bend the narrative about the COP23 to a pessimistic or do-nothing mindset. Every year, there is a tide of commentary that argues that if a piece of paper is not generated that in itself ends climate change, the world has failed. This has never been true; the UNFCCC process has steadily moved forward to an increasing level of ambition and cooperation.

The COP23 is a world-building global congress. Its mandate is to define terms and processes, develop new strategies for innovation and deployment, reconsider how economic and investment values are adjudicated, and decide legal language that all UNFCCC party countries can apply at home and in future negotiations. The result will point to a future outcome that is better than what would otherwise have been.

Our COP23 daily brief on the Paris Progress site will provide crisp, meaningful report-backs from each day’s negotiations. We will link to the most comprehensive resources but focus on what connects to the issues we have covered above.

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About Joseph Robertson

Joseph is Global Strategy Director for the non-partisan non-profit Citizens' Climate Lobby. He coordinates the building of CCL's citizen engagement groups on 5 continents, leads the Citizens' Climate Engagement Network and represents CCL in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, UNFCCC negotiations, and other UN processes. He is a member of the Executive Board of the UN-linked NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY and of the Policy and Strategy Group for the World We Want. He is also the founder of Geoversiv.net and the Geoversiv Foundation and the lead strategist supporting the high-level climate dialogue series Accelerating Progress, Advancing Innovation.