Waves on the Horizon
What's coming up
Climate change conference: rulebooks and global stocktakes
Countries will meet in Bonn, Germany from 6th–17th November at the annual UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) to advance implementation of the Paris Agreement, the groundbreaking climate agreement that commits to limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. This is the 1st Climate COP hosted by an island state (Fiji) and, given the recent events in the Caribbean, will focus on advancing vulnerable countries’ priorities, such as climate finance, adaptation issues and how to move forward on loss and damage.
This meeting will also deal with a long to-do list that still has to be worked out under the Paris Agreement. This includes advancing the Paris Agreement "rulebook" to ensure that strong, coherent, effective and fair rules and processes are in place by the next COP in 2018. National action also needs to be stepped up to make sure countries meet the agreement’s goals – so there will be a regular “stocktake” of efforts, starting with one next year (the “facilitative dialogue”). Then a “global stocktake” will happen every 5 years to make sure countries reflect on what’s been achieved and what still needs to happen to meet the goals.
This is also the first COP since Trump rashly pulled the US out of the Agreement. The sad irony is that since then, his country and millions of US citizens have been battered by storms that many scientists say were supercharged by climate change. Hopefully, the US’s absence at the climate change table doesn't hamper progress at the meeting or give license to other parties that are potentially skeptical of the global climate regime (such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Russia) to slow things down. However, the strong signal sent by global leaders at the recent Ministerial meeting on climate action, organised by Canada, as well as many speeches delivered by world leaders at the UN General Assembly over the past week, provides hope for progress.
As a positive response to the US leadership vacuum on climate change, a coalition of 14 US states, known as the US Climate Alliance, have taken matters into their own hands to move the country towards implementing the Paris Agreement measures. During climate week at the UN this month, several State Governors hosted a press conference with former Secretary of State John Kerry to announce that they are "on track" to hit the targets agreed in Paris. These state leaders have also been playing an important role in elevating awareness about ocean acidification as a result of increased CO2 absorption by the Ocean.
Crunch time approaching for eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is set to take some important steps at its Ministerial meeting in Argentina from 11th–13th December. For more than 15 years, multilateral talks on an agreement to ban fisheries subsidies that lead to overcapacity and overfishing have floundered. But over the past year or so, there seems to finally be a surge in political will to tackle this issue once and for all. Currently 7 proposals are on the table, proposed by a number of different countries or groups of countries. Here’s a compilation matrix that shows a comparison of the proposals. Countries are now being urged to build on the similarities and look for any gaps in the coming months. Bloom and The Varda Group have recently released a new report giving a more critical analysis of the subsidies issue, coinciding with a forum they held at WTO HQ about how to secure a successful outcome.
The key thing will be to ensure the agreement doesn’t turn into a #nothingfishburger. It’s unlikely there will be disagreement on tackling subsidies that fund illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, but banning subsidies that drive overcapacity is also essential. This includes fuel subsidies, which make up about 22% of subsidies, and are especially problematic in extending the range of distant water fleets. Other tricky issues relate to special and differential treatment for developing and least developed members (click to read more), as well as how to bring on board emerging economies such as China, which has a sizable distant water fishing fleet.
Countries have the power to make a strong agreement in December that stops public money fueling Ocean destruction, and instead shifts the billions of dollars currently going into harmful subsidies towards funding sustainability commitments such as sustainable and precautionary fisheries management, research and MPAs. Let’s not let this opportunity slip through the net.
Click here for a forward looking calendar