Climate Change

A Synopsis of  the Current State of Global Climate Change  Negotiations 
This document provides an update on the  status of the global climate change negotiations under the United Nations  Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as of June 2012.

Climate change is caused by the build-up of  greenhouse gases in the atmosphere . This build-up causes temperatures to  increase and weather patterns to change. This results in increases in sea  levels, increase in extreme events, and consequential impacts (mostly negative)  throughout the world on food security, health, water availability, inter alia.

The scientific literature on climate change  has identified children as being among those most vulnerable to climate change.  The vulnerability is highlighted in the  Summary for Policy Makers from the Report of Working Group II of the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report,  which states that:
“Projected climate change-related exposures  are likely to affect the health status of millions of people, particularly  those with low adaptive capacity, through:

  • increases in malnutrition and consequent disorders, with  implications for child growth and development.”

This is further emphasised in the Summary  for Policy Makers of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report which states that “some  people (such as the poor, young children and the elderly) can be particularly  at risk” from climate change .

This high level of vulnerability results  inter alia from the projected negative impacts of climate change on health,  nutrition, and food security in developing countries, and the general  retardation of child growth that will result. Children are also very vulnerable  to many of the other projected impacts of climate change, including increased  extreme events, which may result in disasters and emergencies.

Responding to climate change and its  projected impacts should therefore receive priority attention by agencies  programming for children. This attention should focus on two areas of  intervention:

  • strengthening the ability of children to adapt to the impacts of  climate change on their lives;
  • making current institutional programming more resilient to climate  change.


Evolution of International Negotiations
The international community has been  engaged in negotiations on responding to climate change since 1990 when the UN  General Assembly established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC)  and mandated it to commence negotiations towards “a meaningful legal  act” on climate change.

These negotiations have sought to promote  international cooperation on climate change in a wide range of areas, including  emissions reduction targets and other mitigation actions, adaptation,  technology transfer, financing, capacity building, and information exchange.

The negotiations have sought to respond to  the scientific findings reported by the IPCC and the rest of the global  scientific community which have highlighted the threats posed by climate  change. These findings have highlighted the need for urgent global action to  reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the rising temperatures and other  consequential impacts that result.

Key milestones along the way have been the  negotiation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992  Earth Summit) and its subsequent entry into force in 1994 and the negotiation  of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and its subsequent entry into force in 2005.

Under these instruments, agreements have  been reached in a number of areas, the most significant of which have been:

  • Mitigation – This refers to action taken to reduce greenhouse gas  emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol contains legally binding  commitments for the developed countries to reduce emissions collectively by an  average of 5.2% below 1990 levels during the 2008 – 2012 period. This period  was called the First Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol and was  expected to be followed by a post-2012 Second Commitment Period with new targets  for developed countries.

However, the Kyoto Protocol does not  include the largest emitters of carbon dioxide – the United   States and China. In an effort to get all  major emitters on board, the 2010 Cancun  negotiations, agreed that all countries could submit voluntary emissions  reductions pledges, which they would strive to implement. These pledges would  be implemented alongside the legal-binding targets for those countries that had  adopted targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Cancun  negotiations also agreed that the global community would strive to limit long  term temperature increases to under 20C above pre-industrial levels.

To date, the pledges that countries have  submitted fall far short of the level of effort that will be required to keep  global temperature increases to the under 20C target that was agreed to by the  global community.

Agreement was reached at the most recent  negotiating session in December 2011 in Durban, South Africa, that there will  be a Second Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol, but a number of  developed countries – Canada, Japan, Russia – have indicated that they will not  be taking any new commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.   The Durban  negotiations also agreed to negotiate a new agreement that would be binding on  all countries to be completed by 2015 and to enter into force after 2020.

  • Adaptation  – This refers to action taken to minimise and/or cope with the adverse effects  of climate change.
    Until very recently, adaptation has not  been treated by the developed countries as an issue requiring global attention.  It has been addressed in a very fragmented manner in the negotiating process.  This has begun to change and the Cancun 2011 negotiations agreed on the  establishment of an Adaptation Committee which has been charged with the  responsibility to bring coherence to adaptation efforts at all levels. The Durban negotiations  agreed upon the modalities for operationalising the Adaptation Committee.
  • Technology  – This refers to access by developing countries to relevant technologies for  mitigation and adaptation.
    This has been a divisive issue between  developed and developing countries for the entire duration of the negotiating  process. This has been influenced in part by differences between these  countries related to the costs of accessing technologies and the treatment of  intellectual property rights. The Durban  negotiations finalised modalities for a global Technology Executive Committee  and a Climate Technology Network, aimed at bringing global coherence to efforts  to increase accessibility to the technologies required to fight climate change.
  • Finance  – This refers to access by developing countries to sufficient, affordable and  predictable finance for mitigation and adaptation.

The provision of finance to assist  developing countries to combat climate change has been one of the divisive  issues in the climate negotiations and continues to be. The Convention was  adopted with provisions for developed countries to provide finances to assist  developing countries, and with a financial mechanism to manage these funds. The  institution that was selected was the Global Environment Fund (GEF).

Developing countries have never been happy  with the operations of the GEF and in the 2010 negotiations in Cancun, it was agreed to establish a much larger fund –  the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – to address the financing of climate change  initiatives. The Durban Conference agreed on the modalities for  operationalising the fund, but there are still a number of unresolved issues,  including the sources and quantum of financing that the GCF will administer.

Current Status of International  Negotiations
The negotiations, in 2012, are at a stage  where a number of processes and institutions have been agreed upon. However,  the details of most of these – the negotiations on the new global agreement,  the targets for emissions reduction, the working of the Adaptation Committee,  the Climate Technology Network and the Green Climate Fund – are still in the  process of being finalised.

The Rio+20  United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, June 2012, endorsed  the UNFCCC processes as the forum for negotiating on climate change.

The 2012 negotiations are therefore very  important in that they will determine the eventual shape of the future  international regime to combat climate change. These decisions, together with a  decision on the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol, will be on the  agenda of the upcoming Conference of Parties, scheduled to be held in Doha, Qatar,  from November 26 to December 07, 2012.

Implications for Children’s Programming
No specific visibility is given to children  in either of the outcome texts from Cancun and Durban. The texts do not specify any  vulnerable grouping and the Cancun text  references vulnerable groups in general as follows:

“Affirms  that enhanced action on adaptation should be undertaken in accordance with the  Convention; follow a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully  transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities  and ecosystems.”

In this respect, the institutions  established under the negotiating process will eventually provide opportunities  for agencies and entities involved in climate change programming for children  to receive support for their work, given that children has been identified by  the IPCC as a very vulnerable group – either through the adaptation  institutions, or directly from the financial mechanisms.

These agencies and entities can be involved  either through participation and recognition in national adaptation programming,  or as independent operating entities in their own right. An immediate area of  focus is on the development of national adaptation plans by Parties, and it  will be useful if individual countries can identify children as one of the  vulnerable groupings to be addressed by the national adaptation plans.  This is an area for agencies and entities to  incorporate in their advocacy with national governments.

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