Report on COP22, Marrakech. November 2016.

  • View daily broadcasts here: Week 2: Day 1, Day 2+3, Day 4 and Day 5.
  • What was the “Trump effect” on COP22? View here.
  • Listen to key takeaways from COP22 here on Hawaii Public Radio.

The Road to Speculation:

Marrakech’s COP22 ponders the “Trump Effect” on climate action

 Marrakech, a city that looks like a movie set, hosted the COP22/CMP12/CMA1 from November 7-18, 2016. First, let’s be clear about the acronyms. The COP22 was the 22nd meeting of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, but it was also the CMP12, meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol, and CMA1, the historic first meeting of the Paris Agreement which was signed by 196 parties last year in Paris, France.

COP22, as it was affectionately called, opened with anticipation as some 25,000 attendees rolled up their sleeves to get to work to implement the Paris Agreement. On the third day, a shock wave washed over the meeting as climate-denier Donald Trump became President-elect of the second largest global polluter. During his campaign, Trump said he would pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. It remains to be seen what exactly his administration will do, but his statements set many attendees on the road to speculation.

What were the main outcomes?

  • In my view, the single biggest divide after all these years of the climate process is –how much is each country going to do, and who is going to pay for it? There were 35 decisions adopted at the meeting, almost entirely procedural for the rules for the Paris Agreement. In other words, parties worked out how the Paris Agreement is going to go forward. The main issue is whether items will fall under the UNFCCC or the Paris Agreement. In general, developing countries favor the former, and developed countries favor the latter.
  • The biggest issue for emissions reductions, tied to the country pledges (or Nationally Determined Contributions) is that of trust and transparency (MRV-or, Monitoring, Reporting and Verification). Implementation details will be wrapped up by 2018, including the rules for a global stocktake. The first global stocktake will be in 2023 and then every five years.

After the initial shock waves had subsided, COP22 settled into a more predictably staid pace, and even ended on somewhat cautious optimism. That countries seemed to want to stay the course was a good indicator of what the global community might do to counter the “Trump Effect” on climate action. While the “Blue Zone” where bureaucrats and civil society mingled was fairly dead by the end of the second week, the “Green Zone” where businesses were showcasing their solar and renewables work was just hopping. Indeed, this may be where the future of climate action lies—in the business sector.




The Barometer of Life Comes to Hawaii

Report on the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress 2016, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1-10 September 2016

View the commentary here, and read summary here.

What are the IUCN and WCC?

Saturday, September 10th saw the end of the biggest conservation event ever —IUCN’s World Conservation Congress.

The IUCN has almost 1,300 government and NGO Members and more than 15,000 volunteer experts in 185 countries. It supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. In some ways, it is like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , only for biodiversity and sustainable development issues.

The first part of the Congress is like the Olympics—people came together to hob nob, do some serious work, and learn more about their fields. The IUCN or International Union for the Conservation of Nature is the organizing committee — like the Olympics Committee.

The second part, is called the members assembly. This is civil society in action– “Peace at Work”—where members exercise their rights and influence the conservation agenda around the globe. Eighty five motions were debated online for the first time, and all were approved to be voted on the floor of the assembly. Fourteen were put forward for discussion and debate at the Assembly.

Through these motions, IUCN sets the conservation agenda for the globe.

The Red List and Species Conservation

The IUCN is most known for its Red List. The Red list tells us how endangered a species is, how vulnerable. IUCN likes to say the Red list is a barometer of life, a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. Since 1964 it has been cataloging the conservation status of everything that lives—fungi, plants, animals.

Main outcomes of the World Conservation Congress 2016:

The Red list was updated: The IUCN Red List now includes ~83K species of which ~24K are threatened with extinction. Some highlights were:

-For Hawaii, 400+ native species were assessed for the Red List

-Four of six great apes are faced with extinction (critically endangered)

-The Giant Panda was downlisted, but is still vulnerable

-New guidelines for climate change and vulnerability were crafted

-Through motions put forward on the Congress floor, the most hotly debated one was #007 to close domestic markets for elephant ivory. It passed, but with resistance from southern African countries.

-A major goal announced at the Congress is to list 160,000 threatened species within another four years, protecting vital information for endangered species conservation.

IUCN and Habitat Conservation

 IUCN is not all about species. It is also about habitat conservation:

-The Congress started with the announcement of expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (it was established by George W. Bush in 2006)

– Motion 049 to Advance conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was passed,

-as was Motion 053 to increase marine protected area coverage (to 30%) for effective marine biodiversity conservation

When I asked EO Wilson what IUCN could do to be most effective, his response was: Habitat conservation. We need to designate more protected areas because we have so few left.

IUCN and other global agreements:

 The Congress highlighted connections among other global agreements:
-Convention on Biological Diversity of course, but also

-the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and

-the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and

– The Ramsar Convention on wetlands conservation

Don’t forget–this is the organization that helped coin the term sustainable development back in 1980.

The Hawaii Commitments for WCC 2016

 The Hawaii commitments were put together by input from congress participants. The main outcome was: nature based solutions to global problems of climate change, food security, ocean health, wildlife trafficking. The commitments also emphasize engaging with the private sector.

Where to find more information on the Congress and the IUCN?

 The IUCN Congress portal is the best place to look.

My daily TV updates and a recap of the Congress are available here:

Day 1

Day 2

Days 3, 4, 5, 6

Day 7 (with Pace Law student, J. Moravec)

Day 9 (with UH Law student, J. Eick)

Recap of entire Congress and IUCN

Twitter streams with these hashtags will allow you to follow what went on at the IUCNCongress 2016: #IUCNCongress #ELP_IUCN and #IUCN_Law.






An Agenda and Work Plan for COP22

Report on the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference, Intersessional, Bonn 16-26 May, 2016

1. What was the meeting about? The Intersessional is the first major meeting after most parties signed the Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016, and presented their pledges (NDCs).  Now on everyone’s mind and on the agenda is to operationalize the Paris Agreement.  At COP21 in Paris, parties requested different bodies to take different parts of the work program forward. The COP requested the ADA committee to prepare for entry into force of the Paris Agreement, and for the first CMA at COP22. More details of what is involved is found in the reflections document.

2. Where to find news on the meeting? The best places to look for information: IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin; UNFCCC site, and on Twitter search by #ParisAgreement #SB44 #APA1 (try other hashtags too).

3. Where to find my coverage: During this meeting, I am posting (from afar) on Facebook (WUSTL at COP) and on Twitter (follow me @anu_hittle), and summaries here on this page. Check back daily during the conference.

Conference Summary: UNFCCC Bonn Intersessional Meetings

The Bonn Climate Change meetings ended May 26, 2016. It was a typical slow start to the intersessional meeting that will lead up to the COP22 in November. Three main topics were on everyone’s mind, and much more was on the agenda. Early entry into force, finance, and pre-2020 ambition were dealt with during the two weeks. Other UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol business were also dealt with.

The first week for the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA1) was spent on procedural matters, and discussing the agenda. There were other firsts: APA1 was co-chaired by two women; for the first time Technical Expert Meetings convened on adaptation; non-state actors were called upon to participate, and their role was recognized in two high level appointments from COP21 and COP22 which will help facilitate participation for pre-2020 ambition.

COP22 will be the Action and Implementation COP, and some think it will be the Renewables COP.  More accurate, perhaps is the use of the term “operationalize” when referring to this phase of the Paris Agreement—putting procedures in place so that governments and non-state parties can then implement the various goals.

Calls for 1.5 degrees were heard throughout the meetings, including in our question tweeted to Christiana Figueres, but all agree even the 2-degree goal will not be met with current pledges from parties. Figureres states in a press release summarizing the goals going forward: “The urgency now is to implement the Paris Agreement’s visionary pathways at a speed and scale that can deliver the next crucial steps; namely a swift peaking of global emissions, a climate neutral world in the second half of the century and the building of resilient countries and communities for every man, woman and child.”
For pathways forward, see this paper by the World Resources Institute.

May 16: Opening Day Summary

Aloha, Namaskar and Hello COPpers, and other greenies following the UNFCCC process!

As I watch and analyze the Bonn meetings from my Hawaiian post, here is a summary of my tweets from yesterday’s opening of the Bonn meeting:

  • We have moved from negotiations to implementation or the “building” phase (Segolene Royal).  There will be many different things to follow as we ramp up to Marrakech, unlike the one big ADP document that we all followed leading upto COP21/the Paris Agreement.
  • The usual list of items was emphasized: Finance, technology, capacity. However, going forward, a relatively new issue has surfaced—that of MRV or Monitoring, Reporting and Verification. This has never been an issue before because we have never seen global commitments. For the first time, global commitments appear on the scene, and with that, Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of country pledges (or NDCs). This will be a hot issue to watch in the coming months.
  • Disappointed to find our RINGO observer group was not represented in the opening plenary.
  • Civil society participation is always what we are pushing for—and have been since the process started in 1992. However, we still do not have simultaneous translation for webcasts outside of the Plenaries! Tragic!  If global participation is encouraged via the web, this needs to be fixed.
  • My question about achieving a 1.5 degree goal was picked up via Twitter and answered by Christiana Figureres herself!

May 17 highlights: Second day summary

While you can get all the details of the meetings (SBI, SBSTA and APA and plenaries) from IISD’s ENB, my main thoughts from May 17th are:

APA started its work. Co-chairs are from two nations whose NDCs have an “inadequate” scorecard with
Several items are on the APA’s agenda, primary one being Article 4 or the country pledges.  For the agenda see here.
Thought for today: Implementation is on everyone’s minds, but what does it mean to implement the Paris Agreement? Negotiators are taking it to mean fleshing out the Paris Agreement, as per the four areas outlined here, and that is certainly within their “kuleana” (Hawaiian term for jurisdiction).  In opening plenary on the first day, Segolene Royal said it was time to “build.” First, architects (aka, negotiators) by definition do not build; they design. Building is the job of governments, businesses and civil society. Second, we are far from where we can start building. We are still at the design phase. Watch APA closely in the coming days of the meeting.

May 18+19: Agenda fights, and the issue of “Fair Share”

UNFCCC head Christiana Figures said of the currently on-going two- week conference in Bonn “It’s going to be a very weird session.” “It’s going to be a lot of housekeeping and planning … not much of interest to the outside world.” Source:

Indeed, there have been insider agenda tussles, and rumblings about what should be worked on during this meeting, the one in Marrakech later this year at COP22, and beyond. One might think: what’s the big deal about an agenda? This agenda will determine how and what work is carried out over the next several years to make the Paris Agreement operational.  The main point of contention right now is that country pledges should include adaptation measures, not just mitigation measures.

In addition, there has been a lot of discussion by civil society organizations about “fair share” of mitigation reductions for EU and USA. Of note was the absence of any discussion about large developing country roles in this mitigation effort (such as China and India).

The “Fair share” argument needs to be accompanied by the concept of a “carbon club”.  Otherwise, we will be stuck in our two-decade long impasse—historical v. current emitters (total v. per capita emissions).  It is reasonable to have a “fair share” for developed countries, who must take responsibility for what they did; and a “carbon club” for countries that are curentlyemitting large totals, and whose trajectories will blow the global carbon budge.  The latter need to be given a big boost in RE infrastructure to achieve SDGs for their populations. The point is, both need to happen to achieve the global goal of less than 2 degrees warming.

May 20+21: Halleluyah there is an agenda!

Many observers noted that week one yielded only the agenda from APA. Work has not started yet, and organization of work is the next discussion item. This will resume next week. Unlike with ADP, parties did not want too many break out groups; they would like to have no more than two at a time so as to enable smaller delegations to be equally involved as the larger ones.

The big items still remain: NDCs, adaptation and mitigation, finance and technology, MRV. And as climate tracker put it, we have an agenda while the world burns.

May 23+24: Work Plods Along

Outside of the UNFCCC, several other forums are of interest as they move towards climate action, and Climate Action Network’s side event panel sums these up very well (



-International Civil Aviation Organization

-International Maritime Organization

For the first time, some of these organizations have explicitly stated they are working towards Paris Agreement objectives.

May 25: How to Implement Paris

Many sessions are closed to observers, and even fewer are webcast. Press conferences are a good way to get clear up-to-date information from afar. From the WRI press conference, the best summary I can provide is:

-A lot of good work is being accomplished for the “how to” for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, in time for the COP22 in Marrakech.

– Biggest Questions are: entry into force (this may well happen by COP22), and a road map for finance (how to get to the $100billion, and money for adaptation funds). There are others, and WRI’s paper on “to do” list summarizes here:


Plants, Conservation & Global Partnerships

Report on the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation meeting, St Louis, MO, 28-29 June, 2016

View commentary here. A short summary is posted here.

1. What was the meeting about?  The meeting brought together the Global Partnership for Plant Conseravation members (GPPC) and their colleagues to assess progress made against the Aichi the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030.

2. Where to find more news on the meeting? The best sites are those of the UN, and BGCI, and the Convention on BioDiversity’s site. Hashtag for the meeting is #GPPC2016.

3. Where to find my coverage? For a summaries of the meeting, see here (video) and below. For a minute-by-minute coverage, go to Twitter (@anu_hittle).

Conference Summary: Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, St Louis, 28-29 June, 2016

Botanical gardens are a central part of this strategy, and form a network of partners– the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation (GPPC).  While there was no scorecard as such to evaluate how the GPPC is doing under the targets and goals established by the GSPC (Aichi Targets) and the Sustainable Development Goals, the outcomes were as follows (below) and summary posted here:

-highlighting and sharing lessons from successful programs and projects to train and assess biodiversity loss and gains

-Discussions on reaching out to a wider community to raise awareness and sympathy for plant conservation issues

-strategizing on what happens to the GSPC beyond 2020

Outcomes for the period beyond 2020 will be posted on #GPPC2016 on social media in the coming weeks. Follow our tweets: @anu_hittle for coverage of the meeting.

What Happens in the Arctic Doesn’t Stay in the Arctic

Report on the North Pacific Arctic Conference, Honolulu, HI, 11-12 August, 2016

Watch commentary here.

Arctic ice melt is a huge change for the globe

A drama is unfolding in the Arctic. If the Greenland ice sheet (an area three times the size of Texas) melted, sea level would rise about 6 meters. While this hasn’t happened yet, the National Snow and Ice Data Center which keeps track of all things cold says “From 1979 to 2006, summer melt on the ice sheet increased by 30 percent, reaching a new record in 2007.” Sparsely populated, ‘inhospitable’ frozen and dark, the Arctic has been populated by indigenous communities for millennia. It is fiercely fought over for its resources by the nations that border it: eight nations that form the Arctic Council.

Climate change is causing the biggest ice sheets to melt. What will it mean to have this huge quantity of fresh water dumped into the oceans? To discuss all aspects of this phenomenon, 35 Arctic experts came together at the East-West Center to thaw out in Hawaii on August 11 and 12, 2016.

Who was here and what did they talk about?

UNFCCC Climate superstar Dan Reifsynder was here as well. “Stay tuned,” he said to the audience. “More is coming in September when nations meet with their ratified agreements for Paris—the agreement may even come into force this year.”  This is indeed fast movement for 180+ countries. Representing country and indigenous governments, and research institutions, the main questions participants of the 2016 North Pacific Arctic Conference dealt with were:

  1. How does the Paris Agreement affect the Arctic?
  2. How does the Arctic affect global climate?

What were the outcomes?For the interested non-expert, take away messages were:

-The arctic is melting, and it’s melting fast

– We have very little information on these big changes.

– These huge gaps in baseline knowledge make it difficult for us to become resilient and adapt to the big changes that are coming

For the expert, this group publishes an exhaustive report each year on this North Pacific Dialog.

COP21: what was it worth?

The diplomats have done their job: the Paris agreement points the world in the right direction with sophistication and clarity. It does not, however, ensure implementation, which remains the domain of politicians, businessmen, scientists, engineers and civil society.”

–Jeffrey Sachs, Financial Times, 12 December 2015.