CO-FACILITATORS' SUMMARY OF EVENT ON (May 31, 2023)
Achieving Tangible Cooperation and Compliance to Avert Climate Catastrophe
Addressing the existential threats of the 21st century including climate change will play a crucial role in the lead-up to the COP 28 in December 2023 and the Summit of the Future in 2024. The American Society of International Law (ASIL) Signature Topic for 2022-2024 entitled “Cooperation & Compliance Through International Law and Institutions” has been conceived , among other goals, to strengthen international cooperation and improve UN Member State compliance with a view to arriving at concrete recommendations to combat climate change, prevent nuclear proliferation and prevent pandemics.
ASIL wishes to thank the Permanents Missions of Kenya and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for co-hosting the 31 May 2024 event. We are also grateful to the two subject-matter experts, Dr. Achala Abeysinghe and Dr. Scott Barrett, who presented their proposals and concrete recommendations to the participating member States. The proposals are summarized in the annexes hereto.
In addition, we are pleased to share with you some of the salient points raised in the rich discussion.
The latest IPCC report warns that there “is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.” To avoid climate catastrophe, we must ensure compliance and cooperation to achieve these imperatives and aspirations. We must save multilateralism in order to save humanity.
- Climate catastrophe has faces and places. The real reason climate action is not urgent and ambitious enough is because those faces and places are poor. The climate catastrophe, like the pandemic we have just experienced, or the destructive wars of the past that swept the world, shall eventually visit even the most gilded and protected among us. In our endeavor to achieve green industrialisation, we need reciprocal commitment from industrialised nations. Solidarity in climate action is not just a moral obligation but a necessity for our collective survival.
- Despite 30 years of climate negotiations, concentrations of CO2 are much higher today than at the start of the negotiations. While the Paris Agreement has had a positive impact, the world is not moving fast enough to reach the target of temperature limit rise to 1.5 degree Celsius. If we want the UN and multilateralism to survive, we need to do better. A different approach is necessary.
- Rather than waiting for the COP 28 to confirm failure, action can be taken now. As proposed by Dr. Abeysinghe, the UN can play a dual role. First, led by the Secretary-General, the UN can act as a convenor; a global norm-setter; a facilitator of international financing and a driver of inter-sectoral collaboration. Secondly, the UN can promote a new framing of mitigation, emission reduction and adaptation to minimize loss and damage - both economic and non-economic - within a global just transition framework.
- Rather than proceeding with the “emission reduction paradigm”, treaty making should be oriented to creating the necessary incentives toward collective action. As proposed by Dr. Barrett, climate treaties should be structured around three main guiding principles. First, treaties should focus on sectors and technology, not a whole of economy approach. Secondly, treaties should include trade provisions incentivizing behavioral change and the benefits of collective R&D. Thirdly, treaties should aim at critical mass thinking, thereby achieving behavior to effectively tip and have an impact.
- In response to the proposals, several Member States made statements emphasizing the following imperatives:
- Enlarging self-interest to include a concept of global solidarity;
- Ensuring fair access to the technology necessary to combat climate change;
- Promoting fair trade and financing to facilitate a just transition;
- Acknowledging the disparate responsibilities and impact of climate change – largest emitters suffering the least and the lowest emitters suffering the most;
- Strengthening monitoring and enforcement mechanisms in the existing legal instruments;
- Resorting to judicial action, including the General Assembly’s current request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, to reinforce and accelerate climate action;
- Requiring private sector actors (particularly the fossil fuel industry) to act in accordance with multilateral norms and national obligations.
The event on climate change was the first of a series of three public-facing events dedicated to the existential threats. ASIL will be holding the second event devoted to nuclear proliferation in Fall 2023 and the third on pandemics in Spring 2024.
ASIL seeks to bring UN Member States together with subject matter experts to enhance cooperation and compliance to avert the potentially catastrophic consequences of the three existential threats.
A Proposal to Reinvigorate and Realign the Global ClimateRegime for a Just Transition
Dr. Achala Abeysinghe, Director and Head of Programs for Asia, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)
Two of the most crucial provisions of the Paris Agreement are the 1.5C target and the loss and damage provision. Since the Paris Agreement came into force, it has had several positive impacts. Most States have submitted their enhanced NDCs; adopted long term energy policies and electric vehicle strategies; introduced carbon taxes and entered into strong public private partnerships.
Nonetheless, the world is not moving fast enough to keep temperature limit below the 1.5 degree target. The world’s dependance on coal has actually grown and the renewable energy share is very low. The necessary investments are not coming in and technological innovation is slow. In the meantime, so many countries, communities and eco systems are facing irreversible climate impacts.
As UNFCCC COP28 approaches, we do not need to wait for the first-ever Global Stocktake to recognize the significant gap between current progress and the desired trajectory. Most countries are falling short of their NDCs and their efforts are not equal to the imperatives of the crisis.
The Paris Agreement is premised on the logic of encouraging (rather than imposing) actions aligned with its goals. There is no enforcement mechanism to hold States accountable. Without immediate emissions cuts and scaled-up finance, warming will worsen and more people will be pushed into extreme poverty. As the IPCC has explained, when carried out in a just manner, emissions reductions can also eradicate extreme poverty, expand energy access, and improve living standards.
My first proposal relies on the UN playing its role as a convenor; as a global norm-setter; as a facilitator of international financing and as a driver of inter-sectoral collaboration. The UN Secretary General could convene Heads of State to align policy towards a global just transition framework to support countries to effectively implement and be accountable for their NDCs and establish a new UN programme under UNFCCC auspices which could increase climate ambition to achieve 1.5C target by:
- Helping States enhance the quality of their NDCs, attract investments and overcome obstacles;
- Developping an understanding of fair shares as well as operational templates for just transition;
- Establishing guidelines focusing on people and eco systems including social protection measures to promote gender justice; protect local industry and develop new employment niches;
- Hosting events to unlock investment potential; encourage technological innovation; highlight developments such as green hydrogen and de-risk growth profiles for renewable energy;
- Setting up funding pots similar to those committed for Vietnam, Indonesia, and South Africa.
My second proposal is for the UN to promote a new framing of mitigation, emission reduction and adaptation to minimize loss and damage (L&D) - both economic and non-economic - within a global just transition framework. It is crucial to prioritize action, good governance, and financial support by:
- Amplifying the need for international and regional cooperation and solidarity for Global South;
- Diversifying funding sources for effective management and mitigation of L&D and improving fitness for purpose of the GCF and GEF as well as the Adaptation Fund and the LDC Fund;
- Inviting the IPCC to produce a special report on L&D under various warming scenarios, including economic and social costs, to inform future decisions on L&D no later than COP30;
- Framing L&D together with ambition and resilience in a just transition process in upcoming COP 28;
- Appointing a special climate envoy to coordinate L&D in the UNFCCC, UNOHRLLS and other processes.
The transition to net zero in the world should not be just a technical and financial matter- it must also be about individuals and communities – their lives, well-being, and aspirations. The transition should be a just and collective endeavor, driven by the strong principle that green growth is not just about reducing emissions, but also about improving the quality of life for all, leaving no one behind.
A New Approach to Climate Negotiations
Dr. Scott Barrett, Columbia University and London School of Economics
More diplomatic effort has been devoted to climate change than any other issue in world history. And, yet, despite thirty years of negotiations, three treaties, and 27 Conferences of the Parties, CO2 concentrations are much higher now than they were at the start of negotiations.
If we want people to support the UN and multilateralism, we need to do better.
Multilateralism has succeeded in the past. The Montreal Protocol is expected to restore the ozone layer to its pre-1980 level by around 2050-2060. A treaty known as MARPOL has prevented releases of oil by tankers into the seas. These two UN treaties have worked.
Why the difference? Climate change is a harder problem, but there is another reason. The climate treaties ask countries to reduce emissions. The other treaties are designed differently. Asking countries to limit their emissions plays into the hands of the “prisoners’ dilemma.” A country that reduces its emissions pays the full cost, but shares the benefits of its actions with other countries, whether or not these others reciprocate by reducing their emissions. Worse, because of trade linkages, when one country limits emissions, prices change, causing other countries to increase their emissions.
Montreal also asks countries to reduce emissions. However, the countries that participate in Montreal are forbidden from trading with non-participating countries in CFCs and products containing CFCs.
Because of this linkage to trade, as more countries participate, more of the others want to participate. Trade linkage turns the prisoners’ dilemma into a “tipping” game.
MARPOL is a little different. MARPOL sets a new technical standard for oil tankers. Countries that want to protect their coasts, restrict port access to ships adopting the new standard. As more ports restrict entry, more ships want to meet the standard; and as more ships meet the standard, more ports want to restrict entry. The new standard creates a positive-feedback; again, a tipping game.
Possibly the best climate agreement is the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which phases down HFCs, a greenhouse gas. Kigali should work; like Montreal, Kigali incorporates a trade measure.
We need more treaties like this. Smelting of aluminum results in emissions of CO2 and PFCs, another greenhouse gas. Replacing the carbon anode used today with an inert anode can eliminate these process emissions. An aluminum treaty should require that parties both switch to the inert anode and import aluminum only from other parties to this agreement. The result, once again: tipping.
Mission Innovation, a coalition of 22 countries, funds R&D so as to lower the cost of reducing CO2 emissions in particular sectors, making take-up of new fuels and technologies more attractive for all countries. For shipping, Mission Innovation is identifying the best substitute for heavy fuel oil, undertaking R&D to lower its costs, and making the new fuel available at the world’s ten largest ports.
Ten ports may not be enough to tip behavior, but the logic behind this approach is right. Enough countries must switch in order for others to want to switch. We need more treaties like this—treaties that: (1) focus on sectors and technology- and fuel-switching, (2) promote trade linkages and collective R&D, and (3) achieve critical mass, causing behavior to tip.