I grew up in Southern California, so I always hear about the days when the surf is big or when snowstorms hit local ski resorts. Brush fires, earthquakes, and California’s perpetual water shortage have also been on my radar since as long as I can remember. This is about as far as I got in thinking about how climate change affects me — until recently. I knew that I should be cognizant of my carbon footprint, and that deforestation, droughts, and floods disproportionately affect the developing nations where I have traveled and worked. However, I thought that concern for climate change should take a back seat to the world’s more pressing matters — poverty, inequity, conflict, and disease. And frankly, I thought that all of this “going green” talk…

Dr. Pachauri from the IPCC addressing the plenary

Where is science at COP17? It seems to be a rare species around here. You may have caught a glimpse of it this morning, when Dr. Pachauri (Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) addressed the plenary… for about 10 minutes. Other than this, the IPCC can be found in a booth at the exhibition center, amongst a couple hundred other booths, far from center stage.

Follow this link for Dr. Pachauri’s plenary statement.

RTCC’s interview with Dr. Pachauri here.

Dr. Pachauri from the IPCC addressing the plenary

Dr. Pachauri from the IPCC addressing the plenary

IPCC booth at the COP17 exhibition centre

Going into the COP working on Latvia, we made sure we knew where the EU stood in terms of the Kyoto Protocol.  In October of this year, the EU adopted a resolution that emphasized its preference for “a single global and comprehensive legally-binding instrument” in the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) track and confirmed its “openness to” a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol “as part of a transition to a wider legally binding framework” in the KP track.  From our very first impressions, we got the sense that this position was designed to emphasize that Europe has made its commitments and it is now looking for other parties to step up and meet them at the same level.

We concluded in our…

First quoted by South Africa President Jacob Zuma during his opening remarks during the first day of COP17 and reiterated today by Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC and Director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute:

“A technological society has two choices. First it can wait until catastrophic failures expose systemic deficiencies, distortion and self-deceptions… Secondly, a culture can provide social checks and balances to correct for systemic distortion prior to catastrophic failures.”
– Mahatma Gandhi…

Source: KTGAL Project, www.communitycarbonforestry.org

I have long been a fan of the Kyoto: Think Global, Act Local (KTGAL) project. This fantastic research project trained local community members in eight developing countries to collect basic forestry data needed to perform accurate carbon accounting for REDD+. The project has taught us one key lesson: Local communities CAN collect accurate data at relatively low cost, with minimal training.
This means that community monitoring holds powerful potential to solve some of the insurmountable challenges facing REDD+.

Rita Effah, Angela Yeh, and I have been working with the World Resources Institute this past semester to learn what other efforts besides the KTGAL Project have demonstrated that communities are reliable carbon monitors. This week, we’re following along with the REDD+ contact group under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which has been tasked with providing methodological guidance on REDD+ (Come on #SBSTA, let’s see some life from all the tech savvy tweeters in Durban. We can’t live on IISD briefings alone!)

Some interesting remarks coming out of delegates in this afternoon’s working group meetings on the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) negotiating track:

Democratic Republic of Congo: “Africa Group will not allow the African soil to be the graveyard of the Kyoto Protocol”

New Zealand (echoing the DRC): “New Zealand agrees Durban should not be the tomb of the KP”

Australia:  A provisional application of the Kyoto Protocol “will not provide the certainty parties are looking for and may also face constitutional impediments” in many of the member states.

EU (driving the point home): “A second commitment period without enough parties participating is clearly insufficient to solve problem of climate change.”

China: “We are not clear…

7:00a Breakfast
Breakfast 7:00a Breakfast in Ballito

8:15a The walk

From our hotel, we walk to catch the COP’s official shuttle service from the suburb of Ballito into Durban.

Scene 8:45a The View

Although the shuttle commute takes about an hour, it gives us a chance to see the lovely scenery of KwaZulu-Natal.

Line 9:20a The Line

We make our way through the security line…

At the heart of COP17 in Durban is how countries will respond to and cope with climate change. For the most part the discussions will centre on technological and economical policies and implications. However, the health care impacts of climate change tend be overlooked. The health care impacts of climate change do not receive as much attention because they are difficult to study and they also affect the most marginalized populations in developing countries. This semester, I’ve been able to learn first hand about the humanitarian consequences of climate change working with the Red Cross Red Crescent through the FES 850a International Organizations and Conferences course at Yale.

Through my collaboration with the Red Cross Red Crescent, I’ve appreciated how we are only starting to understand the how climate…

Katy Clark and I studied the issue of REDD+ and its implications for indigenous rights as we evaluated a joint project currently being implemented by the Coordinator for the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Environmental Defense Fund and the Woods Hole Research Center.

Deforestation, conversion of forests to other uses, and forest degradation currently cause about 15% of annual global carbon emissions. REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is a program under negotiation at the COP that is a mechanism for wealthy countries to pay for efforts in developing countries to reduce rates of deforestation. REDD appears to offer one of the few good chances for agreement at Durban that most countries would…

South Africa music and dance

Kudos to the South African conference organizers for putting together a wonderful venue and performance at last night’s opening reception, which was held in Durban’s City Hall. It was a great opportunity to network, but also to enjoy ourselves and get immersed in South African culture.

South Africa music and dance

South Africa music and dance

Personally, I greatly enjoyed talking to Dr. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, “Pachi” — as he is warmly referred to — was noticeably disappointed at the lack of science on the opening day. Opening-day meetings were all about politics, not science. Dr. Pachauri will be addressing conference attendees on Wednesday Dec 30th. I also…