What’s the Big Deal? : Stakeholder hopes for COP21


  • Mitigation: reduction in emissions of major emitters
  • Transparency: UN oversight to be sure countries fulfill pledges
  • Monetary assistance for less-developed countries


  • Negotiators will do a better job reaching a deal than heads of state (learned from Copenhagen 2009)
  • Would limit warming to 2C or less
  • Encouraging mobilization of $100 billion from developed countries to help less-developed countries adapt
  • Pushing climate deals involving technological innovation, cooperation and transfer
  • Green development and broad participation


  • Primarily concerned that economy not be hindered
  • Wants to keep using coal to fuel growth

Alliance of Small Island States[4]

  • Would limit warming to 1.5C
  • Wants to leave with an agreement on loss and damage due to climate change (e.g. coral bleaching for nations that depend on reefs for breaking waves and tourism)
  • Wants transparency, to ensure all countries fulfill pledge
  • Focusing on adaptation, especially for sea-level rise


  • Needs economically sustainable option to regain popular support for pledge

India [6]

  • wants technical support to expand use of solar
  • transparency, to ensure that everyone meets their pledge
  • Strong decrease in emissions from top polluters (e.g. US, UK)

Latin America[7]

  • Wants pledge that will limit global warming to 1.5~2C
  • Desires technological and financial support from more-developed countries
  • Focusing on adaptation within Latin America
  • Trying to attract clean energy investment: needs support from private sector


  • Justice: asks developed countries to fund adaptation for less-developed countries at risk of being strongly impacted by climate change.
  • Cannot and will not assume more monetary obligation


[1] Todd Stern, Chief US Climate Envoy, on climatechangenews.com

[2] Xie Zhenghua, China’s top climate change negotiator, 23 November 2015: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/11/23/uk-climatechange-china-idUKKBN0TC0Y020151123

Xi Jinping, President of China, 30 November 2015:


[3] http://www.climatechangenews.com/2015/07/17/japan-submits-26-emissions-reduction-target-to-un/

[4] http://aosis.org/small-islands-co-chairs-text-fall-short-in-bonn/

[5] http://www.climatechangenews.com/2015/11/25/uk-axes-1bn-carbon-capture-fund-in-blow-to-green-credentials/



[6] http://www.climatechangenews.com/2015/11/24/solar-v-coal-can-india-shift-from-fossils-to-sunbeams-fast-enough/



[7] 29 November, 2015:


[8] Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, 30 November 2015.



Adaptation Funding – A Real Need

From inside the UN Delegation Hall – 2:00 pm:

Professor Thomas Gladwin, instructor for the University of Michigan’s annual Erb Seminar, asked his students to debate the following statement: “Humanity will be able to limit global warming to no more than 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and will thus experience abrupt, irreversible, runaway and catastrophic climate change.”

The statement has gained new meaning today, as UN delegations just spent the past hour debating the need for further climate adaptation funding.

In doing so, it feels as though the UN may be throwing in the towel on that question, and instead focusing on how to address the catastrophic issues that are quickly emerging around the world today. Offering a clear example and also offering a nod to Professor Gladwin’s class, Bangladesh delivered this heartfelt message: “We are suffering here!” For Bangladesh, Guatemala, Jamaica, and many developing nations, adaptation support is needed. Coping is needed. Funding is needed and, as Grenada stated, they cannot do it alone. The funding debate has also created a political divide amongst developing and developed nations, a theme that has risen on multiple occasions over the last few days.

Adaptation needs are both real and present today. Finding funding mechanisms to address adaptation and ways to implement them will offer both challenges and opportunities for those who prepare themselves for the myriad challenges that lay ahead. Hopefully, students reading this blog will be among the many in a position to solve these issues in the future!

Written by MIGUEL SOSSA.

Google Earth and Climate Change

A very cool set of videos over at Google Earth.

Use Google Earth to learn about adaptation strategies that mitigate the effects of climate change. The Google Earth Outreach team and our partners have created this series of tours and videos. Fly over tree canopies in 3D, learn about how climate change affects our planet and examine strategies for reducing emissions through preserving forest ecosystems.

Listen to Wangari Maathai speak for trees, or take a tour of global adaptation actions with Kofi Annan:

Written by NICK.

Redrawing rivers to reduce water insecurity?

I’ve seen some stunning headlines recently.. “Water map shows billions at risk of ‘water insecurity'”, “China moving heaven and Earth to bring water to Beijing”, “Huge parts of world drying up due to land evapotranspiration”

Most scientists agree that the climate change is already underway — irrespective of who’s to blame and how much we mitigate GHG emissions. So if the climate is already changing.. then we have to prepare for the consequences on our ability to access critical natural resources like water. So what does the human race do in response? It redraws nature… such as… China’s South-North Water Diversion project. China is plagued by extreme weather, which will probably get only worse with climate change. So the country’s government feels a pressing need to redraw their river systems to get water from the flooding southern regions to the dry northern regions — and to quench the growing thirst of mega-city Beijing.

India’s river linking project – a massively ambitious engineering undertaking – proposes to link around 14 Himalayan rivers in North India and 16 peninsular rivers in South India. The goal is similar to China’s — to ensure equal distribution of water across drought and flood-prone areas. Last year, massive droughts literally led to water ‘wars’ in parts of central India where inequity in the nation’s water distribution system exacerbated a situation resulting from altered rainfall patterns induced by climate change. Interestingly, India’s environment minister & climate chief has severe reservations about the river linking “techno-fix“, and calls the project a “an engineering fantasy which did not take into account the human and social factors.”

Humans have been managing and controlling the natural world for generations. So India & China’s river linking/water distribution plans should not be a shock to us. Nature journal recently reported that 80% of the world’s population lives in ‘water insecure’ areas today (see image below).. and that technically includes large parts of the US and Europe. However, the study made an interesting distinction between ‘raw’ threats vs ‘managed’ threats. ‘Managed’ means the areas have infrastructure that distributes and conserves water, and so significantly reduces the ‘raw’ threats of countries that have that kind of infrastructure. So the lesson is – if you ‘manage’, you can adapt to water crises better than if you don’t.

So China’s going to spend $62 billion on its South-North river project, and assuming India’s river linking project actually gets underway, I have no idea how many billions that will demand. I can’t even start to imagine the potential risks in such massive plumbing operations, and more than that, what if a key factor gets missed or its is impact under-estimated before all the “replumbing” gets underway? What then? What is the threshold for uncertainty in making decisions for such an operation, especially if failures could lead to more disastrous situations than water distribution inequality? Of course, there are other options available now — nuclear desalination plants may be? One thing’s for sure — water may be scarce, but techno-fix ideas aren’t.

ps. An article with good stats on rivers – ecosystems, economics etc.. “Engineering a Water Crisis in rivers


An add-on from Nick: Check out the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s new study, “Drought under global warming: a review.”

Climate models project increased aridity in the 21st century over most of Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East, most of the Americas, Australia, and Southeast Asia. Regions like the United States have avoided prolonged droughts during the last 50 years due to natural climate variations, but might see persistent droughts in the next 20–50 years.

India’s peculiar contradictions

“China & India must play a leading role in reducing GHG emissions and develop ‘clean’ energy economies.” This is repeated often by other nations, environmentalists, and anyone who feels like dispensing advice. I take some issue with China & India being put in the same bucket when talking about GHG reductions and the level of action demanded by the rest of the world. Not because I don’t think India should be taking action, but I think the actions need to be different. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here (if at all there is “a” solution to begin with!).

Connaught Place, Delhi. Flickr photo by wili_hybrid.

For the last couple of weeks, the Economist magazine has been talking about the breakneck speed of India’s economic growth and how they believe it will “outpace” China’s. But India has a boat-load of socio-economic issues that China does not have, has a starkly different political system, and her business institutions are very distinct from China’s government-reliant system. Socially, culturally, and demographically, the countries don’t compare that well, either — sort of like apples vs oranges (or may be, mangoes vs dragonfruit?).

Thinking about all I’ve been reading about India lately — She sounds like a country of hyperbolic contradictions.

On one hand …
– 3rd largest economy in the world (in purchasing power parity terms)
– Astronomical economic growth – could be the fastest in the world over next 25yrs
– More billionaires than Japan
– Most populated nation by 2045 with a growing young population spurring the economy
– Successful and growing small-business communities not dependent on the central government to create jobs and be profitable

But on the other hand…
– 3rd largest GHG emitter by 2015
– 37% poverty rate  – that’s a 3rd of world’s poor
– 2nd largest population of malnourished children in the world (%-wise worse than most sub-Saharan African countries)
– 35% of the population has no electricity access
– Jumbo mega-cities with inadequate infrastructure and rising urban poverty
– Severe lack of world-class educational institutions to educate the growing young population

…the list goes on…

I don’t have to explain why I’m sharing these facts about India’s peculiar contradictions on a climate change blog. Contradictions mean conflicting priorities. Which problem will speak louder? Mitigation? Adaptation? Economic Development? Social Services? Resource Protection? Foreign Affairs?

The Indian government is evidently focused more on climate change adaptation than mitigation. To a large extent, that sounds prudent, since we know climate change is already underway. But the biggest part of the government’s adaptation strategy is to develop more – the belief is that development is the best route to adaptation. To a large extent that’s true. But what exactly constitutes as ‘development’ and the impacts created by it along the way are of paramount importance, because India cannot afford to end up creating a world that even a highly-developed nation can no longer adapt to — a situation very likely to happen even with the rate of climate change already underway.