Here’s reaction to #COP17 from @bjornlomborg: “The final outcome is a classic climate negotiation outcome. At the brink of negotiation collapse, COP17 comes up with a text that can arguably be seen as a solution but won’t really do anything.
The final deal decided to extend the Kyoto Protocol, but it will be little more than symbolic with mainly the EU participating (where the EU has already promised to cut carbon emissions 20% below 1990-levels) along with a few other, small countries like New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.
The brokered deal decided to set up a legal structure for the Green Fund, but there is still no money.
An interesting legal question bubbles up to the mainstream press: What is the legal status of a country, and its citizens, if it sinks under water? We discussed this at Vermont Law and the COP15. And, since I’m into land use, I think about property rights much too much. The Economist puts it plain,
So the legal implications of sinking islands are preoccupying environmental lawyers. Can there be such a thing as a submarine state? According to one definition, a state needs a clear territory, a permanent population and the ability to deal with other states. From a league or so under the sea, that sounds hard.
A submarine state is interesting to think about, too. No state or country can own the ocean floor (well, technically they can’t beyond 200 miles oceanward from the coastline, but that doesn’t really apply here). A submarine would be landless but not borderless. Whether that submarine state (or eg floating island) can be classified as a defensible “territory” is a mystery. Intriguing, yes? Clicky click the link
I’m reposting this in full because so many of the stories seem equally compelling. Please give a skim and consider adding Alternet to your RSS. It’s from the Reuters enviro network, and is pretty high quality.
Two sections stand out for me, Vietnam and Global (after the jump). I invest in Vietnam’s currency (called the Vietnamese Dong [yep]). Vietnam is developing very, very rapidly. Their coastal development is a concern with respect to sea level rise, but they have a lot of innovative engineers. In the Global section (at the end), there’s a fascinating piece that I bookmarked for tomorrow on adaptation and corruption. Can’t wait to dig into that one!
I do hope you take a few minutes to at least skim these stories. OK, it starts and ends at the quotation marks:
"Please take a look at this month’s top climate stories from AlertNet Climate, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s daily news website on the human impacts of climate change.
Paul Wolfowitz, former President of the World Bank, endorses the Global Adaptation Institute. Headed by former President of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, GIA is a policy think-tank working to influence how countries build resilience as a response to inevitable climate change.
UNFCCC’s Adaptation Fund has started to approve projects!
More than occasionally, I’ll write posts covering what the UN is and does. The United Nations division called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or just the UNFCCC, is the primary mover for climate programs world wide. The UNFCCC’s goal is to provide climate related solutions for all its members, which includes every country in the world (194 countries). It oversees several environmental programs, including the Kyoto Protocol, Clean Development Mechanism, and the yearly Conference of the Parties. Conference of the Parties are called COPs. The most recent COP was the COP16, held in Cancun, Mexico, before that it was the COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmmark, which I attended with the Vermont Law delegation.
Now, the UNFCCC is managing something called the Adaptation Fund, which I will write a lot about in the future. The Adaptation Fund is basically a pool of millions of dollars (soon to be billions), banked in a special fund parked at the World Bank. The fund operates like a grant fund. As I understand it, the funds will help countries with adaptation projects (as opposed to private entities, such as Coca Cola or BP). Think proactively working to prevent Pakistani and Bangladeshi floods and you get the picture. The funds are not for disaster management, but rather are for impacts that have not occurred but are projected to happen in the future. Interesting fact, the fund is one of the lasting results from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Management of the fund is complicated, but rigid:
Up until the COP16 in Cancun, only one project was approved, in Senegal to prevent coastal erosion in vulnerable areas. On December 17, 2010 the Adaptation Fund Board approved four agencies with the ability to screen and fund projects. This means governments no longer have to go to the Adaptation Fund Board to
In an excellent overview of climate adaptation, The Economist writes that climate changes are inevitable, and communities have to adapt. We all (should) by now have a basic understanding that sea level rise will impact coastlines. But, it is the “imapacts” part that we need to understand better.
The other day, I wrote about what salt water can do to building foundations and piers. This is a real impact from sea level rise. In fact, salt from the Mediterranean Sea is encroaching the Nile river delta, ruining soils that nourish date farms and even eating away the foundations of the ancient pyramids. NPR covered it here. Tides ebb and flow into and out of the mouths of rivers that empty into the sea. The freshwater-saltwater transition zones form either deltas or estuaries (quick summary of difference between delta/estuaries here). These zones of brackish/saltier water are expected to expand into areas where people have built infrastructure, such as the footings for bridges, electricity and fiber optic cables buried under ground, storm water pipes, piers and boat moors, etc. These things were not necessarily built to withstand corrosion from salt. To combat the creeping saline water, Urban planners and hazards planners have to act now by conducting infrastructure assessments to locate high risk vulnerabilities.
The Economist expands on tangible impacts by opening up the discussion of human migration.
Ideally, there would be opportunities to move to cities in other countries, too; the larger the region in which people can travel, the easier it is to absorb migrants from struggling areas. This is one reason why adaptation is easier for large countries or integrated regions. Within the EU, Greeks and Italians will be better placed to move to cooler climes than inhabitants of similarly sized countries elsewhere.
What happens to the people who live in cities that cannot deal with very high sea level rise? Mass migrations are expected to occur, and, the article argues, cities are better prepared to absorb population increases. To demonstrate, Hurricane Katrina should come to mind (to be fair, migrations from sea level rise will be very slow, and not occur so spectacularly from one event. Still, people will migrate from flood prone areas in droves, and cities will need to be prepared to absorb a typically poorer demographic.). Estimates range from 100,000 to 300,000 people permanently fled the NOLA region after Katrina.
Organization of the United Nations. Ever wonder how the UN is organized? It’s not that complicated, though there are a lot of acronyms, which can distract from comprehending the organization. Click here to go to a sweet interactive PDF.
What is it? Established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Good primer, here (easier to read and understand than silly wikipedia).
Nearly every nation belongs to the UN, about 192 countries.
It’s divided into 6 branches, each overseeing several several organizations:
Only 5 of them oversee several programs. For example, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), UN-HABITAT (UN Human Settlements Program), and UNAIDS (UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS), among many others, report to the General Assembly and the Secretariat.
Weird fact, the 6th branch, the Trusteeship Council, suspended operating in 1994. It’s required to exist under the original UN charter. It stopped because it met it’s original goals to assist certain countries to become legitimate states.
Several agencies are part of the UN but work autonomously. For example, the World Bank, Int’l Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Int’l Atomic Energy Agency, cooperate and coordinate with several of the above 6 branches, but generally do not take direction or commands from them.
Head offices are located in Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA. But the land it is located on is considered international territory.
My interests lie with the work of the UNDP, the United Nations Development Program. The UNDP works with the IPCC and the UNFCCC on climate change mitigation and adaptation projects around the world. It was the UNDP that helped create the Kyoto Protocol.