Law & sustainability colloquium at Peking University

22 October 2020

On 4 November, the day after the US presidential election when the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement takes effect (unless revoked beforehand) LRI’s director Christoph Schwarte will speak “at” Peking University.

In his presentation “International climate change law and negotiations in times of COVID-19” Christoph will reflect on how the global pandemic may affect the international body of law related to climate change. He will offer some observations on recent legal trends and the wider social discourse, provide an overview on the specific challenges for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and also make a few suggestions for the future.

The event is the first session in a new online lecture series by the School of Transnational Law – the “Law and Sustainability Colloquium”. You can watch the event live from 17:30 to 18:30 China time and 9:30 to 10:30 GMT at https:/www.eeo.cn/live.php?lessonKey=d53897707a4dc299 To participate in the chat and ask a question you need to register here: https://stl.pku.edu.cn/events/international-climate-change-law-and-negotiations-in-times-of-covid-19/

Responding to climate change and COVID-19

2 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the interdependency of human action, our natural world and the economy. It has also exacerbated vulnerabilities and inequalities, and brought home the message that we share one and the same planet. 

As countries start bringing the pandemic under control and turn their attention to re-starting their economies, it is becoming clear that for the recovery to be durable and resilient, a return to business-as-usual is not an option. “Biodiversity, climate and health must be addressed holistically… to build back better and greener“ was one of the messages of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, held on 17 July 2020 under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council.

This will require a host of interventions on health, agriculture, access to clean water, wildlife trade, deforestation, social protection, disaster risk reduction programmes  … to name but a few. It also presents opportunities for reconsidering priorities as part of recovery packages. For example, a focus on inclusiveness and a just transition for measures with environmental objectives; or a recalibration of financial resources away from ‘only’ disaster preparedness and response towards disaster prevention.

In this context, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction provide formally separate platforms for action. They share many objectives, however, including strengthening resilience, building adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability to climate change and disasters.

A recent LRI advice paper provides an overview of some of the links between the different instruments and highlights opportunities for consolidated action. In the wake of the pandemic, the need for coherence of action is more critical than ever: governments are not responding to COVID-19 and its effects in isolation and need to mainstream climate change and disaster preparedness into economic recovery programmes.

There is a unique opportunity for bold and unprecedented leadership on the climate crisis and broader ecological crisis. Decisions made about the recovery from COVID-19 will shape our societies for years to come. Now is not the time to go back to old habits, but instead to pair the recovery with action on the climate and ecological crises and to build resilience against future shocks.

Governments should strategically use this opportunity to create an enabling environment for the alignment of different policy processes. This could include the integration of processes to develop nationally determined contributions (NDCs), national adaptation plans (NAPs), strategies for achieving SDGs and disaster risk reduction strategies into economic stimulus packages. For this to happen, coordination of relevant ministries and departments and across levels of government will be key. 

The call for doing things differently may also apply to the UNFCCC process that routinely flies thousands of people across the globe. During the pandemic, technical meetings and discussions took place virtually but all decision-making sessions had to be postponed: during the negotiations, decisions are taken by consensus only and final agreement is forged in physical meetings including the infamous ‘huddles’. So, after over 20 years of deliberations, might it be finally time to adopt the rules of procedure and a provision that allows for qualified majority decisions by electronic voting?

Web launch of ecbi Guide to the Paris Agreement

2 June 2020

On Tuesday 26 May, we held a live web launch of our brand new ‘Guide to the Paris Agreement’. The event was chaired by Kiran Sura, Programme Lead of the Climate Ambition Support Alliance (CASA). A video of the event has now been released and is available to view here: https://youtu.be/TEskN8ZA2Ic

Speakers at the event described how the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement stands as an important commitment to climate action. However, despite this, the Paris Agreement has room for improvement, said Christoph Schwarte of LRI.

“In order to understand the Paris Agreement, it’s not enough to just read the provisions,” he said. “It is a living document and the parties already used the last years to add to the original text and in some places expand, go beyond it.” We try to flag those areas in the Guide and explain how law and policy makers on the ground can integrate the provisions of the Agreement into domestic rules and regulations.

Kishan Kumarsingh, of the Government and Trinidad and Tobago, added: “The guide by ecbi is timely and critical and it will inspire mutual trust and confidence which is something that has waned in the [UNFCCC] process.” “This new understanding will inform the evolving rule-making by giving a better grasp of the articles, what they mean and what they intended, and even more importantly, it [provides an] identification of the subtle nuances between the issues and the articles, which suffer and can be very difficult in the negotiations.” Mr Kumarsingh was Co-Chair in 2013-14 of the UNFCCC negotiating track that ultimately resulted in the Paris Agreement.

Web launch and quiz – Guide to the Paris Agreement

14 May 2020

Under the umbrella of the European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi), we have published a new Guide to the Paris Agreement

In 160 pages, the Guide describes the scope, structure and content of the Agreement in easily accessible language. It also contains an introduction to the UNFCCC process, the provisions of the Agreement, short summaries of potential implications for domestic law and policy in the developing countries as well as a comprehensive index.

We wanted to officially launch the Guide during the meeting of UNFCCC subsidiary bodies in Bonn from 1 to 11 June. But because of the postponement of the Bonn session (due to the Covid-19 pandemic) we will now have a web-based launch on Tuesday 26 May at 2 pm GMT. You can join us at: https://primetime.bluejeans.com/a2m/live-event/pucarbcv

The event will start at 14:00 GMT. That is 9 am Central Daylight Time (CDT) – 10 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) – 15:00 British Summer Time (BST) – 16:00 Central African Time (CAT) – 16:00 Central European Summer Time (CEST) – 19:30 Indian Standard Time (IST) – 22:00 China Standard Time (CST) & 22:00 Australian Western Standard Time (AWST).

Part of the launch will be an informal quiz about the Paris Agreement. Presenters include contributors to the Guide as well as Kishan Kumarsingh who co-chaired UNFCCC working group that developed the Paris Agreement from 2013-2014.

At the end of each short presentation the speaker will ask the audience one question. You can send the correct answers to enquiries@legalresponse.org The 25 first (correct) answers will receive a free hard copy of the Guide by mail.

Guide to the Paris Agreement

1 April 2020

Under the umbrella of the European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi), Oxford Climate Policy and LRI have published a short Guide on the Paris Agreement: https://legalresponse.org/legaladvice/guide-to-the-paris-agreement/

The guide contains the provisions of the Paris Agreement, further explanations, a short summary of potential implications for domestic law and policy in the developing countries as well as a comprehensive index and an introduction to the UNFCCC process. It is an extended and updated version of the 2016 ecbi Pocket Guide to the Paris Agreement that takes into account subsequent decisions adopted by Parties in Katowice and Madrid.

The aim of the Guide is to describe the scope, structure and content of the Agreement in easily accessible language – rather than to provide an academic analysis. It has been made possible with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the UK’s Climate Ambition Support Alliance (CASA).

In his foreword, Kishan Kumarsingh, one of the co-chairs (2013-2014) of the ad-hoc working group (ADP) that developed the Paris Agreement states that the Guide “will go a very long way in facilitating Parties’ understanding of their Agreement”.

We hope you will find it useful too and we welcome any suggestions and comments on how to improve future editions. Please send your feedback to enquiries@legalresponse.org