January 15, 2014

Brief Report on the Beyond Copenhagen Side Event during 7th Session of OWG in New York

Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction; Missing Link Between UNFCCC and OWG Processes

7th Session of the OWG Side Event
7th Jan, 2014, Conference Room A, Secretariat Building, UNHQ, New York

Brief report

CECOEDECON along with BJVJ, PAIRVI, SADED, Beyond Copenhagen in collaboration with Oxfam India and MISEREOR organized a side event during the 7th session of the OWG. The central concern of the event was to explore convergence and subsidiarity between Rio Conventions (and especially UNFCCC) and the open working group processes. It is assumed that SDGs will result in aspirational goals and might not have the desired impact, unless the OWG process also influences the UNFCCC, which is the main operational and decision making body. However, the side event also took the opportunity to discuss some important aspects of climate change and disaster reduction. More than 30 participants attended this side event and engaged in the discussion.

Opening the discussion, the moderator, Ajay Jha from CECOEDECON/PAIRVI alluded to the various parallel processes including building up on the MDGs, High Level Panel on the post MDGs, High level Political Forum, UNSG SE4All, OWG on the SDGs, Financing for Development, and emphasized that though climate change (and disaster) is a major component in all of these discussions, there have been little efforts in creating their convergence with the UNFCCC processes so that both of them benefit from each other. He also emphasized that links between various Rio Conventions like UNCBD, UNCCD and UNFCCC also remains weak. He reiterated that remaining in the lowest range of mitigation ambitions that the world is, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep the warming in temperature below 2 degrees, and therefore, more urgent, genuine and expedited efforts are required.

SoumyaDutta, from BJVJ in his presentation said that all the discussions are trapped within the only one aspect of development, that is “ gain maximization.” However, another dimension of development, which is “risk minimization” is completely being overlooked. He emphasized that it is a flawed perception of think that economic growth can be maintained infinitely, without actually reducing the consumption and
emissions, and exploitation of nature. Talking about sustainable urban settlements, he said that urban centres are based on sustenance of rural systems including food and natural resources preservation, and there is an urgent need to enhance opportunities in rural areas and make cities sustainable, for which reduction in consumption and emission is absolutely essential.

VanitaSuneja, from Oxfam India, delved in sustainable agriculture and food justice in the context of the SDGs. She said that the goal on food justice should be framed in terms of “all men and women having sustained access to food produced by sustainable systems of food production.” She added that it is important to emphasize that food production is sustainable, as recent times show decreasing access to food and nutrition in many parts of the world, primarily as a result of agrarian crisis and inability of the peasants and small farmers to continue food production due to market imposed challenges. She emphasized that the challenge that lies before the OWG is to ensure that agro ecological approaches are supported by policy and budgetary provisions. Addressing basic energy needs and respecting ecological boundaries are equally important and we must have input based as well as outcome based indicators, to be able to track the progress, she emphasized.

N Paul Diwakar, Wada NaTodoAbhiyan, talked about disaster and marginalized populations, what is expected from the OWG and SDGs in this regard. He said there are two myths about disaster, (i) disaster affect everybody uniformly, and (ii) all will be treated equally post disaster. However, these myths need to be addressed by ensuring non discrimination and substantive equality in disaster reduction. He emphasized that its not only in India or but almost entire South Asia, and even in other continents, a lot of marginalization and discrimination takes place in disaster response. Old and aged people and physically disabled people too face discrimination. National frameworks have not been able to address these discrimination. He emphasized that disaster reduction must have a focus on intergenerationally poor and discriminated communities.

Marcus Oxley, Global CSOs network on disaster reduction, talked about the disaster reduction and the Hyogo Framework of Action and what could be done by the SDGs to remove inconsistencies in disaster reduction approaches. He said that the HFA focuses only on environmental aspects of disaster while social, economic, and psychosocial aspects remain unaddressed. He added that 90% of the losses in disasters arise out of low intensity high frequency events, which underlines that social, economic and psychosocial aspects need to be addressed in an adequate manner. He emphasized that the OWG/SDGs should not use DRR to protect development and development itself is creating unacceptable levels of risk. He underlined that currently HFA is owned by none other than disaster community, and needs to be integrated in development approaches in a manner, which ensures wider acceptance and ownership. It must address power imbalances, and dynamics and have to be seen in the context of political ownership and have stronger accountability framework, he added.

Graham Gordon, from CAFOD, spoke on how climate change can be integrated in post 2015 development agenda. He said that climate change had a very low acceptability in the post 2015 debate, however, acceptability is increasing, as it is being increasingly realized that if climate change is not addressed, all developmental gains may be reversed soon, and it must not be dealt with as a secondary issue. Talking about what are the current approaches being discussed to integrate climate change in the SDGs, he said that proposals on the table include, (i) stand alone goal on climate change, (ii) mainstreaming climate change targets in larger goals, like poverty reduction, economic growth etc. and (iii) plus climate change option, that is to have double goals (viz. energy and climate change, and DRR and climate change). He explained that though stand-alone goals could be most ambitious however, they are least likely.

Gabriel, from UNDP, talked on the convergence agenda. He said that there is a lot of discussion on the climate change, member states having been agreed in September, 2013 that the future agenda is sustainable development agenda, and climate change forms an important part of the sustainable development. However, he added that political atmosphere is not very conducive to having stand-alone goals on climate change. He explained that most likely climate change will be bundled along with energy and DRR besides having a discussion in the narrative.On convergence between UNFCCC and OWG/SDG processes, he said that UNFCCC is binding, while SDGs have more flexibility and might encourage positive action by member states. He added that importing UNFCCC complexities in the SDG process might not be desirable. He emphasized that the possible way of integration should be framing climate change as a development issues (rather than an environmental issues) and bringing in climate smart indicators (phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, emission reduction, access to energy for all etc.). he concluded by saying that by now what looks probable is indicators on energy, DRR and climate change together.

The presentations were followed by engaging discussion, questions and answer session.

In the wrap up, the speakers consolidated on their presentations and emphasized the “most important message” for the OWG. Vanita emphasized that SDGs must not miss this sustainability aspect in food production and agricultural systems. Marcus, highlighted that for long what is happening is to respond to the symptoms, and what is required now to have mutually reinforcing agendas, which has sustainability and risk reduction as core principles underpinning the agendas. Soumya reiterated that the issues must be considered in the light of inevitability vs. sustainability, and economic growth oriented development vs. equitable distribution oriented development, though these are not contrary to each other. Gabriel underlined that, it is important that climate change and disaster are framed in developmental context in the SDGs, and go beyond the UNFCCC trajectory. All the speakers highlighted that it is imperative that the OWG places adequate emphasis on climate change and disaster, in the goals, targets and indicators, in a manner, which reflects the urgency and demands of science in responses. They also highlighted that the process must also explore how parallel processes and especially UNFCCC and OWG can benefit from each other bringing in and weighing multiple perspective and dimensions on climate change, disaster and development. The organizers will be sending a written submission to the OWG as an outcome of the side event.


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