UN Climate Change Dialogues 2020

23 November - 4 December 2020 | Online

Highlights for Monday, 30 November 2020

Photo courtesy of Kiara Worth

Opening its second week, the Climate Dialogues featured sessions on transparency, science, and adaptation-related issues, among others.

In closed events, parties discussed reporting from parties not included in Annex I to the Convention, and reporting from and review of parties included in Annex I to the Convention.

Earth Information Day 2020 - Dialogue

Kakhaberi Mdivaini, Vice-Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), Georgia, moderated the session, which provided an update on the state of the global climate in 2020 and its observation, and discussed recent advances in Earth observation technology and data processing to support decision making.

Insights included:

  • 89% of the total global heat gain in the Earth system from 1971-2018 went into the ocean, 6% into land, 4% into the cryosphere, and 1% into the atmosphere;
  • Due to COVID-19 measures, emissions are projected to decrease by 6-7% in 2020 relative to 2019;
  • Countries need to significantly raise the ambition of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to close the emissions gap;
  • There is a lack of long-term operational funding to sustain ocean observing systems; and
  • Investment needs remain in elements of climate services such as data rescue and early warning systems.
Scaling up adaptation actions through partnerships: Addressing knowledge gaps

Opening the session, Stella Gama, Malawi, officially launched the new UN Climate Change and Universities Partnership, in the context of which the Nairobi work programme collaborates with universities and developing country partners to have Master’s students undertake demand-driven research as part of their theses. She noted the partnership will support closing knowledge gaps and that research findings will be shared within the UNFCCC process.

In a panel discussion, Sophie Morgan, Seychelles, highlighted the risk assessment maps produced by visiting students from the University of Michigan as valuable input for infrastructure planning, noting that the Seychelles lack capacity for data collection and analysis.

Neera Shrestha Pradhan, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), highlighted that ICIMOD received the UNFCCC’s 2014 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activity Award for its community-based flood early warning system, emphasizing that this helped disseminate lessons learned.

Evelin Eszter Tóth, UN Foundation, speaking from her experience participating in a research partnership, emphasized that students derive great motivation from linking their graduate research to projects on the ground and making a meaningful contribution to partners’ actions.

Technology Day: “Innovative approaches on adaptation technologies”

This event, part of the new annual Technology Day, sought to share best practices regarding climate-smart agriculture. In opening remarks, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stressed that “the twin crises of COVID and climate change are crying out for technological solutions and innovation.”

  • Tony Siantonas

Participants heard from a panel of presenters. Highlights included:

  • The importance of reducing methane emissions in the livestock sector;
  • The need for farmers to be included and empowered in meeting the challenges of climate change, and in building a “just agricultural transition” through public-private partnerships;
  • The benefits that may emerge from smallholder farmers using more resilient crop varieties and livestock breeds;
  • Scaling climate-smart technologies would require transformative thinking in digital services, policymaking, and finance;
  • The Adaptation Fund’s “enhanced direct access” funding modality, which devolves decision making on adaptation grants to national implementing entities; and
  • The need for farmers to have access not only to technology, but also to financial means with which to implement it.
Informal event of the forum on the impacts of the implementation of response measures

Annela Anger-Kraavi, Co-Chair of the Katowice Committee of Experts on the Impacts of the Implementation of Response Measures (KCI), Estonia, gave an overview of the KCI's work at its third meeting, held virtually in October 2020, highlighting that the KCI considered a strategy to implement its 2020-2025 workplan.

Peter Govindasamy, KCI Co-Chair, Singapore, highlighted that: economic diversification and just transitions are “two sides of the sustainable development coin”; and the response measures mandate must be robustly addressed.

In a panel discussion, participants heard from Saudi Arabia, Chile, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the European Commission on climate change mitigation strategies that maximize positive and minimize negative impacts.

  • Camila Gramkow

A second panel discussion focused on enhancing capacity and understanding on assessment of implementation of response measures to facilitate economic diversification and just transition. Pao-Yu Oei, Technische Universität Berlin, stressed that coal regions that start the coal exit first will likely receive the most support and encounter the best results, while those ignoring the trend risk economic collapse with low chances for recovery.

Diann Black-Layne, Antigua and Barbuda, underscored the gender aspects of just transitions, noting that men represent 90% of the workforce that needs to “be transitioned” in Antigua and Barbuda, and outlined efforts to “bring the men along” by articulating a positive vision.

Kate Hughes, United Kingdom, outlined plans for a COP 26 Energy Transition Council, which will bring together the global political, financial, and technical leadership in the power sector, and help to ensure that every country considering the energy transition can access needed support.

Noting that informal workers are among the first to be impacted both by climate change and by response measures, Dunja Krause, UN Research Institute for Social Development, outlined how the low-carbon transition can reach the informal sector.

Dialogue on the relationship between land and climate change adaptation related matters

Zac Goldsmith, UK Minister for Pacific and the Environment, for the COP 26 Presidency, said it is critical to address land degradation, highlighting the need to provide incentives for sustainable land management and secure land tenure rights. He emphasized nature-based solutions’ potential for addressing climate change and helping to minimize the threat of loss and damage.

  • Zac Goldsmith

In a keynote presentation, authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land shared key insights, including:

  • As more land is degraded, more people are being exposed to climate risks, such as water scarcity, soil erosion, increased fire frequency, and crop yield decline;
  • While increased CO2 is projected to be beneficial for crop productivity at lower temperature increases, it is also projected to lower nutritional quality;
  • Many responses throughout the food system are ready to be deployed and scaled up, and several have co-benefits for mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development;
  • Response options are often linked, and while there are options that do not increase competition for land, some responses are more feasible than others;
  • Promising options include agro-forestry, improved cropland management, agricultural diversification, and integrated water management;
  • Non-land-based approaches include risk management options such as index-based weather insurance; and
  • Indigenous and local knowledge can contribute to enhancing food system resilience.

Breakout group discussions addressed lessons learned on land and climate change adaptation practices, and lessons learned in delivering support for land and climate change adaptation actions.

  • Florian Claeys

Noting that the format of parallel breakout groups is not conducive for small delegations, SBSTA Vice-Chair Kakhaberi Mdivani, who moderated the event, said recordings of the sessions will be available online and parties will be able to send further comments through a dedicated email account over the next few weeks. He said the SBSTA Chair will prepare a summary report.

Roundtable on pre-2020 implementation and ambition

This roundtable aimed to discuss progress made on pre-2020 implementation and ambition on submissions by Parties. Julio Cordano, for the COP 25 Presidency, and Archie Young, for the COP 26 Presidency, co-chaired the event.

Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, gave an overview of relevant IPCC findings on mitigation. He highlighted the need for rapid transitions away from fossil fuel-based energy systems, as well as links between response options and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Anne Olhoff, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), presented on the “emissions gap” between parties’ pledges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the actual reductions, noting that Group of 20 (G20) countries are not collectively on track to fulfill their NDC commitments. She also noted a gap in adaptation finance, meaning that current costs of adaptation exceed international public finance.

Maarten van Aalst, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), urged actors to consider systemic, compound, and cascading risks, saying that it appears now that “the disasters are collaborating better than we are.”

  • Maarten van Aalst

Stephen Hammer, World Bank, described some macro-trends in implementation, including a focus on NDC efforts to follow whole-of-government approaches, and the growing interest of private investors for risk disclosure.

Elizabeth Press, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), explained that, while the number of UNFCCC parties with renewable energy policies is increasing, only 66% of parties have quantified targets for renewable energy.

In Q&A sessions, participants considered, among others, the different commitments and responsibilities of developed and developing countries; lessons learned in the renewable energy sector; and the need to put exponential transformation at the heart of every transition pathway.

Images from the Meeting

Videos from the Meeting

UNFCCC Resources

IISD/ENB Meeting Coverage

IISD Resources