Momentous Pressure on World Leaders as Climate Talks Begin in Lima
Diplomats are calling these negotiations “the best chance in a generation of striking a deal on global warming” according to the Guardian, with the U.S. and China’s commitment to work together on carbon pollution bringing fresh momentum.
“There is some cautious optimism,” said Leo Hickman, World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) chief advisor on climate change. “Things feel different than they did six months ago, one year ago, so we don’t want to puncture that.”
COP20 will be vital in setting the scene for next year’s talks. At the end of these two weeks in Lima, it’s hoped a draft deal will be produced that can be finalized in Paris.
But what exactly should we look out for and what can we expect from British delegates?
According to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance “the issue of climate finance is central to the post-2020 talks.”
This month has seen a slew of countries pledge contributions to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), including the UK which committed £720m.
While the fund is technically separate to the negotiations, many are pushing for wealthy nations to set a higher contribution target.
Both Greenpeace and WWF in their policy expectation briefing papers call for developed countries to make pledges to the GCF totaling at least USD$15bn and to “scale up financing flows through the GCF significantly in subsequent years.”
However, the UK might not be keen on this for two reasons. As mentioned, Britain has very recently pledged money to the Green Climate Fund, so some will argue it has already done its part.
Secondly, there is an election coming up in May. Without knowing what the next government will look like, politicians might argue they cannot commit a new government to new finance commitments. The same goes for the U.S. whose 2016 election is a year after the Paris talks.
And as the Financial Times reports this morning, China and Brazil have already started criticising the amount of money wealthy countries have pledged to help poorer nations deal with global warming “in a sign that sealing a climate treaty next year still faces serious snags.”
Loss and Damage
The loss and damage mechanism was created at COP19 in Warsaw last year with the aim to provide financial support for vulnerable countries affected by climate change.
It is a particularly contentious issue within the climate finance debate because wealthier countries—and historic emitters—see it as a compensation mechanism.
According Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “developing countries such as those facing existential threats from sea-level rise believe they are due significant compensation, but developed countries are cautious, saying that they are ‘not willing to sign a blank cheque.'”
This will be a closely-watched space during negotiations. Many hope the red line drawn by countries such as the UK and U.S. will begin to soften.
It is expected that the 2015 Paris deal will most likely be a hodgepodge of individual national post-2020 targets. These targets will come out of the Lima discussions and are expected to be announced next March.
Crucial to the lead up to Paris then, is assessing the targets set by each country. This means that any draft deal reached now must include a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) framework.
“A robust and transparent MRV framework is crucial to evaluating the ambition and progress towards each country’s target under a new agreement,” explains the BNEF report.
When it comes to setting national targets, “we need more detail and clarity rather than big statements,” said Hickman.
Understanding how the national targets collectively fit together is key to securing a meaningful deal next year—where on the path to 2°C of warming, or how far off from it, do the targets put us?
As both Greenpeace and WWF argue, countries must not be allowed to set too many different timelines for their commitments. The timelines should be focused around five-year commitment periods—targets for 2025 not just 2030—with a ratcheting-up mechanism so that countries cannot slip back on their pledges.
“We really want to see a proper, decent draft for Paris,” said Hickman. “So a framework or foundation of what that’ll look like and what will its legal status be? It would really help progress to come out with a draft deal.”
Maintaining momentum on climate action in Peru is critical. As energy secretary, Ed Davey told the Telegraph: “These are the last major annual talks before we hit our deadline in Paris next year. We need a deal in Paris–there is no alternative that will protect our national security, our economy and the way of life we take for granted.”
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
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