Abt Climate Change Experts Share Insights from UNFCCC and How the Organization is Keeping Progress Moving
The Paris Agreement in December 2015 was a milestone treaty written to mitigate (reduce) and adapt to global greenhouse gas emissions. Over 190 countries negotiated the agreement, made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). While countries must ratify the agreement in order to go into effect, climate change mitigation and adaptation progress continues toward countries’ prior commitments.
Abt Associates has been leading efforts for clients from many sectors, including energy, water, and transportation, in order to help countries, states and communities plan and adapt to climate change. Recently, Environment and Natural Resources experts Christina Waldron, senior associate, and Joel Smith, principal associate, traveled to Bonn, Germany to provide insight and technical assistance during UNFCCC activities in order to keep critical climate change work moving.
Helping Countries Document Progress
Countries around the world submit Biennial Reports to the UNFCCC every two years to document their goals and progress toward reducing emissions and the impacts of climate change. In June, Waldron was tapped to serve on an expert review team to provide technical expertise on the Biennial Reports.
“The reports are important because they are used to assess how countries are progressing towards their economy-wide emission reduction targets. They focus on the underlying drivers of each country’s emissions, and how the national circumstances affect the emissions trends. Countries will be able to see if their mitigation efforts are effective and where they may need to make changes,” said Waldron. “My role wasn’t to judge the target goals, but really look at the transparency and completeness of the information they were reporting.”
Waldron was impressed by her peers. “For many of the expert reviewers, English is not their first or even second language. We had people there from all over the globe, and they are reading technical information in English and providing constructive feedback using diplomatic language. We also participated in a peer review process. It was a real collaboration.”
Valuing What’s Lost or Damaged
Prior to Waldron’s work as an expert reviewer, Joel Smith was also in Bonn as a facilitator and discussant at a UNFCCC side event on “Loss and Damages.” Side events are formal opportunities for groups to discuss new research, trends and issues related to climate change.
While reporting transparency and completeness of country data is critical for now and future progress plans, all countries are dealing with climate change now.
“Without a doubt, the Paris Agreement was a landmark one on climate change,” said Smith. “But we still have issues about what is to be done. We know even with a mitigation goal of two degrees Celsius, we won’t avoid all extreme events. Adaptation won’t take care of it all. That is where loss and damages come in.”
As a facilitator of the side event, Smith and other representatives from the U.S. State Department and country delegations spoke on the impacts of climate change and how countries might begin to help their populations adapt.
“There have been great technological impacts that have helped address climate change, but it’s still a funding issue,” said Smith. “Who gets the funding, who does it help; it’s a difficult issue, and not all losses can be compensated.”
As for whether progress has been made, Smith emphatically says yes. It may be slow, but “we are making progress. We can’t eliminate all climate change. Through planning, moral suasion, technology, and coal reductions—every degree you can hold it from getting hotter will help make adaptation more effective.”
Read more about Abt’s work in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Watch the #PlanetWorth video from Abt’s Bold Thinkers Series on Climate Change.