Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nexus Conference 2015 -Water-Energy-Food-Climate open for Abstracts

Following the success of the 2014 Nexus Conference a 2015 one will be held from the 15th to the 17th of March in Chapel Hill North Carolina.

The 2015 Nexus web site is up at  and the areas for the 2015 conference abstracts have been agreed and they are: 
  • Sustainable and Resilient Development at a Local Level
  • Transboundary, National and Local Nexus Governance
  • Corporate Stewardship of the Nexus
  • Financing in a Nexus World
  • Sustainable Agriculture
  • Water Stress, Vulnerability, and Health
  • Managing Resources: Optimizing Co-Demands
You have until the 31st of October to submit 

The Nexus 2015 conference will again have an opportunity to input to the Sustainable Development Goals process and will bring together in March governments, intergovernmental organizations, academics, local government, the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders.

The output from the 2014 conference were:

  • The development of teaching materials on the Nexus
Joining the advisory board for the 2015 conference are:

Ashok Khosla (Development Alternatives) former President of IUCN

Jimena Leiva Roesch  (Guatemala Mission to the United Nations)

Mohamed Khalil (Counsellor Egypt Permanent Mission to the United Nations) 

Alexander Müller (IASS Potsdam) former UN Assistant Director General FAO

Farrukh Khan (Head of Climate Finance Executive Office of the UN Secretary General) former Counsellor Pakistan Permanent Mission to United Nations

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An interview with Felix Dodds by Maria Bolvevich for Green Earth Citizen

An interview with Felix Dodds
by Maria Bolevich for Green Earth Citizen

Our last post was about Felix Dodds, now we have the honor to present you our interview.  Felix Dodds is a fellow at the Global Research Institute at University of North Carolina and an Associate fellow at the Tellus Institute he was until recently the Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future (1992-2012). He played a significant role in the Rio+20 Conference and has been active at the UN since 1990 attending  key meetings on sustainable development.
 Since 1985 to 1987, you were the chair of the UK LIBERAL YOUTH WING PARTIES. How much political experience has helped you and are today politicians sufficiently interested for the environmental protection?
What being active in a political party did was help me understand the way politicians act and the way policy is developed and the role the civil servants have in it. Most NGOs do not and that puts them at a huge disadvantage when dealing with the political process. As far as politicians interest in the environment is concerned it depends some come to the issue through an understanding of the impacts policies are having on their community, their country the world others come from a religious values perspective that we are custodians of the planet for God and then others through an interest in the issues themselves. Mrs. Thatcher is a classic example of that she was a scientist and so when Joe Farmer of the British Antarctic Survey found the hole in the ozone layer in 1982 she understood enough of the science to realize that urgent action was needed and pushed other government leaders to ratify the Montreal protocol and to set an early date for the banning of ozone depleting chemicals completely. I myself got involved in environmental issues because I lost a vote so we have our own strange paths.
You have been active in the UN since 1990; you attended the World Summit of Rio Earth Summit, Habitat II, Rio+5, Beijing+5, Copenhagen +5, World Summit of Sustainable Development, and Rio+ 20. What can we learn from the differences between countries and their representatives on the summits and their relation to sustainable development? Which the conference was the biggest challenge for you and why?
Really two of them WSSD was a huge challenge because after enormous preparations the impact of 9/11 was huge on reducing what the summit could achieve and working in that environment was very tough. The other was Rio+20 because as far as globally environment and sustainable development was dead by 2006 when the SA president Mbeki called it out and said the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation was dead and it was president Lula of Brazil who called for a new summit in 2012. I and Stakeholder Forum worked tirelessly to persuade the Europeans and US to support a new Summit and that included going round capitals meeting civil servants, Ministers and stakeholders to get them online.
Since 1972 till now what was the best thing we done for our planet Earth? What if the World Conference has never held, whether the environment would have been now in the worse condition and why despite all the laws, goals, projects the future does not look so great with all these predictions?
Without the setting up of UNEP by the Stockholm Conference much of the international law on environment probably wouldn’t exist. One of the byproducts of Stockholm was the monitories on whaling which would not have happened without Stockholm and the leadership of Maurice Strong. Without Rio 1992 we wouldn’t have had the setting up of ICLEI or WBCSD which have played a critical role in advocating and producing toolkits for local government and industry. Without the Millennium Summit we wouldn’t have had the MDGs and a doubling of aid to help deliver them, Without Johannesburg Kyoto probably would not have come into effect it focus the media on persuading the remaining countries to ratify. Without RiO+20 we wouldn’t have had the SDGs. Colombia and Guatemala put them on the table in 2011 and the development ministries and many of the big development NGOs fought against them as they just wanted a new version of the MDGs not these ‘sustainable development goals’ which would apply to ALL countries.
What do you think about New World Order?
If you mean the idea that there are people conspiring to get their way of course that’s true. I myself work with friends to get what I think would be good policies to make the planet sustainable. The changes we would like to see will have an impact on the profits of certain companies some of which over time will have to adapt or go under. That causes them to work against the changes that I would want. I’m putting this in the context of me but its true for any one working for change or to stop change you are always looking for allies to support your causes. Of course the powers that we are up against are financially strong and that makes it more difficult. We have on our side science and in the end the combination of good science and good people will I believe win the day.
Is it the CDM (Clean Development Mechanismeffective?
It clearly has had its problems but this has been because of the low price of carbon and the failure of governments to guarantee its existence into the future. Until that is resolved I don’t believe it will deliver what it should do.
Are the anticipatory measures prevailed over the preventive and precautionary?
We seem to have difficulty in building effective precautionary systems and so until a system shows itself in need of reform we tend to leave it alone. This can have huge impacts for the future. I think the work of Johan Rockstrom   and the other 70 scientists in defining nine planetary boundaries will and should help ensure we can be more preventive and precautionary. Its clear much more is being said and done to build resilience in coastal communities to sea level rise as example. The science again will play a significant role in enabling politicians to take more difficult decisions.
Is it sustainable development possible with, for instance with genetically modified food and why the people must sign the petitions for food labeling, is it human right to know what they are eating?
I am a huge supporter of food labeling – I do think it’s our right to know what we are eating. I have also been a supporter of a monitorium on GMOs .What is needed in my view is an Intergovernmental panel on GMOs and the equivalent. Perhaps under the leadership of the UN Secretary Generals chief Scientist. It should work on the basis of the precautionary principle that it is up to the companies to show it does not do damage. We should not be their guinea pigs.
“States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary” is this possible in reality? How people in times of armed conflict can think about the environment?
I think it’s very very difficult if not impossible but if countries do intently do something that has environmental harm they should be held accountable if it causes death then the International Criminal Court should be used.
Are women sufficiently represented in science?
As a former science and mathematics teacher I would say not there needs to be much more done in the schools to engage women in science. I know I tried very hard to do that when I taught.
How much money is spent annually on the realization activities from Agenda 21?
There is no record. In Rio Maurice Strong estimated that there would need to be $625 billion spent and of that $125 billion would be from developed to developing countries. In 1992 that was only $60 billion to developing countries. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development monitored this in its first ten years. It was expected that the peace dividend from the break up of the former Soviet block would enable this to happen but two things stopped it. The first was a recession caused by the 1st Iraqi war and the second was much of the money went to stabilize many of the new democracies of the eastern block. This saw funding for development aid drop to $56 billion by 1997 and then only come back to $60 billion by 2002. In the last ten years aid has doubled but it has focused on the MDGs and on the aftermath of war as a result of 9/11
Will the MDGs be achieved by the certain deadline and how much it is difficult in this socio-economic situation to reach the goals?
The UN has a report out which indicates many will be realized but some ill not – one that will not will be the one on sanitation which was added by WSSD. These will then be part of the new targets agreed next year.
Acidification, overfishing, waste, endangered species …why the oceans are not sufficiently protected, and sometimes there is an impression that we deal it more with things which strikes us on the surface than for instance coral reefs?
Oceans are not protected enough because they are not under can mechanism that enables them to be protected. Beyond national jurisdictions is one of the major issues for the next ten years. As far as mining is concerned its like a wild west out there and so governments are under pressure by their companies not to set up a system to limit this. One of the positive aspects of drones and satellites is that we will be able very shortly to have a much clearer idea who is doing what. We need more marine parks agreed where fishing is illegal and we need proper action against fleets that take no notice. On acidification it’s an issue for the climate negotiations if we move away from fossil fuels that will have a huge impact in enabling the oceans to recover
You follow film festivals, what do you think about the movies relating to climate change, the end of the world…?
I think that documentaries on environmental issues are mostly a waste of time the same people watch them. What we need are movie blockbusters, TV shows that take environmental themes and weave them into the narrative. It’s difficult the challenge is to indicate the problem and be positive about the way out of it. In documentaries I never watch depressing end of the world ones. It’s counterproductive to inspiring change.
felix 1
Is Miguel Arias Cañete as the new energy and climate commissioner the right choice?
Well he is from Andalusia as someone who used to live in San Sebastian (Donestia) in The Basque Country we would always worry about those from Andalusia. But seriously some of the best environmental ministers have come from the right not the left. I am sure he will do his best to be successful in the brief which if you read the letter inviting him to be the Commissioner is very clear what is expected of him.
Year 2020, how do you see our world and how much your role will be helpful?
By 2020 we should be five years on to delivering the SDGs I would like to see annual debates in parliaments holding the executives accountable to what they agreed in 2015. I would hope by 2020 we have a climate agreement it’s clear that will not happen in Paris in 2015 and so we will have to wait for the 2016 elections in the US to hopefully return a US president and 60 members of the Senate who are prepared to ratify an agreement. The last environmental treaty the US ratified was the UNFCCC in 1993.
I am not sure what my role will be possibly that directing the Nexus conferences – Water-Food-Energy- Climate I will have helped ensure a more integrated approach to these issues which are so interlinked.

About Maria Bolevich

Maria Bolevich ( 25 years old) is a specialist of environmental protection and a journalist. She likes books, languages, journalism, green lifestyle. She lives in Croatia. Her favorite quote is " Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm"

Friday, September 19, 2014

Climate, Secretary General's Climate Summit and Paris

As often is the case i am at JFK waiting for a flight and I thought on the eve of the Climate March (see previous blog) and the Secretary Generals Climate Summit I would make a few reflections. These are informed from my experiences in the UNFCCC and the last two weeks in New York.

Climate Summit

On the Secretary General's Climate Summit there are now some 120 heads of State confirmed (which doesn't include Australia's Head of State). For those who are not UN hacks like me the Climate Summit is not an official UN General Assembly but a Secretary General's initiative so a very very soft fora but an important one. This Secretary General has made climate a vital part of his second term priorities and is trying to lead from the front and for that he deserves credit. The Climate Summit is not part of the formal negotiations leading up to Paris in 2015. What is expected is that Heads of State will make NEW commitments. There will be a Private Sector Forum which will focus on carbon pricing and it is hoped new commitments from the private sector and other stakeholders.

United States 

The Summit will give us a clearer idea of the lay of the land 15 months out from Paris. In November the US will hold their mid term elections and this may according to polls return a Republican Climate denying Senate. For President Obama to be able to deliver anything he signs in Paris he will need 60 votes in the Senate.  At present he will not be able to do that and from January when the new Senators take up seats that will be probably impossible.

What will be critical for the 2016 US general election is a solid campaign in the Senate seats that are required for the 60 votes to return Senators that will pass a ratification of what is agreed in Paris.

So what can Paris do well its a bit like the run up to Copenhagen at the moment there seems to be a lack of appreciation among some of the NGOs and European governments about how the US political system works.

President Obama indicated his view on Paris at the end of August. In the New York Times under the headline "Obama Pushing Climate ACCORD in lien of Treaty" it said:

"The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions without ratification from Congress."

Paul Bledsoe one of the top climate officials from the Clinton administration said:
"If you want a deal that includes major emitters, including the US, you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time."

So the ground is being set for a new 'Copenhagen Accord" or rather a "Paris Accord".

Paris Accord

So what should be the elements be of a Paris Accord? Here are some of my ideas:

  • Voluntary Targets: These should keep us under 2 degree rise in CO2 and be monitored annually;
  • Funding for the Climate Fund: Governments have made commitments in Copenhagen, Durban and other UNFCCC meetings on this these should be realized NOT out of present ODA but in addition;
  • Technology Transfer: New technologies particularly on re-newables  should be shared these can be done through the Global Environmental Facility and the Climate Technology Fund;
  • Private Sector: Subsidies for carbon based energy should be stopped over a period of time - while being sensitive in developing countries to the role they play and being able to support the role out of renewables to compensate;
  • Private Sector: Support for private sector renewables being supported by a World Bank/IFC Earth Bond to cover risk;
  • Private Sector: Companies move their pension funds into green technologies and away from fossil fuel companies;
  • Stock Exchanges: Companies should be required to produce their ESG reports to be listed,
  • Stock Exchanges: These should be caped for CO2 emissions based on today and then a reduction of companies listed CO2 outputs over a period of time.
Sustainable Development Goals

Next year governments will agree the replacement for the MDGs and these will be a set of Sustainable Development Goals. At present 17 and that includes a goal on climate but more importantly it includes goals on energy, food, water, infrastructure, cities, sustainable consumption and production and economy. These can play a CRITICAL role to help deliver the targets and us keeping under 2 degrees.

A Final Thought

"We are faced with the fact my friends that tomorrow is today. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Over the bleached bones of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words 'Too Late!'" Martin Luther King jnr

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My response to Mark Stafford-Smith's article on the SDGs in Nature

The wonderful Mark Stafford-Smith has an interesting article on the SDGs in Nature this is my response to it.

I have attended all the negotiating sessions of the SDG OWG and Mark is right the input from science has failed on two accounts on content and on lobbying. I dont agree with the issue of 10 goals and the reason for that is we should not be focusing on the number but on what needs to be addressed. In that context the difference between the MDGs and SDGs is that the MDGs dealt with ONLY developing countries and only traditional development. The SDGs is dealing with ALL countries and sustainable development. It is therefore not surprising we have twice as many. As far as the targets are concerned one of the very cleaver things the governments have done is to separate the outcome from the SDG OWG and the formal negotiations which will probably start in February by six months for exactly this consideration of what the final targets should be. This is a "floor not a ceiling" as Maurice Strong said in his speech to the UN Stocktaking event on the 11th of September . The main push for a reduction in targets has come from the development Ministries in the north who don't really want to address 'sustainable development' so be careful what you wish for. 

Old Vienna cafe re-opens at the UN HQ

The old Vienna Cafe in the UN HQ has just re-opened i celebrated with Tomas Gonzalez a cafe latte. Though i do think Skanska should have taken me on to advise on the design and seating.

18th September side event at UN HQ From MDGs to SDGs: Towards a New Paradigm at Habitat III!

From MDGs to SDGs: Towards a New Paradigm at Habitat III!
Sustainable Cities & Human Settlements in the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda!
A side event at the 1st PrepCom for Habitat III | Room A - 18th September 2014 - 8:30-9:30am!

8:30! Welcome & Opening Remarks!

Dr. Eduardo Lopez Moreno, Director of Research & Capacity Development, UN-Habitat;!
Ms. Maruxa Cardama, Executive Coordinator & Co-Founder, Communitas Coalition;!

8:40! Looking Ahead: The Impact of a Sustainable Development Goal on Cities & Human Settlements!

Housing & Slums: Ms. Rose Molokoane, Deputy President, Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI); National Coordinator, Federation of the Urban & Rural Poor in South Africa and
Ms. Sonia Fadrigo, National Leader, Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines; Coordinator for the Philippines, SDI
Planning & DesignDr. Eugenie L. Birch, Chair, World Urban Campaign & Chair of the Graduate Group in City &
Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania;!

Resilience:  Mr. Yunus Arikan, Manager, Cities Climate Center, and Head of Global Policy & Advocacy, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability;!

Transport: Mr. Michael Replogle, Managing Director for Policy & Founder, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP); SLoCaT Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport;!

Respondent: Ms. Janet de Luna Jiménez, Advisory Coordinator, Secretariat of Urban Development & Housing, Government of Mexico!

9:10! Q&A / Discussion from the Floor!

9:25! Wrap-up / Conclusions

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Peoples Climate March - no where near where the leaders are meeting

As someone who has been active at the UN climate negotiations, and co-directed the successful multi-stakeholder group to get water into the UNFCCC, I was really pleased to see the posters and promotions for the New York Climate March. 

I thought i would have a look at what is billed the largest climate march ever which is happening in New York on September 21st. I assumed that it is somehow linked to the Secretary Generals event and so would pass right next to the UN. 

To my utter surprise and dismay the march will go no where near the UN where of Heads of State are meeting on September 23rd but as far away on the island as possible.

The march starts at Central Park West between 65th and 86th streets and moves not eastward when it gets to 42nd street towards the UN (1st Avenue) but westward to 11th street. I doubt precious civil rights or peace marches would have agreed to this. If Martin Luther King had had to be as far away as this march is from the White House I think it would have taken him over the Potomac river in Washington. 

Any great march is supported by a host of great and less great speakers. So I then looked to see who were the stars to speak at the rally were. 

Who would be our Martin Luther King speakers? Who would inspire us to work on the issue over the coming months? Who were going to challenge the Heads of State to set targets on CO2? Where are the workshops to prepare us? Where are the meetings organised with the member states who would in the following days be discussing climate change? Where are the rallies in important Senate seats? Because to ratify anything agreed in Paris next year there will need to be 60 members of the Senate prepared to support it. Infact where is a strategy

Again to my dismay I couldn't find a rally or any of the above at the end of the march instead you are meant to 'network'. REALLY!!!! Clearly in the minds of the people organizing the event its not an urgent issue.

I have to say this looks like a HUGE HUGE missed opportunity. I would have to say if i was in the opposition i would be laughing at this. As i am not Im just sad and very disappointed. If this is the best we can do then I dont think we will succeed.