The Framework for Various Approaches: A parting present from Mommy Thatcher

By: Graham Thurston Hallett

For the sea of humanity that is increasingly feeing the changing conditions resulting from a warmer climate brought on by anthropogenic interference, it is clear what must be done—reduce emissions dramatically in the developed countries. Those in historically responsible nation-states must demand urgency through the immediate reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions. But as we well know science rarely determines government behavior. Battling the incestuous relationship of national governments and multi-national corporations has paved a tiresome situation for producing any meaningful action in emissions reduction. These kissing cousins, either from a lack of distinguishable genetic diversity or calculated vengeance, seem incapable of comprehending the vast scientific consensus calling for drastic action on climate change.

Set inside this vicious primordial box, social movements and the scientific community struggle to simply be heard. ‘Act Now’ is our cry that falls on far too often deaf ears. When it’s hard enough to get our governments to listen to two-word slogans, imagine how it feels to find the space to give thoughtful, nuanced commentary–it may as well be an anti-gravitational suggestion for the time we’re given. So when developed countries finally concede to reductions that showcase meager reflections of their humanity, we applaud ourselves for making a step towards averting catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. But before we trot out the red carpet and host our own coronation, the well being of human and other than human natural communities necessitates that we enclose appropriate ethical approaches in our ‘Act Now’ decelerations.

Since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began its mandate 19 years ago neoliberalism has reigned triumphant time and time again. Market ‘solutions,’ such as, carbon markets, REDD+ displacement projects, and deregulation of the private sector in climate investment, have been an inept creature birthed by the conscious breeding of this domineering incest–it is clear which sector is the older cousin. The grave danger in demanding action from this inbreed twosome, is to whom we give our power in framing how responsible mitigation action appears.

As we head into the latest multilateral circus next week in Warsaw, Poland for the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) civil society is anxiously looking towards the latest plastic scratch collar that the circus hopes to put around our necks, constricting our visions even more. Three intertwined negotiating tracks are the prophets of mitigation this year, the Framework for Various Approaches (FVA), a New Market Mechanism (NMM), and Non Market Approaches (NMA). Originating in text from COP 13 in Bali, the parties agreed last year in Doha to submitting the FVA to COP19 for immediate decision.

The parties are instructed with interpreting just what they meant six years ago when they stated in decision 1/CP.13 paragraph I (b)(v) that mitigation action would acknowledge, “various approaches, including opportunities for using markets, to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote, mitigation actions, bearing in mind different circumstances of developed and developing countries.” Countries are now tasked with taking the symbolic cage of market mitigation schemes they’ve been using the last two decades (without evidence of its efficacy; we are currently heading towards a +4C world) and enshrining it in international law. SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice) has two main objectives for the parties to declare—what is the purpose of the FVA and what is the scope?

Views on the FVA in their infant state are extremely contentious and divergent. The EU and Japan have openly declared that the framework is a platform for a Global Carbon Market, whereas Bolivia believes that the UNFCCC is an inherently non-market approach and have called for a moratorium on new market mechanisms. Additionally,  consider South Africa’s position that the FVA should be a tool for providing capacity building, technology transfer, and finance from developed to developing countries based on the justification that parties to the FVA have made legally binding reduction commitments.

What ends up enshrined in the FVA will be determined by the concurrent discussion on a New Market Mechanism (NMM) for mitigation action and the decision on the role of Non Market Approaches (NMA). (For more details on NMM and NMA make sure to  follow our delegations’s coverage.) Even though market based ideas have met serious resistance from developing countries, this is an uphill battle, with increasingly lower chances that next week’s SBSTA negotiations will result in anything else but a regrettable outcome.

The battle over who frames the possibilities of action on mitigation in Warsaw will be that of storytelling. Will the venom of Mommy Thatcher—the divine prophet of the grotesque neoliberal cult—spit out of COP19 a poisonous slime with a decision that prolongs the neoliberal doctrine of ‘There is No Alternative’ or will Cochabamba and the people’s vision on Carbon Colonialism take the day? If the sun is to shine again we must amplify the voices that decry the primacy of market solutions and the deliberate shutting out of real and humane reduction alternatives. Next week this fight will reside in the SBSTA draft decision on markets and what we include when we make the demand that our collective governments, ‘Act Now.’

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