A Climate Scientist’s View of COP 28

Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, COP28, Energy, Environment, Global, Headlines, Indigenous Rights, TerraViva United Nations


Research team in the Arctic. Professor Tjernström is standing on the left.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Dec 4 2023 (IPS) – This year’s UN Climate Change Conference is taking place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December. The so-called COP summits are organised every year and constitute a means for the global community to agree on ways to address the climate crisis, such as limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, supporting vulnerable communities to adapt to the effects of climate change, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

More than 70,000 delegates are attending the COP28 in Dubai. Main delegates are the 47 representatives of the member states (called Parties), which constitute the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Business leaders, young people, climate scientists, Indigenous Peoples, journalists, and various other experts and stakeholders are also among the participants. Officially, COP 28 stands for the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.

UNFCCC was established in 1992 to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system”, in part by limiting the greenhouse gas emissions that compromise Earth’s entire ecosystem, a prerequisite for human existence. Among other items on its agenda COP 28 will address progress made in accordance with the Paris Agreement of 2015, when 195 Parties of the UNFCCC agreed to keep the rise of global temperature to well below 2 °C (3.6 °F), compared to pre-industrial levels, and preferably limit the increase to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F).

To gain a scientific perspective of the meaning and influence of COP28, IPS asked Professor Tjernström about his views on climate change and what he assumes might be done to amend it. Michael Tjernström is since 2001 professor of Meteorology at Stockholm University. He has spent several periods at institutions such as CIRES, The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and The Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), all in Boulder, Colorado, USA. Professor Tjernström’s main research interests concern climate change in the Arctic. He has participated in several scientific expeditions to Arctic areas and is since 2011 a member of the International Arctic Science Committee.

Michael Tjernström

IPS: Professor Tjernström, can the outcomes of COP28 drastically affect current climate changes?

Michael Tjernström: The COPs are a necessary and essential factor when it comes to addressing climate change. A COP summit might be likened to a regular check-up visit to the dentist. It can be painful, but is necessary for good dental hygiene. The dentist might find that your teeth are in a very bad state and to save them, urgent measures have to be taken – caries has to be amended, maybe a bad tooth has to be extracted, dental bridges inserted, etc . The point is that the dentist is an expert and you have to trust him. However, the decision to save your teeth is all yours. In a similar fashion the COPs intend to amend already present damages to the climate, determine their causes and try to prevent a negative development. But it is up to the members to act.

IPS: How do you perceive the UN’s role in this endeavour?

Michael Tjernström: There is absolutely no other global organization other than the UN which would be able to organize and be in charge of such a process. No other national, international, political or private, organisation would be able to establish a global consensus and general awareness, as well as maintaining the perseverance, stamina, objectivity and legal strength to do so. An endurance against all odds, but nevertheless made possible through the UN’s established rules, combined with its global and local outreach. Of course, there are cracks and concerns, but the administrative structure and operations of the UN are firmly based on the commitment of its member states.

People, who in general are prone to criticize the UN system are often only perceiving the actions of the Security Council and how its commitment is crippled by the veto power of its five permanent members. However, this does not apply to the UNFCCC and its scientific support organisation, ICCP. As a scientist and propagator for awareness about climate change, I perceive the lack of understanding the great importance of the UN as a marketing problem. People are not aware of what this global organisation stands for, and even less so – its support of the global scientific community.

IPS: Will you attend the COP summit in Dubai?

Michael Tjernström: No, most scientists have through their research already made their fair contribution to efforts to combat climate change. The current state of research, results and warnings are comprehensively explained and diffused through the ICCP reports and scientists have thus no need to attend the COPs. Whether or not politicians listen to science or not is not determined by my presence at a COP.

COP summits are more politically than scientifically motivated. However, they are based on the factual basis provided by ICCP reports. The COPs mainly attract other stakeholders than scientists, such as government representatives, spokespersons for environmentalist pressure groups and lobbyists representing the interests of fossil fuel-based industries, as well as oil and coal producing companies. Many such lobbyists try to find a place among decision makers, while environmentalists might be looking for political scapegoats.

People and organisations are trying to highlight their own, often specific interests, some of them being based on doubtful assumptions and moral priorities. Environmentalists have often demanded that certain interest groups be excluded from COP summits, like those lobbying for the use of fossil fuels, interests of oil producers, as well as industrialists who, for the sake of their own profit, try to minimize the threat from global warming.

Nevertheless, it is important that influential stakeholders are present . The global outreach demands this. Everyone has to be allowed to have their voice and concerns heard, as well as being provided with an opportunity to be informed about scientific achievements, new environmentally friendly technologies, and the threats of global warming.

Industrialization based on non-polluting and zero emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as new eco-friendly technology, are essential for change and improvement. Environmentalism’s contributions are also important. Like most revolutionary movements radical environmentalists highlight political and capitalist motivational reasons and misconduct, while they demand change and sacrifice. Historically did socialists and suffragettes contribute to emancipation and justice. However, some revolutionaries have turned into fanatics, and some have concentrated on relatively minor but easily targeted issues while ignoring an overall picture. For example, opponents to air travel are maybe not fully aware of the fact that it actually contributes to only three percent of global greenhouse emissions, while private cars and other fossil-fuel based transportation means account for much more of carbon dioxide emissions . It might be stated that it would be more beneficial for the environment to limit the use of your car, than avoid travelling by air. Veganism may be considered as beneficial when it comes to emission of greenhouse gases, though methane emissions from ruminating animals constitutes less than five percent of greenhouse gas emissions. If we could stop throwing away a third of all the food we produce, this would be much more efficient and would also have other benefits. However, every effort to limit greenhouse emissions is worthy of attention, though decisive and comprehensive political actions are particularly crucial for achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. It is not enough to limit them; they must be eliminated.

IPS: But can COPs really have the impact you could wish for?

Michael Tjernström: In several respects, development is moving in the wrong direction, especially when it comes to acquiring knowledge. Many confide in badly informed, or even deceitful, social media and populist politicians. In certain circles a negative attitude to research and science is thriving. Science might by such groups be perceived as an essentially separate activity, practiced by an intellectual elite devoting itself to mutual admiration.

The COPs make participants aware of the fatal threat of global warming. But more than that, it also makes the general public aware and therefore participants can be held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof, and are through legally binding agreements forced to take social and economic measures to amend the ongoing destruction of natural resources, and the atmosphere.

IPS: What exactly is ICCP and what is its connection with the COPs

Michael Tjernström: Generally speaking, people are not knowledgeable, most don’t know what ICCP is. The task of ICCP, i.e. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is to advance scientific knowledge about climate change caused by human activities and it does so by examining all relevant scientific literature on the subject. This comprehensive review and dissemination of scientific insights and research results include natural, economic and social impacts and risks. ICCP also covers possible responsive options. IPCC does not conduct its own original research, its mandate is to survey the research situation, while aiming at being objective and comprehensive, and only openly published results that have already been reviewed by experts can be used. Thousands of scientists and other experts then volunteer to review the findings and publications of ICCP, before its key findings are compiled into a Synthesis Report intended for policymakers and the general public. Experts have described the work of ICCP as the biggest peer review of the global scientific community. COP28 will discuss the 6th ICCP Synthesis Report, issued in March 2023.

Most climate-related risks assessed in the Fifth Synthesis Report, issued in 2014, are in the Sixth Report deemed to be higher than earlier predicted and projected long-term impacts are worse than they were assumed to be in 2014. The Sixth Synthesis Report highlights that climatic and non-climatic risks will increasingly interact, creating compound and cascading risks, which will be extremely difficult to manage. The confidence of the conclusions has also been gradually increasing across the reports.

The development of climatological research is quite fast, the lag in actual efforts to halt global warming is mainly to be found in decisive decision-making. The original ICCP reports contain tens of thousands of pages that few decision-makers can assimilate. The summary for policy makers is reviewed and edited by several stakeholders. Efforts may thus be made to mitigate alarming findings and adapt them to political concerns. However, changes and adaptions are carefully wetted in order to secure that none of them contradict actual and fact-based research results, predictions and warnings.

IPS: Do you perceive yourself as a pessimist, or as an optimist?

Michael Tjernström: I am both hopeful and worried. As a researcher I cannot allow myself to fall victim to paralyzing dystopias. As a scientist I contribute to the measurement of climatological processes, while taking the pulse of the current situation, but also looking for trends and measures to mitigate, and perhaps even hinder, a worrisome development. Accordingly, a scientist has to be a kind of optimist even in the face of despair. Furthermore, I consider that my role as a researcher has to involve the popularization and dissemination of research results. A role I appreciate and feel comfortable with.

It is reasonable that we in the West, who so far have contributed by far the most to the ongoing climatological damage, also take our responsibility when it comes to mitigation and adaptation. We have the technological, historical and scientific prerequisites to make amends for all the damage we have caused and should therefore also go into the breach for the realisation of necessary improvements, while contributing to the economic means to do so.

But the picture is complicated. China is making great progress in climate research, but is at the same time contributing to the world’s largest emissions of greenhouse gases in total, and is number two in the world in per capita emissions, yet is still claiming they should still be treated as a developing country and indeed has a large poor population in the face of a rapidly growing middle class. Africa is lagging behind in its industrial development and consequently have limited emissions, but must nevertheless already now end its dependence on fossil fuels.

We in the West live well and safely and could without any major problems dismiss a lot of the gratuitous comfort we currently are enjoying. The drama is undeniable, even when the Paris Agreement was signed it was by some researchers pointed out that the 1.5 target was unattainable in reality. There is much talk about tipping points, when much of the existing ecological balance suddenly collapses, and that this might happen at a two degree rise in global temperature. But contributing factors are manifold and I don’t believe it will be happening in the near future. There is no really compelling evidence for most of these suggested tipping points. The most important thing is to immediately stop the burning of fossil fuels. In spite of all, I assume that much can and will be done to stop the worrisome development.

IPS interchange with Professor Tjernström was quite extensive and informative. In a following article we will return to Professor Tjernström describing his own research and thoughts about current, and future climatological changes.

IPS UN Bureau


Human Rights Crucial as Wealthy Nations Reap Energy Transition Benefits

Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Climate Change Finance, Climate Change Justice, COP28, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations


Yamide Dagnet, the Director for Climate Justice at Open Society Foundations, delves into the intricacies of the negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 27th session of the Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai.

Yamide Dagnet points to the urgency of climate action to meet the Paris Agreements, while protecting frontline communities as about 70 000 attendees grapple with issues during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28. Credit: COP28/Walaa Alshaer

Yamide Dagnet points to the urgency of climate action to meet the Paris Agreements, while protecting frontline communities as about 70 000 attendees grapple with issues during the UN Climate Change Conference COP28. Credit: COP28/Walaa Alshaer

DUBAI, Dec 3 2023 (IPS) – As the world converges for COP 28, the urgency of addressing climate change has never been more palpable. In an exclusive interview with IPS, Yamide Dagnet, the Director for Climate Justice at Open Society Foundations, delves into the intricate details of this pivotal conference—from the unprecedented start to key challenges and opportunities in climate finance. She offers a comprehensive and nuanced perspective on global climate discourse.

As COP 28 unfolds, this interview provides a panoramic view of the complex landscape of climate action. From the challenges of climate finance to the critical role of the private sector and the ethical considerations in technology deployment, Dagnet offers a roadmap for navigating the intricate terrain of climate change, including an urgent call to action urging global leaders, businesses, and civil society to address the challenges that lie ahead collaboratively. As the world grapples with the consequences of climate change, the interview serves as a compass, guiding stakeholders towards a more sustainable and resilient future, and her voice clearly articulates her views that while the just energy and industrial revolution hold immense potential for economic growth in resource-rich nations, it is crucial to protect the rights of frontline communities and activists.

The Start of COP 28

The conference’s initial day set an unprecedented tone. “Positive developments like the creation of the Loss and Damage Fund and sizeable pledges, especially from countries like the UAE, Germany, and the EU, are highlights of this momentum’s emphasis on international solidarity; I hope that the momentum generated on day one will permeate the entirety of COP 28,” Dagnet told Inter Press Service.

Yamide Dagnet, Director for Climate Justice at Open Society Foundations. Credit: TJ Kirkpatrick, Open Society Foundations

Yamide Dagnet, Director for Climate Justice at Open Society Foundations. Credit: TJ Kirkpatrick, Open Society Foundations

Wealthier Nations and Climate Change

Dagnet delves into the role of wealthier nations in the fight against climate change. “While there is an expectation for these nations to fulfil their commitments, reality paints a different picture. Adaptation finance has not seen the necessary investment,” she said while pointing to a critical gap in addressing the immediate impacts of climate change. Looking at the financial dynamics, Dagnet dissected the pledges made by key nations and highlighted the ongoing challenges in reaching the financial targets made since 2009 and outlined in the Paris Agreement. Dagnet contends that “fulfilling pledges and demonstrating seriousness are essential steps for wealthier nations to regain trust and ensure a unified front in the fight against climate change.”

Key Trends in Climate Change Policy

Transitioning into a discussion on key trends shaping climate change policy in the next decade, Dagnet underscored the critical importance of aligning investments with the goals of the Paris Agreement. A concerning trend emerges as she highlights the “doubling of subsidies for fossil fuels, signaling a misalignment with the imperative to transition to clean energy. There is a need to redirect investments toward clean energy, adaptation, and activities in line with the Paris Agreement.”

Delving into philanthropic organizations’ role in supporting climate action, Dagnet says that while some positive dynamics have emerged on loss and damage, much work remains to be done. “Let us not forget that economic and non-economic losses and damages cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.” She says there is a need to prioritize investments in supporting adaptation efforts, acknowledging the urgent need for resilience in the face of climate change impacts. She is hopeful as diverse group of eleven philanthropic organizations committed on December 2 to develop a joint strategic plan, joining the global chorus of voices calling for increased funding and action on climate adaptation.

Balancing Economic Goals and Climate Policies

Dagnet also highlights the challenge of balancing economic goals while adhering to climate policies, emphasizing the integration of climate policy into the broader development agenda. She illustrated the economic risks posed by climate-related disasters, citing examples of hurricanes causing widespread destruction. “Resilient infrastructure is vital, as even substantial economic gains can be wiped out if development projects are not resilient to floods, hurricanes, and other climate-related events,” she said.

Exploring the business sense of investing in reducing emissions, Dagnet highlights that, with the decreasing costs of renewable energy, it is not only an environmental imperative but also financially prudent. “The cost-effectiveness of renewable energy makes a compelling case for nations to prioritize emission reduction efforts, aligning economic goals with sustainable development,” she said.

It also means recognizing that the rare transition minerals needed to scale up the use of renewable energy require a just energy and industrial revolution, which holds immense potential for economic growth in resource-rich nations.

“However, the risk of human rights abuses and other adverse effects should be taken into account and mitigated by focusing on value addition in mineral supply chains by reconciling with the protection of activists and frontline communities, including people’s rights in land use, labor, and conservation of cultural heritage.”

The Role of the Private Sector

Dagnet further delves into the role of the private sector in climate action, focusing on areas such as adaptation and loss and damage. She acknowledged the challenges faced by the private sector in engaging with these aspects, emphasizing the need for them to integrate climate risk into their business models. “While adaptation may not seem immediately profitable, the long-term consequences of inaction are severe,” she says. She suggests that insurance companies need to review their business models, considering how they can better contribute to tackling losses and damages.

Technology for Addressing Climate Change

Turning to the role of technology in addressing climate change, Dagnet discussed the potential and pitfalls. She advocates for a “balanced approach that leverages indigenous knowledge alongside technological solutions. Dagnet highlights the importance of proper assessment, monitoring, safeguards, and global governance to mitigate the risks associated with less-proven and more controversial solutions like geoengineering, carbon dioxide removal, and carbon capture and storage. This is critical for responsible technology deployment, recognizing that while technology can offer solutions, it must be guided by ethical considerations, an understanding of potential risks, and the design of appropriate guardrails to minimize unintended adverse impacts.” She suggested that a holistic approach, which includes both technological advancements and indigenous knowledge, together with a more participatory process bringing various constituencies from both the global north and global south, provides a more robust foundation for addressing climate change challenges in an innovative and equitable way.

Civil Society’s Accountability Role

Dagnet further highlighted the vital role of civil society in holding governments accountable for their climate commitments, including their financial pledges. She contends that efforts to “measure progress and scrutinize government actions are essential tools for civil society to hold governments accountable for their commitments.” She also acknowledged the power of public pressure to drive governments to take more ambitious climate action. Dagnet emphasized the need for a multi-faceted approach, combining legal frameworks, grassroots movements, and international collaboration based on robust data and supported by nuanced and more sophisticated communication strategies, to hold governments accountable on the global stage effectively.

Assessment of International Agreements

Dagnet provided a sober assessment of the international agreements reached so far in the fight against climate change. She also acknowledged that the world is far from achieving its climate objectives, and the window to meet temperature goals is shrinking rapidly. But like many climate justice avengers, she is not defeated and points out ways COP28 and its global stocktake can create an inflection point, with a “course correction pathway” that highlights the need for increased attention to scaling up efforts to keep global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius and enhance resilience, especially in the face of recent climate-related disasters globally. “No country is immune to the disasters the climate change is unleashing. It is imperative to scale up and speed up efforts to keep fossil fuels on the ground while focusing on building resilience to mitigate the impact of climate change,” she concluded.

IPS UN Bureau Report


COP28: Climate Summit in Closed Civic Space

Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Crime & Justice, Energy, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations


Credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Bloomberg Philanthropies

LONDON, Nov 17 2023 (IPS) – The need to act on the climate crisis has never been clearer. In 2023, heat records have been shattered around the world. Seemingly every day brings news of extreme weather, imperilling lives. In July, UN Secretary-General António Guterres grimly announced that ‘the era of global boiling has arrived’.

In short, there’s a lot at stake as the world heads into its next climate summit.

But there’s a big problem: COP28, the latest in the annual series of conferences of parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This is a country with closed civic space, where dissent is criminalised and activists are routinely detained. It’s also a fossil fuel power bent on continuing extraction.

At multilateral summits where climate change decisions are made, it’s vital that civil society is able to mobilise to demand greater ambition, hold states and fossil fuel companies and financiers to account and ensure the views of people most affected by climate change are heard. But that can’t happen in conditions of closed civic space.

Concerning signs

In September, the UAE was added to the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist, which highlights countries experiencing significant declines in respect for civic freedoms. Civic space in the UAE has long been closed: no dissent against the government or advocacy for human rights is allowed, and those who try to speak out risk criminalisation. In 2022, a Cybercrime Law introduced even stronger restrictions on online expression.

There’s widespread torture in jails and detention centres and at least 58 prisoners of conscience have been held in prison despite having completed their sentences. Many of them were part of a group known as the UAE 94, jailed for the crime of calling for democracy. Among the ranks of those incarcerated is Ahmed Mansoor, sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2018 for his work documenting the human rights situation, and held in solitary confinement for over five years and counting.

Ahead of COP28, civil society has worked to highlight the absurdity of holding such a vital summit in closed civic space conditions. Domestic civil society is unable to influence COP28 and its preparatory process, and it’s hard to see how civil society, both domestic and international, will be able to express itself freely during the summit.

Civil society is demanding that the UAE government demonstrate that it’s prepared to respect human rights, including by releasing political prisoners – something it’s so far failed to budge on.

An ominous sign came when the UAE hosted a climate and health summit in April. Participants were reportedly instructed not to criticise the government, corporations, individuals or Islam, and not to protest while in the UAE.

Civic space restrictions aren’t the only indication the UAE isn’t taking COP28 seriously. The president of the summit, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, also happens to be head of the state’s fossil fuel corporation ADNOC, the world’s 11th-biggest oil and gas producer. It’s like putting an arms manufacturer in charge of peace talks. Multiple other ADNOC staff members have roles in the summit. ADNOC is currently talking up its investments in renewable energies, all while planning one of the biggest expansions of oil and gas extraction of any fossil fuel corporation.

Instead of real action, all the signs are that the regime is instrumentalising its hosting of COP28 to try to launder its reputation, as indicated by its hiring of expensive international lobbying firms. An array of fake social media accounts were created to praise the UAE as host and defend it from criticism. A leaked list of key COP28 talking points prepared by the host made no mention of fossil fuels.

A summit that should be about tackling the climate crisis – and quickly – is instead being used to greenwash the image of the host government – something easiest achieved if civil society is kept at arm’s length.

Fossil fuel lobby to the fore

With civil society excluded, the voices of those actively standing in the way of climate action will continue to dominate negotiations. That’s what happened at COP27, also held in the closed civic space of Egypt, where 636 fossil fuel lobbyists took part – and left happy. Like every summit before it, its final statement made no commitment to reduce oil and gas use.

The only way to change this is to open the doors to civil society. Civil society has consistently sounded the alarm and raised public awareness of the need for climate action. It’s the source of practical solutions to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts. It urges more ambitious commitments and more funding, including for the loss and damage caused by climate change. It defends communities against environmentally destructive impacts, resists extraction and promotes sustainability. It pressures states and the private sector to stop approving and financing further extraction and to transition more urgently to more renewable energies and more sustainable practices. These are the voices that must be heard if the cycle of runaway climate change is to be stopped.

COPs should be held in countries that offer an enabling civic space that allows strong domestic mobilisation, and summit hosts should be expected to abide by high standards when it comes to domestic and international access and participation. That should be part of the deal hosts make in return for the global prestige that comes with hosting high-level events. Civil society’s exclusion mustn’t be allowed to happen again.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


Smallholder Farmers Gain Least from International Climate Funding

Africa, Aid, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Climate Change Finance, COP28, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Food and Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

Climate Change Finance

David Obwona at his seed rice farm in Katukatib village, Amoro district, northern Uganda. The farmer is part of a group that is now engaged in seed rice farming to climate-proof agriculture courtesy of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building Agriculture. Credit: Maina Waruru/IPS

David Obwona at his seed rice farm in Katukatib village, Amoro district, northern Uganda. The farmer is part of a group that is now engaged in seed rice farming to climate-proof agriculture courtesy of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building Agriculture. Credit: Maina Waruru/IPS

NAIROBI, Nov 14 2023 (IPS) – Smallholder farmers from the Global South benefit from a grossly disproportionate 0.3% of international climate finance despite producing a third of the world’s food and despite holding the key to climate-proofing food systems.

The family farmers and rural communities received around USD 2 billion from both public and private international climate funds out of the USD 8.4 billion that went to the agriculture sector in 2021, even as over 2.5 billion people globally depended on the farms for their livelihoods.

The USD 8.4 billion was almost half of the USD 16 billion that was availed for the energy sector and is only a fraction of the estimated USD 300-350 billion needed annually to “create more sustainable and resilient food systems,” a new report has found.

The amount was also quite different from the USD 170 billion that smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa alone would require per year, the study on global public finance for climate mitigation and adaptation conducted by Dutch climate advisory company Climate Focus has found.

The low level of climate finance for agriculture, forestry, and fishing is of concern, given the impact of climate change on food production and the extent to which food and agriculture are fueling the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Agricultural productivity has declined by 21 percent due to climate change, while the food and agriculture sector as a whole is responsible for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of global deforestation, the study explains.

The farmers have been sidelined by global climate funders and locked out of decision-making processes on food and climate despite being the engines of rural economic growth. This is especially so in Sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 80 percent of agriculture is by smallholder farmers and where 23 percent of regional GDP is attributable to the sector.

It reveals that 80 percent of international public climate finance spent on the agri-food sector is channeled through governments and donor country NGOs, making it hard for smallholder farmers’ organizations to access it. This is because of complex eligibility rules and application processes and a lack of information on how and where to apply.

Many family farmers also lack the infrastructure, technology, and resources to adapt to climate impacts, with serious implications for global food security and rural economies as well, it notes.

The study ‘Untapped Potential: An analysis of international public climate finance flows to sustainable agriculture and family farmers,’ published on 14 November, laments that only a fifth of international public climate finance for food and agriculture supports sustainable practice. The money mainly goes to the Global North, even as agriculture becomes the third biggest source of global emissions. and the main driver of biodiversity loss.

“Climate change is hitting harvests and driving up food prices across the globe. It has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019. We need to create more sustainable and resilient food systems that can feed people in a changing climate, but we can’t do this without family farmers,” the report compiled on behalf of ten farmer organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific says.

“Family farmers are also key to climate adaptation. They are at the forefront of the shift to more diverse, nature-friendly food systems, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is needed to safeguard food security in a changing climate,” it further notes.

The groups are led by the World Rural Forum and include African groups—the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum, the Regional Platform of Farmers’ Organisations in Central Africa, and the Network of West African Farmers’ and Producers’ Organisations. Also part of the group is Northern Africa’s Maghreb and North African Farmers Union.

The Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development, the Pacific Island Farmers Organization Network, the Confederation of Family Producers’ Organizations of Greater Mercosur, and the Regional Rural Dialogue Programme are also represented in the study.

Many of the farmers are already practicing climate-resilient agriculture, including approaches such as agroecology, which implies a wider variety of crops, including traditional ones, mixing crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries, while reducing agrochemical use, and building strong connections to local markets.

The study by the new alliance of farmer networks representing over 35 million smallholder producers ahead of COP28, which is set to agree on a Global Goal for Adaptation, is concerned that since 2012, overall, only 11% of international public climate finance has been targeted at agriculture, forestry, and fishing, which amounts to an average of USD 7 billion a year.

In 2021, the World Bank, Germany, the Green Climate Fund, and European Union institutions contributed around half—54 percent, amounting to USD 4 billion collectively, while Nigeria, India, and Ethiopia were the top recipients, receiving a combined USD 1.8 billion. Notably, some of the world’s most food insecure countries, including Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Zambia, each received less than USD 20 million, it discloses.

“As the climate crisis pushes the global food system ever closer to collapse, it is vital that governments recognize family farmers as powerful partners in the fight against climate change,” it warns.

Hakim Baliriane, Chair of the Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum, observed: “Climate change has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019. Reversing this trend will not be possible if governments continue to tie the hands of millions of family farmers.”

The study defines small-scale family farms as those of less than two hectares, mainly in developing countries.

On the other hand, international climate finance broadly refers to finance channeled to “activities that have a stated objective to mitigate climate change or support adaptation. These include multilateral flows in and outside the (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, as well as bilateral flows at national and regional levels, including the Global Environment Facility, Adaptation Fund, and Green Climate Fund, and are usually disbursed as grants and concessional loans

The study finds that family farms are also the backbone of rural economies, supporting over 2.5 billion people globally who depend on family farms for their livelihoods. It says that in Sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 80 percent of farming is done by smallholder farmers, agriculture contributes 23 percent to regional Gross Domestic Product.

Family farmers are also key to climate adaptation in that they are at the forefront of the shift to more “diverse, nature-friendly food systems,” which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are critical in safeguarding food security in a changing climate.

It finds that millions of smallholder farmers are already practicing climate-resilient agriculture, including approaches such as agroecology—growing a wider variety of crops, including traditional crops, mixing crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries, reducing agrochemicals use while building “strong connections to local markets.”

It concludes that governments must ensure that available climate finance for sustainable climate-resilient practices is increased, including that of agroecological approaches.

It explains: “This means funds to support diverse, nature-friendly approaches and to create community-based solutions that build on traditional expertise and experience.

It recommends that small-scale family farmers ought to have direct access to more climate finance and that financing mechanisms and funds should be developed with the participation of farmers’ organizations to meet their needs.

In addition, efforts should be made to ensure longer-term, flexible funding so that communities can determine their own priorities.

The role of the farmers as powerful catalysts for climate action, food system transformation, and the protection of biodiversity should be acknowledged and given a “real say” in decision-making on food and climate at the local, national, regional, and international levels. This should include decisions on land reform and agricultural subsidies.

The COP28 in Dubai later this month has food systems as a big part of the agenda.

An August report by the UK’s ActionAid has found that climate adaptation and green transition initiatives in the Global South received 20 times less financing when compared to main global emitters, fossil fuels, and intensive agriculture sectors in the last seven years.

It found that leading banking multinationals funded the emitters’ activities in the southern hemisphere to the tune of USD 3.2 trillion since 2015 when the Paris Agreement on Climate was adopted. German agrochemical giant Bayer was the biggest recipient of the financing, receiving an estimated USD 20.6 billion since 2016.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Gender Parity: Rise of Denmark and Downfall of Afghanistan

Civil Society, Democracy, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

Credit: UN Women

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 25 2023 (IPS) – The UN agency, which advocates women’s rights and gender empowerment, has predicted that gender equality is “300 years away.”

Addressing the UN Commission on the Status of Women last March, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres not only quoted the estimates provided by UN Women but also warned that progress toward gender equality is “vanishing before our eyes.”

“Women’s rights are being abused, threatened and violated around the world,” he said.

But a new report — the 2023 fourth edition of the global Women Peace and Security Index (WPS Index)—released October 24 draws on recognized data sources to measure women’s inclusion, justice, and security in 177 countries—covering over 99% of the world’s population.

“No country performs perfectly on the WPS Index and the results reveal wide disparities across countries, regions, and indicators. The WPS Index offers a tool for identifying where resources and accountability are needed most to advance women’s status – which benefits us all”, says the report.

India passes law to reserve seats for women legislators
4 OCTOBER 2023

The Index finds that societies where women are doing well are also more peaceful, democratic, prosperous, and better prepared to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Denmark leads the 2023 rankings as the top country to be a woman, scoring more than three times higher than Afghanistan which is at the bottom.

Afghanistan ranks worst of 177 countries– in terms of the status of women, according to this year’s Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Index launched in New York.

The five highest ranking countries were Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg. And the five lowest ranking countries were Afghanistan, Yemen, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

Published by Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and the Centre on Gender, Peace and Security at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, the WPS Index uses 13 indicators to measure women’s status, ranging from education and employment to laws and organized violence.

The United States ranks 37th this year, scoring similarly to Slovenia, Bulgaria and Taiwan in the second quintile.

Dr. Purnima Mane. Ex- President and CEO of Pathfinder International, and former Deputy Executive Director (Program) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS the WPS Index emphasizes the sobering realities which different sectors of society –- including academic institutions, the United Nations, the media and civil society in general – have emphasized repeatedly over the years:

She said many countries which rank low in women’s status continue to remain so over time, despite global advocacy for gender equality

“Growing conflict and lack of security in countries could even worsen the situation for women and will not ensure adequate results in our efforts to boost women’s status. The relationship between peace and security and women’s overall wellbeing remains critical and demands adequate attention and investment.”

Data from the WPS Index, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs show evidence of this relationship between peace and security and women’s status.

A clear example is the countries that rank high and low in this Index –not surprisingly the countries that rank low in women’s status are the very same countries in which peace and security are at an abysmally low level, she added.

Sanam Anderlini, Founder/CEO of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)* told IPS according to the index, in 2017, Afghanistan was ranked 152 out of 153 countries, with Syria coming last.

In 2019/2020, it was 16th out of 167, with Yemen coming last, and now in 2023, Afghanistan is coming at the bottom of the index.

‘This indicates that Afghan women were facing a long struggle even prior to the Taliban, but given that 60% of Afghans were under the age of 25, and many young women were in universities and entering professions including law, medicine and education, there was hope that the country’s overall ranking could also improve over time.’

She pointed out that Taliban’s takeover has set them on a downward generational spiral. The tragedy is that this decline was a result of the US’s loss to the Taliban at the negotiating tables in Doha.

“It is a result of the diplomatic community’s unwillingness to heed the warnings of Afghan women about the Taliban, or uphold their own commitments to the women peace and security agenda’s first tenet — the participation of women in peace processes.”

“But despite the darkness, we cannot forsake and forget Afghan women and girls. They are still fighting and finding ways to access education, healthcare and livelihoods,” said Anderlini.

“Now, more than ever, the international community must double down on engaging them and ensuring they are present and fully participating in the decision-making pertaining to the future of their country — not only in the humanitarian space, but also on economic, social and political and security matters. There are plenty of Afghan women – inside and outside the country — ready to take on this challenge,” she declared.

Elaborating further, Dr Mane said a range of reports prepared by a variety of sources, including the UN and academic institutions have been referenced in this Index using 13 different indicators on women’s status, to show that societies where women’s economic, social, and political situation, formal and informal justice for women, and the status of the security of women at the social and community level are doing well, are the very same societies, which overall, are more peaceful, economically stronger, have more democratic systems in place and are also dealing better with the impacts of climate change.

The WPS Index and its data, she pointed out, identify clearly areas where further investment is needed to boost women’s status. But what about general conflict and lack of security which adversely impact women particularly hard, along with others who are marginalized in different societies?

“The Index clearly demonstrates that all of the bottom 20 countries have experienced war and armed conflict of some sort, between 2021 and 2022 with more than half the women living in or near zones of conflict”.

With armed conflict growing in many countries over the last few years and the continuation of a generally negative climate in terms of women’s status in several countries such as Afghanistan, she argued, one cannot hope for a change in the status quo for women unless countries take a hard look at their policies and investments in both national peace and security and in women’s status.

“Any real change is possible only if the world acknowledges that the link between the two is critical, and paying attention to both is vital for improvements in national wellbeing as well as gender equality”, said Dr Mane, a former UN Assistant-Secretary-General (ASG) and an internationally recognized expert on gender, population and development, and public health, and who has devoted her career to advocating for population and development issues and working on sexual and reproductive health.

“With its scores, rankings, and robust data, the WPS Index offers a valuable tool for people working on issues of women, peace, and security,” said Elena Ortiz, the lead author of the WPS Index.

“Policymakers can use it to pinpoint where resources are needed. Academics can use it to study trends within indicators and across regions. Journalists can use it to give context and perspective to their stories. And activists can use it to hold governments accountable for their promises on advancing the status of women.”

All of the bottom 20 countries on this year’s Index have experienced armed conflict between 2021 and 2022. In most of these countries, more than half of women live in close proximity to conflict.

“Since 2021, Afghanistan has ranked the worst in the world to be a woman. Afghan women wake up each day to no jobs, no education and no autonomy over their lives. This report should serve as a wakeup call to world leaders that a nation of women is imprisoned.” said Torunn L. Tryggestad, Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo’s Centre for Gender, Peace and Security.

IPS UN Bureau Report


UN Chief Urged to Create Civil Society Envoy

Civil Society, Democracy, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations

The high-level segment of the UN General Assembly in late September 2021 was attended by more than 100 world leaders and over a thousand delegates from 193 countries —despite the UN’s pandemic lockdown. But Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) were banned from the Secretariat building. Credit: UN Photo / Mark Garten

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2023 (IPS) – When the United Nations commemorated the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter back in 2020, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid a supreme compliment to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

The CSOs, he pointed out, were a vital voice in the San Francisco Conference (where the UN was inaugurated). “You have been with us across the decades, in refugee camps, in conference rooms, and in mobilizing communities in streets and town squares across the world.”

“You are our allies in upholding human rights and battling racism. You are indispensable partners in forging peace, pushing for climate action, advancing gender equality, delivering life-saving humanitarian aid and controlling the spread of deadly weapons”.

And the world’s framework for shared progress, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is unthinkable without you’, he declared.

But in reality, CSOs are occasionally treated as second class citizens, with hundreds of CSOs armed with U.N. credentials, routinely barred from the United Nations, specifically when world leaders arrive to address the high-level segment of the General Assembly sessions in September.

The annual ritual where civil society is treated as political and social outcasts has always triggered strong protests. The United Nations justifies the restriction primarily for “security reasons”.

A coalition of CSOs– including Access Now, Action for Sustainable Development, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Civil Society in Development (CISU), Democracy Without Borders, Forus, Global Focus, Greenpeace International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam International, TAP Network, and UNA-UK— is now proposing the creation of a Special UN Civil Society Envoy to protect, advance and represent the interests of these Organizations.

Credit: United Nations

In a letter to Guterres, the coalition points out the disparity in access for civil society delegates viz. UN staff and members of government delegations who face no such restrictions stand as a critical reminder of the hurdles faced by accredited civil society representatives who travel great distances to contribute their perspectives at the UN.

“It is also a missed opportunity for civil society delegates to engage in key negotiations inside the UN headquarters and for policymakers to benefit from their critical and expert voices buttressed by lived experience in advancing the principles enshrined in the UN Charter,” the letter says.

Considering this recurring disparity, the letter adds, “we believe it’s vital to correct this injustice promptly to ensure opportunities for all stakeholders to contribute to discussions of global consequences”.

“This issue once again underscores the necessity for civil society to have a dedicated champion within the UN system, in the form of a Civil Society Envoy, who can help promote best practices in civil society participation across the UN and foster outreach by the UN to civil society groups worldwide, particularly those facing challenges in accessing the UN.”

“We would also like to express our support for the revision of modalities to ensure meaningful civil society participation at all stages of UN meetings and processes as well as Unmute Civil Society recommendations supported by 52 states and over 300 civil society organizations from around the world”.

“We believe that addressing the above concerns could lead to significant strides in advancing the ideal of a more inclusive, equitable, and effective UN in the spirit of ‘We the Peoples.’ “

Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Officer, Evidence and Engagement, at CIVICUS told IPS civil society representatives have long complained about asymmetries across UN agencies and offices in engaging civil society and have called for a champion within the UN system to drive best practices and harmonise efforts.

One such medium, he said, could be the appointment of a Civil Society Envoy along the lines of the UN Youth Envoy and Tech Envoy to drive key engagements.

Notably, a Civil Society Envoy could foster better inclusion of civil society and people’s voices in UN decision-making at the time when the UN is having to grapple with multiple crises and assertion of national interests by states to the detriment of international agreements and standards, he pointed out.

Five reasons why it’s time for a Civil Society Envoy:

    1. Without stronger civil society participation, the SDGs will not get back on track. The UN’s own assessment laments the lack of progress on the SDGs. We desperately need stronger civil society involvement to drive innovations in public policy, effectively deliver services that ‘leave no one behind’ and to spur transparency, accountability and participation. A Civil Society Envoy can catalyse crucial partnerships between the UN, civil society and governments.

    2. Civil society can help rebalance narratives that undermine the rules based international order. With conflicts, human rights abuses, economic inequality, nationalist populism and authoritarianism rife, the spirit of multilateralism enshrined in the UN Charter is at breaking point. Civil society representatives with their focus on finding global solutions grounded in human rights values and the needs of the excluded can help resolve impasses caused by governments pursuing narrow self-interests.

    3. A civil society envoy can help overcome UNGA restrictions on citizen participation and create better pathways to engage the UN. As it does every year, this September the UN suspended annual and temporary passes issued to accredited NGOs during UNGA effectively barring most civil society representatives from participating. Further, civil society access to the UN agencies and offices remains inconsistent. Reform minded UN leaders and states that support civil society can prioritise the appointment of an envoy for improved access.

    4. More equitable representation. The few civil society organizations who enjoy access to UNGA heavily skew toward groups based in the Global North who have the resources to invest in staff representation in New York, or the right passports to enter key UN locations easily. A UN civil society envoy would lead the UN’s outreach to civil society across the globe and particularly in underserved regions. Moreover, a civil society envoy could help ensure more diverse and equitable representation of civil society at UN meetings where decisions are taken.

    5. A civil society envoy is possible. Getting anything done at the UN requires adhering to what is politically feasible. A civil society special envoy is within reach. The Unmute Civil Society initiative to enable meaningful participation at the UN is supported by 52 states and over 300 civil society organizations. It includes among other things a call for civil society day at the UN and the appointment of a UN envoy.

Recent UN Special Envoys include:

IPS UN Bureau Report