What behind the scenes? Details might help you realize the problems faced by real-world climate change practitioners.
It’s always easy and simple to discuss climate change, but it is hard while we try to implement something to address it in the real world. Different standards, complex technologies, and large numbers of stakeholders all need to be paid attention to in the practical operation process. In the meeting of UN SB58, the complexity of addressing the climate issues of climate change was deeply reflected. The SB58 meeting is the 58th session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). This meeting is the preparation session for the next Conference of the Parties (COP 28) in Dubai in December 2023. As an observer, I was honored to participate in the SB58 meeting and gain some understanding of the complexities of addressing climate change. I hope that readers of this blog will also percept some implementation details through the words. In short, Standardization, Technology, and Stakeholders are the three domains I want to touch briefly.
The first aspect is Standardization Efforts. Countries and organizations may have different understandings and norms for the same field. These differing standards can raise the cost of implementing a comprehensive plan when faced with the global problem – climate change. For example, different countries may have different GHG recording specifications, which may increase the communication barrier between parties. At the Progress Update on Development of Reporting Tools meeting at SB 58, Vlad Trusca from the Transparency Division presented the ongoing standardization efforts. UN is developing three new standardized reporting tools using a common framework. 1) ETF GHG Inventory Reporting Tool (CRT) – common reporting tables for GHG emissions; 2) ETF Progress Reporting Tool (CTF NDC) – common tabular format for NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions); 3) ETF Support Reporting Tool (CTF FTC) – common tabular format for finance and technology. Parties are also required to submit mandatory information and data in agreed formats to facilitate comprehensive analysis. These are the efforts of standardized implementation that the United Nations is working on.
The second aspect that I want to highlight is the Technology Complexity. The technology complexity is not only reflected in the technologies but also displayed in the trade-off between technologies for climate change transition. In SB 58, from electricity, fossil fuels, low emission fuel, industry, transportation, and building to even agriculture, so many technologies were discussed in the meetings. Climate change just so deeply reaches our society, and such a broad impact makes it hard to find one perfect technology solution to safeguard the common good in all aspects while addressing climate change. For example, in one of SB58’s technology meetings, ocean-based carbon dioxide removal technologies (OCDR) were induced in the participants. Dr. Sarah Cooley, who comes from Ocean Conservancy, believes OCDR technologies, whether natural biological or geochemical oriented, are promising paths to remove carbon dioxide. But Dr. Cooley also mentioned any such technology had not been proven to be scaled up and harmless to society and ecology. Dr. Cooley calls for the interdisciplinary researchers to not only explore the carbon dioxide technologies themself but also co-exam different approaches, both technically and socially, together in a sounding environment to ensure the commonwealth of the ecosystem and human society.
The last but not least aspect in practice is broad and diverse Stakeholders. Taking the United Nations’ standardized reporting tools developing progress as an example, these tools involve about 150 developing countries and more than 3,000 users. These tools must not only provide flexible provisions for different stakeholders but also ensure coordination and interoperability with the software from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The wide range of diverse stakeholders makes the key to the successful development of such standardized tools become stakeholder engagement. Because only through the full participation of stakeholders as much as possible can developers understand the unique needs of each stakeholder and develop tools that meet the requirements of all participants at the maximum level to the greatest extent. It is also worthy of attention that the number of groups impacted by climate change is widespread and has vast differences in impact. Although some stakeholders are not the main contributors to climate change, these groups may face a greater impact of climate change than others. Dr. Victoria Qutuuq Buschman, an Inuit wildlife and conservation biologist, stated at one of the SB58 meetings that their indigenous groups are more vulnerable than other groups in the face of climate change. Climate change threatens not only animals but also the indigenous groups that heavily depend on them for life. She called for Indigenous groups to be given the necessary resources and leadership positions in climate action to address climate change which harms Indigenous peoples more than other groups.
As a global issue, climate change touches nearly every sphere of our society. To cope with such a crisis, human beings need unified action standards, advanced technology, as well as awareness of the width and uniqueness of stakeholders. I was pleased to observe that these areas were well noted and raised by participants at SB58 meetings. This marks that human society is working hard to transform climate change plans into practical actions. I’m an optimist, and I think humanity is already making positive strides toward the eventual solutions to climate change. These efforts prove that we, humanity, are a responsible, courageous, and loving species. Such qualities will perpetuate our species and lead to a bright future. Praise humanity and move forward for the future!
Author: Jiaqun Wang