Author Archives: Benito Muller

Time to Respond!

Malik Amin Aslam Khan, former Pakistan Minister for Climate Change, and Benito Müller[1]This Opinion Piece also appeared on

The Daily Guardian, 3 October 2022

The figures rarely capture the fatality or the enormity of the tragedy. In Pakistan over 1700 people have been killed, 33 million displaced,and miles of roads and thousands of hospitals damaged or destroyed. The costs are still being counted in a country which saw this year’s monster monsoon season unleash devastating floods that washed away a third of the country. 

Around 10 million children need immediate lifesaving assistance today according to UNICEF. Farmers say they cannot find dry land to farm. It could take six months for floodwaters to recede. The country faces a looming food crisis after 1.5 million hectares of crops were damaged. The estimated cost of the damage runs to over $30 billion.

In another climate strike  the estimated damages from Hurricane Ian are $41billion at best and $67billion at worst. The 150mph winds that made landfall in Florida and South Carolina this September make Hurricane Ian one of the top five worst storms in US history. 

Key West and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Sindh have little in common except vulnerability to climate change.  However. Whilst residents of both areas painfully suffer the impacts of climate and are forced to withstand  the damages at least the United States and other rich countries  possess the resources and capacity  to rebuild and rebound

Nature’s fury, triggered by climate change, is now striking with increasing frequency and is hitting particularly the world’s most vulnerable nations which also remain the most ill equipped to handle the consequences. Pakistan is among the top 10 most vulnerable countries on the Climate Risk Index even though  it contributes less than 1% to the global greenhouse gases. 

Many countries who are hardly contributors to climate change are being struck by the most extreme climate impacts, and they should not be left high and dry to  absorb  the price for the ensuing loss and damage. We urgently need a new multilateral pilot fund to respond to such climate induced  Loss and Damage. This fund should be focussed on recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation after having suffered adverse climate impacts. 

These  rising climate impacts leave thousands of cities and towns facing staggering challenges to rebuild infrastructure and restore essential services. In Florida around 10,000 people remain internally displaced, in Pakistan this runs in the millions. Leaders must heed to their genuine demands and help these most vulnerable displaced people to relocate their lives with dignity and rebuild critical infrastructure in a climate compatible manner. 

COP27 offers yet another opportunity for leaders to fill the gap in existing funding arrangements that are no longer adequate to meet the requirements of the most vulnerable countries. Glasgow gave momentum to Loss and Damage, Sharm El Sheikh must mobilise solidarity in action and delivery. The credibility of the whole system hinges on this at the moment.

In his  remark made at COP26 last year President Biden  accepted that action and solidarity are  required saying “We have to stand together and hold each other accountable. The United States recognizes that we will meet our duty to support developing countries taking these actions because they’re going to need our help”. Actions now needs to follow.

The grave situation in Pakistan today is the harshest of wake up calls for the whole world . As heatwaves get more intense  and storms grow  stronger the US and the world rich  economies  must step up and help the poorest and most vulnerable in dealing with the loss and damage they are suffering right now from climate change.


1 This Opinion Piece also appeared on

The time is ripe … for serious discussions on finance to address and indeed respond to L&D through a dedicated pilot fund

I. The Past

a. Liability and Insurance

From the very beginning of Loss and Damage (L&D) deliberations in the multilateral climate change negotiations, there has been strong resistance by some Parties to face the issue of responding to L&D in financial terms, mainly for fear of demands for compensation, due to the anthropogenic nature of climate change: Climate change impacts are not acts of god, they are man-made, and as such imposed by people who consequently are responsible for them.

Thus in 2002, I argued[1]B. Müller, Equity in Climate Change: The Great Divide, Oxford, OIES, 2002.  that an existing neglect of impact response in general, and impact relief in particular has to be redressed by creating “a Climate Impact Relief Fund – based on the tried and tested models of the OCHA Trust Fund for Disaster Relief and the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund of the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies – under the Framework Convention to cover the expenditures for international weather-related disaster relief and preparedness.”

In 2003 I followed up with a call for an “Adaptation and Impacts Protocol”,[2]B. Müller, Drexhage, J., Grubb, M., Michaelowa, A., and Sharma, A. Framing Future Commitments: A Pilot Study on the Evolution of the UNFCCC Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Regime. Oxford OIES to provide not only binding commitments to sharing the burden of climate impacts, but also a statute of limitation for climate impact liability. He argued that it is not so much liability, but the spectre of unlimited liability which made L&D response a taboo to many Parties.

The same year saw the resurgence of interest in the idea of insurance as climate impact response measure leading to an interesting UNFCCC background paper[3]UNFCCC Insurance-Related Actions and Risk Assessment in the Context of the UNFCCC Background paper for UNFCCC workshops – commissioned by the UNFCCC Secretariat May 2003  discussing, inter alia, the “role of insurance and collective loss approaches withing compensation and liability.” The concept  of ‘insurance’ was originally introduced into the negotiation of the Convention by AOSIS in 1991 as proposal to establish an International Insurance Pool (IIP).[4]AOSIS. A/AC.237/WG.II/CRP.8. Submission by Vanuatu on behalf of AOSIS to the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change Working Group II, at its 4th session, … Continue reading 

Art 2 of the submission identifies five main questions to be considered in the formulation of the proposed IIP, namely:

  • Methods of funding an IIP;
  • Classification of the types of loss to be covered by the IIP;
  • Criteria for establishing entitlements to claim against the IIP;
  • Methods of evaluating loss resulting from sea level rise;
  • Limitations on the amount of compensation payable by the IIP.

Unfortunately, the IIP did not make it into the Convention, and ‘insurance’ only has a cameo appearance in Art. 4.8, but the five key points identified in Art. 2 of the original AOSIS proposal remain absolutely fundamental for any approach to respond to L&D financially.

b. The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM)

At COP18 (2012) Parties decided they would at COP19 establish “institutional arrangements, such as an international mechanism, including functions and modalities, … as defined in paragraph 5 above, to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change;”, with paragraph 5 referring to “enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and capacity- building, to address loss and damage …”[emphasis added]. It is also worth pointing out that the in the same decision Parties are noting “that a range of approaches, methods and tools is available …to respond to loss and damage”.[5]Paras 2 and 9, Decision 3/CP.18 (emphasis added)

As tasked, COP19 did established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM)  “to address loss and damage …, including extreme events and slow onset events, …”[6]Decision 2/CP.19, para 1.  However, its terms of reference are  all about enhancing understanding of risk management, collecting and sharing of relevant data and information, fostering dialogue, providing technical support, facilitating the mobilisation of expertise and enhancement of support to strengthen existing approaches and facilitate additional approaches to address loss and damage.[7]Ibid. para 5.

In short, no finance to address, let alone respond to L&D.

c. From Paris to Glasgow: ‘avert, minimize and address’

The Paris Agreement

Art. 8 of the Paris Agreement is dedicated to the WIM. The preamble introduces what has since become an inseparable trinity when talking of L&D by referring to recognising the importance of “averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change”.[8]Paris Agreement, Art. 8.1 (emphasis added). To the uninitiated reader this could appear to be simply an expression of the truism that emission mitigation and adaptation are key to reducing future adverse impacts, but what has happened is that references to ‘addressing’ loss and damage are now often regarded as illegitimate if not joined with ‘averting’ and ‘minimising’. This deflection from focussing on ‘addressing’ – let alone ‘responding’ – was complemented in the adoption Decision 1/CP.21 with the agreement that Art. 8 “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”

Given this, it is not surprising to find that the possible areas of cooperation and facilitation to enhance understanding, action and support referred to in Art. 8[9] “(a) Early warning systems; (b) Emergency preparedness; (c) Slow onset events; (d) Events that may involve irreversible and permanent loss and damage; (e) Comprehensive risk assessment and … Continue reading] are – with the exception of risk insurance facilities, climate risk pooling and other insurance solutions – not (explicitly) about responding to L&D.

The Santiago Network

In 2019 in Madrid, the Parties reviewed the WIM and established “as part of the Warsaw International Mechanism, the Santiago network for averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage …, to catalyse the technical assistance …”[10]Decision 19/CMA.3, para 43.

And again, given the mandate of the WIM itself, it is not surprising that the functions of the Santiago Network adopted in Glasgow are all about ‘catalysing’ and ‘facilitating’, and that the closest to responding to L&D is in final function (as listed on the UNFCCC website): “Facilitating, through catalysing technical assistance, … access to action and support (finance, technology and capacity building) …, relevant to averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage …, including urgent and timely responses to the impacts of climate change;

II. The Present

a. Glasgow

From a Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility to the Glasgow Dialogue

To the best of my knowledge, the CMA Glasgow Climate Pact is the first cover decision of a UN climate conference that includes a dedicated section (IV) on L&D. While most of the paragraphs of this section keep to the “averting, minimizing and addressing” mantra, there are two notable, and I take it deliberate exceptions:

  • 64. Urges developed country Parties, the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism, United Nations entities and intergovernmental organizations and other bilateral and multilateral institutions, including non-governmental organizations and private sources, to provide enhanced and additional support for activities addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change;
  • 71. Acknowledges the importance of coherent action to respond to the scale of needs caused by the adverse impacts of climate change;[11]Decision 1/CMA.3, added emphasis.

This is in my opinion a welcome step in the right direction and and worth highlighting. The actual decision on L&D funding taken in that Section was, sadly, less impressive. As reported in the TWN Climate News Update No.17 (17 Nov. 2021), developing countries, at the outset of the Conference, tabled a draft decision recognizing “the need for a financing stream on loss and damage to ensure that developing country Parties are able to adequately address the significant impacts currently associated with slow onset events, non-economic losses, comprehensive risk management, displacement, and other loss and damage-related issues.”[12]Emphasis added

On 11 November, after two days of inconclusive ministerial consultations developing countries textual proposals calling for the establishment of a “Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility under the Financial Mechanism …, and to provide new financial support under Article 9 of the PA, in addition to adaptation and mitigation finance, to developing countries to address loss and damage and requests the Subsidiary Bodies to jointly undertake work in 2022 with the aim of providing recommendations to COP27 on its operationalization.”

Failing to obtain consensus for such a Facilty, developing countries proposed instead “to launch a process to develop a facility, fund or other financial arrangements for providing financial support for loss and damage, through a subsidiary body, hereby established under the Convention, known as the Glasgow Ad-Hoc Working Group on Loss and Damage Finance.” This AWG was meant to commence work as a matter of urgency, and “produce a report with recommendations on the operationalization of a facility, fund or other financial arrangements, to be considered and adopted at COP27.” But even that did not succeed.

On 13 Nov, the final day of the Glasgow Climate Conference, Parties to the Paris Agreement decided merely to establish a “Glasgow Dialogue between Parties, relevant organizations and stakeholders to discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimize and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change, to take place in the first sessional period of each year of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, concluding at its sixtieth session (June 2024)”[13]CMA 2, Glasgow Climate Pact, para 72.

Scotland leads the way

The principal news that emerged from Glasgow on L&D funding was from the local host government. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, announced a trebling of the Scottish Climate Justice Fund to £36million, 2 million of which earmarked for L&D, stating that “every vulnerable or developing country I have spoken with has big ambitions for meeting the climate crisis but they do not have the funding for adaptation, for mitigation, or for tackling the loss and damage that is needed to deliver.”[14]Scottish Government, Press Release, 11 November 2021.

b. Oxford: A Pilot Fund for Loss and Damage

On 7 September 2022, Michai Robertson, AOSIS lead finance negotiator, gave a presentation on Funding Arrangements for Addressing Loss and Damage to the Participants of the 2022 ecbi Oxford Seminar.[15]For a full account of Robertson’s presentation and the ensuing discussion, see the Seminar Report. Michai “explained that, in 2022, the IPCC identified existing gaps in funding arrangements for L&D, which is not comprehensively addressed by current financial, governance, and institutional arrangements, particularly in vulnerable developing countries. […] He went on to underscore that given the limits to adaptation, funding for L&D must be comprehensively addressed and any arrangement must be fit for purpose and serve both the Convention and the Paris Agreement, which includes a recommendation to enhance support on a cooperative and facilitative basis to address L&D, as well address gaps regarding the ability of current operating entities to adequately fulfil this aspect of the Paris Agreement. […] He highlighted the need to understand four key elements: investment criteria, access, results management, and governance. Focusing on access, Robertson stressed understanding the way support must be received, as well as which entities are eligible to access such a fund such support, emphasizing grant-based support and commensurate urgency.”[16]Ibid.

Following Michai’s presentation, I told the Participants that in their pre-meeting, the developing country Fellow had put forward the idea of a Pilot Fund for L&D as a potential ‘common comfort-zone landing ground’ for the ongoing L&D negotiation. For more on this idea, see my other blog post on this topic: “Elements of Pilot Loss and Damage Response Fund”.

d. New York

Two L&D related events in the course of the recent NYC Climate Week captured the attention of the press. 

“Denmark offers ‘loss and damage’ funding to poorer countries for climate breakdown”

On 20 September, the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Flemming Møller Mortensen announced that his government has “agreed to increase support for climate-induced losses and damage. I saw firsthand in Bangladesh in the spring that the consequences of climate change need increased focus. It is grossly unfair that the world’s poorest should suffer most from the consequences of climate change to which they have contributed the least. With this new agreement, we are putting our money where our mouth is and working across civil society, authorities, the private sector and experts to solve one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

According to the Danish Press Release, the DKK 100m (EUR/USD 13m) funding is to include support for following activities:

  • Support of DKK 32.5 million for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ strategic partnerships with civil society working with climate-induced losses and damage with a special focus on the Sahel region.
  • Increased support to CISU by DKK 7.5 million The aim is to lift civil society actors in developing countries in their work to increase resilience to climate change.
  • Support of DKK 35 million to insuResilience Global Partnership, which works to strengthen resilience in vulnerable countries through insurance schemes to cover risk, loss and damage in connection with climate-related disasters.
  • A reserve of DKK 25 million will be set aside for strategic efforts within climate-generated losses and damage that can support the current climate negotiations leading up to and during COP27. The detailed activities will be fleshed out during autumn 2022.

“John Kerry Refuses to Feel ‘Guilty’ for Climate Change”

This was the heading of an article[17]Kate Aronoff, “John Kerry Refuses to Feel ‘Guilty’ for Climate Change”, The New Republic, 22 September 2022. in The New Republic newspaper reporting about a New York Times event at which John Kerry “the U.S. climate envoy seemed to come unglued this week when Farhana Yamin, a veteran environmental lawyer and climate negotiator, asked him about funding for nations recovering from climate catastrophe.”

Kerry’s response was forthright and created quite some media waves: “In all honesty, the most important thing that we can do is mitigate enough that we prevent loss and damage. And the next most important thing we can do is help people adapt to the damage that’s already there. And […] you tell me the government in the world that has trillions of dollars, cause that’s what it costs. I’m not going to take a—feeling guilty. There’s plenty of time to be arguing, pointing fingers, doing whatever. But the money we need right now needs to go to adaptation. It needs to go to building resilience. It needs to go to the technology that’s gonna save the planet.”

III. The Future

In his Politico article “Denmark breaks ranks on paying for climate damage”, Karl Mathiesen, former editor-in-chief of Climate Home News, contends that “The rich country defense is beginning to fray as the impacts of climate change grow more stark” and he points out there is a growing realisation of this in the EU and the US.[18]“The EU’s top climate envoy Frans Timmermans told Le Grand Continent journal last week that EU countries ‘must be prepared to spend a little more also on loss and damage caused by climate … Continue reading The World Resources Institute, in turn, lists “Create a financing mechanism for addressing loss and damage” as the first of its  6 Key Tasks at COP 27, ending “In some good news, building on commitments made by Scotland and Wallonia (Belgium) and a group of philanthropies during COP26, Denmark announced in September 2022 a pledge of 100 million Danish Krone (approximately $13 million) for loss and damage. The Climate Vulnerable Forum and the Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group will also launch a crowd-sourcing loss and damage funding campaign in early October 2022. These are positive developments that underscore the need to elevate loss and damage at COP27.”

In the hope this will indeed happen, I have detailed my vision of what the idea mooted at the 2022 Oxford Seminar in a separate OCP post entitled “Elements of Pilot Loss and Damage Response Fund” which I hope will help to create  a characterisation that lies within the comfort zone required for finding a landing ground for these negotiations.


1 B. Müller, Equity in Climate Change: The Great Divide, Oxford, OIES, 2002. 
2 B. Müller, Drexhage, J., Grubb, M., Michaelowa, A., and Sharma, A. Framing Future Commitments: A Pilot Study on the Evolution of the UNFCCC Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Regime. Oxford OIES
3 UNFCCC Insurance-Related Actions and Risk Assessment in the Context of the UNFCCC Background paper for UNFCCC workshops – commissioned by the UNFCCC Secretariat May 2003 
4 AOSIS. A/AC.237/WG.II/CRP.8. Submission by Vanuatu on behalf of AOSIS to the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change Working Group II, at its 4th session, Geneva 17 December 1991.
5 Paras 2 and 9, Decision 3/CP.18 (emphasis added)
6 Decision 2/CP.19, para 1.
7 Ibid. para 5.
8 Paris Agreement, Art. 8.1 (emphasis added).
9  “(a) Early warning systems; (b) Emergency preparedness; (c) Slow onset events; (d) Events that may involve irreversible and permanent loss and damage; (e) Comprehensive risk assessment and management; (f) Risk insurance facilities, climate risk pooling and other insurance solutions; (g) Non-economic losses; and (h) Resilience of communities, livelihoods and ecosystems.”[Paris Agreement, Art. 8.4
10 Decision 19/CMA.3, para 43.
11 Decision 1/CMA.3, added emphasis.
12 Emphasis added
13 CMA 2, Glasgow Climate Pact, para 72.
14 Scottish Government, Press Release, 11 November 2021.
15 For a full account of Robertson’s presentation and the ensuing discussion, see the Seminar Report.
16 Ibid.
17 Kate Aronoff, “John Kerry Refuses to Feel ‘Guilty’ for Climate Change”, The New Republic, 22 September 2022.
18 “The EU’s top climate envoy Frans Timmermans told Le Grand Continent journal last week that EU countries ‘must be prepared to spend a little more also on loss and damage caused by climate change, because that is what developing countries are asking for.’ The U.S. administration has also acknowledged that it needs to do more, both in private diplomatic meetings and public statements. But it faces budgetary challenges, with Congress unwilling to back international climate aid.”

Elements of a Pilot Loss and Damage Response Fund

Benito Müller[1]Director ecbi, MD Oxford Climate Policy, University of Oxford, corresponding author: with contributions[2]The author takes full responsibility for the content of this post, contributors may not necessarily agree with all the points, but they agree that they are worth raising for discussion to help the … Continue reading by Diann Black-Layne,[3]Climate Ambassador, Antigua and Barbuda, Kishan Kumarsingh,[4]ecbi Chief Adviser, Trinidad & Tobago.

I. Introduction

The issue of responding to Loss & Damage has been raised in the multilateral climate negotiations as early as 1991 [5]Viz. the AOSIS International Insurance Pool. For an account of the L&D finance deliberations see my other Note on L&D finance, or the ecbi Pocket Guide on Loss and Damage under the UNFCCC.  This post expands on the discussions at the 2022 ecbi Oxford Seminar, following a presentation by Michai Robertson on “Funding Arrangements for Addressing Loss and Damage”[6]For more on this see the 2022 Oxford Seminar Report. More precisely, my aim is to provide some food for thought regarding three key questions concerning the idea of a Pilot Loss and Damage Response Fund (‘Response Fund’) that came out of these discussions, namely:

  • Why a new fund?
  • How to set it up?
  • What type of ‘response’ should the Response Fund be focussing on?
  • How could the Response Fund be resourced?

II. A New Fund

a. Why?

There have been reservations with regard to setting up a new funding instrument under the Financial Mechanism because of a fear that it would contribute to the ‘fragmentation’ of the multilateral climate finance architecture. Clearly ‘fragmentation’, in the sense of duplicating existing institutions is not necessarily a good thing, but this does not mean that creating a new funding instrument necessarily implies fragmentation in that sense.

Take the genesis of the Adaptation Fund (AF). In 2001, at COP 7 in Marrakesh, Parties decided that “an adaptation fund shall be established to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing country Parties … to the Protocol [to] be financed from the share of proceeds on the clean development mechanism project activities and other sources of funding.”[7]Decision 10/CP.7. Paras 1 and 2.

As this was a decision on “Funding under the Kyoto Protocol” the full operationalisation of the AF had to wait until the entry into force of the KP in 2005. In December 2007, the operationalisation of AF was completed at the third session of the KP governing body (CMP.3) in Bali, where it was decided that an ‘Adaptation Fund Board’ of the AF “shall be established [as a new operating entity] to supervise and manage the Adaptation Fund, under the authority and guidance” of the CMP as a new new operating entity”[8]Decision 1/CMP.3 paras 3 and 4.

Four months earlier, Amb. Enele Sopoga, later Prime Minister of Tuvalu, gave a presentation at the 2007 ecbi Oxford Seminar on the governance of the AF, highlighting inter alia the view of the participating developing country delegates (the ‘ecbi Fellows’) that “the AF was sufficiently different from other funds operating under the UNFCCC to necessitate the creation of a different governance structure with a new and separate operating executive body”[9]2007 ecbi Oxford Fellowship and Seminar. Indeed, Amb. Sopoaga collaborated with four other Fellows after the Oxford Seminar to produce an Opinion Piece which illustrates why there was seen to be the need to create  “a ‘stand-alone’ governance and management structure featuring a new tailor-made expert executive body and a decision-making format that ensures the authority of the COP/MOP.”

The main reason was that, as the intended recipient of the CDM share of proceeds, it was seen to be “unlike the other UN climate change funds [by not exclusively relying] on voluntary donations from industrialised countries.” Moreover, the Fellows envisaged other potential innovative funding sources for the AF.[10]“Moreover, there are other avenues of innovative funding for the AF that could and should be pursued — not least if the expected gap in adaptation funding is to be filled. These include an … Continue reading  In other words, the AF was regarded as vehicle purpose-built to manage and develop innovative sources of funding. Or in the words of the authors: “This is why we are not convinced by the two main arguments put forward for operating the AF by the same entity as the other two UNFCCC funds — namely, that this would eliminate significant duplications in adaptation activities under the different funds, and prevent the unnecessary creation of a new body. We believe that the AF is in a league of its own, and that it is sufficiently different from the other funds to necessitate the creation of a ‘stand-alone’ governance structure with an entirely new operating body.”

Having said this, if memory serves, there was also a certain discontent that the existing operating entity of the UNFCCC Financial Mechanism, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), was not able to deal with adaptation, not least because it was designed “for the purpose of providing … funding … to achieve agreed global environmental benefits[11]Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured Global Environment Facility, para 1. Emphasis added. in its focal areas, including climate change. Adaptation is generally seen to provide primarily local benefits to human beings, and as such does not fit easily under the GEF remit, and indeed, the the GEF website acknowledges that it has outsourced adaptation to the other two UNFCCC funds created in Marrakesh, i.e. the   Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF).

It is also interesting in the current context to learn from the Preamble of the GEF Instrument that it was actually also “established in the [World Bank] as a pilot program in order to assist in the protection of the global environment…”

One additional distinct advantage of having a thematically focused multilateral fund, such as the AF, is that there can be no (multilateral) doubt whether contributions to such a fund are actually for the theme in question (i.e. for adaptation, in the case of the AF).  Establishing a multilateral fund with a thematic focus on L&D would have the same advantage, which potential L&D funders might very well appreciate!

Last but not least in this context it needs to be highlighted that creating such a relatively small pilot fund does not mean that the funding for the issue could not be scaled up at a later stage: after all the fact that there was the Adaptation Fund did not preclude the GCF from introducing an adaptation window!

b. How?

Having looked at, and I hope dealt with the objection that establishing a Response Fund would be tantamount to fragmentation in the sense of duplicating existing institutions, there is another objection that needs to be considered: that it would inevitably mean more bureaucracy, more new bodies such as a board or secretariat.

Yet this is not the case. In particular, there is no need to establish the proposed Response Fund as a new Operating Entity of the Financial Mechanism. After all, specialist funds have been established in the past and were assigned  to an operating entity for management purposes. For example, the GEF Council serves as the board of the LDCF and the SCCF.

There are currently two Operating Entities of the Financial Mechanism, namely the GEF and the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  However, personally I find it questionable whether they would be the optimal choice for managing such a purpose built pilot vehicle for reasons already mentioned above, in the case of the GEF, and because of a differences in size in the case of the GCF.[12]Being a pilot, the volume of funding would be relatively modest, compared to the funding windows of the GCF.

By contrast, given the Adaptation Fund serves the PA, and is not only (relatively) small but also has considerable experience in pilot activities, I could see that it might be a good fit to manage the new Response Fund. Moreover, it has the added advantage that (unlike the GEF or the GCF) it has a tool to collect crowd funding though its ‘donate’ button. It should not be too difficult to amend MOU with the UN Foundation, which manages this tool for the AF, so that innovative crowd sourcing for L&D (see Section IV.b below) could start immediately, even before the Pilot Fund is fully operational.

Indeed, it stands to reason that this sort of ‘piggy-back’ operationalisation would be much quicker than one from scratch. In the case of the LDCF, established at COP 7 in November 2001[13]Decision 7.CP.7. the “GEF released Operational Guidelines for Expedited Funding for the Preparation of National Adaptation Programs of Action by Least Developed Countries in April 2002, and GEF agencies were able to submit proposals on behalf of LDC Parties for the preparation of NAPAs.”[14]UNFCCC, “LeastDeveloped countries under the UNFCCC. In other words, it was ready in less than six months.

c. LRI Advice on the operating entity for the Response Fund


Are there any legal reasons why the Adaptation Fund Board could not serve as the Board of the Response Fund, in the same way in which the GEF Council also serves as the Council of the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund (keeping in mind that the Response Fund would presumably be established under the PA, as the AF is now serving the PA)?


We consider that it is legally possible for the AFB’s functions to be expanded through a decision of the CMA (which would be communicated through a decision of the CMP), so that the AFB supervises and manages the LADRF, or other pilot fund that is established under the Paris Agreement and that is subject to separate terms of reference (as well as the Adaptation Fund).

The legal basis for the ability to potentially confer additional powers on the AFB is that:

  • the mandate for the Adaptation Fund is broad and covers a number of matters that could be viewed as overlapping with responding to loss and damage (e.g. planning and preparedness for disasters, rapid response to extreme weather events);
  • Decision 1/CMP.3 gave the CMP the ability to assign further functions to the AFB, and by virtue of Decision 13/CMA.1 and Decision 1/CMP.14, the Adaptation Fund is accountable to the CMA with respect to all matters relating to the Paris Agreement; and
  • assuming that the Response Fund or other pilot fund is established under the Paris Agreement, then the CMA may be able to assign the AFB functions in relation to the Response Fund or other pilot fund. This would likely be done through a decision of the CMA that is transmitted through a decision of the CMP (which has explicit ability to assign further functions to the AFB).

III. What “Response”?

a. The L&D Management Toolkit

The issue of how to respond to damage inflicted by some on others has occupied societies since time immemorial, and there have been a number of quite different approaches to deal with it. There is, for one, the taking of Revenge, as suggested in the Old Testimony maxim of ‘an eye for an eye’, but that has been discredited, not least because “it will make the whole world blind”[15]Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

Another approach is Reparation (a.k.a. compensation), defined by the OED as “the action of making amends for a wrong one has done, by providing payment or other assistance to those who have been wronged.” It was a cornerstone of Roman law, as reflected in the Twelve Tablets which specified that “If a person breaks a bone of a freeman with hand or by club, he shall undergo a penalty of 300 asses; or of 150 asses, if of a slave.” However, given the history of the L&D deliberations in the multilateral climate change regime, it is unlikely that focusing on this approach would succeed in detoxifying these deliberations. Instead, what might be more successful is to look at the response approaches that have been identified in the context of disaster management.

Figure 1. The role of the Response Fund in the L&D Management Toolkit

The figure above depicts what could be called the ‘L&D Management Toolkit’ listing four more R’s,  based on the well-known Disaster Management Cycle: emergency Relief, Recovery, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation. Two key points must be emphasized in this context: 

  • First of all, as reflected by the colour scheme in Figure 1, there is a fundamental difference between L&D Response and L&D Reduction. The former deals with L&D that has been incurred through unavoided adverse climate impacts, the latter deals with managing L&D of impacts that have not happened yet. Mitigation and adaptation are part of the toolkit to reduce (‘minimise’, ‘avoid’) L&D from future impacts, but they cannot be used in responding to (‘addressing’) L&D that has already been incurred. This means, in particular, addressing L&D is not ‘delayed adaptation’, nor can mitigation and adaptation be used to defer action to address L&D. 
  • Second, having recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation as Impact Response activities does not mean that impacts can generally be reversed. Once a species is extinct due to climate stress, it will remain extinct. Once a coastline is lost due to sea-level rise, it remains lost. These activities simply help affected people to deal with the L&D they incurred.

b. The Role of the Response Fund

How could the proposed Response Fund fit into this L&D Management Toolkit?

First of all, it is also clear to me now[16]In 2002 I was arguing for the establishment of a Climate Impact Relief Fund (B. Müller, Equity in Climate Change: The Great Divide, Oxford, OIES, 2002. that it would not be sensible to establish a UNFCCC  L&D emergency relief regime in parallel to the existing humanitarian aid regime with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as the key UN agency. Indeed, one way in which this could be avoided, as also reflected in Fig. 1, would be to focus the work of the Response Fund away from extreme (weather) events to impacts typically associated with slow-onset events and, possibly, non-economic impacts, on the impact side, and away from Relief to Recovery, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation, in its original sense of ‘making fit for purpose again’[17]From the Latin ‘habilitare’ based on the Latin adjective ‘habilis’, meaning ‘fit for purpose’ (Thanks to Dr John Penney, Wolfson College, Oxford), on the response side.

Moreover, it might be judicious to look at L&D Response through a ‘just transition’ lens, as reflected in a recent interview in a Trinidad and Tobago newspaper: “Kumarsingh further explained how coastal communities which rely on the natural amenities that they live in like those who catch and sell fish, crabs and conchs will be affected and how they fall under the protection of the just transition policy.”[18]Ryan Bachoo, Where next for energy workers? Interview with Kishan Kumarsingh, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 2 October 2022. For more on this, see also: Müller, B., with S.Huq and M. Khan, ‘Just … Continue reading

Indeed, in his L&D presentation to the 2022 ecbi Oxford Seminar, Saleemul Huq gave an example of L&D from slow-onset event: the steady stream of farmers that are loosing their livelihood due to climate stress and end up migrating to to slums of big cities in search of work, citing it as a matter of ‘just transition’ that should be covered by L&D.[19]For more on this, see Benito Müller with Saleemul Huq and Mizan Khan, “Just Transition: Response Measures and Loss & Damage!”, OCP blog, 21 April 2022. To be noted, in this context, is that unlike disaster relief, and transnational migration, this sort of ‘internal’ migration is (to my knowledge) not covered anywhere else in the UN, be it under the UNHCR or anywhere else. To be clear, internal migration due to climate stress does not only occur in the context of slow-onset events, as recently pointed out in an OpEd by Malik Amin Aslam Khan, former Pakistani Minister for Climate change: “A population of over 33 million is awash in suffering with over 1400 killed, most of them small children, and 10 million people forcibly displaced to become hapless climate refugees in their own homeland. As the static flood waters now threaten increased hunger, disease and poverty the inescapable damage assessments are already running into billions ($30 billion as per some estimates) for the rescue, repair and massive rehabilitation.”

According to a 19 October Climate Home article Michai “Robertson said the response fund wouldn’t replace humanitarian aid, but focus on the reconstruction phases that follow extreme weather events. Governments and communities would apply for budgetary support to rebuild their economies and critical infrastructure. This could include activities such as cleaning up ecosystems, rehabilitating cultural sites and restoring education and health services. Money could also go to communities threatened by slow-onset events such as sea level rise or desertification, for example to help them relocate with dignity.”

Finally, it would seem judicious to exclude Reparation from the remit of such a Response Fund (as reflected in Figure 1), for it to be in a mutual comfort zone. This is not to remove Reparation as a L&D Response activity, but simply to remove it from the scope of the proposed Response Fund, mirroring the removal of emergency Relief.

IV. Innovative Sources of L&D Funding

a. Top-Down Approaches

In a recent interview, Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda addressed the issue of L&D funding, expressing his belief in the need for more innovative sources:

  “There is no reason why companies in the fossil fuel energy business should be making windfall profits at this time without them being taxed and the proceeds utilized to fund the green energy obligations or to drive down the cost of renewables.

I am of the view that, at the individual level, if you charge people who travel an environmental levy of $1, it is not prohibitive, imagine how much money could be raised if each airline ticket is increased by a dollar – or each cruise ship passenger, each cargo ship, if every barrel of oil is charged – it is not inflationary, but it can be used to fund loss and damage.

On the loss and damage fund being proposed, there can also be creative ways to fund it – like I said, taxing at the individual level. We have to appreciate that, when we are in an airplane, we are polluting the air. It is not just organizational, but as individuals, we have to carry that burden too.”

As it happens, there have been a number of proposals for innovative multilateral financing sources along the lines suggested by Prime Minister Browne. For example, at COP12 in Nairobi (2006) Switzerland proposed a global carbon tax as an innovative ‘Global Solidarity’ instrument for adaptation financing.[20]UVEK 2007: Global Solidarity in Financing Adaptation, A Swiss Proposal for a Funding Scheme, Paper for further Discussion, Federal Office for the Environment, Berne. 40 pp. I am grateful to Amb. … Continue reading

Moreover, the idea of an airline levy as suggested above has been studied in some detail and even proposed by the Least Developed Countries Group in December 2008 at COP 14 (Poznan) as International Adaptation Passenger Levy (IAPAL). The original study concluded that “a very modest average level of €5 per ticket [would] raise €10billion annually”[21]Müller, B., and Hepburn, C., IATAL – an outline proposal for an International Air Adaptation Levy, Oxford, OIES, 2006. Unfortunately, IAPAL did not fly at Poznan, but the idea that we need innovative sources of funding for the multilateral climate funds of the Financial Mechanism did not disappear, far from it.[22]For more see: Müller, B., The Paris Predictability Problem: What to do about climate finance for the 2020 climate agreement?, Oxford, ecbi/OCP, 2015.  Müller, B., ‘Whatever happened to the … Continue reading

In December 2008, at COP 24 in Katowize, the PCCB (Paris Committee on Capacity Building) and ecbi joined forces to organize a joint Seminar showcasing five ideas aimed at generating innovative additional contributions to the funds of the Financial Mechanism:

  1. The International Air Passenger Adaptation Levy (IAPAL);
  2. The Climate Damages Tax;
  3. The International Maritime Fuel Carbon Tax;[15]
  4. The Western Climate Fund;
  5. The Corporate Air Passenger Solidarity Programme (CAPS).

The first four were top-down concepts, involving government regulation. The last one, by contrast was a bottom up variant of the IAPAL scheme, involving voluntary contributions by travellers.[23]For more details on these five examples, see: Müller, B., ‘Innovative Sources for Multilateral Climate Finance‘, Oxford Climate Policy, 2 January 2019

b. Bottom-Up Approaches

‘Bottom-up’ here means that contributions are not obligatory, but voluntary, as in the case of what has become known as ‘crowd funding’.

Crowd Funding

On 28 May 2013, Ambassador Diann Black-Layne (Antigua and Barbuda) presented an award-winning ecbi Report on “Crowdfunding for Climate Change: A new source of finance for climate action at the local level?” she co-authored at the first Forum of the UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance.  The Report recommended that “the new Green Climate Fund (GCF) should consider creating a microfinance and crowdfunding window as part of its Private Sector Facility. Under this window, the GCF could support countries that create an enabling environment for ‘micro climate finance’, through accredited National Financial Entities or competent private or non-governmental entities in the country.”

Unfortunately, this recommendation was also not heeded, so that to this day, the Adaptation Fund remains the only operating entity of the Financial Mechanis with a donate button allowing it to crowd fund.

Air Passenger Crowd Funding

In 2016, an ecbi Policy Brief[24]Müller, B., with A. Kornilova, R. Tewari, and C. Warnecke, Two Unconventional Options to Enhance Multilateral Climate Finance: Shares of Proceeds and Crowdfunding, Oxford ecbi 2016 introduced the concept of “Corporate Social Responsibility Air Travel Adaptation Crowdfunding” (CSR ATAC) promoting the idea of voluntary contributions by corporate travellers tothe Adaptation Fund. The Brief not only discussed why corporate air passengers, in particular, should support adaptation, but also estimated the potential revenue: “Assuming, conservatively, that only one in ten corporate air passengers who offset emissions switch to the proposed solidarity contribution, the scheme would raise over US$ 100 million annually at the suggested contribution of 1% of ticket cost”.

In February 2017, Oxford Climate Policy and the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford published a brochure on the “Oxford Crowdfunding for Adaptation Initiative: Tapping into Socially Responsible Corporate Air Travel”, containing a one-page flyer on “Effective CSR for Corporate Air Travel” as well as a succinct market analysis of the target sector (Why focus on socially responsible corporate air travel? Market size and potential revenue) as well as the mechanics of the scheme. The brochure was complemented by the creation of a website for Corporate Air Passenger Solidarity (CAPS).

The concept of ‘solidarity’ evoked in this context is not necessarily tied to contributions to the Financial Mechanism for adaptation. It would equally well fit contributions to L&D. At the same time, CAPS is ready to be piloted and as such could be easily fitted with the envisaged Pilot Fund, if crowd funding were to be made one of sourcing modalities.

V. What now?

As indicated in my other post (“The time is ripe … for serious discussions on finance to address and indeed respond to L&D through a dedicated pilot fund”), the aim here was to put forward some elements on how an entity operating under the Financial Mechanism could be conceived so as to facilitate finding a mutual comfort-zone/landing-ground for the L&D finance negotiations. This is as much as I can do at this point. The next steps toward the proposed landing-ground will have to be taken by the Parties at the upcoming climate conference (COP27/CMA4) in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt.


1 Director ecbi, MD Oxford Climate Policy, University of Oxford, corresponding author:
2 The author takes full responsibility for the content of this post, contributors may not necessarily agree with all the points, but they agree that they are worth raising for discussion to help the L&D finance negotiation find consensus.
3 Climate Ambassador, Antigua and Barbuda
4 ecbi Chief Adviser, Trinidad & Tobago.
5 Viz. the AOSIS International Insurance Pool. For an account of the L&D finance deliberations see my other Note on L&D finance, or the ecbi Pocket Guide on Loss and Damage under the UNFCCC.
6 For more on this see the 2022 Oxford Seminar Report.
7 Decision 10/CP.7. Paras 1 and 2.
8 Decision 1/CMP.3 paras 3 and 4.
9 2007 ecbi Oxford Fellowship and Seminar.
10 “Moreover, there are other avenues of innovative funding for the AF that could and should be pursued — not least if the expected gap in adaptation funding is to be filled. These include an extension of the adaptation levy to the other mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol (possibly at a higher rate), and the inclusion of bunker fuel-based emitting activities, such as air and maritime travel.”
11 Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured Global Environment Facility, para 1. Emphasis added.
12 Being a pilot, the volume of funding would be relatively modest, compared to the funding windows of the GCF.
13 Decision 7.CP.7.
14 UNFCCC, “LeastDeveloped countries under the UNFCCC.
15 Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi
16 In 2002 I was arguing for the establishment of a Climate Impact Relief Fund (B. Müller, Equity in Climate Change: The Great Divide, Oxford, OIES, 2002.
17 From the Latin ‘habilitare’ based on the Latin adjective ‘habilis’, meaning ‘fit for purpose’ (Thanks to Dr John Penney, Wolfson College, Oxford)
18 Ryan Bachoo, Where next for energy workers? Interview with Kishan Kumarsingh, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 2 October 2022. For more on this, see also: Müller, B., with S.Huq and M. Khan, ‘Just Transition: Response Measures and Loss & Damage!’, Oxford Climate Policy, 21 April 2022.
19 For more on this, see Benito Müller with Saleemul Huq and Mizan Khan, “Just Transition: Response Measures and Loss & Damage!”, OCP blog, 21 April 2022.
20 UVEK 2007: Global Solidarity in Financing Adaptation, A Swiss Proposal for a Funding Scheme, Paper for further Discussion, Federal Office for the Environment, Berne. 40 pp. I am grateful to Amb. Franz Perrez (Switzerland) for having reminded me of this
21 Müller, B., and Hepburn, C., IATAL – an outline proposal for an International Air Adaptation Levy, Oxford, OIES, 2006.
22 For more see: Müller, B., The Paris Predictability Problem: What to do about climate finance for the 2020 climate agreement?, Oxford, ecbi/OCP, 2015.  Müller, B., ‘Whatever happened to the Paris Predictability Problem?  Part II. Unconventional Options for Enhancing the Predictability of Multilateral Climate Finance’, Oxford Climate Policy, 20 June 2016.
23 For more details on these five examples, see: Müller, B., ‘Innovative Sources for Multilateral Climate Finance‘, Oxford Climate Policy, 2 January 2019
24 Müller, B., with A. Kornilova, R. Tewari, and C. Warnecke, Two Unconventional Options to Enhance Multilateral Climate Finance: Shares of Proceeds and Crowdfunding, Oxford ecbi 2016

Safeguarding Social Integrity in the Voluntary Carbon Market

Benito Müller

In Kenya, prolonged drought takes heavy toll

Carbon markets, like all markets, have inherent reputational risks that are systemic and potentially jeopardise their very existence. The best known of these is lack or loss of ‘integrity’.  This risk is taken very seriously by carbon markets and governments favouring them. It is no coincidence that the governing body launched by Marc Carney’s Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets at COP 26 was named the ‘Integrity Council for Voluntary Carbon Markets‘ (IC-VCM). Nor is it surprising that the Provisional Claims Code of Practice of the VCMI, i.e. the VCM-Integrity (!) initiative, is stressing that “only with integrity can [voluntary carbon] markets scale to mobilize the resources and emissions reductions necessary to support achievement of the Paris Agreement goals.” (for more on this VCMI code see below).

According to the dictionary, ‘integrity’ can refer to “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” or “the state of being whole and undivided”.  In the context of carbon markets, particularly those trading in carbon credits, the term is generally used with reference to ‘environmental integrity’, that is to say, the state of leaving the environment unimpaired: carbon markets should not lead to an infringement of environmental integrity or leave the environment worse off than it would have been without them.

The seriousness and systemic nature of the reputational risk from a threat to (environmental) integrity  is reflected not just by the choice of nomenclature for the two governing bodies, but also by the fact that both of them feel the need to mitigate that risk through general governance arrangements/principles. In other words, introducing a special type of ‘integrity credits’ (traded at a premium) is not regarded as sufficient to ward off this risk. The only way to do that is to make sure that all traded credits are of sufficient quality so as not to pose a risk to the (environmental) integrity of the market.

While all this is of crucial importance to the viability of carbon markets, environmental integrity is not the only existential risk they are facing. As anyone familiar with the California Cap and Trade Program knows, accusations of injustice to the poorest and most vulnerable can be very powerful and potentially threaten the very existence of a carbon market. In other words, carbon markets must not only maintain environmental integrity. They must also adhere to strong ethical principles, or (in the words of the Paris Agreement Art. 9) “reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” to promote ‘social integrity’.

As it happens, there is a keen awareness among many VCM stakeholders that ‘benefit sharing’ is important, and moreover, that the benefits should go beyond those derived from the sale of credits. Indeed, credits with sustainable development co-benefits to local host communities already sell at a premium. This is why some standard providers have started to offer special types of ‘credits with co-benefits’. 

The trouble is: the ‘social integrity’ risk is as systemic and potentially existential as the environmental one, and it can equally not be dealt with by introducing a special type of ‘(social) integrity credits’. All credits must be seen as maintaining the social integrity of market activities, which includes benefit sharing with all the most vulnerable communities (and not just the ones in host countries). In this context it also needs to be kept in mind that these communities are and will be disproportionately affected by adverse climate impacts largely caused by other, more affluent actors, including the VCM participants. Being left behind in the sharing of VCM benefits to help reduce these impacts will thus be seen as a grave injustice, with the inevitable reputational consequences for the VCM.

But how could that possibly be averted? One very simple way of addressing this without interfering with market choices on project types and host countries is with a share of proceeds to support adaptation in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. Such a share of proceeds would address the concern that no-one is unfairly left behind due to market host country  and project choices. An OCP/ecbi Discussion Note looks into some of the technical options on how this could be done. The only thing that needs to be stressed here is that it must be done as a matter of governance, applicable to all credit generating projects, if it is to safeguard the VCM from accusations of infringing social integrity.

Hurricane Irma causes at least 10 deaths in Caribbean 

The Provisional VCMI Claims Code of Practice

On 7 June, the VCMI published its Provisional Claims Code of Practice (PCCP) “for public consultation and corporate road testing.” While Section III (Purpose, Audience and Scope) of the PCCP starts by recalling that the “VCMI was established to help ensure that voluntary carbon markets make a significant, measurable, and positive contribution to achieving the Paris Agreement goals while also promoting inclusive, sustainable development“, it also clearly states that the primary purpose of the PCCP is to “provide clear guidance to companies […] on when they can credibly make voluntary use of carbon credits as part of their net zero commitments

In short, the PCCP is primarily about ensuring the credibility of corporate (net-zero) mitigation claims, and not about promoting sustainable development. Having said that, the PCCP also states that all ‘VCMI claims’ require what is referred to as ‘high-quality credits’ defined (pp.30ff) the following 5 ‘basic criteria’: The must

  1. be “associated with a recognized and credibly governed standard-setting body“;
  2. have “high environmental quality“;
  3. be “from activities that, where relevant, are compatible with human rights“;
  4. be “from activities that, where relevant, promote equity, apply social safeguards, and demonstrate positive socio- economic impacts, such as [the SDGs]”; and
  5. be “from activities that, where relevant, contribute to the protection and enhancement of environmental quality“.

It is curious that the last three activity related criteria are relativised (“where applicable”). For one, it would seem that compatibility with human rights should always be relevant. Indeed, I would argue, for reasons stated above, that this should also be the case for criterion #4. Accordingly, there should be an additional basic criterion, namely that to be of ‘high quality’:

  • credits must be associated with a Share of Proceeds for Adaptation in line with Article 6.6 of the Paris Agreement.

Paris Postscript

Paris 22-3 June 2023

“The potential of voluntary markets depends on the integrity both on demand and supply sides: on the supply side, financed activities must drive genuine emissions savings aligned with the Paris temperature goal and reach the highest levels of social and environmental integrity.”

On the demand side, this will be achieved, inter alia by “allocating a share of the financial contribution for adaptation and/ or loss and damage for the benefit of least-developed and vulnerable developing countries, including small island developing states (SIDS), that are unable to directly benefit from voluntary markets.”  

Just Transition: Response Measures and Loss & Damage!

Benito Müller with Saleemul Huq and Mizan Khan

Measures to respond to climate emergency as well as climate change impacts affect jobs and livelihoods. The issue referred to in this context as ‘just transition’ is the need to ensure that social injustices due to resulting job and livelihood losses are addressed, so that no-one thus affected is ‘left behind’. 

The Past: Just Transition and the Impacts of Mitigation Measures

As described in detail in the ecbi Pocket Guide to Response Measures, the first formal occurrence of the notion of ‘just transition’  was in the 2010 Cancun Agreements which, in their shared vision for long-term cooperative action, recognized that “addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift towards building a low-carbon society that … ensures continued high growth and sustainable development, …, while ensuring a just transition of the workforce that creates decent work and quality jobs”.

The second occurrence, is in the preamble of the section economic and social consequences of response measures which recognizes “the importance of avoiding or minimizing negative impacts of response measures on social and economic sectors, promoting a just transition of the workforce, the creation of decent work and quality jobs.

In short, in the multilateral climate regime, ‘just transition’ was from the outset associated with what became known as ‘impacts of response measures’ where ‘response measures’ were exclusively interpreted as mitigation measures, in particular measures that curtail the production of fossil fuels, resulting for example in the loss of coal mining jobs.

The Present: Just Transition for Bangladesh

As alluded to in the introductory paragraph, this focus on the just transition of the fossil fuel sector, and more generally the just transition under impacts of mitigation measures, does not do justice to those whose jobs and livelihoods are affected by climate change. For one, adaptation measures are also response measures, with potential adverse effects on jobs and livelihoods, as highlighted in a 2010 presentation by the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC):

“There is a general tendency to replace rice production by mango in semi-arid Bangladesh. While correct from an economic and agronomic standpoint, without planning and local consultation there is a risk of social unrest. Mango requires much less work than rice. That is bad news for the one third of households in the region
who depend on their work as daily labourers in agriculture.

A recent ICCCAD policy brief on Just transition for Bangladesh by Mizan Khan, and Afsara Mirza also highlight that just transition concerns in Bangladesh “relate more to climate change impacts and their effect on the workers including women, children and the disabled persons.  Few million people, mostly poor, are displaced at least temporarily when a disaster happens. These people are sheltered in cyclone and flood protection centres and after the disaster is over, they usually go back to their dilapidated existence.  Sometimes, they get government assistance for rehabilitation, but it is very inadequate. Climatic stress causes rural-urban migration and exacerbates poverty. A part of these displaced people moves to slums of big cities in search of work, often crowding the already crowded slums. The living conditions deteriorate in their villages due to losses in service facilities of health, safety, education, and food security.”  

The Future: Response Measures and Loss & Damage

To accommodate these wider reaching just transition concerns, the multilateral climate change negotiations need to extend the just transition debate to include adaptation measures in its just transition considerations under impacts of response measures in fora such as the Forum on the Impact of the Implementations of Response Measures (established in §93 of the Cancun Agreements), or the  Katowice Committee of Experts on the Impacts of the Implementation of Response Measures, a.k.a. Katowice Committee on Impacts (KCI), established at COP24 in 2018.

As regards the housing the safeguarding of social workplace justice in the face of adverse impacts of climate change in the multilateral climate change negotiations, the most natural agenda item would seem to be Loss and Damage (L&D) as dealt with in bodies such as the Santiago Network on L&D. 

Without these social justice extensions there can at best be partial justice in the relevant transitions.

The New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance

Benito Müller

Background: Mutually Assured Unhappiness

The Decision (1/CP.21) adopting the Paris Agreement (PA) specifies that the parties to the PA “shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of USD 100 billion per year, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries”[ § 53] before 2025.

In Glasgow, parties decided to “initiate the deliberations on setting a new collective quantified goal”[§ 1] that are to be concluded in 2024 [§ 22] and are to “include, inter alia, quantity, quality, scope and access features, as well as sources of funding, of the goal”[§ 16]

This wide range of topics reflects “the fact that there is no multilaterally agreed definition of climate finance”, as recognised in the COP 26 Decision on Matters relating to the SCF (para 6), and some would argue, the need for a definition which cropped up in many of the finance-related discussions in Glasgow (cf. ecbi COP 26 Key Outcomes). The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) has for some time been deliberating this issue and has been requested by the COP “to continue its work on definitions of climate finance, … with a view to providing input for consideration by [COP 27] (November 2022)”[ibid. § 7]

It is not at all clear whether it will be possible to agree on a grand unified definition of ‘climate finance’. What is crystal clear is that adopting a collective quantified goal, in the absence of an agreement on what is to be counted as contributions, is nothing but a recipe for mutually assured unhappiness, because without such an agreement it is not be possible to objectively agree on whether the goal has been achieved or not.

What to do? Maybe focus on certain types of financial flows where there is agreement that they are climate finance, such as the flows through the Financial Mechanism (FM) of the UNFCCC/PA.  Of course, it would be too narrow to focus only on the FM. So, what else might be doable? In seeking an answer to this, it may be useful to look back on the genesis of the $100 billion figure.

Genesis of the $100 billion Goal

It is well known that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on arrival at COP in Copenhagen (17 December 2009), announced that “the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries. We expect this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance.”[]

What is less well known is that the $100 billion goal was actually first mooted by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his ‘Roadmap to Copenhagen‘ speech (London Zoo, 26 June 2009). While acknowledging the importance of the private sector and carbon markets, Brown emphasised that “public finance will also be needed. So I want to propose a new international partnership on public finance for climate change”[emphasis added]. This partnership was to be governed by four principles: Equity, Additionality, Shared governance, and Predictability. As such it was very progressive indeed – for a summary of these principles, see Müller (2018)[1] – and it was a shame the partnership did not materialise.

The Way Forward: Collective Quantified Public-sector Goal on Adaptation Finance

Given this, and the (slightly oversimplified) headline description of it in the Guardian at the time (“Gordon Brown puts $100bn price tag on climate adaptation“) one way forward could be to introduce a focus on a supplementary collective quantified goal for public sector (grant) finance for adaptation (for the poorest/most vulnerable countries).

To arrive at a mutually agreeable definition for this sort of funding will not be easy either, but it is clearly less onerous than a general definition of climate finance, particularly if one were to use the methodologies of, say, the Adaptation Fund as benchmark (assuming not unreasonably there is agreement that the AF delivers adaptation finance).

Moreover, funding for adaptation, or rather the lack of it, remains a key issue in the multilateral climate change process, as witnessed in the Adaptation Finance section of the Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP) which in §§14-16:

  • Notes with concern that the current provision of climate finance for adaptation remains insufficient to respond to worsening climate change impacts in developing country Parties;
  • Urges developed country Parties to urgently and significantly scale up their provision of climate finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for adaptation so as to respond to the needs of developing country Parties [and];
  • Recognizes the importance of the adequacy and predictability of adaptation finance.

Indeed, by urging “developed country Parties to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025,”[§18], the GCP has already taken the first step in the proposed way forward, which suggests it could be done.

[1] Benito Müller (2018), The Past, Present and Future of the Collective Quantified Goal for Climate Finance: Paragraph 53 of Decision 1/CP.21, presentation given at the 2018 ecbi Fellows Colloquium.

Rethinking air travel in a globally connected world: Beyond Flying?

Benito Müller

It must be rare to be referred to as one of the most destructive voices in modern climate dialogues. How did I obtain this epithet?

On 16 May this year, Rod Janssen, publisher of the weekly Energy in Demand (EiD) newsletter, requested his readers to take a few moments to rethink air travel. Let us know what you are doing to make your mobility more sustainable! I followed the request and sent him the following Comment:

Air travel/transport is in danger of becoming to be regarded as ‘intrinsically evil’ which I personally think is completely the wrong reaction to the problems it no doubt poses in its current form. I do not think abolishing air travel and replacing it with 19th century slow travel alternatives is a sustainable answer.

As I tried to argue over a decade ago (“Food Miles or Poverty Eradication? The moral duty to eat African strawberries at Christmas’) Abolishing air transport would also have disproportionate negative impacts on those who rely on it to sell their agricultural produce to the globally more affluent.

What we need is not to abolish air travel/transport but to make it more sustainable, not just by offsetting, but by switching to renewable energy based planes and by supporting the poorest and most vulnerable globally in their efforts to build resilience against residual impacts, as proposed in the Corporate Air Passenger Solidarity initiative.

Visit the website; Read the brochure

In comes ‘Leslie’ (nom de plume) with this riposte: Benito Müller seems one of the most destructive voices in modern climate dialogues: he is proposing with the CAPS initiative to keep on flying and pay for adaptation (not even loss and damage) rather than reducing emissions and pay the climate financing that developed countries has promised with the Paris Agreement, including adaptation finance. The argument of only financing adaptation is a short-circuit of climate action with the underlying assumption that we can just adapt to any climate change. […]

I have no idea how s/he arrived at the preposterous conclusion of me having ever advocated that “we can just adapt to any climate change”. The point of CAPS is to redress the neglect of adaptation in the debate on air travel and climate change, not to supplant mitigation, which is obviously critical. 

What we need is to make flying sustainable. That does not mean we have to abolish it altogether (‘The only good plane is a grounded plane!’). What we need to do is eliminate not flying but its carbon emissions, while also supporting the most vulnerable in enhancing their resilience to the adverse impacts which have already been caused (by unsustainable air travel).

‘Rethinking air travel’ in Janssen’s request refers to an Ecologist book review by Rose Bridger of “Beyond Flying: Rethinking air travel in a globally connected world”.[1] It begins with the observation that: For today’s tourists and travellers the elephant in the room is the jumbo jet which whisks us to our destinations – but pollutes the air, promotes destructive development, and isolates us from the real world.

While fully acknowledging the point about pollution, I have my reservations about ‘promoting destructive development’, and I have to draw the line at the isolation from ‘the real world’, or, as a review heading goes: “How air travel narrows the mind“.  According to Bridger, the book celebrates the joys of substituting flight with surface travel, and also addresses the difficulties. People need the luxury of time to undertake intercontinental journeys by buses, trains and boats, which take days or weeks instead of the few hours for a flight. […] A theme touched on by all the travellers is embracing the journey, engaging with the places they are passing though. Their psycho-geographical insights are a marked contrast with the experience of air travellers, who are, in one sense, broadening their horizons, yet are also extraordinarily blinkered, fixated solely on desired destinations while flying oblivious over everything in between.

Indeed, not everyone has the money, connections, or time to commandeer a racing yacht for an Atlantic crossing[2] (and even if one has, it is doubtful how much more ‘psycho-geographical insights’ one would gain in such a crossing). Moreover, CAPS is about corporate travel, which is generally not about broadening travellers’ horizons: Business travellers would prefer to be beamed to the meeting and straight back. Unfortunately this technology is not yet quite as user-friendly as one would wish, and while we have made great strides with Zooming across the world, there is no doubt in my mind that face-to-face meetings will remain critical in doing business. Fortunately, the solution is in the making: United [Airlines] will purchase 15 of Boom’s ‘Overture’ airliners, […] with an option for 35 more aircraft. Slated to carry passengers in 2029, the net-zero carbon aircraft will fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).[]

Top:The Guardian 23 January 2015; Bottom:”UNITED GOES SUPERSONIC

The trouble with SAFs is they are not without their own problems, particularly bio-fuels (see, for example, “The Biofuel Controversy“), which until recently was the only SAF type I knew of. On 7 December, I received a bulletin from SWI, the news and information service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, introducing me to How sustainable fuels created from thin air could solve the energy crisis:

ETH Mini Solar Syngas Refinery

Perched on a roof in central Zurich, the white installation looks like a satellite dish from a James Bond film as it emerges from its casing and points to the skies. But it is not tracking secret communications. The unique device – a mini solar refinery – was built by scientists at the federal technology institute ETH Zurich to show that it is possible to produce carbon-neutral fuels from just sunlight and air.

I was frankly bowled over by the idea. To extract carbon from the air with solar power, like bio fuel but without (necessarily) competing with arable land: genius! Of course, it is not totally problem-free either, as acknowledged in the article: it is much too expensive. But this is not an insurmountable obstacle: Simonetta Sommaruga (Swiss Environment Minister), for example, has publicly supported the introduction of “a blending quota for synthetic fuels in aviation to help create a new market”, something which, according to a recent Nature paper, could do the trick.[3]

Large-scale solar syngas refineries of the type demonstrated at the ETH will require a large amount of territory to be deployed, and it would obviously not be sensible to use arable land for this. Fortunately, there are countries with large tracks of non-arable territory they could use to produce fuel for the world by extracting carbon from the air (as opposed to from the ground).

As to the future of CAPS, I have to admit, Leslie’s riposte did give me food for thought.  Maybe a twinning of CAPS with an initiative that supports the scaling up of (truly) sustainable aviation fuels could be the way to promote sustainable aviation while avoiding Leslie’s misunderstanding?


[1] Chris Watson (ed.), Green Books (2014).

[2]Climate activist Greta Thunberg made a double crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 2019 to attend climate conferences in New York City and, until it was moved, Santiago, Chile. She sailed from Plymouth, UK, to New York, United States aboard the racing yacht Malizia II, returning from Hampton, Virginia, to Lisbon on the catamaran La Vagabonde.“[Wikipedia: “Voyage of Greta Thunberg“]

[3] Given their high initial investment cost, solar thermochemical fuels require policy support to see widespread deployment, leading to concomitant cost reductions initially through scaling effects and process optimization, and then through mass production of key components and learning-by-doing. Regulatory frameworks progress over time to match three phases: initial R&D and technology demonstration, market creation and system development, and market competitiveness.

… we propose an aviation sector support scheme that would create a near-term market for the first generation of commercial solar fuel plants. … this would take the form of a jet fuel quota scheme, mandating aviation fuel retailers or airlines to provide proof that a certain proportion of their fuel comes from solar fuel sources. The initial costs of such a policy would be small enough to be politically practicable because the initial quota would be very low relative to overall jet fuel demand. …

This would start solar fuels’ journey down the learning curve, which is the main aim of the policy. Technological learning at the same pace as for [concentrated solar power] – approximately 60% generation cost reduction in 15 years – seems feasible for solar thermochemical fuels as well. Importantly, solar drop-in fuels can utilize existing storage, distribution, and utilization infrastructure and thus require no new technologies beyond the production chain.[Remo Schäppi et al. ‘Drop-in Fuels from Sunlight and Air’ Nature 3 November 2021]

Enough with the Madness!

Benito Müller

My favourite simile for the negotiation process is that of a roving village of about 5000 people, with an ever increasing number of tourists, which in Glasgow has reached an all-time high of over 30’000.

The figure above is an extension of figure in the Executive Summary of a recent ecbi Policy Report on Future Arrangement for Intergovernmental Meetings under the UNFCCC. This Report proposes that COP sessions (COPs) should be slimmed-down in size considerably to deal with technical matters related to implementation. Political elements, meanwhile, can be dealt with in processes outside the COPs that have already been established to support implementation on the ground – such as the Climate Action agenda, the Marrakech Partnership, the Regional Climate Weeks, and the technical meetings and workshops that support countries in formulating and implementing policies and measures in support of climate ambition.

To do justice to the increasing importance of High-Level Segments and non-state actor targeted activities, the Report proposes a new dedicated event: an annual high-level Global Climate Action Week (GCAW), organized by the UNFCCC Secretariat to be settled in Geneva, the location of one of the UN Headquarters.

The Report concedes there may be occasions “for instance, when Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are submitted or communicated, where highest-level participation could be desirable as part of an ‘NDC-submission High-Level Segment’ during the GCAW. This could be done as Climate Ambition Summits, such as the one co-convened on 12 December 2020 by the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France, in partnership with Chile and Italy.”

To be clear, the numbers used in the above figure are those available in the relevant participant lists, which for Glasgow extended to over 1600 pages! It is not completely clear to what extent these correspond to actual (physical) attendance figures, in particular since in Glasgow, there was also the option of purely virtual attendance.

Keeping this in mind, it does however stand to reason that the physical presence of 120 world leaders did have an effect on the (physical) participant numbers.

COP 26 Participant figures

As someone who attends the COP sessions to meet friends from the roaming village, COP 26 was a doubly frustrating experience: not only was the village swamped with tourists, but it was nigh impossible to recognise anyone in the mass of people due to the covid masks.

When I therefore read that the Glasgow Climate Pact, “invites the Secretary-General of the United Nations to convene world leaders in 2023 to consider ambition to 2030″[para. 86] I immediately thought of the Global Climate Change Summits proposed in the ecbi Policy Report! So there is a genuine chance of starting to redress the otherwise unsustainable growth in COP participant numbers if the UN Secretary-General were to convene his summit as part of a Global Climate Action week in Geneva, in partnership with the COP 27 and COP 28 Presidencies as venue for (some if not all of) the ‘Green Zone’ climate action events.

COP26: Clouds and silver linings

David Robinson

David Robinson, Senior Research Fellow, OCP

In view of the climate emergency we face and the short time we have to address it, no single COP outcome will ever be sufficient to meet the challenge. COP26 is no exception to this rule. Indeed, the sense of urgency has never been greater following the IPCC report in August that gave the world less than ten years to halve global emissions to have a reasonable chance of avoiding climate catastrophe. A process that requires consensus among 200 countries could never be radical enough or move quickly enough. The inevitable compromises and slowness of the process are bound to disappoint almost everyone, but especially the young, whose future is in play, and the people living in the areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change who have no responsibility for causing it. The sense of injustice is especially acute following the Covid-19 pandemic and the absence of solidarity related to vaccine distribution.

Furthermore, a global treaty – like the Paris Agreement (PA) – that relies on voluntary pledges (Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs) to mitigate emissions growth is always going to disappoint if one compares those pledges with what the science requires. National self-interest, special corporate or political interests and the tendency to free-ride (let others pay) will almost always make global agreements weaker than they need to be to secure global public goods. At COP26, the power of a few major emitters (US, China, India) to weaken the global pact to phase out coal is an illustration of the problem of reaching ambitious agreements. The unwillingness of the wealthy countries to compensate the poorest for losses and damages was also depressingly predictable. But the failure of the wealthy countries to meet their 2009 commitment to funnel $100 billion/year to the developing countries by 2020 was even worse since it illustrated the failure to deliver on pledges.  The sense of disappointment and injustice on the part of developing countries is particularly problematic because it undermines the support that is essential to meeting the global crises of climate change and poverty. In particular, failure to pursue sustainable economic development in the global south will lead to emissions growth that overwhelms reductions in the global north, accelerating climate change and contributing to geopolitical insecurity. 

Many observers expect too much from a COP.  Negotiators come to the COP with a clear idea of what they can agree to and what are the red lines. When Ministers arrive in the second week, they too have clear instructions. There is always some room for negotiations, but not nearly as much as most people seem to think. The logic of the PA is that pressure will build over time on governments to enhance the ambition of their national pledges, but the latter will always be limited by national interests and reluctance to bear the burden. This almost ensures that COPs will disappoint those who expect major breakthroughs.

Even positive news at COP26 is open to question. The strength of pledges to cut emissions is undermined by the fact that key countries do not sign them, most notably a ‘Powering Past Coal’ alliance that leaves out China, India and other major coal producers.  Commitments to climate neutrality in 30-50 years ring hollow when not accompanied by detailed transition plans. Add to that the serious doubts about whether the net-zero pledges by governments and companies are greenwashing and whether there is any way to ensure compliance.

In spite of the very legitimate reasons to be alarmed at the inability of COPs – and COP26 in particular – to address the global climate crisis and the underlying problems of injustice, there are reasons to be encouraged and to continue to fight for more ambition. To begin, COP26 reflects and will accelerate the process of de-carbonization. The dramatic decline in the cost of renewables, batteries and electric vehicles confirms the potential for policy support, innovation, competition and scale to change the game. The pressure on the fossil fuel industry will intensify as global finance increasingly focuses on green energy. Stranded fossil fuel assets are inevitable. Although the world will continue to rely on fossil fuels for some time, the hydrocarbon industry is acutely aware that their future depends now on becoming part of the solution. That is why investment in oil and gas has been falling and why investment in renewables has been growing quickly (although not nearly fast enough).

Second, the many ambitious pledges by State and non-State actors are a reflection of the pressures they face to act and the fact that action is now increasingly attractive from an economic perspective. In particular, the agreement signed by 100 countries to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 will have an important impact on greenhouse gas emissions, provided the commitments are realized. Likewise, COP26 saw governments, cities, major automakers, financial institutions and others sign on to an agreement to transition to 100% zero emission sales of new cars and vans by 2040 globally and by 2035 in “leading markets”. Although these pledges do not include all key countries, they are a sign of increasing ambition from State and non-State actors. Indeed, it is fair to say that we are witnessing competition among major regional political actors and industrial groups to be the first to get to net zero emissions and to develop the technologies and business models of the future. 

Third, COP26 has begun to address issues that had previously been ignored or inadequately treated. The Paris Agreement does not refer at all to energy. But under the final Glasgow Climate Pact, 196 countries agree to “accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”; definitely not as bold as most countries demanded, but certainly progress. COP26 has also anchored permanently the ocean in the multilateral climate change regime.

Fourth, progress is especially evident in the engagement of the private financial sector. Over 400 of the world’s largest financial institutions – managing over $120 trillion – signed the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. These companies are not promising to invest all their assets in net zero activities, but they have agreed to use science-based guidelines to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, cover all emission scopes, include 2030 interim target settings and commit to transparent reporting and accounting in line with Race to Zero criteria. This is a game changer. When banks hear that the world must invest $4 trillion a year to address climate change, they now begin to calculate how many deals that amounts to for them.

Fifth, COP26 has finalized the rule book for the Paris Agreement, in particular on transparency, to ensure that signatories make pledges that can be verified, on a common time frame that leads to greater ambition, and on a carbon trading framework that should enable global decarbonization at lower cost. The rules are far from perfect, but they provide a necessary framework; like a chessboard with rules that allow this critical global game of chess to be played.

Sixth, China and the US reached an unexpected agreement at the end of COP26 to work more closely to combat climate change with urgency this decade. Although the agreement is light on details, it does state that both countries will work to lower carbon and methane emissions and employ technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration. As the two largest emitters, this agreement has the potential to encourage other countries to be more ambitious, much as the US-China agreement in 2015 was instrumental in making the Paris Agreement possible.

Seventh, there was some limited progress on finance commitments. Developed countries agreed to double their adaptation finance from 2019, by 2025; the Glasgow Dialogue between parties on loss and damage will convene from 2022 to 2024; and the final text urges developed countries to fully deliver on the $100 billion goal “urgently” through 2025.

Eighth, going into the COP, the UN estimated that NDCs would lead to 2.7ºC of global warming by 2100, well below the estimates above 3ºC following the PA. Taking account of net zero national pledges, new NDCs before and at the COP and other commitments (especially the Global Methane Pledge), estimates of global warming by 2100 could now range from 1.8ºC to 2.º4C, assuming the pledges are fully implemented. Certainly not good enough, but definitely progress towards the goal to limit warming to 1.5ºC.

Finally, the most positive message from COP26 is the evidence that citizen activism matters and can have an effect, especially in countries with democratic systems. Of course, activists will be disappointed with the COP outcome; it would never deliver what they demand. On the other hand, their actions before the COP have an impact, as does their presence at the COP. We have witnessed this power in successful court cases brought by young people against companies and governments, and through action that has led to more climate-friendly policy and corporate decisions. Although activists are not actively involved in negotiations at COP26, their presence inside the venue and outside (and the sound of helicopters controlling their movements) is a constant reminder to all state and non-state participants at the COP and to the world at large that they are watching and will never be silenced or satisfied.

The Common Time Frame has landed!

But the Ambition Cycle is still in need of completion

At the arrival gate in Glasgow. Photo credit: Kiara Worth/UNFCCC

In December last year, following the Technical Climate Dialogue on Common Time Frames convened by the Chair of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), an OCP blog announced:  ‘Ambition Cycle on course to land in Glasgow’ and I’m pleased to be able to confirm that (at least part of) it has landed.

The Glasgow CTF Decision

I have had the honour of being part of a group of stakeholders that has been working tirelessly and doggedly over the past seven years to bring about this outcome, even though the odds were 4:1 stacked against us: We were advocating 5-yearly synchronised NDC end-years – para. 1 of the Glasgow Ambition Cycle (GAC.1), see Box – while almost 80 percent of the first NDCs communicated by 2020 had a 10-year time frame (ending in 2030).

It is difficult to say when the balance tipped towards the five-year frequency of NDC end-years but it was an uphill struggle – clearly the preference expressed by the EU Environment Council at the beginning of October “for a common time frame of five years for all Parties’ NDCs ” did accelerate the acceptance of the five-year frequency.

Having dwelled over and over on why this particular common time frame is absolutely key in completing the Paris Ambition Mechanism  – see, for example, Müller and Kumarsingh (2020) or Müller (2021c) – I do not wish to go into any details but simply stress that the Glasgow CTF decision is a significant step towards a fully functioning and ambition facilitating rule book of the Paris Agreement.

COP 26 Mural by Cécile Girardin

However, there is still something missing. The Glasgow CTF decision corresponds to GAC.1, but it does not include the request for regular (5-yearly) synchronised ambition updating, referred to GAC.2.

As Matt McGrath, BBC environment correspondent commented in his initial analysis of the  draft Glasgow cover decision: The document may be just seven pages long but it attempts to steer COP26 towards a series of significant steps that will prevent global temperature rises going above 1.5C this century. Perhaps the most important part of that is getting countries to improve their carbon cutting plans. To that end this draft decision urges parties to “revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their nationally-determined contributions, as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022”

Revisiting and strengthening the ambition of NDCs that have been communicated earlier is indeed key to harnessing much needed additional overall ambition; but to maximise the additional ambition, the process needs a time table for regular (5-yearly) synchronised updating, as stipulated in GAC.2

What to do? Fortunately, GAC.2 can easily be interpreted as the sort of guidance referred to in Art. 4.11: “A Party may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition, in accordance with guidance adopted by the [CMA]”.

So, let’s all try and land this guidance in Sharm el Sheik at COP 27 next year!

The long journey: October 2014 to November 2021