September was, if nothing else, a show-stopping call to action. With the world’s leaders heading home, and Greta traveling slowly through North and South America on her way to Santiago, the traffic is moving again past UN Headquarters and we can turn to evaluate if and how last month’s global cries for climate action and equitable development will be met with outcomes on the ground. The October calendar is full of meetings on climate, energy, cities, chemicals and the ocean. In addition, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Second Committee will also set to work, with the HLPF Review process high on its agenda.
With the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) adopted in Monaco at the end of September, delegates and policymakers will undertake the technical work that follows from such a report. Perhaps the gravity of September’s developments will spark renewed drive towards concrete achievements. Here are the key opportunities for doing so this month.
Preparations are underway for the last climate milestone of the year – the Santiago Climate Change Conference. Meetings of UNFCCC constituted bodies will take place throughout the month, including the 21st meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF 21), the 34th meeting of the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) and the tenth meeting of the Executive Committee (ExCom) of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage. A Pre-COP will convene in San José, Costa Rica, to pick up on the momentum of the UN Climate Action Summit and give negotiators a head start advancing some of the major issues to be discussed in Santiago such as raising the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and climate finance. The Pre-COP will also provide an early forum to discuss the findings of the IPCC SROCC. Countries will have another opportunity to offer concrete climate finance contributions at the GCF Replenishment Pledging Conference in Paris, France, at the end of the month.
Other meetings will bring the African continent and its vulnerability to climate change into focus. The African Climate Risks Conference 2019 will focus on ‘Dismantling Barriers to Urgent Climate Adaptation Action.’ The ‘Climate Chance Summit – Africa 2019’ will reinforce the “operational roadmaps” for the continent agreed in 2018, including: adaptation; agriculture, food and reforestation; buildings; education and training; energy; finance; and sustainable urban development.
Academic and stakeholder communities will provide input to global climate policy ahead of the Santiago Climate Change Conference through various fora such as the Chatham House Climate Change Conference and Global Climate Change Week 2019.
With global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electricity generation sitting at around 40% of the total, and global energy-related emissions on the rise, urgent efforts are needed to decarbonize the sector if the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change are to be met. The month of October offers numerous opportunities for governments and stakeholders to discuss decarbonization pathways towards reaching SDGs 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 13 (climate action), including the International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power, the tenth International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development, the 12th International Scientific Conference on Energy and Climate Change and the 2019 International Renewable Energy Conference (IREC).
The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Sustainable Cities Week 2019, with a dedicated roundtable on SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and the Seventh Asia-Pacific Urban Forum will advance regional efforts on sustainable urban development in Europe and Asia Pacific.
Venice City Solutions 2019 as well as a number of “firsts,” such as the Marmara Urban Forum (MARUF) and the First Annual Urban Economy Forum, will convene in the lead up to World Cities Day 2019 celebrated on the last day of the month.
The sound chemicals management is another area that will receive attention in October. The month opened with the third meeting of the Intersessional Process (IP3) Considering the the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand, which will work towards the 2020 goal of using and producing chemicals in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. These efforts also advance SDGs 3 (good health and well-being) and 12 (responsible consumption and production).
The 15th meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Stockholm Convention (POPRC-15) and the 15th meeting of the Chemical Review Committee (CRC-15) of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade will take place back-to-back in Rome, Italy.
UNGA Second Committee
In the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the 74th session’s general debate has ended, and the work of the six main committees is getting underway. The Second Committee is the forum for consideration of climate change, poverty eradication, biodiversity, financing for development (FfD), countries in special situations, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at large. The Committee will begin work on 7 October 2019 on the theme, ‘Inclusive Societies Based on New Economic Models and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources.’ The provisional programme of work and timetable for the session are available at the Committee webpage. It includes a joint meeting with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on the topic of ‘Ecosystem Approaches for Shifting the World onto a Sustainable Pathway.’ The Committee will also address:
- On climate, ways to build on the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit that took place on 23 September 2019;
- On biological diversity, dealing with the SDG and Aichi targets that have a 2020 deadline;
- On small island developing States (SIDS), the monitoring and review framework for the SAMOA Pathway, following the high-level meeting of the UNGA on 27 September 2019;
- On landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), accounting for the upcoming midterm review of the Vienna Programme of Action in December 2019;
- On the least developed countries (LDCs), giving early guidance to the Fifth LDC Conference in 2021; and
- On UN system operational activities, following up on the funding compact, and giving guidance for the next Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), including with regard to regional and multi-country office reviews.
The Second Committee also will discuss plans to commemorate the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020.
Land and Sea
The 2019 Our Ocean Conference will convene knowing that the IPCC SROCC urges “timely, ambitious and coordinated action” to address “unprecedented” and enduring changes. Last year’s meeting resulted in 305 commitments and USD 10.7 billion in pledges towards ocean sustainability. We will watch to see how the latest news on ocean health impacts this year’s Conference outcomes. The Conference’s areas of action include protected areas, pollution, climate, sustainable blue economy, sustainable fisheries and maritime security.
Nature-based Solutions and Ecosystem Services
During the UN Summits Week, nature-based solutions (NBS) and ecosystem services featured in many high-level discussions on addressing climate change and achieving sustainable development. This month, the tenth anniversary Conference of the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) will be held under the theme, ‘Ten Years Advancing Ecosystem Services Science, Policy and Practice for a Sustainable Future,’ and feature a ‘Business Day.’
On land, the 15th annual general meeting (AGM) of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) will convene in Geneva, Switzerland. Last year, this meeting focused on issues related to artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), and discussed how to transform the ASM “resource curse” into a “blessing.”
In close, we draw attention to a virtual summit organized by Island Innovation and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. Will this be the way of the future? The first-ever Virtual Island Summit will take place entirely online, seeking to connect global islands to share their common experiences, with a focus on the SDGs, through a digital platform.