Climate Change, Brown Skin and the Global South


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It has been years since I had entered the world of climate change where people talk of the Global South and the Global North, the two sides of development in the world geography: developing and the developed world. We professionals, we become part of it, based on our skin colour, and geographical location (consciously or unconsciously). Our mode of thinking, well it comes to play some importance time to time.

I have often been taken as too Southern-ist in some discussions, while some have accused me at times of not being enough Southern-ist. I have tried to keep the middle ground, the one that sees both sides of the story, till I have lost my patience recently,  seeing that colour and the geographical location have at most times turned a token on a panel, or a representation for a grant application.

You see the ever so caring grant applications putting the face of a brown human on their report. Addressing the needs of the vulnerable they call it. Capacity building plays a role too, if it is an eternal process for applying for funding. The South needs their capacity built. Apparently all are incompetent most of the time, unless to serve the purpose of funding applications.

I have been frustrated many times of late. The way the brown skin, a woman of brown skin fills a slot on a panel to fit that gender balance, the geographical balance, and then not to be given the due value in a context where decisions are being made. We speak of participatory processes, set up superficially a list of meetings to say a programme is as inclusive as it possibly could be, and promote the multi-stakeholder engagement while internal decisions are driven with no voice for those who are supposed to be the focus of work implemented. Where are those values you seem to be harping on?

I have watched sexual harassment happening in the Southern NGOs, not paid attention to, ignored when reported, and in turn developing a cycle of belief that it is not being worth reported. I have watched old men of repute squeezing interns bums, the horrified girls reporting of the happening to the seniors they trust, and the old man squeezing bums seen at the recurring conference every year. No actions taken, no questions asked.

We talk of saving the world, saving the values, social justice, when we work in a world half the slogans are hypocrisy, and faces and people are mere tokens for promoting one’s cause. I have watched colleagues leave in silence, without saying what they feel to those who need to be told about the horrors of their behaviour. I have seen many talented and passionate humans walk away from their work, frustrated and having had enough of what has been happening.

Me? I have had it for a long while. The sexual harassment that is not recorded, the way the southern folk are habitually synonymised with not being able to promote their own cause and needing a mouth-piece from the North to promote their interests, or just being a decorative element on a panel to show inclusivity and gender balance.

I write this because I have seen enough, and watching in silence is not the solution. If one is walking out of a system, then they need to make them feel heard and not step down in silence.

We speak of climate justice and social justice. I think it’s time we set up a library of dictionaries so that we do get a grasp of what we refer to as “justice”!


“I am brown, a woman, and have my own voice.”


To Saner Things, & Other Things.


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It was one of those weeks where I have a reality check on what I need to focus on, like what I should try to locate in people to know whether they are trust-worthy, having the capacity to stand up for themselves and not sell me off to save their asses. Or in general to understand more about human behaviour and relationships.

The boy laughs at my stories on life (like my travel disasters, speech disasters, or random disasters,) and the stories of the man of whom I tell him stories. Of course he was perplexed first, just like I was to start with. Who would not be, to start with, of course?

The steps of the stories go: dating, daddy choosing bride, son has to marry bride, son goes to see the bride (in clandestine, though of course daddy wants him to marry her, and not so much him for that matter,) the other becomes the crazy woman to save the son’s ass (figuratively not literally, I mean hopefully,) and what not (more steps in between, but let’s stick to the summary of it, for all the good reasons in the universe. Yes, I consciously skipped “the world”. Universe makes it more dramatic for sure! And, yes I like brackets!)

Anyways, I think we know how this story goes, with all its humour, and the grotesque taste of reality mixed with stupidity. (Reality of course for my part, and stupidity to whoever should choose it to be their part.)

And he laughs. Obviously I am glad he does. (Rather than lose it over the idiocies that I am uttering over the phone.)

We presume (me, myself and I being the “we”) that he would not be reading this (hopefully). We have come to an agreement that he would not read my blog posts, and I shall probably not read his poetry (after getting a bit freaked out by the dark imagery). We have definitely not written it down on a contract with him signing at the bottom of it that he shall not read my writing, but then again, we like the amusement of throwing a tantrum over the potential of him reading this. He says he understands, and that he does not want to pry into my life! (There’s a man with patience over even the biggest nonsense!) Anyways, in short he indulges, and agrees. Not sure whether he obliges. Not important, indulging sufficing. So be it.  (And no, I am not losing it, I just choose to write like this. As I mentioned, it has been one of those weeks, and Vositha is allowed to be this.)

All in all, I liked the week. And the weekend. The long conversations, blocking people out of life, (interesting and amusing it was and stupid in some sense as well).

Now for environmental justice, long writing, and for more humane things! Things like weddings in July, red heels and white flowers, and probably a dress, and maybe something to laugh about even if I am sleep deprived. But definitely not a blue suit and red shirt! Things like that, which spare my stress levels the stress, and do not involve reality checks. Simple things in life, which has no arranged marriages, other women.

And yes, I like this ring. It makes me feel, what’s the word for it? Special, yes, absolutely special!


The end! (I get back to saner things like, writing my case studies and policy documents.)

Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Need for Domestic Actions




(C) Creative Commons 


The Paris Agreement focusing on climate change and ways to address its adverse impacts was adopted on the 12th December 2015. It provides both binding and voluntary measures to address the objective of limiting the rise of global temperatures “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with the background target being 1.5°C”. The Agreement will be legally binding upon ratification by at least 55 countries that represents 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and will be the basis for the work ahead on climate change. While needing further development in the coming years through domestic actions, and further decisions to be developed within the process, the Agreement will be addressing its objective of addressing climate change at the global level, and highlights issues such as food security, human rights and climate justice, as well as livelihood quality jobs.

Key Features of the Agreement

The Agreement is considered by many as providing hope and means to address the impacts of climate change, having gained the support of 195 countries for its adoption. In its purpose, which is formed with a sense of aspiration, the countries are provided with self-differentiation on its responsibilities. (The historic responsibility based method not in its rigid form as wished by many). The common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities defined under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) though not completely abandoned, could also be interpreted as not present in its strongest form in the Paris Agreement. This being one of the reasons as to why some groups feel that the outcome of the Paris negotiations on climate change is not cause for euphoria. Among other aspects criticised being the lack of financial commitments, and the non-inclusion of liability and compensation for loss and damage.

  • Mitigation:

On mitigation, the system is “bottom-up” (the countries needing to take actions, than being bound at the international level to prescribed to take actions) and the mitigation obligations for countries is through the communication of national determined contributions every five years. The countries are required to “pursue” domestic actions to achieve the objective of achieving the contributions listed in their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) which were submitted to the UNFCCC as their voluntary contributions to bring down the global emission levels of greenhouse gases causing climate change. A sign that if the world is to achieve the objective of keeping the global temperature increase to 1.5 C, then the countries will need to take more ambitious actions at the national level to reduce their emission levels.

  • Adaptation:

Adaptation, the way to address the already existing impacts of climate change by adjusting to them and changes made to exist with those impacts is one of the key elements for countries vulnerable to climate change. Under the UNFCCC, the developed countries had agreed to support the adaptation efforts of developing countries. This includes financial and technical support to developing countries for appropriate actions, and efforts to adapt to the impacts felt in their countries. The Paris Agreement though providing for the continuation of obligation by developed countries to provide financial and technical support to developing countries does not provide for clear and predictable financial support by the developed countries.

  • Loss and Damage:

Addressing the losses and damages caused by climate change in developing countries has been one of the key issues of the Paris negotiations. There has been a strong call for the recognition of loss and damage, separately from adaptation and as a separate element of the Agreement from developing countries. While the Agreement was successful in identifying loss and damage as a separate element from adaptation, the question on liability and compensation for loss and damage remains not answered. Further, there is an exclusion for compensation and liability which through the decision of the Paris outcome. The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) which was set up to address loss and damage, at the 19th conference of parties (COP) of the UNFCCC will further operate under the Paris Agreement. In order to address climate induced displacement, the Executive Board of the WIM is to establish a task force tasked with developing recommendations and approaches to address this issue.

  • Compliance:

The inclusion of compliance as part of the Agreement has survived. However in a non-punitive, non-judicial way, despite the call for setting up a climate justice tribunal by some parties. Compliance is intended to be facilitative and linked with the obligation under the section on transparency which is on all Parties to report their mitigation efforts, and for developed country parties to report on support for finance, capacity building and technology transfer, the word compliance is found for a mechanism to facilitate implementation and promote compliance. In order to ensure that compliance remains an important element of the Agreement, more time will need to be invested in developing the ways for its effective implementation.

Paris Agreement and Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka as an island state is vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Adverse impacts of climate change are already felt in the country, and with the potential for temperature increase, if concrete actions are not taken to reduce emission levels of greenhouse gases, the country will be at a more vulnerable stage to these adverse impacts. This heightens the importance of the Paris Agreement, and the need for ambitious actions of Parties to it.

Sri Lanka at the climate negotiations has been negotiating as part of the G77 and China, as well as the Like Minded Developing Countries. The country has submitted it INDCs prior to the negotiations, and the contributions include both mitigation and adaptation ones, also highlights the need to address loss and damage. Sri Lanka has also developed its National Adaptation Plan which is to be launched, and will be the basis for measures to be taken on adapting to climate change. With the Presidential manifesto highlighting the need for a shift to renewable energy, which falls in line with the efforts on climate change mitigation, it will be important to see how the actions will be taken to achieve the domestic targets in a participatory manner, through a multi-stake holder driven transparent and accountable process.











National Adaptation Plans: Cancun to Paris, a Move Forward/ Step Back?


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In 2010, at the 16th session of the Conference of Parties, the Cancun Adaptation Framework  (CAF) affirmed that adaptation and mitigation need to be addressed with the same level of priority.  The objective of the CAF provides for the enhancement of adaptation action, through international cooperation, and coherent consideration of matters relating to adaptation under the Convention. The ultimate objective of this being the reduction of vulnerability of communities to the impacts of climate change, and building resilience in developing countries especially those that are most vulnerable to climate change.


CAF further introduced the national adaptation plans (NAPs), a key element to address adaptation at national level, as part of the five clusters introduced by the CAF. NAPs was introduced as a process to enable LDC Parties to formulate and implement adaptation actions at the national level. The CAF also invited other developing country Parties to employ modalities developed to support the NAPs.

Since Cancun, the NAPs further evolved through subsequent COP decisions. The adaptation actions are to be undertaken in accordance with the Convention, follow a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems. They are also to be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional and indigenous knowledge; and be undertaken with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions. Finance for NAPs for LDCs was requested to be through the Least Developed Countries Fund, and for developing countries to be through the Special Climate Change Fund and the Green Climate Fund, based on country driven, and any preparatory efforts that exist in the country to implement the NAPs.

The question that remains is what role or importance is allocated to NAPs by the Draft Texts for Paris, and what outcomes could be expected for them, based on the documents proposed for negotiations. For the purpose of this article, the choice of language for commitment towards adaptation and NAPs have been considered as binding, and the “best-case” choice of text – using the “shall” bracketed options is considered.


COP21 Draft Text for the Agreement


Adaptation is included in Article 4 of the negotiating text. Among choices to be made that have grabbed the attention of many is the choice between global goal and long-term vision for adaptation. While agreeing that the global goal on adaptation is important, and that it needs to reflect the level of temperature based on the mitigation targets, and link that to the associated level of adaptation that would be needed, what remains missing in importance seems to be the NAPs in the text. While certain elements to be highlighted in NAPs, such as those of livelihoods, gender equality, economic diversification, ecosystems are reflected through options to be decided on, the direct reference to NAPs remain minute, and not reflecting the amount of time invested in the five years since Cancun to ensure that the formulation, and more importantly the implementation, of NAPs would be a key element in the progress of adaptation actions in countries.


The text of Article 4 provides for the need to support “national adaptation plans and other adaptation actions, in accordance with the provisions of Article 4 of the Convention,” and the option is left for Parties to decide whether it should be a binding commitment or non-mandatory. If one were to pick the option “shall” among those options proposed in the bracketed text, as mentioned above if assuming the most optimistic choice of language,  then the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing Countries will be able to hold the developed countries responsible for the provision of support for the NAPs and adaptation actions in their countries.


Article 4.6 of the Draft Text caters again (with options as usual, and many a bracket) to mentioning the NAPs. However the previous text on NAPs, the reference to NAPs is listed as an option among others which do not necessarily include the “implementation” aspect that the NAPs include, once again allowing it to be left out of the Agreement. The text provides for the following:  “Each Party, in accordance with [Article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and] its national circumstances and priorities (shall) engage in [a] [national] adaptation planning [process], [including national adaptation plans,] and enhance other relevant plans, policies, actions and/or contributions.”


A simple analysis of the above option provides that:

  1. a) Engaging in NAPs, and support thereof, is not deemed to be a country commitment
  2. b) “Plans” is a word to be questioned as it would produce a “product”, which makes it likely that a commitment of support for its contents would be sought, as opposed to a more vague wording such as “planning”
  3. c) The word “including adaptations plans” gives Parties the belief that they could pick whether to embark on formulating a NAP or not, and that the choice is somehow for their own benefit, and that a NAP is not considered with sufficient importance that it needs to be allocated.
  4. d) There is also the option of not developing a NAP, but to continue planning, or enhancing plans and policies and other options that exist for Parties to address adaptation needs of the country.


Financing NAPs


The next mention of NAPs in the Draft Text is through the option on financing for adaptation under Article 4.  The text conspicuously lacks a mandate for international support to be provided by the UNFCCC’s financial mechanism.  Rather, it refers to bilateral support which is neither accountable to the COP nor of which additionality is fully traceable by the Parties.  Additionally, the text merely mentions “plans”, which need not specifically be understood to refer to the actual COP-endorsed NAPs:


“[Developed country Parties shall provide developing country Parties, taking into account the needs of those that are particularly vulnerable, with long-term, scaled-up, predictable, new and additional finance, technology and capacity- building, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, to implement urgent, short-, medium- and long-term adaptation actions, plans, programmes and projects at the local, national, subregional and regional levels, in and across different economic and social sectors and ecosystems][Developed countries [shall][should] transfer technology, in particular for early warning systems through United Nations mechanisms in order to make it accessible for all].”


Not only do the options not explicitly mention NAPs, they also provide for it to be merged through wording provided and picked out from. It remains doubtful as to whether the intention of the textual proposal encompasses the objective of seeking finance for NAPs including their formulation for all developing countries, or whether the intention is to preserve the ambiguity that leads for finance needs for developing NAPs for all developing Parties to be left outside the commitments on finance by developed countries; the advantage of the wording being that finance for adaptation actions is provided may be interpreted to include and not be limited to NAPs, whereas the disadvantage being that it prevents countries from developing comparable products – plans that are holistic, and covering the needs at national level, based on the already-agreed COP guidelines, that would inevitably facilitate better adaptation which is inclusive, participatory, transparent and accountable.


The draft decision text requests the Adaptation Committee to take into account of the aggregate temperature level based on the mitigation section of the Agreement, and to refer to the impacts it would have on national adaptation planning in countries. It further emphasises the need for support for LDCs for implementing their NAPs, and the request to the GCF to expedite the process for accessing finance. The question thereby remains for those developing countries that wish to access adaptation finance, and not provided with support for formulating a NAP, or technical support for it. Would the assumption be that all countries are required to develop adaptation policies, and have undertakings under their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, and thereby not provided additional funding for developing them, in turn making it not the issue of providing support for all developing countries to formulate and implement NAPs?


NAPs in Paris: A Step Back?


In Cancun and in subsequent decisions, NAPs evolved as a means for identifying country driven solutions for adaptation, as well as a way of accessing finance for adaptation for LDCs, as well as other developing countries including SIDS. Decision 3/CP.20 “recognizes that the process to formulate and implement national adaptation plans is fundamental for building adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change,” which is different to what is mentioned on NAPs in the COP21 texts.


It further adds that NAPs to be “continuous, iterative and long-term nature of the national adaptation plan process, and that … can serve as an important tool for ensuring a common understanding and for communicating progress made towards both reducing vulnerability and integrating climate change adaptation into national and development planning.”


In addition to this, in Lima the Parties decided that “there is a need to enhance the reporting on the process to formulate and implement the national adaptation plan,” and also noted “that there is a need to strengthen the existing reporting related to the process to formulate and implement national adaptation plans under the Convention.” An aspect that has been put to question in the COP21 texts, where NAPs are not emphasised, and nor seen as a key focus for reporting on adaptation. The negotiating process seems to be developing selective amnesia where previous gains on adaptation planning and implementation are concerned and is, accordingly, starting the same discussion from scratch, yet ironically with less aspiration than what had already been previously accomplished.


The same applies for financing NAPs. If the process is to be in accordance with the Lima Decision on NAPs as agreed by Parties, then the needs for financing of NAPs in LDCs as well as all developing countries need to be addressed. The decision in Lima provided that “the Adaptation Committee and the Least Developed Countries Expert Group, in collaboration with the Green Climate Fund, as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism, consider how to best support developing country Parties in accessing funding from the Green Climate Fund for the process to formulate and implement national adaptation plans, and to report thereon to the Subsidiary Body for Implementation at its forty-second session.” The COP21 texts reverse this progress by narrowing this provision of finance only to the LDCs.


Where to in Paris?


In Paris, countries need to ensure that NAPs are a key element of the adaptation planning and processes of countries, and that the developing country Parties are all supported, specifically by the financial mechanism of the convention, to not only formulate NAPs, but also to implement them in a country driven manner which prioritises the developmental needs as well as increasing the resilience of communities of those countries. The NAPs should not be limited to the LDCs, and/or the SIDS (while special attention may very well need to be allocated to them due to their vulnerabilities) but to all developing countries as a step building on and consistent with the provisions of the Cancun Adaptation Framework. If this is not recognised, then the work on NAPs and adaptation will be moving 5 years behind, as opposed to moving to solve the global needs for adaptation through the Paris Agreement.




(c) Creative Commons
















Of Sunny Days & Tragedies

I decided to spend a day writing. Been a while since I decided that I would be sitting in one place, and penning down (of course typing down) all those thoughts I should have done for a while. I have been reading a lot on the topic I wanted to write on, without actually writing anything down. He asks me where the article I said I would write was, and I tell him that I am working on it, while talking to him (multi-tasking much!) which is not a lie, but actually a fact. Then again, I get into doing something else, distracted by some email,  trying to figure out where money goes in some budgets, where my work life is headed, when might be the due “bye bye” time, and what not. Life is in transition as usual, and I make plans for what is to come, post-winter of course. (Winters are times for caving in, not heading out. I think I have established that I like my temperature moderate, around 16 degrees celsius preferably.)

Epiphany : I like sunflowers! I was clearing  up my laptop folders, something like spring-cleaning but more of a digital option I think. Then not exactly in spring. Anyways, I was going through photos, in folders I did not know existed when faces started popping up on my screen, happy faces and sunflowers. I like sunflowers, (yes I know I said this once, no harm in repeating it again, and I love flowers, at least  many of them) they are warm and sunny. I like smiles too, they are warm and sunny, though people who smile are not necessarily sunny, or warm for that matter. I decided to keep some of them, just to question my sunny feelings, and possibly the warm feelings. Good I thought, just to have that random check on robot-status or not. “Check! check! Human? Robot? Other?”

And this week has been enlightening. I discovered a few tragedies thanks to my friends. One was genuinely concerned on finding after almost three and half years that I am a single parent. She announced to me that she was shocked at my tragedy, and that she could not believe how this sort of thing could happen to me. Bless her lovely soul for worrying about me, given my indifference to the tragedy, I would be quite worried about myself too. About my emotional status, and not of course about being a single parent. But yes, “Thank you!”

The second tragedy: Finding out I had put on, on my belly and arms to be precise! Thank you to a very observant observer (yes I like to repeat words for emphasis). He wanted to know what had happened to me, what was wrong, and why I had put on. I was pretty sure I had not changed sizes in clothes, and was creeped by the specific analysis of where I had put on as well, the anatomical observation and all that. (Even indifferent women get creeped out by anatomy specific analysis, or yes they do!) I was not sure whether he creeped me more than one of my bosses who once was protesting over my butter consumption over a working breakfast  and said, “Ah keep on eating that! You have put on so much here!” (indication to the right side of the waist, by pointing at his belly). So no one needs to doubt how much I consumed that morning, though I ensured I put a load of butter on the piece of bread that was in my hand, and made a show of putting it on the bread as well (for dramatic effect of course). He seemed shocked at my non abiding nature of his wonderful, indispensable advice. As for me, I was immensely pleased with myself.

That being said, I intend to keep today sunny, enjoy the tragedy of being a single parent by introducing Akashiv to his new music teacher who will hopefully be able to make him stay focused for 30 minutes (something many of us successfully fail at, unless he is dancing with us of course), and pray to heavens and what ever else up there,  that he would not smash anything in her house which I cannot afford to compensate.

And yes, if you are reading this, thank you for the flowers, and the photos! I like my non-extravagant self being captured over my morning coffee and mails, (even when not voluntarily, though I seem happy)  to remind the world that I am a tragedy, by all means, but they might have to deal with it, till I decide to be otherwise! (it being me of course!)