It was our first virtual World Climate Simulation event! At the back of our minds, we kept wondering, what if some participants are unable to join because of a slow internet connection? What if some had never used Zoom before and signing in will be a challenge? What if very few participants attend? We were concerned. However, we were prepared and we were excited.
This was the first virtual learning and consultative meeting that the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) had organized with Kajiado County Non State Actors (NSAs) working on energy access and advocacy on renewable energy. This was part of its Project dubbed “Increasing awareness of Renewable Energy Technologies and their Applications in Kajiado County” which is supported by Hivos through the Strategic Partnership- Energy Programme.
We wanted the NSAs working in Kajiado County to use C-ROADS during the World Climate Simulation event, to engage in the drama and tensions of global politics, test their ambitions against a climate modelling tool used by actual climate negotiators and then reflect on how this experience challenges their assumptions about climate change.
C-ROADS, is an interactive computer model used to support World Climate Simulation events, and for exploration of the necessary levels of emissions reductions that major regions and countries need to make to address climate change. It helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of national and regional greenhouse gas emission reductions at the global level.
We agreed to have three negotiating blocs; “Developed Nations“, “Developing A Nations” and “Developing B Nations“. In addition we had fossil fuel lobbyists and climate change activists.
We missed having the room setup and particularly the “Blue Tarp” simulating sea level rise. We particularly would have loved to see the reaction of the Developing B Nation delegates who would have sat on cushions on the floor, while delegates from Developed Nations would have well laid out tables, executive comfortable chairs and refreshments. Although the unequal distribution of facilities and refreshments is always intentional to show the power dynamics of international negotiations, it always makes people furious and come to terms with their country situation. During the face to face simulation events, these props always make the roles feel more authentic and make the game more engaging. How would we get this during the virtual event?
A lot of advance preparation was done using the tips shared on the “learn how to lead it” section on the Climate Interactive website, to ensure that everything was ready before the simulation event. Zoom was selected as the video conferencing platform to use. Participants received their respective briefing statements days in advance and each already knew which negotiating bloc they would join. All the links were prepared and shared in advance, including the background images. To keep participants engaged, Google Jamboard was used for the debrief sessions and Mentimeter to ask questions and get feedback.
Virtual climate negotiation
On June 18, 2020, to our surprise and joy, a total of 31 of the 33 participants who had confirmed, attended the World Climate Simulation session. A further surprise awaited us as internet connectivity was not a major issue as we had initially anticipated.
The main goal for the NSAs during the session was to reduce greenhouse gas levels by 2100 to a level that keeps global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In addition, they were to agree on a deal to share costs of mitigation and adaptation funds to aid less-developed nations.
The delegates had to agree on when their negotiating blocs had to stop growing greenhouse gas emissions, year in which emissions will begin to fall and at what rate. In addition, they had to agree on percentage for preventing deforestation and promoting afforestation as well as how much they will contribute to or request from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and what were the terms and conditions.
Bob Aston played the role of the UN Secretary General while Sheila Mbiru played the role of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary.
At the end of the first round of negotiations, a representative from each negotiating bloc had 2 minutes to give their blocs speech. This included describing their emissions proposal and the Green Climate Fund commitment.
After recording the three pledges, the model showed that the world would still warm by 2.4 degree Celsius by 2100. The shock came in the Green Climate Fund contribution. Developed Nations and Developing A Nations pledged only USD 51 billion while Developing B Nations requested USD 900 billion from the Green Climate Fund. The deficit was huge as the GCF is intended to provide at least USD 100 billion per year to developing countries to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.
In a short debriefing session, before the beginning of the second round of negotiations, the three negotiating blocs understood that they cannot reach the Paris Agreement without agreeing on a win-win solution, a give and take deal!
The climate change activists and fossil fuel lobbyists joined the negotiating nations in their Breakout rooms to try to support continued fossil fuel use and to advocate for bolder and more ambitious actions to slow climate change respectively. Delegates from the three negotiating blocs also dispatched negotiators to other breakout groups to work out a deal with other negotiating blocs.
Despite the reinforced seriousness of reaching a climate agreement, the negotiating blocs only managed to reduce emissions from 2.4 degree Celsius to 2.3 degree Celsius. The GCF deficit did not change as Developing B Nations requested for USD 500 billion while Developing A Nations requested for USD 50 billion. Developed Nations meanwhile pledged to give USD 60 billion!
Is the World Climate Simulation worth it?
Ms Wilkista Akinyi, Hivos East Africa noted that World Climate Simulation is interactive and engaging. She said that the knowledge gained has encouraged participants to be climate change ambassadors and to realise the importance of transitioning to renewable energy for development and sustainable energy access for all.
She further said that the simulation had educated them and it would be good to see how they can professionally take the climate change discussion forward as climate change activists and it had also placed them in a better position to give their contribution during the Conference of Parties (COP26) on achieving the Paris Climate Agreement.
“It is clear that climate negotiations are not easy, it is a give and take situation that requires a lot of background knowledge to arrive at a proposal for those you represent,” said Ms. Akinyi.
Fibanda Brotry, Smart Technologies said that one important thing that he learnt is that developed nations are not fully ready to support developing nations in terms of climate actions and contributing funds for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). He said that countries have been willing to contribute a lot of money to fight COVID-19, however, the same enthusiasm has been missing in climate action.
He also noted that most developed countries are funding fossil fuels in developing countries and even encouraging the countries to invest in fossil fuels contrary to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
“There is a huge commitment for humanity to join the demand for climate justice on international levels. We need a collective way of making decisions and be united to demand climate justice,” said Mr Brotry.
Mr. Collins Manyasi, Nasaru Women Community Based Organisation (CBO) said that the feeling of being at the negotiating table and making decisions at the highest level in the UN had given him insight on how to address equity concerns at the local level.
“Having represented developed nations, I now understand more the need to be fair to other nations while considering the interests and issues developing nations,” said Mr Manyasi.
For the participants, the World Climate Simulation exercise provided hands-on experience on what goes on during climate negotiations and also reinforced a key issue that, the longer the world waits to reduce emissions, the harder it will be meet global and national climate goals.
For the facilitators, though the virtual simulation was a different experience preparing for and during the event; the energy, interaction and learning was the same. The virtual World Climate Simulation event was a great success and planning for the next session has began!