52 weeks of BetterEvaluation: Week 48: What does COP19 mean for monitoring and evaluation professionals?

Dennis Bours
Three panelists talking at the COP19 conference

For the past few weeks the international climate change community, from national negotiators to NGOs and campaigners, has gathered at Warsaw for the 19th ‘conference of the parties’ (COP), hosted by the UNFCCC. Dennis Bours is team leader of SEA Change community of practice, which focuses on monitoring and evaluating climate change interventions in Asia and beyond. In this blog he gives us the run-down of what happened at COP and some take-aways for those interested in monitoring and evaluating climate change projects (archived link).

What happened at the COP?

The annual UN climate change conference, COP19 in Warsaw, drew to a close last week. By saying that COP19 'exceed expectations', Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, pointed more towards the modest expectations we had when starting it than towards groundbreaking decisions having been made. And reading the draft decision document (PDF), I found a lot of 'urging' and much fewer true decisions (the agreed decision document often 'decides to urge and request parties' , which is as vague as it gets). As Ms Figueres added "It does not put us on track for a 2 degree world."

The conference also failed to deliver on commitments to climate finance to help those countries most vulnerable to climate change to adapt to its effects. Simon Anderson, head of IIED's climate change group says: "There is no sense from the outcomes of Warsaw that climate justice is any closer than before the COP was inaugurated. The delays in countries disclosing how they will address reducing greenhouse gas emissions continue. It would seem that we are moving almost inevitably to a 4C degree warmer world. Having been billed as a climate finance COP, Warsaw failed to deliver. In the absence of agreement on a mid-term target and a clear pathway, poor and vulnerable countries are unable to understand how the developed countries are going to deliver the promised target of US$100 billion annually by 2020."
History teaches us that pledges are one thing, but actually delivering the much needed climate finance is something completely different, as is the distribution of that money (the same picture of pledging but not delivering can be seen during bigger humanitarian crises like the Haiti earthquake).

Some of the positives from the conference:

  • Climate finance: More than the required 100 Million US$ was pledged towards the Adaptation Fund.
  • Gender (PDF): Rather than simply mandating quotas, the negotiators sought to include gender in all climate change initiatives.
  • REDD+: The REDD+ forests initiative now comes with the backing of pledges of $280 million in financing from the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom.
  • Technology transfer: The Climate Technology Center and Network and the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) will move forward to provide advice on technology transfer and related policy developments needed.​

Some of the wait-and-see decisions:

  • Parties should volunteer emissions reduction targets well in advance of a Paris conference in 2015 where a legally binding climate deal must be signed. Parties must announce their contributions not commitments by the first quarter of 2015 if they are ready to do so.
  • A draft negotiation text needs to be developed, preferably before the COP20 in Lima.
  • Developed countries are requested to provide support towards the above three points.
  • Loss and damage: "Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage" will from next year commit developed nations to providing expertise and potentially aid to countries hit by climate-related impacts. However, the vague wording results in no detailed commitments and there is no commitment to providing the compensation that many developing nations had been seeking.
  • Technology transfer: The Climate Technology Center and Network is not a funding mechanism; it provides advice and initial technical assistance, but any implementation would need to seek other funding.

Some of the not-so-good outcomes:

  • Agriculture: "Discussions about much-needed support for agriculture - which is seen both as a victim and a cause of climate change - have been postponed until next year."
  • No real commitments resulting in missing emissions targets towards a 2 degree global temperature increase, not to mention the newer forecasts on temperature increases of 4 degrees or even 5 degrees.

So, how does that inform the climate change / environmental M&E professional?

None of the decisions at COP19 result in new mechanisms that will eventually lead to new M&E approaches towards measuring these mechanisms. There still is plenty of ambiguity on how to measure something like ‘adaptation’: what makes a good climate change adaptation (archived link) intervention and how do you measure that? On this question, the Adaptation Committee workshop on the monitoring and evaluation of adaptation, which took place in Fiji 9-11 September 2013, provided some answers. It addressed the following three questions:

  • Given the diverse set of indicators that currently exist to measure and evaluate adaptation, how can communities, countries and development and adaptation agencies build a common understanding of success in achieving climate resilience?
  • How can a framework be created that links individual assessments with national level assessments to broaden the focus from the means of achieving outcomes (individual interventions) to the desired end result (countries becoming less vulnerable and having more adaptive capacity)?
  • How can results from M&E be reported and disseminated so as to ensure that they are fed back into the respective adaptation process but also to allow for lessons learned and good practices identified to be shared with the wider community of adaptation planners and practitioners.

SEA Change Community of Practice and UKCIP collaboratively developed a synthesis report (archived report) in which a synthesis and summary of frameworks for the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of climate change adaptation (CCA) interventions is provided, including the applicability of frameworks and an identification of gaps and challenges that need to be addressed. As a first step to address some of the gaps and challenges, SEA Change and UKCIP will come out with a series of Guidance Notes over the coming months that will address some of these. More specifically, these notes will deal with:

Guidance Note 1: Why Climate Change Adaptation Monitoring and Evaluation is Challenging

Guidance Note 2: Selecting Indicators for Climate Change Adaptation Programming

Guidance Note 3: The Theory of Change Approach to Climate Change Adaptation Programming

All three notes should be published before the end of January 2014. You can keep informed about the development of the climate negotiations through SEA Change and also stay up to date with our plans to address the knowledge needs of climate change M&E professionals.