Richard Widick (IICAT:2/4/17)
Richard Widick and John Foran are the co-principal investigators working on this new project
Under the December 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the co-released Decision 1/CP.21 Adoption of the Paris Agreement, the 196 member nations constituting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have embarked on a massive scaling up of investment in their various climate policy initiatives, intending to get out in front of the climate crisis with up to $100 billion/year of investments in mitigation and adaptation policies.
Scholars from across the full range of academia’s newly climate-focused disciplines hailed the agreement as potentially game changing, a good example being British economist Lord Nicholas Stern, author of Why Are We Waiting? The Logic, Urgency, and Promise of Tackling Climate Change, who proclaimed: “This is a historic moment, not just for us and our world today, but for our children, our grandchildren and future generations. The Paris Agreement is a turning point in the world’s fight against unmanaged climate change, which threatens prosperity and wellbeing among both rich and poor countries.”
A smaller set of more critical scholars are taking aim at the Agreement’s lack of ambition in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, its non-existent enforceability mechanisms, or indeed, a failure to sufficiently conform with the fundamental science on climate change.
Particularly troubling to civil society organizations are its relegation of human rights and climate justice imperatives to relatively weak clauses in the Preamble (as opposed to the operative paragraphs in the main body of the texts), and especially its lack of funding commitments for the aspirational goals of mitigation and adaption it puts forward.
With these debates now clearly framed and underway in the global public sphere of climate politics, a space has opened to ask 1) how the new funding commitments of the global agreement, as well as its new symbolic impetus to increased collective ambition, will transform mitigation and adaptation outcomes on the front lines of the climate crisis, and 2) specifically, how these outcomes register for affected populations as changes in the distribution of the full enjoyment of human rights (as defined by the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; for example, the right to the bases of life – food, water, shelter, employment, and a livable environment, and the Agreement’s implications for the achievement of climate justice).
In this context, “climate justice” refers to broad issues and debates about equity and fairness in UN climate policy.
It is based on the observation that nations and communities that have contributed the least to climate change tend to find themselves on the front lines of climate disruption, yet equipped with the least means to cope with it.
Our research investigates, contextualizes, and evaluates the efficacy of global financing of mitigation and adaption programs under the Agreement, producing knowledge of their effects on human rights and climate justice in exemplary case studies, for example the case of the UNFCCC Green Environment Fund’s (GEF) Small Grants Program in Antigua.
While critical observers argue that the small commitment of funds – $100 billion/year – is simply ‘too little, too late,’ people working with the Small Grants Program in Antigua tell us that, while this may be true in relation to the total nature of the climate crisis, even relatively small appropriations have very important effects for real people on the ground fighting for basic necessities, including, water, food, and dignified livelihoods.
We will begin by attending the UN climate summit in Bonn in December 2017 to interview stakeholders (UNFCCC officials, national delegations, civil society organizations) and continue tracking the negotiations in the crucial next phase around the implementation of the Paris Agreement. We will then start to explore how this process plays out in a pilot case study of the changing context of UN Climate Policy in the small island developing state of Antigua.
At COP 21, 2015 we interviewed Ruth Spencer, the National Coordinator for the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program for the Small Island Developing State of Antigua and Barbuda (Small Island Developing States” or SIDS, is a recognized category of nations in the UNFCCC). Spencer countered critics’ arguments by emphasizing the real benefits that some of the least well-off people in Antigua are already receiving through the program. She is particularly involved with oversight for the Freetown Reservoir Project, funded by the Small Grants Program of UNFCCC’s GEF, which she describes as the resurfacing of a derelict reservoir, in the interest of restoring its function and thus bringing life-giving water and commerce-building activity to one of the most impoverished communities on the island. In her words, the project demonstrates how much even a small investment of global funds from the developed nations can impact communities on the front lines of climate change.
Spencer proposed and we have accepted to visit her on the island to ethnographically document the nation’s Sustainable Island Resource Management Mechanism. Once completed, this pilot case study of the GEF Small Grants Program in Antigua and Barbuda will help us develop the social, environmental, political, and economic metrics for assessing the application of UNFCCC funds to the mitigation and adaptation needs of the Small Island States, and position us to further test our findings and explore similar programs in four case studies for which we will seek external funding in the second through fourth year of our research plan (Antigua is the main island in the nation of Antigua and Barbuda).
The people of Antigua – especially the poorest and most marginalized persons – are suffering through an ongoing twenty-seven year drought. It is this population who receive the least direct sources of fresh water under the government’s water rationing system. After several months of background research guided by communications with Spencer on the economic geography of the island, the impacts of climate change there, and the history of the GEF in Antigua, we propose to spend two weeks on the island gathering data on both the Freetown Reservoir project and the program’s other initiatives.
Antigua has received $400,000 from the GEF Small Grants Program (SGP) for the years 2015-18 “to meet the large demand from communities for water.” The $400,000 is classified as a “public/private/SGP initiative and Antigua has an additional five requests for water projects of the same order as the Freetown Reservoir resurfacing project which will fill out the SGP’s goal for water for community-based adaptation. The monies already committed by the SGP are intended through the public/private/SGP rationale to help secure an additional $650,000 in matching funds that have already been approved by the Caribbean Development Bank. Spencer, the SGP Focal Point for Antigua, explains that this is still not enough, and the initiative is presently seeking additional support from the private sector (Spencer, personal communication, March 16, 2016).
Plan and Timeline
In the fall of 2017 we will immerse ourselves in the full range of perspectives in the debates about the Paris Agreement and the Global Environmental Facility. At the same time we will study the GEF work program and its history in Antigua.
In November we will attend the COP 23 UN climate summit in Bonn, Germany; document the negotiations, focusing on implementation financing specific to the Paris Agreement and Antigua as well as Indonesia, Brazil, Columbia and Nigeria, where our proposed future case studies are located); and interview a wide range of stakeholders who attend these meetings.
In the winter quarter of 2018, we will make our first field site visit, likely to Antigua, to start the ethnographic phase of the case study.
By the summer of 2018 we will be producing the articles, policy study, and documentary video for the study.
Historical and document research. We will begin by conducting historical research, using available documents and others obtained from Ruth Spencer on both the GEF as a UNFCCC financial mechanism, and the GEF in Antigua Barbuda and in particular the history of the Freetown Reservoir Project. Our analysis will place the GEF 6 and its “water initiative” as well as the Freetown Reservoir Project in the historical context of the GEF in Antigua, the unfolding climate crisis, and the economic-geographic history of the island.
Ethnographic Research. After this preparatory work, we will bring our plans to COP 23 and develop it in league with the principle stakeholders convened at the conference. In January/February of the new year, we will spend two weeks in Antigua with Ruth Spencer, interviewing key participants, community members, government representatives, and UNFCCC and GEF SGP advisors, using video to document the Freetown Reservoir Project and the history of the GEF’s broader Sustainability Program, as seen through the Freetown Reservoir Project. We will interview participants in the work, from government officials to residents of the area of the project, making field notes about its implementation and its impact on the surrounding community. What effect has the work so far had on climate justice and human rights? How can such outcomes be measured? What does the future hold for the GEF in Antigua, the Freetown Reservoir project, all of its stakeholders, and the island, its peoples and species. Our work at this stage is open-ended and exploratory, as we seek to learn from participants on the ground what is at stake under the Paris Agreement in this locale.
Outcomes and significance
This year (2016-17) we are in the process of bringing an ambitious and productive cycle of research on the making of the Paris Agreement to a close, having been inside the UN negotiations and the climate social movements for the last five years studying the treaty process from its birth in Durban, South Africa 2011 all the way through to its adoption in Paris 2015. Our material output has taken the form of scholarly articles, a full-length feature documentary film, and numerous interventions in the policy and civil society debates about the process. These publications are documented elsewhere in our application materials.
Our primary objectives for the first and second year of our new research program will be to 1) release an assessment of the emerging debates on implementation after the UNFCCC Conference of Parties 23 (November 2017); 2) enrich this study in the winter quarter of 2018 after further research at COP 23 for conference presentation and publication; and 3) launch our first pilot case study of the Freetown Reservoir Project in Antigua (or alternatively UN REDD in Brazil and/or Columbia – REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation).
An important outcome of next year’s work, proposed here, will be the development of effective metrics for assessing the successes and failures of these climate-driven development projects in general, and specifically their effects on ecological diversity, economic equality and opportunity, and island habitability. Special attention will be given to how these class-, gender- and race-based outcomes reflect on the realization and enjoyment of human rights and climate justice in the context of the island’s ongoing, climate change-related drought, its salt water incursion/destruction of fresh water sources, and its biodiversity extinction or “de-speciation” crisis.
Intending to help ensure that climate adaptation policies conform to internationally recognized climate science and internationally recognized norms of governance based on human rights and guided by common notions of fairness and justice (climate justice studies), we will deliver our case study to the relevant publics in the academic sphere, the political sphere of climate decision- and policy-makers, and social movement sphere of engaged civil society organizations.
Our final objective for 2017-18 is to fully design a five-year research program for both internal and external funding of additional case studies on rainforest destruction for oil palm production in Para, Brazil, “sustainable palm oil plantations” in the context of peat bog and rain forest removal in Borneo, struggles over oil extraction in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, in the context of the 2012 United Nations Environment Program Report, and the transnational carbon trading schemes at the center of the European Union’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement.
Broadly conceived, with this work program we will be helping construct what we see as two exciting and important emergent fields of study—the sociology of climate change and what we call Environmental and Climate Justice studies (see our work at our newly founded Research Hub with that name at UCSB’s Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies ).
Given that the UN and the UNFCCC Secretariat are framing the Agreement as a “signal” both to the markets and all political jurisdictions at every scale (from local, municipal, national and global) to “shift the fire hose” of investment in energy infrastructure (as well as urbanization, agriculture, forestry, marine and aviation transport, etc.) using $100 billion/year to start (they are supposed to rise to $400 billion/year by 2025) in various publicly financed UN-driven programs (GEF, GCF, CSA, REDD+, CDM, JI, etc.), we see this proposed work program as an incredible opportunity to develop truly engaged scholarship at the center of what may be the most consequential conflict of the 21st century – that between emergent global civil society and emergent global environmental and climate governance over the shape of global economic, social, environmental, and political arrangements into the next decade and beyond.
 UNFCCC, “Paris Agreement” (December 12, 2015), http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/paris_nov_2015/application/pdf/paris_agreement_english_.pdf
– The Paris Agreement may be thought of as a process that includes the agreement itself, the lengthier Decision 1/CP.21 cited above that brought the Agreement into being and governs its application under the Convention, and – most importantly – the subsequent series of edits, revisions and ongoing policy debates that are and will continue shaping it into the world’s premier collective policy response to climate change for the next several years at least, and perhaps into perpetuity.
-Of special note, the Agreement provides for funds for adaptation to climate change, to be administered by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) through its Small Grants Program.
 Report of the Conference of the Parties on its twenty-first session, “Decisions adopted by the Conference of the Parties” (December 12, 2015), http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/10a01.pdf
 Stern is quoted in “195 Nations Adopt Historic Paris Agreement to Stop Global Warming” (December 13, 2015), http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/195-nations-adopt-historic-paris-agreement-to-stop-global-warming-1254241
 For immediate reactions, see John Foran, “The Paris Agreement: Paper Heroes Widen the Climate Justice Gap” (December 13, 2015), http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-12-14/the-paris-agreement-paper-heroes-widen-the-climate-justice-gap, and for a compendium of opinion, John Foran, The First Draft of History: Thirty-Four of the Best Pieces on the Paris Agreement at COP 21 (2016), https://cloudup.com/cdaFzYn961X
Participation in & Documentation of
the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP)
of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Marrakech, Morocco, November 7 – 18
With John Foran coordinating from his state-side desk before, during, and after the research trip, Richard Widick participated in COP 22, again representing the University of California as an Official Observer Delegate from Civil Society under the auspices of the University’s Scripp’s Institute Revelle Program on Climate Science and Policy. Scroll down and see his IICAT press conference on the new campaign to save the largest remaining private old growth Douglas fir forest in the North Coast Humboldt Bay region of California; his collaborative UN Side Event on sustainable food systems (agroecology); and selections from his archive of Interviews and Audio/Visual documents from Marrakech 2016.
Press Conference: Richard Widick, IICAT Press Conference, “Reanchoring Cascadia: The North American Rainforest from Rainbow Ridge to Vancouver Island,” introducing David Simpson and Jane Lapiner of the Mattole Salmon Group, Petrolia, California, United States.
COP 22, Marrakech, Morocco, November 17, 2016
Richard Widick (IICAT) presenting: David Simpson and Jane Lapiner, Mattole Salmon Group, Petrolia, California
Side Event: Richard Widick, Co-Organizer with Cristina Tirado, UNFCCC Side Event at COP 22, “Sustainable Food Systems and Agro-ecological Resilience for Biodiversity, Nutrition, and Health,” November 9, 2016, 16:45 – 18:45, Pacific Room. (Flyer). (Live Stream).
IICAT SIDE EVENT
— Interviews and audio/visual documentation —
[Archive under development … ]
Case Study #1