L-R: Mr. Michel Rentenaar, Dr. Richard Ponzio and Dr. Joris Larik.

On 6 November, The Hague Institute for Global Justice hosted a policy roundtable on the theme, The Road to Lima: Climate Governance, Adaptation and Technological Responses. As part of The Hague Roundtable series, it offered an informal platform for policy makers, academics, civil society organizations and representatives of international organizations active in the field of climate change governance to share experiences and propose solutions to tackle the impact of climate change across the globe and to adapt to its effects in an equitable fashion.

Additionally, the roundtable served as a platform for the authors of the background papers for the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance, in particular its research track on Climate & People, to present their findings and receive substantive feedback. Revised drafts of the background papers will be presented at an expert consultation at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Lima on 9 December 2014. Furthermore, the participants were briefed on the upcoming e-consultation on Global Climate Governance: The Intersection of Human Security and Justice which is to commence on 12 January 2015.

The morning session of the roundtable was dedicated to discussing the gridlock at international climate governance negotiations; the link between climate change, human security and justice; and the need for an international criminal liability framework for persons and entities that engage in gross breaches of environmental norms. Many speakers at the roundtable underlined the need for participation of non-state actors in climate negotiations. In spite of the crucial contribution of these actors to the development and implementation of climate governance policies, negotiating States often fail to give the former a proper platform in the discussions. The experts called for the inclusion of actors at the sub-national level (for example cities) and multinational enterprises in climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives. A formal multi-stakeholder-approach to climate negotiations was therefore proposed, seeing that the current ‘top-down’ approach has failed to deliver decisive action for combating climate change. In addition to reforming the process of climate negotiations, participants called for setting long-term mitigation goals as a means to overcome the deadlock in climate negotiations processes.

Participants also commented on the recent 2030 European Union Framework for climate and energy policies containing energy and climate targets for 2030 as a potential step forward. The ability of the EU to gain a consensus amongst the Member States – who initially had very diverging opinions as to how best to address climate change – may serve as an example for the global level on bridging the gap between conflicting opinions on global mitigation strategies.

Regarding the link between climate change, security and justice – a theme that is also being researched by The Hague Institute’s Conflict Prevention Program–, participants referenced the fact the fact that long-term drought was one of the underlying causes of the conflict in Syria. Additionally, the seizure of water resources in Iraq by the “Islamic State” as a means to control the concerned regions was brought up.

In order to achieve a balanced and equitable climate governance, the principle of climate justice –that takes due account of human rights and human security– should be included in all policies. The final item discussed during the morning session was the necessity to establish a facility for the criminal prosecution of transnational environmental crimes. Various options were put forward as to where such a facility could be vested including having this entity within the framework of the International Criminal Court. Other recommendations pertaining to international criminalization of environmental crimes are mentioned below. 

The afternoon session focussed on the potential of technology as a thus far underutilized means of adapting to the effects of climate change, with specific emphasis on technology transfer through licensing. The context for the discussion was the observation that developing countries have thus far inadequate access to “environmentally sound technologies” (ESTs), as over 80% of the intellectual property rights on such technologies are in hands of market players in OECD countries. Examples of ESTs include drought resistant seeds, solar-energy powered water-pumps and wind turbines for producing electricity. Participants stressed the urgency for a balanced licensing framework to overcome this problem. Such a framework would incentivize ESTs research and development whilst granting ‘easier’ access to developing countries to these technologies.

Options which were discussed in conjunction with this includes allowing for a broader interpretation of the WTO’s regime for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) so as to enable developing countries to make use of existing flexibilities in the Agreement for protecting the environment and human lives which may be at stake due to climate change. Additionally, a call was made for the establishment of a Global Licensing Facility (GLF) which would act as an authoritative mediator between producers of ESTs and users in the transfer of licenses. This GLF should be able to proactively purchase licenses and, if it were to be attached to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), should receive a license to use a technology on behalf of its beneficiaries if the GCF financed the development of this particular technology. The participants also explored the feasibility and capability of existing intellectual property institutions like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or the European Patent Office (EPO) to manage the GLF.

Regarding the general impediments to technology transfers, it was voiced that the passive nature of certain developing countries with regard to producing home-grown innovations also needs to be addressed. These countries need to also invest in improving upon the local research, innovation and development capacity. Additionally, lack of a reliable infrastructure in certain developing countries to stimulate technology transfer should be tackled.

Additional recommendations proposed during the roundtable include:

  1. Establishing and boosting the work of a permanent secretariat for the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD) to deal with transnational environmental crime;
  2. Increasing research support for the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute in Turin, including by mandating it to look into carbon fraud (including through online activities) and the misuse of biotechnology as new areas of concern;
  3. Revisiting the proposal by the Institute for Environmental Security for establishing The Hague Environmental Law Facility (HELF), a center for the development of expertise in the areas of environmental law and technology expertise;
  4. Promoting south-south technology transfer;
  5. Lowering or removing still existing trade barriers as part of the toolbox to tackling climate change;
  6. Promoting multi-level climate governance, including the integration of important ‘bottom-up’ processes of learning with ‘top-down’ high-level policy strategies and visions, vertical integration across levels, horizontal integration across policies and the concept of adaptive governance/poly-centric governance;
  7. Integrating Climate Action and international peacebuilding efforts.

The ideas and discussions from the roundtable received will shape the agenda for the on-site consultation at the Lima Climate Change Conference in December, which the Institute is co-hosting with The Stimson Center. Moreover, the constructive feedback received on the various papers shall directly feed into the revision process prior to their presentation to the members of the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance. The papers will be developed into working papers and a selection will be included in a global governance compendium to published late 2015.