From the 2nd to the 3rd of May, Commissioners, Beinecke, Calderon, Campbell, Gonzalez, Kalibata, Tubiana, and Godrej joined Chair Lamy in person in Nairobi, Kenya or remotely for the Commission’s fifth meeting, together with Science Advisors, Chris Field and Michael Obersteiner and all members of the Commission’s Youth Engagement Group (YEG).
Chair Lamy welcomed the participants to the meeting, where among a central issue was finding a way to effectively communicate the challenges to staying within the 1.5 C warming goal set in the Paris Agreement. The meeting was also oriented toward the Commission’ proposed recommendations. The conversations covered the pivotal matters at hand–from emissions reductions, carbon dioxide removal (CDR), adaptation, to potential sunlight reflection methods (SRM)–allowing for evolving views and analysis. The Commissioners continued to deliberate, considering diverse perspectives and additional expansion on recommendations. Ultimately, the meeting pointed toward growing consensus on key issues.
The first day started with a review and revision of the path toward the release of the Commission’s report, including the final planned meeting. The Commission agreed that the risks of surpassing 1.5 C warming are high and rising. It discussed cost-benefit analysis–with the unanimous view consensus that the costs of inaction far outweigh those of rapid emission reductions–renewable energy’s decreasing costs, and the risk of emerging economies “locking-in” to fossil fuels.
The Commission deliberated its emission reduction recommendations, as complementary perspectives emerged. One issue was how to balance the needs for economic development opportunities, particularly in Africa, with that of curtailing fossil fuel extraction and use, bringing the concepts of equity and a "just transition" to the foreground. The need to explicitly confront the fossil fuel industry and the potential roles of “climate clubs, ” sectoral approaches to policy, short-lived climate forcers, and compatibility between climate and trade policy were each reviewed by attendees. Related topics during the second day of the meeting included the need for accountability, net-negative emissions, technology transfer, and the vast differentiation of resources available among high, middle, and low--income countries. Accountability, transparency, and international cooperation were highlighted as imperative for achieving the Paris Agreement goals.
CDR appears necessary to have a chance of staging within 1.5 C warming, but how to responsibly increase its scale is not clear. The Commissio emphasized that CDR should be neither perceived nor used as an escape from the need to cut emissions. Commissioners and science advisors also examined the relative merits and limitations of biological and technological CDR methods, including co-benefits and permanence. Innovation and incentivization are clearly necessary to scale CDR up. The possibility of past and present major emitters having an obligation to take-back their carbon was discussed. Attention was given to a proposal of an international fund to pay for emissions reduction and responsible removals.
Deliberations on adaptation followed multiple tracks. Finance is central, and the Commission’s proposals should build on existing mechanisms. The Commission agreed that better policy coordination, a definition of vulnerability, and assessments of capacities are required. Also important are capacity-building, the roles of local communities, climate-tolerant crops and agricultural practices, early warning systems, technology transfer, climate mobility, and sustainable cooling. Commissioners emphasized the high value of nature-based solutions that can both advance adaptation as well as prevent and/or remove carbon dioxide emissions.
The Commission also addressed the possible role of, and need to govern, SRM. Its members unanimously emphasize that SRM should not distract from the emissions reductions and oppose its near-term use. Current knowledge is clearly insufficient for decision-making, and internal governance is essential. The Commissioners recognized that developing countries’ capacity and profile in these conversations should be elevated. They also considered the importance of transparency, funding and potential coordination of research, the benefits and challenges of bottom-up versus top-down approaches to governance, compensation for possible harms, and the risks of sudden and sustained termination of SRM.
During the first day of the meeting, the Youth Engagement Group–all of which was present in Nairobi–led a session that focused on the central concerns of international power relations, putting forth suggestions on how the Commission should pursue emissions cuts and preserve carbon sinks. The YEG highlighted international power dynamics, emphasized the primacy of rapid emissions reduction, cautioned against relying on speculative technological responses to climate change, and offered a set of principles that should guide this effort, including precaution; integration of local and community-level knowledge; intergenerational, gender, and climate justice; common but differentiated responsibilities; respect for social and economic rights; and a rapid and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels. The members of the youth group also agreed that the report should address non-state actors and focus on community-level solutions.