Monthly Forecast: September 2016
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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As the northern summer draws to a close, the natural resources policy community has been heavily engaged in moving the sustainable development agenda forward.

As the northern summer draws to a close, the natural resources policy community has been heavily engaged in moving the sustainable development agenda forward.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress (WCC) is taking place in early September. The Congress is giving a glimpse of how governments, along with civil society and the private sector, are planning to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Targets. For instance, an announcement of a new partnership between 11 conservation organizations with a US$15 million commitment to protect Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) coincided with the release of the Protected Planet Report 2016. According to the report, 15% of the world’s lands are protected areas, meaning that the Aichi Target of conserving 17% of the world’s land by 2020 could be within reach.

The IUCN Congress is also showcasing new milestones relevant to achieving global climate, biodiversity and sustainable development objectives. They include the Bonn Challenge, which has garnered commitments to restore 113 million hectares of degraded land, putting it on track to meet its goal to restore 150 million hectares by 2020, and the US announcement that it will expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to create the world’s largest marine reserve. Further, the IUCN WCC platform is bringing more attention to the ocean-climate nexus through a Motion calling for greater recognition of oceans in the climate regime, and a report, titled ‘Explaining Ocean Warming,’ which calls attention to the impacts of global warming on ocean ecosystems, marine biodiversity and human development.

Ocean biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ or BBNJ) is also in the September spotlight. The Preparatory Committee on BBNJ will conclude its second session on 9 September, working to make recommendations to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on elements of an internationally legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to manage BBNJ. The IUCN WCC is considering a Motion supporting this instrument, as well as the expansion of marine ABNJ protected areas.

Looking forward, the IUCN Forum and Members’ Assembly will help set the stage for the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17), which will convene at the end of September and into October. IUCN Motions under consideration call for greater protection for primary forests and encourage governments globally to close their ivory markets. Given recent pronouncements by the US and China on their intentions to stem their domestic ivory markets in light of the current escalation in elephant poaching, discussions over how CITES should list elephants and consequently regulate or prohibit ivory trade promises to be heated. Elephants are one of many species up for discussion, as the CITES CoP will debate more than 60 proposals to amend its Appendices. These include proposals for pangolins, for which the IUCN members motioned to ban all trade, as well as proposals to transfer African lions to Appendix I (species threatened with extinction, where trade is permitted only in exceptional circumstances) and the silky shark to Appendix II (species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival).

Outcomes from the September IUCN WCC and the CITES CoP meetings will help set the stage for CBD COP 13, which will convene in December 2016.

In the climate change arena, momentum has been growing ahead of the special event scheduled to take on 21 September, when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders from all countries to deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement on climate change. The event will also provide an opportunity to other countries to publicly commit to joining or ratifying the Agreement before the end of 2016.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC representing at least 55% of global greenhouse (GHG) emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. With the world’s two biggest emitters, the US and China, joining the Agreement on 3 September, entry into force may be just around the corner, as these recent accessions bring the total number of Parties to the Agreement to 26, representing 39.06% of global GHG emissions.

Ban’s special event will take place in the midst of Climate Week NYC, an annual event convened by The Climate Group, taking place from 19-25 September 2016, in New York. The Week will bring together business and government leaders to continue the transition toward net zero emissions, and will feature over 30 affiliated events, including government panel discussions, workshops, academic seminars, exhibitions and artistic productions.

The month of September will also see the preparations for the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC pick up speed. Submissions called for ahead of the event have already started to populate the UNFCCC’s Submissions’ Portal, as various deadlines for such submissions have passed. Parties’ views have been received on: the work of the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) relating to information on recent work in the area of climate impacts on human health; the annual focus area or theme for the Paris Committee on Capacity-building (PCCB) for 2017, and which representatives of the bodies established under the Convention and of the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism should be invited to the PCCB’s first meeting; the development of modalities for the accounting of financial resources provided and mobilized through public interventions; the Lima work programme on gender; and the roadmap for the Global Climate Action Agenda released by France and Morocco’s global climate champions in June 2016.

This preparatory work will accelerate further in September, as submissions are expected by:

  • 12 September. on the Forum on the Impact of the Implementation of response measures and on how the IPCC assessment can inform the global stocktake;
  • 15 September, on the technology framework under the Paris Agreement; and
  • 30 September, on: the Adaptation Committee (AC) and Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) mandates stemming from decision 1/CP.21; the review of the Adaptation Fund; research and systematic observation; and various issues related to mitigation, cooperative approaches, the global stocktake and transparency under the Paris Agreement.

The month will close with the 39th Session of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly, which will take place from 27 September – 7 October in Montreal, Canada. The Assembly will discuss a proposal for a resolution text relating to a global market-based measure scheme on international aviation that was released early September. The sector is responsible for approximately 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but was left out of the Paris Agreement.

The broader sustainable development agenda will celebrate an important milestone in September: the first anniversary of UN Member States’ adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, on 25 September. The 71st General Debate, which opens on 20 September, will give Heads of State and Government a chance to discuss early implementation efforts, with the proposed theme for the debate being, ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world.’

High-level events on the sidelines of the debate will also explore the way forward on the 2030 Agenda, such as:

  • UN Private Sector Forum on 19 September, on the theme of ‘Business and the 2030 Agenda: Securing the Way Forward,’ to highlight possibilities for companies to prevent instability and build peaceful societies through creating jobs, investing in education, and supporting refugee resettlement efforts. The Forum is hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and organized by the UN Global Compact, in collaboration with the co-chairs of the UNGA’s High-Level Meeting (HLM) to address large movements of refugees and migrants; and
  • Second Annual Solutions Summit on 21 September, highlighting projects and exceptional innovators that are working to develop solutions to one or more of the SDGs. The UN Foundation, the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS), and the Global Innovation Exchange are organizing the Summit in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Global Entrepreneurship Council.

The General Debate will be immediately preceded by the UNGA’s High-Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants, and US President Barack Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis on 20 September. The third high-level meeting that week, a High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance, on 21 September, will highlight the global public health threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and seek to strengthen political commitment to addressing the issue. The meeting will emphasize the role and the responsibilities of governments and intergovernmental organizations in undertaking a “One Health” approach in the areas of human and veterinary medicine, agriculture, finance and consumer action. The substantive work of the 71st session includes agenda items for action by the Assembly’s plenary, and full plates for the UNGA’s five Committees, which will kick off their work in early October.

As this monthly forecast reveals, the sustainable development agenda is broad and multiple actors are undertaking implementation efforts at all levels on the decisions taken in 2015, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. IISD’s Policy & Practice knowledgebases have brought you updates on intergovernmental climate, biodiversity, forests, land, water, sustainable development, sustainable energy, chemicals, small island developing States (SIDS) and regionally-relevant efforts to implement the sustainable development agenda since 2008, to help our readers track intergovernmental actions on each of these topics, on separate knowledgebase platforms.

At the end of September, we will launch a new knowledgebase platform that will bring together the narrative data we have collected on all of these topics to provide a one-stop shop for readers wishing to learn about the actors and actions that are engaged in implementing the SDGs. We look forward to providing you with new, easier and faster ways to stay informed about the sustainable development agenda in the coming years.

Lynn Wagner, Alice Bisiaux, Faye Leone and Lauren Anderson

We are pleased to bring you the September 2016 Monthly Forecast. Please contact us with any comments or suggestions on this column. For more information on key sustainable development events in September 2016, please consult our calendar of upcoming events: For information after these events conclude, visit our Policy & Practice knowledgebase:

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