Side events at the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), continued to spotlight critical issues being discussed in the negotiations and beyond them – from violence against environmental defenders to carbon capture and storage (CCS) to adaptation and climate finance. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) covered several side events that took place on 3 December.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) convened an event that explored various approaches to and lessons learned from National Adaptation Plan (NAP) implementation, assessment, and reporting in Viet Nam, Tonga, Albania, and the UK. Implementation remains a key challenge for many countries, the event underscored. Emilie Beauchamp, IISD, emphasized: tracking progress of NAPs; the NAP Global Network, hosted at IISD, which supports developing countries in advancing their NAP processes; and the Network’s analysis of Reporting on Progress in National Adaptation Plan Processes, which focuses on the value of monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) as a dynamic tool that enables reflecting strategically on national adaptation goals. She said 51% of NAPs globally include MEL frameworks. 

During interventions by countries, the UK presented the progress reporting approach employed by its Climate Change Committee (CCC), which applies a systems-based approach to evaluate risks and opportunities that climate change poses to the UK. 

In Viet Nam, one speaker highlighted, a national climate change adaptation monitoring and evaluation system was developed with the objectives of tracking progress and enhancing adaptation, which assigns responsibilities for its implementation to a range of actors at all levels. Other speakers, including from Albania and Tonga, also highlighted that: tracking of progress requires identifying stakeholders and verifying data through on-the-ground surveys; and capacity building on and guidelines for data collection are key.

Climate finance was the focus of another event, which featured a new joint declaration from the four multilateral climate funds – the Adaptation Fund (AF), the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The declaration emphasizes the funds’ commitment to develop an ambitious and concrete action plan to enhance access to climate finance through joint programming and country-led investment planning while also increasing its impacts through collaboration, mobilizing private sector finance, and increasing funding for climate adaptation.

Stephanie Speck, GCF, underscored the importance of “the three Cs” mentioned during COP 28 – investing in capital, cooperation, and collaboration – and added complementarity and coherence, with the aim of uniting the priorities of developing countries to “power a surge in climate action.”

Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, highlighted the establishment of the loss and damage fund with USD 700 million pledged, along with additional pledges to the GCF totaling USD 12.5 billion. He noted challenges facing the AF and perceived or real risks that make the cost of capital too high in developing countries to invest at the scale and speed needed. 

Two panel discussions then took place. The first facilitated a dialogue among leaders and high-level representatives to share their vision on how to increase climate finance to deliver even greater impact, and their views on the role of multilateral funds in supporting the climate ambitions of developing countries. During the second panel, the heads of the four climate funds emphasized their support for the joint declaration, noting that harmonization of the funds is an important component of stepping up ambition.

The International Trade Union Confederation, IndustriALL Global Union, and War on Want organized an event on the Just Transition Work Programme (JTWP), established at COP 27. Speakers argued that such a work programme requires the full participation of workers and trade unions to ensure a socially just transformation of the world’s infrastructure and energy systems, which upholds and extends labor rights. They also emphasized, among others: the importance of solidarity between the climate and labor movements, with labor rights as central to combating the climate crisis; recent examples of unions achieving gains that benefit just transition efforts, including in the US; the struggles of young workers who often face lower salaries, worse working conditions, and precarious part-time jobs; and the need for a common agenda that highlights public services rather than privatization.

Another event focused on CCS and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) in the context of cement production processes. 

Brad Crabtree, US Department of Energy, highlighted: recent climate and infrastructure legislation in the US which includes approximately USD 12 billion to support CCS projects; and the importance of deploying low-cost technologies to make CCS accessible and affordable for developing countries. Other speakers discussed:

  • research to determine whether stored carbon dioxide (CO2) can leak and associated impacts if it does;
  • plans to link a Central and Eastern European CCS project to the cement industry, with the objective of storing five million tonnes of CO2 by 2030;
  • CCUS as the most important technology to decarbonize “hard to abate” sectors such as the cement industry; and
  • the need to scale up CCUS adoption in the cement industry from less than 1% to 90% by 2050 as this is critical to achieving net-zero emissions.

Land and environmental defenders are often subject to repression, harassment, criminalization, and violence, including murder. This was the focus of another event, co-convened by organizations working with Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and land and environmental defenders. Speakers stressed the need for international policy frameworks to support their safe and meaningful participation in decision making, including at COPs. A panel of frontline activists from Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico, the US, and Peru described threats faced and solutions the international community should offer. During the discussion, they addressed: advances in Brazil, where COP 30 is expected to take place and where over 1.6 million members of Indigenous Peoples live, including the creation of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples in January 2023; efforts of Global Witness, which reports on killings of land and environmental defenders and found that, on average, one is killed every other day; and the murder of a Peruvian environmental activist who was fighting to defend the Amazon rainforest. 

In another event, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment and the Overseas Environmental Cooperation Center, shared the latest updates on the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM), as well as challenges and opportunities for promoting the JCM under Article 6 (cooperative actions) of the Paris Agreement, specifically Article 6.2 on bilateral actions to reduce or remove emissions. The event underscored that Japan’s JCM is key to accelerating the adoption of low-carbon technologies. Established in 2013, with 28 partner countries, the JCM has facilitated the diffusion of decarbonization technologies and supported implementation of emissions reduction activities. Speakers discussed: the need to expand the JCM across public and private spheres; the “powerful” role the JCM can play in the agricultural sector by contributing to reducing emissions and improving food security in developing countries; innovative “alternate wetting and drying” techniques in rice farming that can reduce emissions by 30% without impacting on yields; and efforts by Thailand and Japan to jointly revise the JCM Memorandum of Cooperation to align with Article 6.