Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France



The following Parallel Sessions will be held at UNESCO Headquarters

Day 1: State of Knowledge on Climate Change

Bringing together the latest knowledge from both natural and social sciences, this day addresses the cross-cutting issues related to observed changes in the climate system. It explores drivers and impacts, including GHG emissions, climate variability, extreme events, and physical-ecological-social interactions, connecting both advances and gaps in knowledge across sectors and regions.

L1.1 - Climate variability and change over the last millennia

Co-Conveners: V. Masson Delmotte (IPSL/LSCE, Gif-sur-Yvette - France); G. Hegerl (University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh - UK)

Paleoclimate information and climate simulations

Climate variations during the last millennia expand the short perspective provided by direct instrumental records in order to characterize the full range of internal variability associated with ocean-atmosphere dynamics, including the recurrence patterns of extreme events and hydroclimate variations. Local, regional and hemispheric climate reconstructions from a variety of natural archives together with climate simulations are combined to explore the climate response to solar and volcanic forcing from a diversity of case studies, including the coupled climate – carbon cycle interplay. Finally, archeological and historical information also document the impacts of regional climate variability on past societies, their vulnerability and resilience.

L1.2 - Climate Change and Land Systems: Impacts and Feedbacks

Co-Conveners: W. Cramer, IMBE, Aix-en-Provence - France); S. Seneviratne (ETH Zürich - Switzerland)

Impacts of climate change are documented from all continents, across many sectors. The session reviews current knowledge about recent and future impacts as well as their feedbacks on the atmosphere.

The objective of this session is to demonstrate that land systems are impacted by climate change, that these impacts affect a broad range of sectors in all climate zones, and that critical feedbacks exist between the land and the atmosphere, notably for the carbon, energy, and water cycles, thus connecting land impacts and feedbacks. Recent research, presented in the session, will be reviewed from three specific angles: the improvement of process understanding for these mechanisms, the possibilities to manage carbon, energy, and water fluxes at the broad scale for the enhancement of resilience, and the identification of risks or planetary boundaries. The session is expected to provide the latest scientific understanding for a key component of the Earth system.

L1.3 - Climate Change and Ocean Systems: Impacts and Feedbacks

Co-conveners: J.-P. Gattuso (CNRS-UPMC, Observatoire Océanologique, Laboratoire d'Océanographie, Villefranche-sur-Mer - France), Elvira Poloczanska (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - CSIRO, Flagship- Australia)

The Ocean is critical to life on Earth through its regulation of atmospheric gases, stabilisation of planetary heat, and provision of food and resources to well over 3 billion people worldwide. Despite its importance, however, our understanding of impacts of key climate change drivers such as ocean warming and acidification has been relatively limited. The recent consensus report from WGII of the IPCC AR5 addresses this deficit by including a number of ocean-focused chapters for the first time. AR5 has identified serious risks to marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal livelihoods. This session will provide an integrated and updated perspective on the changes, risks and projections for both natural and human systems. The ensuing discussion will continue in a parallel session this afternoon. This will facilitate the construction of key messages for the COP21 negotiation process on the Ocean and associated issues.

L1.4 - Climate change and health

Co-conveners: A. Woodward (University of Auckland, Auckland - New Zealand ), M. Neira, World Health Organization, Geneva - Switzerland )

Risks and Responses

This session will review the major findings of recent assessments of the present and anticipated effects of climate change on human health. The IPCC 5th Assessment Report concluded that climate change was essentially a challenge in risk management. The session will examine what this means, and will present the results of an international collaboration that has applied the principles of risk analysis to highlight climate threats of particular concern to governments, private business and health and social services. The Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health reported its findings this year – the session will present the major findings of the Commission, and examine in particular, the claim that a well-chosen response to climate change could become the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. We will conclude by examining what this means for the wider public health agenda, and how the findings from the IPCC, the Lancet report and other research can make a positive contribution to the preparations for CoP21.

L1.5 - Climate variability, change and vulnerability in the Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans

Lead Convener: E. Guilyardi (LOCEAN/IPSL, UPMC, Paris - France) - Co-conveners : V.Sarma (National Institute of Oceanography - India), B. Pelletier (Grand Observatoire du Pacifique Sud GOPS - New Caledonia), J-B. Sallée (Sorbonne-Universités, LOCEAN/IPSL - France), M. Collins (Exeter University - UK), M. Levy (UPMC/LOCEAN - France), V. David (IRD/New Caledonia), D. Bakker (University of East Anglia, UK)

The Pacific, Indian and Southern oceans are home to large and unique reservoirs of marine and terrestrial biodiversity and therefore subject to vulnerability from climate variations. These oceans also host major climate phenomena such as El Niño, Tropical Convergence zones, the Indian Ocean Dipole, the Southern Annular Mode and other modes of natural climate variability. Climate change represents a considerable threat due to the convolution of slow trends and potential changes in that natural variability. Threats come for rising sea levels, temperature extremes, oxygen minimum zones, reduced carbon uptake, droughts and changing rainfall and teleconnection patterns which may impact not only the rate of climate change but also fisheries, agriculture and natural vegetation. This session will discuss the current status of physical and biogeochemical understanding and projections of climate change in these oceans, robust findings and remaining uncertainties, as well as potential socio-economic and environmental impacts of those changes, on marine and terrestrial ecosystems as well as human societies.

Day 2: Landscapes of Our Common Future

Looking at future scenarios in the context of the climate change, this day explores possible impacts across and between systems and sectors both in the medium (2030-2050) and long term (2070 and beyond). Contrasted scenarios are investigated as well as their consequences on the interactions between physical, ecological and human systems. An emphasis is placed on examining risks and uncertainties, thresholds and tipping points.

L2.1 - Drivers of Change and Visions of Development

Co-Conveners: R. DeFries (Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology -E3B, Columbia University, USA); L. Yonglong, (Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences - RCEES, Chinese Academy of Sciences - CAS - China)

Are Climate Policy and Development Compatible Goals?

Successful policy to mitigate and adapt to climate change has been hampered by concerns that such policies require trade-offs with development goals. Some argue that climate adaptation can benefit development for the poor. Others argue that urgent needs for energy, agricultural products, and other resources should not be impeded by concerns for climate change. This session will explore these issues based on reality on the ground from multiple angles and perspectives. The role of climate in Sustainable Development Goals will be examined, as well as the synergies, trade-offs and co-benefits between climate and development objectives.

L2.2 - New pledges (INDCs) for 2025/2030

Co-Conveners: N. K. Dubash (Centre for Policy research, New Delhi - India); B. Metz , (uropean Climate Foundation, Brussels - Belgium)

Are they reinforcing development and consistent with a 2 oC pathway?

The session is devoted to the impact of the submitted and expected new pledges (INDCs) from countries as part of the UNFCCC negotiations for a new agreement for the post 2020 period. Key questions to be addressed are: (1) what do global emission levels have to be by 2030 in order to be consistent with keeping global temperature increase below 2 or 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial?; (2) what will the collective impact of INDCs be on global emission levels?; (3) are INDC’s aligned with development goals?; (4) can ambition of INDCs be strengthened by focusing them more on key development objectives and if so, how can that be done?

L2.3 - Climatic Variability and the Social and Human Dimensions of Vulnerability

Co-Conveners: C. Vera (Center for Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences - CIMA, UMI/IFAECI, Argentina); C. M’Bow (World Agroforestry Centre - ICRAF, Kenya)

The general goal of the session is to promote the exchange between researchers from natural and social scientists working on vulnerability and adaptation studies in order to discuss the complex interconnections in which climate vulnerability is embedded, which can contribute to develop innovative adaptation strategies. Addressing the human dimension or socio-economic condition of vulnerability require strong knowledge of the sensitivity of the socio-ecological systems to particular climate exposure. Hence, sensitivity is determined by the interaction between the social (human) and bio-physical conditions (environment); all of which are place specific. The session plans to address the way context-specific human vulnerability determine the impacts of the climate variability and change and their role. The key question is why some climate events can lead to large impacts while some others do not? Contributions are expected to describe results and lessons learned from studies made at different regions of the world addressing vulnerability of different socio-economic sectors (agriculture, water, disaster risk management, etc.) to different patterns of climate variability and change.

L2.4 - Early Warning for Thresholds and Tipping Points in the Earth System

Co-Conveners: T. Lenton (College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter - UK); M. Bustamante (Department of Ecology, Universidade de Brasília - Brazil)

A tipping point occurs when a small change in forcing triggers a strongly self-amplifying response in the internal dynamics of a system, qualitatively changing its future state. The resulting changes are often difficult to reverse, and can be damaging and dangerous. Large-scale tipping elements have been identified in the Earth’s climate system that may pass a tipping point under human-induced global change this century. At the smaller scale of ecosystems, some tipping points have already been observed, and more are anticipated in future. Our capacity to forecast such abrupt, non-linear changes has historically been poor. However, much excitement has recently been generated by the theory that some approaching tipping points carry generic early warning signals. This session will explore the methods and prospects for gaining early warning of approaching tipping points in the Earth system. It will consider physical and biological tipping elements, and the human dimensions of providing useful early warning.

L2.5 - Food and water security under climate change

Co-Conveners: JF. Soussana (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - France); T. Oki (Global Hydrology, Global Change, Millennium Sustainability Hydrology and Water Resources Laboratory, The University of Tokyo - Japan)

Climate change impacts on agriculture are partly mediated by changes in the global hydrological cycle. The extent and productivity of both irrigated and rainfed agriculture can be expected to change, with increased weather induced risks at both local and regional scales. As a result, the livelihoods of rural communities and the food security of a predominantly urban population are at risk from water-related impacts linked primarily to climate variability. The rural poor, who are the most vulnerable, are likely to be disproportionately affected. Adaptation measures that build upon improved land and water management practices will be fundamental in boosting overall resilience to climate change and in mitigating GHG emissions from agriculture.

Day 3: Responding to Climate Change Challenges:

This day addresses mitigation and adaptation options, highlighting scientific and technological breakthroughs and discussing barriers, trade-offs, co-benefits, risks and feedbacks. It explores local and regional responses, and discusses pathways for integration across sectors and stakeholders, emphasizing the need for bottom-up approaches that will be explored through the examples of local and regional case studies.

L3.1 - Socio-economics and Instruments for Transforming the Energy Sector

Co-Conveners: E. La Rovere (Center for Integrated Studies on Climate Change and the Environment at the National University of Rio de Janeiro - COPPE-UFRJ - Brasil), B. Pizer (Department of Economics, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University - USA)

Economic Policy Tools for Mitigation of Energy-related GHG Emissions

The decarbonization of the energy system, both at the supply and demand sides, is essential for climate-compatible development. This transition will require the funding of huge investments and upfront costs in the next decades, particularly in the developing world, besides the removal of non-economic barriers. An appropriate long-term signal to economic agents is required to induce technical change towards low carbon options. A number of economic policy tools can be used towards this end, including the removal of subsidies to fossil fuels, carbon taxes and tradeable carbon allowances, among others. They can foster the progress of energy efficiency in industry, buildings and transport, and of low carbon electricity generation. This session will review the past record, current trends and future prospects of the deployment of these instruments, highlighting the potential and limitations of its performance, at the world and domestic levels. The discussion of illustrative experiences from the USA, Europe, China, India and Brazil will complement the presentation of a conceptual framework. The session will allow for enchaining the discussions of Plenary Session 1 on the History of Energy Use and Emissions to those on Macroeconomic Policies, Finance and Trade on Day 4.

L3.2 - Technologies for Transforming the Energy Sector

Convener: S. Benson (Global Climate and Energy Project, Stanford University Precourt Institute for Energy - USA)

Global energy systems have undergone numerous transitions over human history—from wood to coal, from animals to automobiles, from candles to electric lighting. Catalysts for these changes include discovery of new energy resources, new energy conversion technologies, limitations on material and water availability, and environmental benefits from less polluting and safer energy options. Today, we are poised for yet another energy transition. Driven by ever growing global energy demand, concerns over providing affordable and secure energy supplies, the need to reduce CO2 emissions, constraints on fresh water supplies, and discovery of new energy conversion technologies—we have embarked on a transition to a low-carbon energy system. This session will highlight energy game-changers that are here today, coming soon, and are on the horizon.

L3.3 - Managing Transitions in Cities

Co-Conveners: D. Ürge-Vorsatz (Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy - 3CSEP, Central European University - Hungary), X. Bai (ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment - Australia)

Towards resilient, low-carbon cities

Cities are already responsible for app. ¾ th of energy-related CO2 emissions, and with the dynamic rates of urbanization – each week 1.3 million is added to their population – their importance is only growing both for mitigation and adaptation. This dynamic growth presents both enormous challenges and opportunities – in particular in light of the large amount of infrastructure that is to be developed which will determine emissions for decades – if not centuries – to come.
The problems are especially prevalent in the developing world: app. 70% of total building energy use growth until the mid-century will come from cities in developing countries, and their vulnerability to climate impacts and hazards is high due to physical and resource constraints to take preventative actions. On the other hand, various actions are being taken at the city level, both in the developed and developing cities. The session will focus on how cities can achieve climate-resilient, low carbon development in the arena of competing objectives and priorities. The keynote talks, followed by a multi-stakeholder panel, will elaborate different elements of this question, in particular focusing on how to initiative and achieve the transition and transformation towards low-carbon, resilient.

L3.4 - Ecosystem-based Adaptation and Biodiversity Conservation

Co-Conveners: R. Scholes (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ecosystem Processes and Dynamics - South Africa), M. Araujo (Biodiversity and Global Change- BIOCHANGE, Lab MNCN, National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSI-CSIC - Spain)

How we can help organisms to adapt by themselves, what the limits are, and how we can use ecosystem processes to help people adapt

Individual elements of biodiversity and their collective expression as ecosystems are both sensitive to climate change; substantial increases in the risk of extinction and ecosystem disruption are projected under high climate change scenarios. They have an inherent ability to adapt, which has limits, particularly in relation to the rate of climate change, impediments due to other stressors, and species interdependencies. There are both long-term (strategic planning) and short-term (operational) approaches to enhancing their adaptive capacity. Ecosystem processes can be harnessed to assist in the cost-effective reduction of climate risk to both people and other organisms, through an approach called ‘Ecosystem-based adaptation’.

L3.5 - Integrating Adaptation and Mitigation at the Landscape Scale

Convener: A. Janetos (Boston University, USA), Ephraim Nkonya (IFPRI - USA)

Summary to be provided soon

Day 4: Collective Action and Transformative Solutions

This final day of the conference explores transformative solutions to climate change from a cross-sectoral perspective in order to reach integrated solutions especially through collaboration. This includes solutions across a range of disciplines, sectors and stakeholders that encompass technological, institutional, economic and behavioural changes that will lead to transformative pathways to climate change challenges, from the near to long term, and at multiple scales.

L4.1 - The climate, finance and trade nexus

Co-conveners: JC. Hourcade (Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Developpement - CIRED - France); R. Melendez Ortiz (International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development - ICTSD - Switzerland)

Climate, finance and trade: turning a political challenge into a sustainable development opportunity

This session will address the need to align climate policies with the objective of an “equitable access to development’ called for at COP 16 in Cancun. It will take as a starting point the challenging economic context which characterizes the world economy since 2008, and the resulting political tendency to postpone climate action. Indeed, policy makers face political challenges when it comes to justifying major investment in a low carbon infrastructure, as well as to maintaining an open trade in times of constrained public budgets and low and instable growth. The session will therefore make a case for turning the question upside-down and using the low carbon transition as a lever for a robust and inclusive economic recovery.

Three introductory keynotes address will a) explain the links between climate policies, trade and finance with an emphasis on the synergies between carbon pricing and financial instruments for redirecting world savings b) point to inefficiencies in the trade system which currently maintain costs of climate-friendly technologies artificially high, and propose options for addressing these, c) present the state of the art in climate finance.

Three experts involved in the political process in their respective countries and at the international scale will then discuss the political requirements for securing a virtuous circle between climate, finance and trade issues worldwide.

L4.2 - Resilience and Transformative Solutions

Co-conveners: L. Nurse (Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies - CERMES, Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences - Barbados);

Refining Old Strategies and Configuring New Ones for Adaptation in Island Environments

The session critically examines a realistic suite of adaptation strategies for small islands, with a focus on the ultimate goal of sustainable development. Participants will seek to achieve this objective by extracting key lessons from a variety of case studies that will identify major challenges to, and potential opportunities for enhancing island resilience in the face of observed and projected changes in climate. The sub-themes that will be analysed during the presentations and panel discussion include risk management, innovative financing, private sector mobilization and climate governance. These areas of focus are now receiving greater attention in the discourse on island vulnerability, and are considered central to the development of adaptive capacity and the building of a robust platform for sustainable development.

L4.3 - Regional Perspectives on Low Carbon Pathways

Co-conveners: P. Urquhart (Climate change, sustainable development and live - South Africa), J. Roy (Global Change Programme, Jadavpur University - India)

Exploring the conditionalities for climate resilient and equitable development

This large parallel session will focus on emerging regional approaches to low-carbon climate-resilient development pathways, and explore what is necessary to enable these processes to be mainstreamed. Building on recent technical studies, such as deep decarbonisation analyses, the social, behavioural and economic developmental aspects of designing and implementing these pathways will be highlighted and discussed. The session will thus integrate adaptation, mitigation and development, and showcase current knowledge on transformative solutions to bring about this necessary real-world synthesis. Examples of multi-stakeholder knowledge co-production, planning and implementation for feasible low-carbon pathways that integrate climate-resilient development will be presented and critically interrogated. The chances of a high degree of coupling of economic growth and environmental consequence depend on technology choice, process/practice bias and structural bias. So it is both a challenge and opportunity for fast growing economies to strike a strategic balance between fast-paced economic growth, structural shift and social development without being on a high GHG emissions pathway. At the same time, all countries in different states of development have pressing adaptation needs that require substantial investment and scaling up. Keeping these challenges in mind, this session will present various studies that use a variety of methodologies across countries /regions to develop an innovative economic growth agenda on low GHG emission trajectory up to 2050. Presentations would touch upon regional, national and sub-national, city scale issues. The complexities vary depending on the scale of the implementation. Respondents from different perspectives and disciplines will highlight critical social, institutional, and governance issues and challenges, including those present in situations of high poverty. This will guide the ensuing plenary discussion to further draw out issues and highlight potential regional solutions that combine feasible low carbon pathways with climate resilient and equitable development.

L4.4 - Multilevel Governance of Climate Change

Co-conveners: S. Agrawala (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD); D. Victor (School of International Relations and Pacific Studies - USA)

New Strategies for Coordinating Policies on Mitigation and Adaptation

Ever since the early 1990s, international governance around the climate change issue is focused mainly on mitigation of emissions and on “top down” strategies for policy coordination. Over the last two years that focus has shifted radically. There is much more attention to adaptation as a complement to mitigation. And there is much greater attention to “bottom-up” strategies for engaging many more actors in the governance process. It has been hoped that these new strategies would lead to much more effective systems of international governance, and this panel will explore whether those new strategies in fact are working. The panel will begin with remarks from the chairman about the shift in emphasis in governance in recent years, leading to the conference of the parties later this year in Paris. That will be followed by two main speakers. One will focus on how the global governance systems have changed, and in particular whether “bottom-up” strategies are being designed to work, or are merely the newest idea in a long string of ideas that haven’t actually had much impact on emissions. the other main speaker will focus on new systems of governance that engage local and national communities as part of the global governance process. Those two main talks will then be followed by two case studies that look at how these new modes of governance are working in the field. One will focus on Latin America and the other will focus on South Africa. The first of those case studies will emphasize the impact on mitigation and the second will focus on adaptation.

L4.5 - Equity a Condition to Triggering Action

Co-conveners: S. Gardiner (University of Washington, Seattle - USA), H. Winkler (University of Cape Town, Energy Research Centrer - South Africa)

Equity plays a key role in the UNFCCC. This session will explore how the concept is relevant to, and may develop in, the Paris agreement. The first presentation will focus on philosophical understandings of climate justice and their relation to international negotiations. The second will offer an analysis of equity in initial country submissions. The third considers how equity might be operationalized in the 2015 agreement. The session concludes with a discussion of key obstacles to equity within the international process.