In advance of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the IKEM Annual Conference on 11 October 2022 explored the global dimensions of climate law and policy. Presentations by renowned researchers and discussions with representatives from politics and practice highlighted the importance of the upcoming climate negotiations for global climate action. The event began with a morning session on the international climate framework and the management of climate-related litigation. In the afternoon, presentations and discussions focused on international climate policy in times of uncertainty, war and crises.
IKEM Director Prof. Dr. Michael Rodi opened the annual conference by discussing the importance of climate negotiations in Egypt and IKEM’s presence at COP. Both the annual conference and IKEM’s engagement at COP highlighted the importance of international exchange for the institute’s work. Over the past year, IKEM has expanded its focus on international projects through partnerships with research institutions around the world. Most recently, IKEM entered into cooperation agreements with universities and partner institutes in Alicante (Spain), Glasgow (Scotland), Vaasa (Finland), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Kharkiv (Ukraine) and Cambridge (USA).
The first presentation was delivered by Prof. Dr. Christina Voigt (University of Oslo), who discussed her expectations for COP from a legal perspective. She explained her desire for more ambitious NDCs and for the publication of a synthesis report on the status of Parties’ collective efforts on climate change. As Co-Chair of the Paris Implementation and Compliance Committee, she also provided insights into the work and importance of this body, which is responsible for reviewing implementation and compliance with the Paris Agreement.
Dr. Kathleen Pauleweit (IKEM) discussed the foundations of civil society participation in the international climate regime. The 1998 Aarhus Convention and the 2018 Escazú Agreement play a special role in this context, she explained, as they define information on, participation in and claims regarding climate change mitigation under international law. She discussed the principles of participation and the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and the Escazú Convention that must be observed in international climate negotiations. Pauleweit’s presentation paid special attention to the role that civil society organisations and the Egyptian leadership will play in the success of COP2. She warned against violations of the freedoms of potential participants by the Egyptian authorities during the conference.
Dr. Michael Kalis (IKEM) addressed the role of climate lawsuits in mitigating climate change. He emphasised the importance of the courts, pointing out that, in the states that signed the Paris Agreement, it is ultimately the responsibility of the courts to enforce the obligation to mitigate climate change and review the plausibility of state emission reduction strategies. He also examined the CO2 budget set by the IPCC and noted that the setting of normative elements should be reserved for democratically legitimised states. He criticised the insufficient thematisation of this conflict by the courts.
Kate McKenzie (Climate Change Litigation Initiative/University of Strathclyde/IKEM) delivered a presentation that focused on climate change litigation between state and private actors. She explained that due diligence is a central element of the judicial decision-making process and elaborated on a total of six areas of evaluation: risk, flexibility, objective standard, continuing obligation, knowledge and adequacy. McKenzie also explained new approaches to climate claims, for example regarding the impact of climate change on marine and maritime areas. She pointed out that, in litigation, reference is often made to maritime law claims, even though there is not yet a legal link to this area of law.
Prof. Dr. Stephan Breidenbach (New School of Law) discussed mediation as an alternative to court climate disputes. He illustrated the differences between law-based and interest-based mediations: while legal circumstances serve as a basis for discussion in law-based mediations, the personal interests of the actors are at the centre of disputes in interest-based mediations. Mediation procedures that only serve to improve decision-making by parties are more of a hindrance than a benefit to climate change mitigation efforts, he said. If parties in a mediation process only advocate their particular interests, the logical consequence is a poor negotiating position for climate change mitigation.
Lea Main-Klingst (Client Earth) concluded the legal portion of the annual conference. She identified procedures in which marginalised and vulnerable groups have invoked climate law to challenge powerful actors. Such challenges were made possible by existing legal mechanisms of the UN. These mechanisms enabled groups to express their dissatisfaction with political processes and with the results of international climate change policy – and to assert their rights.
Dr. Camilla Bausch (Ecologic Institute) opened the second part of the annual conference by outlining the results of COP26 in Glasgow. She then described developments in 2022 and her expectations for the climate negotiations in Egypt. Bausch explained why ‘adaptation’ and ‘loss and damage’ are such important issues for the Egyptian Presidency and elaborated on the UNEP’s ‘ambition gap’ analysis, which highlighted the continued importance of emission reductions. She also commented on the potential for negotiations on Article 2(1)(c) of the Paris Agreement to address the coherence of Paris Agreement targets and financial flows.
Aylin Shawkat (Agora Energiewende) reported on the progress made so far in decarbonising heavy industry. Due to its energy requirements, heavy industry is a key player in climate change mitigation. It’s also a key focus of the debate on prosperity and employment. In her presentation, Shawkat pleaded for swift action on decarbonisation, which she said must be accompanied by stringent legislation. She added that trading partners should ensure fair international competition in climate-neutral commodities through common rules for carbon leakage instruments, green subsidies and market access, among other measures.
Alexandra Goritz (Germanwatch) described questions of financing – whether in climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation or loss and damage – as one of the likely sticking points in COP27 negotiations. Compensation for climate damage, in particular, is an issue that should receive more attention at the upcoming COP in Egypt, she said. This is also an important issue for international climate justice, and industrialised countries have a responsibility take a leading role, she added.
Finally, Karim Mazrou, representing the Egyptian Embassy, spoke about the host country’s expectations for the climate negotiations in November. For Egypt, he explained, the main goals of the negotiations involve implementation – in particular the implementation of mechanisms related to climate finance and loss and damage – as well as the strengthening of the NDCs.
IKEM Managing Director Susan Wilms closed the conference by thanking all speakers for their presentations. She noted that the input had once again made clear that the 1.5-degree target can only be achieved if increasingly ambitious emission reduction targets are adopted, results are tracked by independent monitors, and civil society participation is increased.
Another highlight of IKEM’s annual conference was the Future Booth, where Ellery Studio guided participants in the use of artificial intelligence to create artistic visions of a sustainable future. The following gallery displays some of the results.
IKEM Annual Conference 2022 was made possible through generous support from our strategic partners: