ISWA A Special Message from ISWA President, David Newman, from COP21

David Newman reports from COP21 in Paris

Gary Crawford, ISWA Board member and lead on climate change, and I both attended COP21 in Paris. The COP conference is like a circus with people protesting for their " climate rights", government negotiators completely disconnected from the civil society outside, as well as charlatans and weirdos offering every solution including meditation to solve global warming. It's quite fun, but the serious work of negotiation is exhausting with officials getting an average of four hours sleep a night for two weeks. No wonder there has been no deal to date. My compliments to the French for organising the most delegate-friendly meeting, and for using all their powers of persuasion to reach a global deal. We shall see if they succeed.

My specific interest was the Climate and Clean Air Coalition High Level Assembly which was attended by Ministers and their deputies from the 49 countries now participating in the group. Also present were the 50+ NGOs and IGOs members of CCAC. But ISWA also participated in other sessions, including one organised with the Veolia Institute and the USA State Department on methane capture.

The CCAC works in a voluntary, collaborative manner, to reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants like methane, black carbon and HFC gasses. Initiatives include reducing flaring from oil and gas production, reducing black carbon from brick kilns, from diesel engines, and of course reducing black carbon from open dumps burning and methane from landfills. 

As the group is voluntary, it does away with long negotiating processes like the UNFCCC COP itself. With CCAC there are financers willing to put up money if results can be demonstrated, and countries willing to undertake projects with that money. The World Bank has established the PAF (Pilot Auction Facility), a unique facility that has enabled funding for methane projects through auctions for funds to reduce emissions- the next auction in January will be on landfill methane after a first successful auction on oil and gas industry flaring of methane. UNEP acts as the secretariat from Paris.

So around the table you have among others Canada, Norway, USA, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Russia, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, all donating funds to projects in other member countries like Guinea, Bangladesh, Peru, Kenya, Jordan, Nepal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and so on. Some donate millions, others hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some projects have a cost of several thousand dollars, some in the near million dollar mark.

By reducing SLCPs in a short time frame, we can help keep global warming under 2%. Without SLCPs this is a more or less impossible task now. Indeed we risk temperature increases of 4 degrees by 2100 if nothing changes.

SLCPs are relatively easy to reduce and technically can be reduced quickly- a methane gas plant in a landfill can be installed in a fairly short time and as such gasses are short lived, their effect dies out soon if the emissions are stopped. And one very impressive result of the work of the CCAC is the announcement just last week that the Montreal Protocol countries have agreed to reduce and eliminate in time HFC gasses, which are large contributors to climate warming- they fell through the net when CFCs were reduced years ago for ozone depleting motives, as no-one quite understood their effects.

I was surprised by how many donor countries said how waste was the critical issue to tackle and especially reducing organics going to landfill. It was finally a pleasant recognition of what ISWA has been saying for the last six years, that good waste management is critical to reducing carbon, methane and black soot emissions. At last, the message is mainstream and I admit to being somewhat moved by this, after attending COP meetings since 2010 and feeling mostly like a Cinderella excluded from the dancing. Now, friends and colleagues, the contribution of our industry is recognised for what it is- equally as important as renewable energy, electric cars, solar panels and so on. Waste counts ! And I acknowledge the contribution of those from ISWA who stood for hours in the snow outside the 2009 COP in Copenhagen waiting to enter, and for going through that fiasco for us all.

ISWA has undertaken many projects within the CCAC framework, including the Work Plan for Sao Paulo and Dar Es Salaam which are ongoing. An online knowledge base has been developed as has an expert group available to developing countries. ISWA organized the first Finance Workshop on behalf of the CCAC to support cities seeking access to finance for municipal solid waste projects. 

But this is not enough. As CCAC co-founder Durwood Zalke said, " we are doing well but we need urgently to scale up. Vulnerable people and places are at risk if the temperatures rise beyond 2% and we have the duty to do everything to prevent the human suffering this would entail. SLCPs offer that rare opportunity now ".

Indeed. And waste is at the centre of it.

ISWA President

David Newman