COP21 in Paris – half time update

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As neogtiations enter the 2nd and final week of the climate talks in Paris, Paul Allen has this report.

“The different teams working at the different levels at COP21 are now at half time: one week gone, one week to go, and things are certainly hotting-up.”

The key news in the ‘Negotiating Hall’ revolves around what they call “the ratchet mechanism”. One analyst commented to me “ we are 50% done with the time but only 25% through with the work”. The plan was to have a ‘working text’ ready by Friday night to share with Governmental Ministers over the week-end, but we have two versions going round – the ‘working text’ and a slimmed down ‘bridging text’ with a somewhat further refinement of the options, square brackets etc. The challenge of the slimmed down ‘bridging text’ is some key issues are more vague or missing so many observers don’t see it as ready.

In both these versions all eyes are on the 5 years ratchet mechanism – as everyone knows the success or failure in Paris depends on the upward-ambition of the agreed path forwards, and how well it can be ratcheted up. But how soon does the ratcheting start? Everyone is pushing for no longer than 5 years. However, in the latest version the ‘5 years’ start date is gone or at least hiding. We need the ratchetting to start in 2020 at the very latest; in fact some want it to start in 2016.

Finance negotiations are key to all of the above, but are going slower that expected – basically the long developed countries need to press on and raise their game. Finance touches every aspect of the process. The issues involve – who pays, how we will ramp commitments up to meet the $100bn target, and what do we do post 2020? Negotiators need that pathway to be very clear, with clear targets for mitigation and adaptation, especially as adaptation is clearly under-funded at the moment.

Developed countries have simply not put enough on the table! You see many developing countries have put up a two layer offer, one layer agreed unconditionally and one layer conditional on stated levels of financial support – and helping them get to the second level of action could actually remove a big hunk of carbon and help close the crucial emissions gap. Developed world leaders need to mobilise and marshal their financial sectors to activate additional funding support.

parisclimate650Another key point is that the original ‘working text’ is missing indigenous rights and food security; in the ‘bridging text’ there are also some key omissions in this topic area. Philippines and Mexico have stepped up their commitments, whilst other countries have not. The US supports ‘human rights’ only in the pre-amble rather than the operative text. Human rights are essential in equitable mitigation – so the US is called to make their actions match their rhetoric – but this negotiations is on going as I write…

Bridging text has some good proposals on ‘loss and damage’ – but the ‘financially liability’ for continued burning of fossil fuels is not in there, no mention at all. And bringing up the issues is described as a red hearing – as several countries have stated this topic is not on the table in Paris!

So to sum up negotiations – Transparency and tracking has been smother than in previous COP’s, as negotiations here are (so far) less acrimonious, but all the hard decisions are still to be made. What’s in the both the working and bridging texts is not complete, time is ½ done and there is a clear need to step up speed. The danger is that leaving key things to the last minute can create a craze haze, and it’s harder to clearly see what’s on the table.

As all this has been going on, the ‘Observers Hall’ is absolutely packed with NGO’s academics and campaigners, all sharing notes, learning from each other and building a new dynamic case for change. I certainly feel like everyone is pushing very hard. The NGO/research community have been doing an amazing job in helping raise the game. I have seen some very powerful new pieces of work from Carbon Tracker’s work on $2.2 trillion of stranded carbon assets to Rainforest action Networks analysis of major banks moving away from coal, to Oil Change International’s research that analysis shows that the Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States account for some $80 billion per year in public support for fossil fuels, while their total pledges to the Green Climate Fund only amount to $2 billion per year.

For further information and background on the climate talks, Carbon Brief has an excellent analysis that help break down the issues.