Negotiation text for Paris slowly emerges, but countries must accelerate progress

Author:
Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 4 minutes
31 July 2015

LONDON: The co-chairs of the UN body charged with delivering a new global climate change agreement in Paris in December issued their latest negotiating documents last week ahead of the next formal meeting of climate negotiators at the end of August. The key document is a “tool to provide emerging clarity” among the nations as they move toward the final text, the co-chairs say.

Last February in Geneva, the parties produced a 90-page long negotiating text as the base for future discussions. The first text, as is customary in this process, contained all the different visions of how all countries want to tackle climate change. This series of ‘options’ needs to be whittled down to just a few over the coming months, with final agreement hammered out by ministers in Paris.

A host of key issues remain to be resolved. In particular developing countries are calling for financial support from developed countries, which historically are responsible for emitting more pollutants into the atmosphere.

But such boundaries are now much less defined. For example China, which has been considered a ‘developing country’ in past climate treaties, is today the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

In June officials met in Bonn to revise the text, but they were only able to cut it down by five pages. Parties, however, recognized their inability to proceed with the pace necessary meant that they could well run out of negotiating time before Paris. For this reason, the negotiation co-chairs were invited to take the revised text and produce a shorter version – which is the document they released last week.

NEW TEXT

It is now up to the parties to adopt the speed the co-chairs are calling for. Writing in their note to parties, the co-chairs stated that the “unanimous view was that the pace was slow and that there was an urgent need, owing to serious time constraints, to accelerate the work”.

The new streamlined text tries to keep together all the different visions of the parties, with their own political views – a task by no means simple.

In the final treaty to be approved at the UN Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris later this year, every choice of word will determine a specific outcome of the negotiation, raising or lowering the global ambitions to keep the global warming at a safe level.

So far, 50 countries have submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, the climate pledges from each nation which in total will determine the baseline ambition for the negotiations. Even if the number is encouraging, countries such as Australia and India are still missing.

BUSINESS SUPPORT

The French climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana recently warned of the need for accelerating climate ambitions and negotiations: “We are all very concerned, but it’s progressing,” she commented on the streamlined negotiating text.

One of the biggest concern is how developed countries will finance the shift to a low carbon economy for developing countries. The Green Climate Fund, set up for this purpose, has reached only a fraction of the US$100 billion intended.

However, businesses are increasingly playing a bigger role in these negotiations, recognizing the economic case for a low carbon economy that protects them from fluctuation in fossil fuel prices and mitigation of the climate effects on their businesses.

Drawing a parallel with the disappointing climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009, Laurence Tubiana remarked: “The business sector [then] were looking for a signal to deliver the low carbon economy. Now they are pushing for the signal.”

COUNTDOWN

October is fast approaching, and it will be a decisive month to spur climate action toward the final agreement in November.

The Climate Group is hosting Climate Week NYC 2015, now in its 7th year, to convene a series of high-level meetings and discussions ahead of the important negotiations in Paris.

The numbers show the low carbon economy is underway, with forward-thinking businesses and sub-national governments being the first to grasp the economic and social benefits of this clean revolution. What is required now is for negotiators and their ministers in the coming months to bridge the key divides between countries, leading the way toward a fair and ambitious climate treaty in Paris.

But Paris will be just the first step in this pathway. The treaty will come into force by 2020, so the next five years will be fundamental to keep on track to a cleaner, more prosperous world.

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by Ilario D'Amato

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