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COP21 Guide #1: What is at stake in Paris?

France was officially assigned as host country for the 21st Climate Conference (COP21 – 2015 Paris Climate Conference) during the COP19 in Warsaw. Under these circumstances, France is facing two challenges:

  1. The responsibility of hosting thousands of delegates and observers under the aegis of the United Nations for two weeks

  2. Acting as a facilitator among all parties to the negotiations, to ensure that an agreement is adopted unanimously under an atmosphere of confidence.

At COP19 in Warsaw, it was decided that countries should submit their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to the Paris agreement early in 2015, but the conference had failed to provide further guidance.

In Lima at COP20, the UNFCCC was therefore tasked to provide guidance on the information countries would be required to provide for their INDCs to enable their assessment, if this would be through an international review of the INDCs prior to the adoption of the Paris agreement and what this assessment would look like. Furthermore, COP20 was supposed to develop a first draft of a negotiating text for the new agreement. However, due to disagreements, only very few of those tasks were actually completed in Lima.

In Warsaw at COP19, the “Warsaw International Mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change impacts” (WIM) was adopted. In Lima, the COP20 approved a two-year work plan and decided on the permanent structure and composition of the Executive Committee of the WIM. The issue, though, is not mentioned, as it was agreed before, in the paragraphs of the Lima Call for Climate Action or in the elements paper attached. So we come to the conclusion that developing countries did not get what they were fighting for in 2013 in Warsaw, since loss and damage are not listed as one of the elements of the COP21 agreement as its own section. “Loss and Damage“ is therefore seen as part of adaptation. This causes problems for slow onset events such as ocean acidification and extreme weather events like typhoons are consequences of climate change, which do not allow adequate adaptation.

The stakes are very high for the Conference in Paris, because as a result it must the first time have an international binding climate agreement for limiting global warming to below 2°C, since with every degree above that the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe. However, 2°C still will cause massive disruption all over this planet. In fact, current negotiations reviewed the temperature target and found that 1,5°C would be better. COP21 is the best chance that is given to leaders to secure a strong international agreement which includes meaningful emissions reduction commitments based on national realities, a systematically monitoring plan for reviewing these commitments and a long-term goal. To achieve this, one focus needs to lie on mitigation, thus to limit the global warming to below 2°C. In 2020, the agreement will enter into force and the major goal is to make it sustain and enable long-term change. This could also be reached by aiming for a decarbonisation pathway until 2050 or 2100 or by calling for 100% renewable energy and zero emissions from fossil fuel until 2100.

In addition, France has taken the responsibility to help certain countries that are struggling with their INDCs, so that each country can present a national contribution to the global effort against climate change. They continuously have to be realistic as it comes to their scope.

Furthermore, another important objective of the COP in Paris (COP21) is the funding mobilisation of 100bln USD per year by developed countries, for public and private sources, starting 2020. This is not a new story because it has been agreed since Copenhagen (COP15), but is going to be in practice in 5 years. These funds will build the Green Climate Fund. In Paris, the guidance of economic and financial stakeholders will be needed, in order to redirect their investments.

Especially the EU has to raise the level of innovation and efficiency on products because it is the only area where the EU has an advantage. By continuing to have this advantage, the EU shields its economy from the global competition and tight supply of the key resources where the EU is poor. Also, the position of EU in the world depends on the cooperation and on the management of the EU’s economic and social challenges within its states.

This articles is part of our COP climate guide. The other articles in this series are:

  1. What is at stake in Paris?
  2. Human rights and climate change
  3. Climate financing
  4. Differentiation
  5. Mitigation
  6. Adaption
  7. Loss and damage

Learn more about the climate negotiations from FYEG's COP report which you can download here.