Photo: Coral ‘bommie’, Michaelmas Cay, Great Barrier Reef (Cadman 2015)
With the Paris climate conference less than twenty four hours away, sources identify several key issues that have emerged in preliminary talks.
Most governmental Parties to the Convention (155 so far) have now submitted their nationally determined contributions to reducing emissions and keeping global temperatures within the 2 degrees centigrade recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Sources indicate that the aggregate number of contributions now reaches approximately 90% of the target required to prevent dangerous climate change, to be implemented between now and 2020. This is cause for some cautious optimism that countries are beginning to recognise the need for climate action. However, this is also to be tempered by the reality that how these reductions will be implemented will probably be the most significant challenge for negotiators over the next two weeks.
Climate finance has been a historical source of conflict between the developed and less developed countries during the Conferences of the Parties (COPs). Finance for capacity building (including technology) is essential if activities aimed at stoping climate change (mitigation) and coping with it (adaptation) are to be implemented effectively. Given the present reality of climate change for small island developing states (SIDS), increased funding for responding to exisiting and future sea level rise is essential.
This leads on to another contentious discussion, that of climate change-related loss and damage. This is a separate negotiating stream, and one that has been pushed by the SIDS (especially Tuvalu) for several years, and while it is good to see that it has been a formal Convention mechanism since Warsaw COP 19, discussions are still not especially advanced, and developed countries, who are afraid they will will end up paying for their own emissions legacy have been reluctant to fund any formal arrangements for redress.
However, on the mitigation front, sources also indicate that it is unlikely that any final decision will be arranged over the fate of the Clean development Mechanism, the one (relatively) successful market mechanism aimed at reducing emissions. However, strong emissions reduction targets will make it more likely that the CDM will continue, as methods for trading ‘offsets’ have so far proven to work – methodologically, at least, even if the current value of carbon is not especially high.
But the hand of negotiators will only be strengthened if there is sufficient external pressure on their political overlords from civil society and business. So far, there has been strong engagement from these stakeholders. It is hoped that this will maintain the dynamism of the discussions, and push the transformation of the global economy away from fossil fuel dependence and towards a deeply ‘decarbonised’ future.
One unifying ‘meta issue’ connected to all these negotiating elements is the extent to which anything that comes out of Paris will be subject to good governance. At the moment exiting compliance and enforcement under the Kyoto Protocol is something of a toothless tiger. Without it, everything may go up in smoke.
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