Some of them are the most powerful people on Earth, others are bursting with knowledge — envoys and delegates from 195 countries. What can they do at COP21?
The Paris road is paved with good intentions.
So is a deal unstoppable?
Achieve a legally-binding deal
US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned that the climate change talks in Paris will not deliver a treaty which legally requires countries to cut their carbon emissions.
French president Francois Hollande, on the other hand, in Malta on November 12th, said: “If the agreement is not legally binding, there won’t be an agreement, because that would mean it would be impossible to verify or control the undertakings that are made.”
Contrast those remarks with those of Anthony Hobley from the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think tank claiming ‘a ground breaking approach to limiting future greenhouse gas emissions.’
Hobley might be interpreted as suggesting: ‘No deal? Oh well. Tomorrow.’
“In a world where such a treaty would require ratification by the US Congress, such expectations are currently unrealistic. But more than that, such a rigid legally binding agreement could well be counter-productive right now.”
Hobley notes how complex the global playing field is. Think three-dimensional chess in a hall of mirrors.
“It is not unrealistic to contemplate that events and technological developments could change the climate change dynamic quickly. When that happens we do not want to be locked into a legally binding arrangement which lacks the necessary ambition.”
Ambition? Clayton Adern jokes: “[It’s not] a field trip to Versailles.”
Clayton is a fellow at Grist#, “a source of intelligent, irreverent environmental news and commentary that’s been around since 1999, when the internet was made of rubber bands.”
“You know how some people make lemonade out of lemons? We’re making lemonade out of looming climate apocalypse.”
Make sure the vulnerable or developing countries are looked after
Janos Pasztor, a senior United Nations official on climate change, says the deal must look after the countries who do not necessarily have the means to take action.
“It also has to have dimension of solidarity with those who are more vulnerable, and less capable of taking action on their own without financial and technological support. It also has to be credible in terms of what we measure of what countries are doing, [and] of what is being proposed.”
Solidarity is also a key issue for Céline Ramstein, Project Manager with the Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales (IDDRI).
Ramstein told Euronews that solidarity means not only funding but also transferring technologies and helping countries follow their climate change commitments. She added that in addition to countries, the private sector should be included.
A forum representing countries classified as vulnerable at the COP21 conference has called for “scaled-up climate finance [to] ensure a balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation by 2020 and beyond, and for enhanced technology development and cooperation to foster innovation, diffusion and deployment.”
Include a credible target for cutting global warming
There is much debate about how much we should try to limit global warming. The target most commonly talked about is 2 degrees Celsius but the French government says it would be satisfied with 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) has also backed this.
IDDRI scientific director Michel Colombier has warned of a risk of putting countries “in front of a wall that is too high… Because to reach 1.5 today you nearly have to stop breathing.”
Climate scientist and activist James Hansen, however, is among those who have long insisted that “the target talked about in international negotiations [to allow for] 2 degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster… even 2 degrees is too much."
Don’t shy away from being ambitious
IDDRI’s Ramstein said: “A good agreement would be an accelerator to higher emission reduction ambitions for heads of states [meeting again in five years.”
The International Energy Agency has echoed this, saying national climate targets should be regularly reviewed to “test the scope to raise ambition.” The IEA also calls for reliable ways to track achievements.
Sceptics might see the agency’s outlook as ‘rosy’, on the other hand, as it said in a special report: “A peak in global energy-related emissions could be achieved as early as 2020 and at no net economic cost.”
Simple minority optimism.
Sources: Carbon Tracker Initiative, Grist, UN News Centre, IDDRI, Climate Vulnerable Forum, LiveScience, International Energy Agency