COP21: where to from here?

Three weeks ago as the South African government negotiating team prepared to leave for Paris, a coalition of civil society organisations sat down together to draw up their ideal mandate. This consisted of a series of non-negotiable, climate ‘red lines’ that would help create the kind of ambitious and fair deal on emissions reduction and financing for mitigation and adaptation that would deliver climate justice for the most vulnerable communities of the Global South including for people in South Africa.

The first week is over and at the weekend, the draft text of the agreement was handed from the negotiating teams to the arriving government Ministers who are now tasked with shaping a final legal agreement. So how does the draft text measure up against our climate red lines?

Well clearly there is a lot of work still to do. The text has hundreds of bracketed sections each denoting an element still to be agreed upon. Some concern the position of a comma yet still carry more than grammatical significance whilst others like the annual percentage reduction Greenhouse Gas levels show that agreement on some the fundamentals has still to be reached.

One passage that should be in the legally binding agreement explicitly acknowledges that the fight against climate change is rights based and that any deal must ensure “the respect, protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights for all, including indigenous peoples. Yet somehow this is the subject of pressure from countries including the US and Norway who want to relegate these rights to an appendix.

It seems that at the heart of every component debate are the principles of fairness, integral to realising climate justice for those people living in poverty who face the worst excesses of climate change.

On MITIGATION and ADAPTATION, the fossil fuels that developed countries burned to power the growth of their industrialised economies are the root cause of climate change, and so theoretically they should make the largest cuts in emissions and finance climate adaptation for the countries who have done the least to cause the climate crisis.

It comes down to reaching consensus on differentiation, or the different roles that developed and developing countries should play in tackling climate change.  One of the implications is whether or not South Africa and other emerging economies are considered as eligible for climate finance for both adaptation and mitigation.

On FINANCING there is as yet no great progress on how much of the target US$100bn a year in public financing by 2020 will be made available for the implementation of mitigation and how much for adaptation projects. For the Global South we need to see at least a 50 / 50 split.

On the LOSS & DAMAGE MECHANISM we have been calling for clarity, in particular to avoid double counting additional funding promised here but counted under the overall US$100bn figure. Once again this relies in part on the differentiation issue, as countries like the US will not give any ground that may open up historical liability and compensation. In other words how far back is their responsibility measured, and how is that measured? 

A lot of talk is going on in Paris and certainly the narrative from the COP presidency team has been about the agreement here being the beginning of a new chapter. This is not-too-subtle code for ‘definitely do not expect a 1.5 degree Celsius deal or indeed 2 degrees.’ This back-sliding from a temperature target that would limit the worst excesses of the climate crisis started happening at COP17 in Durban when it was agreed that countries could submit voluntary emissions targets, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The extent of the slide became clear in October when the UN released an assessment of all these INDCs showing that the sum total of the proposed cuts puts us on track for at least a 2.7 degree increase. 

Instead of pushing for increased action right now, too much of the proposed financing and therefore implementation is being pushed back to 2020 and thereafter. In effect, Paris is about getting a low ambition text agreed and therefore it is critical to avoid locking this in for the next 15 years and driving temperatures higher still. That makes a robust and frequent REVIEW MECHANISM absolutely vital. We want to see an external expert structure and mechanism established, which includes civil society input and integration and enables the review and holding to account of governments regarding their commitments to the UNFCCC.
Talk has been of a racheting mechanism that could increase future commitments to cut emissions.

As the pace picks up this week, the Project 90 team will be updating each day as we join with our colleagues and comrades from across civil society to ratchet up the pressure on leaders inside the corridors and meeting rooms. 

From Paris, the Project 90 Policy & Research Team

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