Three core elements to success at the Paris climate summit

Yvo de Boer: COP21 should not only focus on reducing emissions, but also on adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

(Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

By Yvo de Boer

The Paris climate conference should be seen as one of the first stations on a much longer journey.

The summit, known as COP 21, is not about taking the final step towards a climate deal, but about setting in place a process overtime to increase ambitions to address climate change.

Leaders in Paris must lay the ground for a solid process to formulate, discuss and finalize the next round of mitigation commitments.

The Paris summit should not only focus on reducing emissions, but greater emphasis needs to be placed on adapting to inevitable impacts of climate change.

The Paris agreement should provide a meaningful answer to tackle climate change challenges through adequate mitigation.

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Paris should have three core elements to achieve a successful agreement. The first is to agree on a process to review the adequacy of commitments and their implementation.

All countries should agree on a regular process, say every five years, to review the adequacy of commitments and their implementation and give a clear indication of commitments on adaptation, mitigation, technology and finance.

The commitments countries have submitted are impressive in their breadth, but lackluster in their depth. An impressive number of countries have submitted their INDCs but few are truly ambitious and they will not prevent a 2C temperature increase.

There has been no process to examine, compare or negotiate individual targets. Contrary to the pre-Kyoto period, there has been no process to ensure individual or collective levels of ambition can be raised. This is the reality.

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The second is to reach a compromise deal on finance. This is very complicated for three reasons. The first, public finance is in short supply.

The second, the refusal by developing countries to recognize the GEF as the financial instrument of the Convention has made tracking contributions very difficult.

The third, the multiple sources of funding we need – as recognized in the Copenhagen Accord – are critical, but the climate process does not allow for a systematic mechanism to link action to money.

Paris must agree a way forward on finance.

100 countries, who have (1) contributed little to climate change and (2) will face the bulk of the impacts, will be attending the Paris conference.

They need help both to adjust the trajectory of the economic development and to cope with the inevitable impacts of climate change.

At the last round of negotiations in Bonn, South Africa – on behalf of the G77 and China – made it clear that finance is critical to a successful outcome in Paris.

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As someone who works closely with developing countries in exploring how green growth can help achieve economic growth and development objectives at the Global Green Growth Institute, a Seoul-based international organization, I hope that these countries don’t lose their bargaining position if a long term goal, which can be an impressive soundbite for politicians to take away from Paris, is agreed during the first Summit day of the COP.

The long-term goal could, theoretically, even be a great benchmark for a periodic review of adequacy of commitments and their implementation.

At COP 21, it will be important that significant announcements are made and that developing countries have a strong indication that rich nations are committed not only to the $100 billion, but also to catalyzing resources beyond this. After all, the investment challenge is huge.

The third is to regularly review the process itself to think about how the international community can deliver on implementation.

-How we can take economic growth into a greener direction
-How we can drive social inclusion
-How we can achieve the fundamental transformations that are within our reach, but beyond our grasp

There is a need to step-back and consider the efficacy of the climate process itself. Like a snowball, it seems to be getting bigger and bigger.

It is also getting more and more complicated as new topics find their way into the negotiating process.

The complexity is already well beyond what smaller delegations can possibly hope to cope with, while around the core is an ever increasing bazar of highly stimulating intellectual debate that is not really having the impact it could.

In Paris, the negotiations will reach adulthood. It should be a coming of age. If national action plans become the core of a subsequent review process, then perhaps we also need to modify the nature and content of the process itself.

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In the run-up to Kyoto, many negotiators – especially from the EU – hoped the focus would be on policies and measures, in addition to targets and timetables.

There is still an annex of the Kyoto Protocol that refers to sectors of the economy to be addressed.

If mobilizing private sector engagement is key, then I don’t see how this can be achieved without focusing on specific national plans and specific investments to be made within their context.

Currently, the climate process is not really structured to make this possible.

Just a few weeks ago, my list was longer.

Although several key encounters are yet to take place, including at the G20 and although France is doing everything in its power to ensure a good outcome, these encounters must focus on the really big ticket issues, that world leaders can agree on.

Yvo de Boer is the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), a Seoul-based international organization. Previously he was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2006 to 2010.

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