Oct 26, 2015 - 3:00pm
Over the weekend the last round of negotiations on the Paris climate change agreements concluded. The current draft agreement and supporting decisions is available here.
Beyond the drama and theatrics of the Bonn meeting, countries left with draft agreements that can form the basis of a credible outcome in Paris. Embedded in the draft are the core elements of an outcome in Paris that reinforce the signal to business that the era of unabated fossil fuel use is at an end.
However, progress on the substance of the agreements was mixed and clear political direction from ministers to officials is needed to pick up the pace in the final sprint to Paris. Brinkmanship and negotiation tactics will not deliver in Paris, but political leadership can. This highlights the importance of upcoming political meetings between leaders at the G20, APEC and CHOGM, and the pre-COP ministerial meeting in early November.
On the specifics of the current draft, against The Climate Institute’s benchmarks for success in Paris:
Is the agreement bankable? Does the agreement reinforce the signal to business that decarbonisation of the global economy is inevitable and that action will be strengthened through time? The agreements clearly anchor the concept that countries’ currently proposed targets are the floor, not the ceiling, of their actions. Each new target should be a ‘progression’ of action from the last. There is also clear convergence around the need to do a stock take on targets and global action, along with an opportunity for countries to update targets, every five years. A long-term goal for emissions reductions remains a point of debate, with the US in particular pushing for the recognition that we must decarbonise the global economy before the end of the century. Australia and other countries will have many opportunities to advance more credible post-2020 targets over the next few years, but whether the formal stock take process starts before 2020 remains an area of debate.
Does the agreement promote transparency and trust? The proposals for transparency and accountability in the previous draft agreements were vague. These systems are important to track the progress countries are making to achieving their targets, building trust, and sharing best practice across countries. They include how often countries report on their emissions, what impact their policies will have, and ensuring that global carbon markets are robust. The Bonn meeting made progress on strengthening these elements of the agreements. However, some developing countries, unhelpfully, still want a one system for them and one system for me approach to transparency. This will be a clear political issue in the lead up to Paris.
Is the agreement fair? In Bonn, less progress was made about how the agreement can help the most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, to rebuild after unadaptable climate impacts, and to support low carbon development. Rightly or wrongly, old political divides and a lack of trust that developed countries will deliver on their commitments for US$100 billion of public and private finance remain.
Finally, later this week the UN will issue its assessment of the targets that countries have submitted. These targets now cover around 90 per cent of global emissions and illustrate that Paris is already supporting global action. Current independent assessments suggest that, if implemented, these targets would limit warming to less than 3°C. This is better than projections before the new targets were announced, which would have seen warming of around 4°C. However, they are still well short of what is needed to avoid irreversible and severe climate change damage.
For more information
Brinsley Marlay | Media Manager, The Climate Institute | 02 8239 6299