The road to Paris Ten days and counting Opinion Article

Jun 15, 2015 - 4:00pm

This article was first published in Lowy Interpreter on 15 June 2015. 

Erwin Jackson        
Deputy CEO, The Climate Institute
  

The latest round of negotiations for the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change closed in Bonn last Friday with mixed results. With ten formal negotiating days left until crucial climate negotiations resume in Paris later this year, the clock is ticking.

In Paris, countries will be seeking to agree to the next evolution of the international climate change framework, a framework that facilitates and focuses domestic action towards the agreed goal of limiting global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. For it to be successful, it will need to be bankable for investors, accountable and transparent for all nations and fair to vulnerable countries

Last week in Bonn, countries got down to work in streamlining an expansive draft agreement. They began to define what elements need to be in the core legal outcome in Paris and what can be agreed through supporting implementation decisions.

Hours of difficult work on refining the agreement has led to some progress, and at the next meeting in August countries will have a more streamlined draft. This is good news, but some of the core political issues – such as the framework for future emissions reductions and how to support adaptation to unavoidable climate change impacts – are moving more slowly. Key elements of the new framework, like how to ensure the regular ratcheting up of action, have been discussed in depth but still require much more work before a clearer outcome is defined.

The G7 announcement of early last week on the need to decarbonise the global economy and transform energy systems did ripple into the meeting. But the pace of negotiations is not adequately reflecting the growing economic, investor and political momentum to modernise the global economy. Over the next few months this momentum will accentuate the need for stronger guidance from national capitals to unblock some of the core political obstructions so that Paris delivers the most successful outcome possible.

Core areas where more political leadership is required include:

  • Making the agreement is bankable: limiting global warming to less than 2°C will require trillions of dollars to be invested in modernising and cleaning up energy systems. The Paris meeting can help catalyse this investment by sending strong signals to businesses and investors that governments will continually ratchet up action every five years towards the 2°C limit. Australia can play an important role here by, for example, supporting the US and others in making 2025, not 2030, the first post-2020 target deadline. This will allow for the benefits of the latest in climate science and technology to be applied to later action.

  • Making sure the agreement builds trust and accountability: forward-looking countries are taking action to build zero-emissions industries because they see it is in their economic interest. Greater global success can be achieved if the Paris agreement includes credible rules and processes to ensure actions are visible, transparent and hold countries accountable for the actions they commit to internationally, as well as at home. This can help build trust between countries, and therefore greater action over time.

  • Ensuring the agreement is fair: the world's poorest nations are the most vulnerable to climate change, but they have few resources to invest in zero-carbon development and in increasing their resilience to the impact of climate change. The Paris agreement can demonstrate fairness of action by providing a mechanism for predictable support to those poorer countries most vulnerable to climate change. This could include helping them implement zero-carbon solutions and better manage escalating climate change risks.

Bonn made progress but more is needed. Greater political guidance can ensure that, in the ten negotiating days left before nations reconvene in Paris, we get the most bankable, accountable and fair outcome in December as possible.

Erwin Jackson

Erwin is Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute. With nearly 20 years practical experience in climate change policy and research, Erwin has developed and led many national and international programs aimed at reducing greenhouse pollution. This work has been undertaken in Australia, Europe, North and South America, the Pacific and Antarctica. He has represented non-governmental groups and advised government and business in national, regional and international fora, including being a non-governmental expert reviewer of the reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Erwin has written, researched and produced many publications on climate change and energy policy including a number of review papers in scientific journals such as the Medical Journal of Australia.
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