The road through Paris: key messages for ministers

As ministers from 80 countries gather in Paris for pre-meetings ahead of COP21, Achala Abeysinghe sets out a clear direction of travel for them to follow.

Blog by
9 November 2015

Achala C Abeysinghe is principal researcher in IIED's Climate Change Group

The island nation of Tuvalu is one of the Least Developed Countries that is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with an average elevation of just two meters above sea level (Photo: Nick Hobgood, Creative Commons via Flickr)

This week (9 November 2015) marks another milestone on the road to Paris. With only five weeks left before the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference (COP21) starts, when all countries are due to adopt a legally binding agreement to act on climate change, ministers have been called together by the French COP presidency for pre-meetings. Around 80 ministers are due to attend in Paris this week.  

The focus of the meetings will be to identify "landing zones" (compromises) for the negotiations in Paris, and to give political guidance to the technical level negotiators. 

This blog provides some key messages for the ministers to consider as the kind of territory they should be aiming for:

The broad terrain

  • The Paris Agreement must be a durable, ambitious and legally-binding agreement. It must be designed to enable countries to increase ambition rapidly so that it drives individual and cooperative action to reduce emissions to an extent consistent with limiting warming to below 1.5C. The agreement must also focus on reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience to the impacts of climate change
  • In order to deliver on these broad objectives, the Paris Agreement must set out a direction of travel that is consistent with the long-term temperature goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100, in line with the most recent scientific findings including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, and
  • The collective aim must be to reduce global emissions by at least 70-95 per cent below 2010 levels by 2050, and ideally at the upper end of this scale, and to reach full decarbonisation in the second half of the century. Such a long-term pathway is necessary to provide clear guidance on direction to governments, business and other stakeholders.

Equity and differentiation

  • All countries must commit to meaningful, ambitious climate action for the post 2020 regime
  • Developed countries must show leadership in delivering action and support to developing countries in the agreement
  • Developing countries, particularly the poorest and the most vulnerable such as the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), must be provided with means of implementation, including finance, technology and capacity-building support, and
  • The special needs and situations of LDCs must be clearly recognised throughout the agreement. 

Ambition

  • In order to avoid locking in low ambition and putting the 'below 1.5C' long-term temperature goal out of reach, the agreement must require that all parties individually and collectively revisit their commitments and the implementation of those commitments regularly
  • This process must be informed by a global review process
  • The review must inform domestic processes to formulate subsequent and successive nationally determined mitigation commitments
  • A process that requires all countries to submit new commitments at the same time will make it easier for countries to undertake the necessary domestic processes required to deliver their goals
  • Also, regularly revising both commitments and their implementation will allow countries to respond more quickly to the most recent scientific findings and take advantage of rapid technological developments
  • Regular revisions will also ensure political momentum is maintained to address climate change both at the international and the national level, and 
  • The first review must happen before 2020, potentially in 2017/18 so that countries can readjust their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) before their commitments are inscribed in the agreement when it comes into force in 2020. 

Climate finance

  • Climate finance is a crucial element in the Paris Agreement and should allow mitigation and adaptation ambition
  • A specific long-term goal on climate finance should be established to provide a clear direction of travel for the effective implementation of the agreement
  • Guarantees over climate finance will be essential for a balanced agreement. This means there must be a regular replenishment process to provide sustainable, predictable, new and additional climate finance to developing countries, beyond and above the US$100 billion agreed in Copenhagen
  • Climate finance must be delivered in a balanced manner between mitigation and adaptation, and
  • The Least Developed Countries Fund must be rapidly replenished and strengthened to effectively serve LDCs as they seek to implement actions under the new agreement. 

Transparency of action and support

  • A robust transparency system is paramount for the Paris Agreement to allow trust among countries and to ensure that they implement the commitments they have made
  • Even though individual commitments are different, all countries have a responsibility to be transparent, to report to the global community and be reviewed at international level, and
  • Therefore, the agreement must establish a robust transparency and accountability system for action and support, acknowledging that some developing countries, including the LDCs, will need time, flexibility and support to build the capacity to meet the requirements of the agreement. 

In order to deliver on the global vision for a durable, ambitious and legally binding Paris Agreement, it is vital that all countries work together both at political and technical level from the pre-COP, through to the COP in Paris and its final moments. 

Ministerial guidance in Paris this week will set the tone for the final steps to COP21 and beyond. 

Achala C Abeysinghe (achala.abeysinghe@iied.org) is principal researcher in IIED's Climate Change Group, and an expert on legal issues in international climate change negotiations. She is currently legal and technical adviser to the chair of the Least Developed Countries Group for the UNFCCC.

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