Stepping Out of The Climate Shadow: Cop21 Begins

Author: Riddhima Yadav

In what has historically become one of the most well attended climate conferences, COP21 finally kicked off in Paris yesterday. More than 150 world leaders travelled to the French Capital to announce their commitments for what many hope would be a global climate treaty in the post 2020 period. But with all the momentum building, the Internet has been flooded with updates, articles, reports, tweets creating a social media storm. In the midst of this, I break down Day 1 in bite-sized pieces of information and bring to you the moments that shone. So if you are in Paris and running off to your next negotiation session or someplace else closely tracking the talks, make sure you catch up with the action on ground with this cheat sheet. Au revoir!

  • Leader’s Summit – The conference saw all attending Heads of State deliver statements to highlight their country positions. Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC head echoed many when she said, “The world is looking to you. The world is counting on you.” Obama’s address, generously filled with motivational statements recognized the summit as a turning point and reiterated his government’s commitment to tackle climate change with ‘regularly updated national targets’ while Chinese President Xi Jinping repeated emission targets announced in September while announcing details on how China intends to spend the $3 billion earmarked for that. British PM David Cameron brought up intergenerational equity and developing countries found an ally in Angela Merkel who supported their demands for fairness. While it is easy to skip over smaller nations, we must not overlook the stark observation that the Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga made – “If we save Tuvalu, we will surely save the world.” as well as statements by Marshall Islands President Christopher Loek
  • Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform – The Prime Ministers of New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands submitted the Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform Communiqué to UNFCCC. It represents the views of 37 countries to call on the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies focusing on the three interrelated principles of Ambition, Targeted Support and Communication and Transparency.
  • International Solar Alliance – Indian Prime Minister Modi and French President Hollande launched a working platform of 120 countries to promote solar energy. The Alliance hopes to mobilise ‘ $1000 bn of investments that are needed by 2030 for the massive deployment of solar energy.’
  • Breakthrough Energy Coalition – Emerging clean technologies received a boost as countries and investors including Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates pledged to support new clean energy projects in order to help them pass the so called ‘Valley of Death’- the gap between a viable and concept product. The coalition will focus on projects coming out of 19 countries that have created the Mission Innovation group including UAE, India, Germany.
  • Climate Vulnerable Forum – A coalition of 20 countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam issues a declaration for the Paris treaty to include a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise limit, 100% renewable energy and full decarbonisation by 2050. While ambitious, the declaration broke ranks with the G77 in representing views of many developing nations.
  • Climate Resilience Initiative – UN Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon announced a new initiative in partnership with the Government of Netherlands and Red Cross to build climate resilience in the most vulnerable countries. Over the next five years, the initiative will bring together SIDs, LDCs and African countries.
  • Least Developed Countries Fund – France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK were joined by many others to make a joint pledge of $248 to contribute to the LDF to help the world’s poorest nations draft and implement national adaptation plans in sectors such as water and food security.
  • Climate Finance – Many heads of state used this opportunity to announce new financial pledges like Spain doubling its donation to the Green Climate Fund, Canada committing $2.65 billion over the next five years and a conditional commitment from Norway to double its commitment if the Green Climate Fund ensured verified emissions reduction from deforestation amongst others. However, there were criticisms about European Commission President Juncker’s ‘unconvincing targets’ and Australia’s climate finance pledge as a disguised foreign aid package.