The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) kicked off yesterday with a high-profile Leaders Events attended by close to 150 Heads of State. Unprepared for what the next 10 days would hold, Naomi and I searched aimlessly for the entrance to receive our UN accredited observation badges. It wasn’t until a swarm of people surrounded the incoming Al Gore that we realized we were in the right place. Less than five minutes upon entering the Le Bourget conference sight and we had already spotted the first high-level guest…this is going to be an exciting 10 days.
While we are apparently not high-profile enough to sit in on the Head of State opening statements, we quickly realized that almost everyone around you in the conference has just as much of an influence. We found ourselves having lunch next to what appeared to be an unassuming, random gentleman. It wasn’t until he was approached by four others, and then a Time Magazine and Fortune correspondent, that we learned we were in the presence of an expert on climate action in India.
The COP site is overwhelming. Exhaustively so. Our day began at 8am and ended at 9pm, with little downtime. The sheer amount of activity and energy is enough to keep you going for the entire day. The venue is sprawling, with events grouped by type spread throughout hangars. Beyond the formal negotiations, which begin Tuesday, there are countless side-events covering every range of climate related topics, ongoing exhibitions, press conferences, and more. We quickly learned that our pre-planned itineraries would be useless. There is simply too much to draw you in.
The beginning side-events focused on a number issues, with common key issues strewn throughout. While I remain hopefully optimistic about the outcomes of COP21, a few themes will arise as particularly contentious. Among them are:
- Common but Differentiated Responsibility: The notion that all nations owe a common responsibility to address climate change, but a differentiated response based on how much they have contributed to the issue. Crucial to the negotiations will be to what degree developed nations contribute versus developing ones.
- Climate Finance: Where will mitigation and adaption climate finance come from? Will it fall into the hands of the private sector, developed nations, or additional funding?
- Loss + Damage: Developing nations will stress that they must be compensated or funded for the losses and damages that will occur due to climate related impacts. This idea goes beyond adaptation, in the sense that some amount of damage is bound to occur, and countries must have the funding available to respond.
- Implementation: Much will come out of COP21. What will be crucial is how to focus on implementing the results, keeping countries accountable for their emissions and INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), and perhaps most importantly, tackling these issues immediately, as opposed to waiting until the 2020 timeline.
While this is just a small list of the many issues that will arise, these ideas are sure to be key points of negotiation in the coming days. As the conference progresses, I’ll be here to provide coverage of specific side-events and developments within COP21.