On Monday, December 7, high-level officials opened the second week of the UNFCCC COP21
meeting in grand fashion. Delegates from over 190 countries gathered in plenary La Seine at 10:00am to hear from leaders which included United Nations
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, COP21 President and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change
Hoesung Lee, and UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft.
The COP21 negotiation space at the Le Bourget site
COP21 President Fabius reported that the ADP draft
had been approved on December 5th, with a text that was shorter and clearer than the original negotiating document. Thus, he said, “the time for decisions have come,” as the party delegations this week will debate the final details and come to a decision by the December 11 deadline. Fabius also announced the creation of the Comite de Paris
, a new working plan which involved facilitation of small-group, topic-focused negotiations that would be summarized for the entire body at the end of each day. Noting that major challenges included the topics of differentiation, means of implementation, level of ambition, and the post-2020 agenda, the COP21 President closed his remarks reminding the delegates that “we can and indeed we must be successful.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon further elaborated on the challenges and opportunities ahead in his speech, noting that “we have the unique opportunity to define out own destiny.” He also noted events taking place outside the heavily secured Le Bourget site, including demonstrations and meetings of youth activists, which have helped shape the negotiations inside. These themes continued in speeches from the other high level dignitaries, who used strong words and vivid ideas to attempt to engage the delegates on the moral imperative to come to a consensus.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon
Later in the proceedings, dignitaries from countries including Swaziland
, Tuvalu, and Tonga
gave speeches which helped to energize this week’s negotiations and frame the most important issues currently on the table. A few important themes to note from their speeches were the rights of indigenous people, the imperative to reach toward a goal of 1.5 degrees
rather than 2 degrees, and the role and needs of developing countries in these negotiations. These political leaders shared compelling stories about their home nations which also served to galvanize the room to action.
These statements and the sentiments behind them would permeate the discussions thereafter, even as negotiations moved into more private venues.
As negotiations moved into day two of week two, collaboration and compromise were pursued to attempt to make progress on the final deal. The Comite de Paris on Tuesday, December 8 revealed both impressive movement toward consensus on some critical issues, and further gridlock on others.
During the Comité de Paris session, COP President, Minister Laurent Fabius, announced to the crowded plenary audience that he had requested ministers to break into smaller committees to focus on implementation, differentiation, ambition, loss and damage and adaptation, and forests. Also as discussions continued, additional categories were added, including cooperative mechanisms, responsive measures, monitoring compliance, and the issue of the preamble.
The Germany and Gabon delegations spoke on implementation by highlighting the importance of supporting innovation, and linkages between institutions towards global capacity building.
The Brazil delegation then took hold of differentiation, and informed the COP President that the topic of common but differentiated responsibility remains a key political issue. This phrase encompasses the ideological and ethical facets that influence climate change policy. Because developed nations contributed and benefited more from actions that caused climate change; it is generally understood that because of this, they should use the resources that they have required to aid developing nations. Those developing nations, while still contributing, should not contribute as much in their efforts. The underlying factor is that the lines delineating developed and developing countries remains a gray area in climate change discussion.
Ambition was represented by the Saint-Lucia delegation. The delegate emphasized the need for both a stringent temperature increase cap and also a long-term reduction goal. After illustrating these parameters, he requested that the delegate from Norway conclude. After several days of debate over a 1.5-degree and 2-degree Celsius increase cap, the Norwegian delegate announced that most parties accept the 1.5-degree limit. This declaration demonstrates that the larger majority is listening to the pleas of small-island and more vulnerable nations that a 1.5-degree limit must be a part of the Paris agreement for the sake of present and future generations.
However, despite this more aggressive ambition, most delegates were unable to provide concrete progress on their committee’s issues. Representatives for forest management, cooperative mechanisms, response measures, monitoring compliance and the preamble itself had little to no update. Most committees stated that they would continue working on negotiations through the night.
Minister Fabius received the delegates’ information with diplomatic patience. After every committee representative had offered his or her report, he broadcast that everyone must work as hard as possible to submit their portions of the newest draft by midnight. The next “clean draft” will be available tomorrow at 1 PM. Although tomorrow afternoon’s unveiling will offer an important step forward, it will most likely remain far from the final approach. Parties will be meeting at both 5 PM and again in the later evening to reconvene.
As we left the COP site around 8:30 PM, we shivered in the Paris wintertime rain and complained about our sore feet and shoulders. We were utterly exhausted. As we headed back to our hotel, there was a COP 21 bus completely filled with attendees heading into the site. Their work was just beginning.
Mae Bowen and Savannah Miller 12/8/2015