Is the snail accelerating?


November 13th, 2017

With the first week of the conference done and dusted, where are we in negotiations?

In September I wrote about the Government of Fiji’s ambition[1] for the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties (COP23) to the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. The first week of the conference is now over and the high level segment is about to begin. So are we any closer to a comprehensive deal to tackle climate change? A deal that needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to avoid catastrophic social systems failure, that puts in place mechanisms to help people in developing countries adapt to the challenge of climate change and for those where climate action is already too late, put in place a mechanism that responds to their Losses and Damages. A mechanism that helps them pick up the pieces and find a new life despite climate change exacerbated floods washing away their homes, sea level rise making their homes unliveable and fields unproductive or the multitude other ways that climate change impacts are already exceeding the capacity of the poorest to adapt.

The negotiations are complex from a technical as well as a political perspective. Countries ultimately want to see an equitable deal that delivers on keeping climate change to within 1.5oC. A deal that recognises the different needs and builds from the contributions that each country can make.

Based on progress during the first week the following three areas must not be forgotten by political leaders as they travel to attend next week, tasked on behalf of all of us to finalise and approve what need to be ambitious conference outcomes.

First, get serious on mitigation, keep coal in the ground and shift from oil and gas to renewable sources as rapidly as possible!

Location of coal power plants in the EU in 2016, circle diameter indicates capacity, country colours depict coal use per capita (darker shading indicates higher coal use per capita)

Second, mainstream climate change in all development, ensure mitigation action doesn’t undermine progress on adaptation and vice versa!

We know that to end poverty, we must reverse climate change as quickly as possible.  Without doing so, we risk pushing more than 100 million people back into poverty by 2030 from the impacts of climate change alone[2].

Thirdly, pre 2020 ambition, the two year period before the Paris Agreement comes into force should be a race to climate excellence, not to be climate laggards!

Prior to the COP starting the U.N Environment Programme released a sobering report[3] detailing the gap between what countries pledged in their initial Paris Agreement commitments — their nationally determined contributions — and what they will need to do in order to keep global warming below the ideal of 1.5oC. Unfortunately for future generations current commitments cover only approximately one third of the emissions reductions needed to be on a pathway of staying well below 2°C. This isn’t a surprise to delegates at the COP, what is alarming is the lack of progress on ramping up this ambition, particularly leadership by the developed world, leading by example on mitigation, and providing the technical and financial support needed to deliver on Adaptation and Loss and Damage to ensure that we do stay on the track agreed in Paris.

[1] https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/fijis-vision-for-cop23/

[2] http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/11/08/rapid-climate-informed-development-needed-to-keep-climate-change-from-pushing-more-than-100-million-people-into-poverty-by-2030

[3] https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/22070/EGR_2017.pdf

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