As COP21 climate summit reaches halfway point, with a new negotiating text and a ceremony to highlight role of cities

As COP21 climate summit reaches halfway point, with a new negotiating text and a ceremony to highlight role of cities

By our correspondent Eric J. Lyman (@EricJLyman)


PARIS – The 21st Conference of the Parties climate summit formally reached its halfway point Saturday, with an address from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who praised city and local governments for their roles in promoting renewable energy and taking climate risk into account in their calculations for the future.

maxresdefaultBan spoke at a special COP21 Action Day event celebrating the role of city and local governments in the fight against climate change, saying local authorities will play a more important role as time goes by. COP21 Action Day is part of what is called the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, named for the hosts of the last two climate summits. The initiative is aimed at highlighting the roles of smaller actors in the process.

“Cities are reducing emissions and bolstering their resilience,” Ban said. “Companies are investing in new, green technologies and scaling up use of renewable energy. Investors are scrutinizing fossil fuel investments, and insurers are beginning to integrate climate risk into their decision-making.”

sommetdeselus-1009x650Ban’s remarks came as delegates at the 50,000-strong climate summit was switching gears, from technical negotiations for most the first week to a high-level segment that gets under way Monday, with minister-level delegation heads. It is the ministers who will carry out the negotiations from this point forward.

For the third consecutive day, negotiators released a new draft version of what will eventually become the Paris agreement. The latest version is the slimmest yet, at just 27 pages — half its length at the Nov. 30 start to the summit — though the document earned mixed reviews from key observers.

“The draft negotiating text, while more clear in terms of options, still reflects most of the divergences amongst countries,” said Tasneem Essop, from WWF. “It will require immense skill on the part of the French presidency and absolute cooperation between governments to mediate these differences. I hope that to the end, ministers don’t trade ambition for expediency.”

Greenpeace’s Martin Kaiser agreed, and issued a warning about possible obstacles from traditional energy producing countries in the second week.

“The atmosphere remains constructive, but that doesn’t guarantee a decent deal,” Kaiser said. “Right now, oil-producing nations and the fossil fuel industry will be plotting how to crash these talks when the ministers arrive next week.”

For his part, the UN’s Ban said the growing role of local and city governments gave him hope that years of work leading up to the Paris summit would pay off over the coming days.

“Last year, I hosted a climate summit in New York,” Ban said. “It gave birth to new multi-stakeholder partnerships and initiatives on forests, renewable energy, sustainable transport, resilience, finance and other areas critical for addressing climate change. Now is the time we must build on that progress.”



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