Cop21 is winding down with the most difficult issues unresolved. Clean energy remains the key

Cop21 is winding down with the most difficult issues unresolved. Clean energy remains the key

By our special correspondent Eric J. Lyman (@EricJLyman)

PARIS – With a day – or probably more – to go, negotiators at the Cop21 climate summit in Paris are reporting slow, steady progress. But the biggest issues remain unresolved.

The two-week summit is officially scheduled to end today (Friday 11th of December), though the likelihood that talks could stretch hours or even beyond their expected deadline is growing as the deadline nears. The last Conference of the Parties climate summit to end on the day they were expected to end was Cop12 Nairobi, nine years ago.

If the Paris talks will end on time (for the record, Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign Minister and the President of the summit, still says they will conclude today at 18) it means delegations will have managed dramatic agreements on a range of prickly issues that have avoided agreement since the first draft text was released back in February.

The main sticking point at Cop21

a long-term goal for either how much temperatures will rise or how much renewable energy the world will produce by an agreed-to point in the second part of the century. In the latest draft, there is a range of temperature options between 1.5 to 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

– What is being called a “ratcheting mechanism” or “ambition mechanism” – some kind of framework that would to require countries to take on progressively stronger commitments over time. The latest agreement is showing consensus around the idea of five-year periods, but not on when they should start and how they should work.

Financial issues remain a big hurdle. The new agreement should include long-term commitments from industrialized countries for helping poorer nations adapt to the impacts of climate change, develop their economies in environmentally friendly ways, and become more resilient. The total bill will run to far more than $100 billion a year after 2020.

Steps countries should take before 2020, which is when the Paris deal is expected to enter into force. With each passing year the cost of action rises and its effectiveness diminishes. Advocates are pushing high for an outcome from Paris – it would not be part of the Paris agreement and would not require individual countries to ratify it – aimed at incentivizing action over the next five years.

Clean energy remains the key

Christiana Figueres, the United Nations’ top climate change official, said last month there was a clear common thread that ran through all these topics and as well as through other key sticking negotiation points. “It’s about energy use,” Figueres said. “Almost all the critical issues are connected in some way to transforming and decarbonizing the world’s economy. The faster this happens the better it is for everyone.”

The Paris deal is expected to be the world’s first global agreement to confront climate change, requiring some level of action from every country.


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