COP21: Daily analysis from Damian Ryan

Reading time: 9 minutes
1 December 2015

Damian Ryan, International Head of Policy, The Climate Group, writes about the opening of the 21st UN climate conference, COP21, in Paris. You can follow our activities at TheClimateGroup.org/COP21

MOVING THE LINE

COP21 opened yesterday with a sense of purpose and determination. The business like atmosphere reflected both the events of recent weeks in Paris and the general recognition by countries across the globe that the next two weeks are pivotal for the world’s future. As the COP President, Laurent Fabius remarked, “Historic is an overused word. Here it is not the case”.

The purpose of day one in Paris was in essence to ‘move the line’ in both the state of the negotiations and the narrative surrounding it. We will see in the coming days whether it succeeded in its first goal, but on the second it undoubtedly broke new political ground.

Over the course of the day, some 150 leaders laid out their national action plans to tackle climate change and their motivations for doing so. It was clear that the chance to build cleaner, healthier and more prosperous communities and economies underpins virtually all of them.  In global solidarity, 184 countries, covering nearly all territorial emissions, have now brought forward national climate action plans in preparation for the Paris agreement.

The day also saw a series of major new announcements that underline the shift in political belief and vision that has occurred since countries last attempted to craft a global deal in Copenhagen. Coalitions of leaders, including governments, businesses, investors and individuals, sent unequivocal signals of low carbon intent.

Mission Innovation, launched by US President Obama and Bill Gates, set the goal of doubling clean technology R&D in the next five years. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Global Solar Alliance of roughly 120 countries to expand clean, solar energy across the world.  And government and business leaders came together to launch the Carbon Pricing Leadership Panelto put political momentum behind putting a price on carbon.

There should be little doubt that these initiatives have reset political expectations of what is possible and the political leaders should be applauded for doing so. As they leave Paris, it is now up to negotiators and ministers to build on and lock-in this political ambition. The truth is that the initiatives announced can only be truly transformational if they exist under an incentivising international framework for climate action created by an ambitious Paris agreement.

With COP resuming its normal schedule today, there should no longer be any ambiguity about the destination. To shift the trillions we need to build a prosperous thriving future, business and investors criteria are simple: set a clear long-term goal, such as net zero emissions well before the end of the century; strengthen commitments every five years; and establish a transparency system that provides the confidence that governments are delivering what they said they would.

We’ll leave the last word though to President Obama, who perhaps best summed up yesterday’s talks for many business leaders and investors: “There are hundreds of billions of dollars ready to deploy to countries around the world if they get the signal that we mean business this time. Let’s send that signal.”

Article orginally published on The Bottom Line.

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