COP21: A firm hand on the wheel

Reading time: 5 minutes
8 December 2015

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

The intensity of negotiations moved up a notch at COP21 on Tuesday, as the number of informal consultation processes doubled. Following requests from Parties, the COP President, Laurent Fabius, established additional ministerial led consultations.

These cover Adaptation (including the sensitive ‘Loss and Damage’ issue), forests, cooperative mechanisms, response measures and compliance. In total 10 consultation processes took place through Tuesday, led by 17 ministers.

In the evening, Parties again met as the ‘Paris Committee’ to hear reports from the facilitating ministers and to provide input on the process. Ministers reported progress, constructive engagement and convergence across nearly all groups. Progress in the capacity building consultations was particularly pronounced.

However, it was also clear that Parties remain split on how to deal with the central issue of differentiation. Here the facilitating ministers reported that “very clear faults lines remained” and that parties were not yet prepared to put their positions on the table.

The differentiation challenge is not a minor ripple in the process and could easily upset the boat. But it is becoming clear that Minister Fabius is steering the good ship Le Bourget with exceptional skill and diplomacy.

In the country statements that followed the reports, not a single Party or group objected to the way forward proposed by the COP President. Indeed, the praise for Minister Fabius’ management of the talks was unreserved.

In a clear reflection of their faith in the French Presidency, Parties agreed to allow a new ‘clean text’ to be prepared, which will be presented to them on Wednesday at 1pm. This will be based on the draft handed over to Minister Fabius on Saturday, incorporating recommendations from the ministerial facilitations of the past two days. This document will almost certainly contain less brackets and provide a “view of where the overall balance needs to be struck”.

Parties will use this text as the new basis for negotiations and are expected to meet at 5pm this afternoon to provide their first reactions. Minister Fabius has proposed several further iterations of the text by Parties before a final version is agreed in time for adoption at 6pm on Friday.

At this crucial moment, the role of the business and investor community will be important over the coming 24 to 48 hours to maintain the momentum and confidence seen today. A clear message of support for an ambitious deal from CEOs will further empower the COP President and strengthen the resolve of all countries seeking a fair, ambitious and durable agreement.

The message that ministers need to hear is a simple one. Business needs a clear, long-term goal well before the end of the century. Ministers shouldn’t be distracted by what this goal is called. What matters more is that we get to zero emissions as quickly as possible.

A five-year ambition mechanism that begins around 2020 must also be locked in. This is the only path to bringing 1.5 degrees Celsius into reach. Ministers must also recognize that like any good investment, the upfront cost of mobilizing the US$100 billion is far outweighed by the benefits of the trillions of dollars that will be unlocked.

Finally, the COP Presidency should know that business stands behind its goal of securing an ambitious agreement. All ministers also need to show similar trust. It’s time for the Presidency to lead us forward.

By Damian Ryan, Head of International Policy, The Climate Group


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