COP21: Getting down to business

Reading time: 4 minutes
7 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

[INFOGRAPHIC: Understanding the UNFCCC negotiations]

Parties quickly got down to business today as a flurry of ministerial-led consultations were conducted through the day.

As proposed by COP President, Laurent Fabius, the ministerial section of COP is taking place under an open-ended meeting known as the ‘Paris Committee’. The committee is meeting each evening to hear reports from the consulting ministers. As of Monday, ministers from eight countries were leading four main consultation processes covering:

  1. Support: means of implementation (Finance, technology, capacity building) – led by Gabon and Germany
  2. Differentiation: in particular with regard to mitigation, finance and transparency – led by Brazil and Singapore
  3. Ambition, including long-term goals and periodic review – led by St. Lucia and Norway
  4. Acceleration of pre-2020 action (excluding pre-2020 finance) – led by the Gambia and UK

Additional consultations dealing with adaptation, loss and damage and the Preamble section of the agreement were also announced today. Others are expected to follow.

The ministers have been given clear guidance from the COP president. Their mandate is to bridge differences by acting as facilitators for discussion between Parties. Fabius has asked Parties to focus on solutions, rather than restate positions.

Through Monday, the consulting ministers had the task of coming up with possible concepts for solutions from their discussions with Parties.

At the evening Paris Committee session the ministerial facilitators reported on their consultations. The overall message was one of positive engagement from all Parties. Compromise, flexibility and, on some issues, convergence was reported in all four areas of consultation. However, Parties had also restated existing positions according to some of the facilitation reports.

On a positive note, statements from Parties showed clear and continued support for the COP President, although a number called for a different mode of work, including the Like Minded Developing Country Group. The President noted the issues raised and will suggest a way forward to Parties today.

By the end of Tuesday, the task of consulting ministers is to develop and present their conclusions on how best to frame their emerging solutions in the form of initial drafting guidance. What this means in practical terms is a potential new text that would (or could) become the basis of an updated agreement text.

Although it is still too early to know where negotiations will lead to over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, ministers need to bear in mind a number of crucial issues in the coming 48 hours.

From the developed country side, an early move on finance would provide a major boost to unlocking closed doors. In practice this means honoring the Copenhagen pledge of mobilizing US$100 billion per year from 2020 in a way that is equitable, fair and politically durable.

All countries also need to bear in mind that the critical importance to business of a long-term goal. Here words matter but numbers matter more. In order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and create the clean global economy, business needs the clarity of a long-term goal to know where we are going - and by when.

Ministers also need to remember that clarity of direction in the short-term is required for businesses to pivot toward low carbon growth. Strengthening national commitments every five years, starting around 2020 is therefore essential. 

A clear trajectory of action that links the short, medium and long term will allow business and investors to unlock trillions of dollars of new investments and the innovative technologies that will enhance competitiveness and drive equitable access to sustainable development.

In short, ministers must view the Paris Agreement as more than a diplomatic settlement among nations. It is a stimulus to the real economy, with the potential to unlock trillions of dollars of low carbon investments.

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


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