COP21: An injection of momentum

Reading time: 4 minutes
2 December 2015

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

Day 3 of COP21 saw negotiators getting down to business as talks shifted into a critical period. Parties continued their discussions mainly in closed-door ‘spin-off groups’ throughout the day and into the evening but with limited progress across many issues. For regulars of UN climate conferences this was familiar territory for the mid-point of week one.

But it was also disappointing, given the unambiguous message delivered by political leaders on Monday and the limited time now left for officials to narrow down options.

An evening stock-take meeting of Parties with COP president, Laurent Fabius, saw the French foreign minister lay out his views on the state of negotiations and the steps required to help parties move further and faster.

A candid assessment on progress from the facilitators of the spin-off groups may have raised the prospect of an earlier than normal intervention by the COP President to accelerate the pace of the talks.

There were calls for ‘bridging’ proposals from Parties and Fabius re-emphasised the ‘no-surprises’ approach he was taking to the talks. Consultations will now begin with all Parties led by senior French officials and Michael Zammit Cutajar, a former UNFCCC Executive Secretary.

These talks will focus on four issues (1) format of text; (2) key issues; (3) transparency of the process; and (4) timeline. Progress is to be reported to Fabius by the end of the week, who will then make a proposal to the Parties on how he intends to proceed with negotiations in week two.

From a business and investor perspective, calls for greater momentum are welcomed. Negotiators need to arrive at their Saturday noon deadline with a text that has narrowed in options not expanded. Otherwise, the risk is a Copenhagen-style scenario where ministers are left with few options other than discarding what officials have presented and adopting a simple, high-level compromise agreement.

This may be the strategy of certain countries. But at this stage, an ambitious deal remains on track so long as those who want one can bridge key divides in order to isolate those with low ambition.

With just over 48 hours left to find a way through the maze of text, negotiators have their work cut out. All Parties, however, have pledged their support for an ambitious deal and they well know what such an outcome needs to contain: a long term goal, a deal on finance, a ratchet mechanism, rules and so on

Over the remainder of the week what they need to find are the critical missing ingredients – a sense of urgency and the willingness to actually negotiate.

By Damian Ryan, International Head of Policy, The Climate Group. Article orginally published on The Bottom Line.


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