COP21: Time for Parties to show the world they mean business

4 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

Negotiations continued to move slowly on Friday at COP21, as officials began their final round of discussions before the process moves to the ministerial level from tomorrow.

The day began with the release of a new text that brought back into a single document all the different issues that spin-off groups have been working on over the week. Two versions of the document were released, a shorter 38-page paper that included ‘bridging proposals’ by facilitators and a longer 46-page compilation document.

Through the afternoon and into the evening a single group met to narrow down options ahead of tomorrow’s noon deadline for wrapping up the work of officials. Parties considered proposals to streamline the twin texts in order to come up with a cleaner, shorter, single document. Progress continued to be slow (or “slightly faster than normal slow” as one observer put it) with brackets remaining around many sections late on Friday.

When the group concluded last night it was not clear what officials would present tomorrow. It is unlikely though to be the slim text many would have liked. On some issues, such ‘Workstream 2’ covering pre-2020 action, clean text is likely. On other issues, heavy bracketing may hide growing consensus, which could only require political intervention to resolve.

For example, reports suggest on differentiation a more sophisticated and constructive understanding now exists among a broad group of Parties. Todd Stern, the US climate envoy, also remarked in a press conference today that he saw a coalition of high-ambition countries emerging.

These positive signs show that an overwhelming majority of countries are still seeking to build an ambitious deal. Much work remains to be done over the remainder of COP to ensure this happens, however.

The pivot that begins tomorrow, as the process moves from the official to the ministerial level, is vital to success next week. The same is true of the role played by COP President, French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, who assumes full control of the negotiations on Saturday.

Fabius will have a challenging week ahead of him. If he inherits a complicated text tomorrow, he will need a strong team of minister-level facilitators and the support of high-ambition countries. Together this coalition will need to cajole, persuade and, in a small number of cases, isolate those Parties who do not (yet) share the vision of an ambitious and durable Paris agreement.

With ministers beginning to arrive in numbers over the weekend, the stage is now set for a re-introduction of the political vision and ambition that world leaders set out at the beginning of COP. With much work to do, it’s time for Parties show the world that they mean business.


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