From the point of view of someone who has worked on climate change for over two decades, the political momentum demonstrated at the Paris COP21 was incredible to witness. From heads of Government, to mayors, to leaders of business and the investment community, there was a clarion call – bold action was urgently needed to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
Leading up to Paris most countries had already tabled their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), setting out what they were prepared to contribute towards confronting climate change. In a real sense, and unlike the run-up to previous COPs, the significance of these pledges could not be underestimated – countries were ready and willing to take action.
However, as vulnerable countries already feeling the impacts of climate change testified, and with the aggregated level of the INDCs likely to limit temperature rise only to 2.7ºC above pre-industrial levels, these commitments were insufficient.
So, with national commitments already on the table before talks convened, the question was how would these be framed? How would they be incorporated within a legal agreement that was sufficiently ambitious, fair and transparent?
Ambition: The purpose of the Agreement is to hold temperature increase “well below” 2ºC and to aim for a 1.5º limit. Achieving this will require achieving net zero emissions from 2050. Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient investments is another explicit, core objective.
Fairness: The provisions of the Agreement are embedded within the context of sustainable development, including promoting human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality and intergenerational equity. A new adaptation goal and managing climate risk for resilience and adaptation are central to the Agreement.
A legally binding durable framework: Five-year cycles of reporting, reviewing and progressively increasing commitments are required to achieve the long-term goal. Details on transparency rules and compliance modalities will be decided at the first meeting of the Agreement.
How will success be achieved?
- The Paris Agreement is a legally binding treaty that will drive climate action for many decades with the following key provisions:
- Emission reduction commitments from 188 countries formally starting in 2020.
- Enters into force once 55 countries (covering 55 percent of global emissions) have acceded.
- Transparent legal regime where all countries make commitments to reduce emissions and manage climate impacts.
- Countries to review and increase emission reductions every five years towards greenhouse gas neutrality by mid-century.
- Global goal on adaptation and focus on managing climate risk and strengthening adaptive capacity, including minimizing loss and damage.
- COP Decisions: a set of decisions were taken with immediate effect to accelerate climate action from 2016 ahead of when the Agreement enters into force.
- Crucially this includes a 2018 review of how collective actions are contributing towards achieving the Agreement’s objectives to identify how to enhance ambition by 2020.
- Developed countries continue providing a minimum of $100bn/year until 2025, with a review before then on longer-term provision of finance.
- Lima – Paris Action Agenda (LPAA): running parallel to the formal negotiations, a large number of actions were announced by coalitions of countries, regions, cities, investors, and businesses. These wide-ranging, ambitious announcements reinforce and strengthen momentum for implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Paris certainly marked an historic turning point. For the first time strong political will, momentum within the real economy and an effective multilateral process successfully converged.
With the essential elements in place the hard work for implementation begins. The goals of the Agreement underscore the need to begin immediately translating individual countries´ INDCs into clearly mapped investment plans and for mobilizing finance for sustainable infrastructure, business and livelihoods before 2018.
Aligning finance flows to deliver the Agreement’s goals has clear implications for the development finance and investor communities alike. Risk-managing such a transition will require strong multi-stakeholder partnerships to leverage the human, natural and financial capital involved.