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Paris climate talks: 1 week, 3 documents, little progress

event report

At the end of a frustrating first week, all the grand words from world leaders on Monday seem a long way off.  One week into the Paris climate talks, there has been very little concrete progress on the most critical aspects of how to respond to the climate crisis.

There has been next to no progress on agreeing a temperature target, with steps on to how to achieve it.

There has also been little progress on finance for vulnerable countries to adapt to, or help them deal with, the impacts of climate change

This past week was also meant to simplify a draft text for the next round of negotiations in week 2.

But instead of 1 document, we now have 3. So that worked well.

I’m hoping for a less frustrating second week, with fewer words and more actions.


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On the bright side: carbon markets out (for a bit)

I’m trying to keep positive though. It’s not 100% empty words and inaction. Happily, the inclusion of carbon markets in the years before 2020 looks increasingly likely to be quashed.

Carbon markets have no place in a climate agreement. They allow countries to use offsetting instead of focusing on true emission reductions.

After campaigning against carbon markets for 5 years, we’re delighted.

We still need to fight them in the years after 2020, though. But there is a good chance they’ve been put to bed for the next 5 years.

What’s in the texts so far (the nerdy bit)?

Back to the texts (what’s the collective noun for documents? A drove for documents? A troop of texts?).

At the end of week one:

  • More countries seem to recognise that 2 degrees of warming is a dangerous level and that 1.5 would be preferable. But if you add up all the pledged action from all countries we’re still on a pathway to 3 degrees of warming. So, nice words guys, but ultimately meaningless if you’re not going to act upon them.
  • Discussions on emissions reductions have moved quite far. The concept of “net zero emissions”  has been removed. This would have relied upon false solutions like carbon capture and storage or offsetting, while not really reducing emissions enough. And aims for full decarbonisation remain, although the timescales have been weakened, with the emphasis on the end of the century.
  • However, it really feels like emissions reductions have been pushed ahead at the expense of all the other areas of discussion that are designed to help poorer, developing countries adapt to, and recover from, the impacts of climate change. There still isn’t any agreement in these areas.
  • In many of these areas, developed countries are still trying to push their responsibility on to middle-income countries like India and the Philippines.
  • Despite the US still pushing back against a legally binding emissions target, this is still on the table. It’s not anywhere near guaranteed, but we still could end week 2 with a legally binding target. This is good, but deeply unfair unless there is also a legal commitment to help poorer countries achieve that target. The countries, like the US, who are responsible for the majority of climate change cannot pass the buck to poorer countries, leaving them with legal commitments that they cannot meet without support.

What happens in the second week of the climate talks?

The week 1 negotiations are now closed. There are now 3 documents and some, or all of these, will be forwarded into week 2, when ministers from around the world arrive to work on them.

Post written by Rachel Kennerley, 5th  December 2015

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