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OPINION: Reflections on the road to Paris

Teresa Ribera, Director of IDDRI and former Secretary of State for Climate Change for the Government of Spain, describes how the Government of France is preparing for COP21 in a consultative way. She asks whether this promising approach could apply to other global policy processes.

The year 2015 is crucially important in terms of the promotion of an alternative future. Issues that are high on the agenda include: how to improve finance for development; which sustainable development goals will enable the mainstreaming of a consistent and integrated approach to development challenges; and what context will help accelerate global climate action in the years ahead

One of the central aspects of this renewal of international action on sustainable development is a better integration of development and environmental issues. Irrespective of the country, meeting the climate challenge requires the invention of new development trajectories. Similarly, social progress will only be ensured if it is accompanied by risk reduction and better climate resilience. The same applies to the solutions to be implemented, as shown by the example of investment decisions: logically, investors are placing an increasing focus on the risks associated with climate change and the adaptability of territories. And although there remains much work to be done, the consideration of environmental issues in development aid (and vice versa) is growing. In a context of scarce public resources, it is especially important that investments are evaluated in terms of their benefits for development, but also for their co-benefits for climate, while taking future risks into account.

The need for a holistic approach is one of the main lessons that can be drawn from the ongoing coordination for the preparation of the COP21 in France. The government has set up an ad hoc steering committee whose first mission is to organise the conference. Beyond this concrete objective, however, the way the steering committee was established, its membership and a full awareness of the highly sensitive connections between the three agendas could provide insights into a more permanent way to ensure internal coherence within national governments, to build a truly inclusive approach to the different issues underlying the notion of sustainable development.

The membership of the steering committee, which is chaired by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, includes the Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy; the Minister of Finance and Public Accounts; the Minister of Agriculture, Agri-Food and Forestry; the Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie; the French Development Agency; advisers to the President of the Republic; and representatives of those in charge of the organisation of COP21. Such a broad representation is necessary because issues relating to climate, and particularly to the successful preparation of an international climate conference, must involve discussions that go beyond international and environmental matters. Likewise, the way sustainable development issues are tackled could benefit from this opening up and convergence of expertise and practices. In fact, such an approach is probably the best way to ensure an increasing consistency and strengthen win-win options across different policy agendas.

In France, this task has been organised in an even more expansive way: representatives of cities, as well as members of Parliament and experts from research institutions are part of this joint effort to determine the best way to tackle the challenges ahead in a coherent and comprehensive manner.

Could this represent a model that should be considered when thinking through new ways to improve development policies?

More than ever, it has become essential for barriers between subjects to be broken down: between development and the environment; between public and private financing; between investors and project developers, etc. We must build bridges between communities and institutions, which are too often separated according to issues or scales (local, national, international). This also requires the implementation of new forms of governance that are capable of managing such complex, multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder issues.

Beyond 2015 and its many events, how will these structures evolve in future? Can we imagine a continuation of the ad hoc committee in a permanent and institutionalised way? In any event, the months following COP21 will provide an ideal opportunity to explore this idea.


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Image: Paris, France courtesy Moyan Brenn,


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