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FEATURE: CDKN live commentary from COP21, Paris (week two)

On this live blog, CDKN delegates to COP21 will be sharing their commentary on the numerous side events in which we are involved (see our event programme here) – as well as updating you on the positions of the most climate-vulnerable countries, whose negotiating groups we are offering technical support.

Saturday 12th December

19:00 – In response to the conclusion of the historic Paris climate agreement, CDKN’s Chief Executive Sam Bickersteth said:

“The Paris agreement will frame future economic development pathways for the least developed and most climate vulnerable countries as an element of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Critically, it will increase the flow of additional public and private finance for vulnerable countries for both low carbon and climate resilient investments.

“Ambition, including the pathway towards a possible 1.5C is seen as a lifeline to Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries which could not survive at two degrees of warming. But both this development, and the five yearly reviews will need to be played out through the national climate plans. The reality is, implementation will need to begin immediately, and ramp up shortly afterwards. So while the agreement today is encouraging, if ambition does not continue to increase in future years, then the achievement of 1.5, or even a 2C target, and many SDGs will be in danger.”

CDKN has been providing financial support for the participation of the Least Developed Countries Group in the climate talks. Giza Gaspar Martins, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group said: “We are living in unprecedented times, which call for unprecedented measures. Nothing that has gone before compares to this historic, legally binding climate agreement. The COP Presidency and all parties worked hard to deliver this accord which will move the world to a 1.5 degrees goal, while aiming to leave no-one behind. It is the best outcome we could have hoped for, not just for the Least Developed Countries, but for all citizens of the world.”

8:00 – Ari Huhtala reports: On 11 December the government of Ghana organised a very well-attended side event on the importance of national budgeting in meeting the climate change challenge. National research institutes in Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda have, with technical support from ODI, reviewed their climate-related public spending in recent years and the results show a rapid increase amounting currently to 1.5-2.0 percent of the countries’ GDPs. Ministers from Ghana and Ethiopia highlighted the commitment of their governments to financing adaptation and mitigation action, but the studies revealed that the actual resource requirements are 6-10 times  greater than what can be made available from domestic resources. It is often a choice between resourcing education, health care and climate action, and strong international support to this national action is called for. Countries are also introducing systems to track the flow of national resources to climate related activities, which will help improve transparency of assessing global climate finance flows and the share of developing countries’ own investments in them. Ghana has recently launched a National Climate Change Learning Strategy which will accelerate mainstreaming climate change concerns in sectoral plans and their implementation.


Friday 11th December

12:00 – A ten minute walk from the imposing national pavilions and plenary halls of the Blue Zone, where negotiators, accredited observers, and the odd celebrity stride busily from session to session, is the warmer-hearted little brother – the Climate Generations areas (aka the Green Zone).

Here, ample space has been allocated for over 100 non-state actors’ stands–cities showcase their low carbon initiatives, while NGOs and civil society groups large and small promote their campaigns (with an electricity-generating bike apparently the must-have interactive gadget for many). Open to the public, the focus is firmly on knowledge-sharing and education, and the messages of climate justice and representation of vulnerable groups are loud and clear. CDKN’s Helen Picot reports from the Green Zone.


9:00Last night a revised draft text of the agreement was released by the French presidency of COP21. Kiran Sura, CDKN’s Head of Negotiations Support, says:

The revised text suggests that Parties have finally started to move. Importantly for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) the higher ambition 1.5 degree Celsius goal has made it in to the text, together with a trajectory for peaking emissions as soon as possible and emissions neutrality in the second half of the century. Concessions also appear in the text to take account of the special circumstances of these countries around obligations and finance, but they are  already voicing the feeling that these don’t go far enough. And while this new text gives us hope to be positive, there is still a long night ahead to tackle the tough issues which are left to crack. Momentum has started; it now needs to accelerate.
Thursday 10th December

22:00  – Businesses in developing countries will be at the front line of adapting to climate change. As governments look to the private sector to implement their INDCs, and at a COP where the voice of business is louder than ever, the voice of these critical players is all but missing from the debate. ~Susannah Fitzherbert-Brockholes of CDKN reports.  

I have spent the last few days at COP21 and its associated events with the private sector on my mind. Are they here? What are they saying? What does a global deal mean for business – and in particular those from developing countries? Business is very much at COP21 and has a louder voice than ever before. At the World Climate Summit last Sunday, the self-styled ‘COP for the private sector’, and throughout the week that voice has been clamouring for an ambitious and strong global deal, followed up with policy certainty and carbon pricing to help level the playing field in the transition to a low-carbon economy. But that voice has mostly been coming from businesses from the global North and it is almost entirely focussed on climate change mitigation.

The businesses and people that will be most affected by climate change will be in developing countries. For them, adaptation is critical. Climate risk is not just an issue of business continuity but it is an issue of business survival. It’s not just about damage to balance sheets, it’s about destroying livelihoods. There is no point in having low-carbon development if it is not also climate resilient development. For this, all actors need to be mobilised to accelerate change.

Finance is required for innovative solutions to adaptation challenges. The same thinking that is being applied to creating disruptive change in energy provision needs to be applied to agriculture, tourism and other sectors that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Governments are increasingly looking to business to be the implementers of a global deal, and specifically their INDCs. This will require enterprises large and small, and from developed and developing countries alike. The negotiations seem to be moving in the right direction but there is still a way to go to send the strong and clear signal that is needed. If businesses in developing countries are to be the implementers of this agreement, their voices need to be heard so that they can start to get access to the resources and innovative thinking required to make this happen.

Wednesday 9th December

17:00 – Claudia Martinez of CDKN Colombia reports on a side event for the Power Africa initiative:

The event to Power Africa at the US Center brought together IRENA, the Nordic and other European governments, the newly-launched ‘Women in African Power’ network together with the American government to increase the number of people with access to power.

Power Africa will enable 60 million new electricity connections and 30,000 megawatts of new and cleaner power generation to improve healthcare, education and economic opportunity. 90 % of women in Africa still cook and light with kerosene and wood. Access for finance and technologies, including solar power systems will also empower women as entrepreneurs in energy. The intention of the new ‘Women in African Power’ initiative is to “advance the role and representation of women within the energy sector in Africa.”

The fund has initial money from USA, the Swedish government, the World Bank group, the African Development Bank and $20 billion in private sector commitments with more than 100 partners. First launched by US President Barack Obama during his 2013 tour to Tanzania, donor countries at COP21 in Paris renewed their commitment to mobilise funds to deliver renewable power across the continent to meet Africa’s energy needs.


12:00 – The CDKN team rounds up the previous day’s progress at COP21:

  • The COP President and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has announced that a new draft of an agreement will be released this afternoon.  There will then be a final round of discussions before legal and linguistic experts examine the document. So far, approval of the COP’s presidency’s process has been widespread and unreserved.
  • A ‘high ambition coalition’ has emerged representing the majority of parties at the COP21 – and includes the US, the EU, and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. They are specifically focusing efforts on achieving at least the following four key collective goals:
    • For the agreement to be legally binding
    • To set in place a long term global warming goal based on scientific advice
    • To introduce a 5-yearly review mechanism on emissions commitments to allow them to ‘ratchet up’ goals
    • To create a unified tracking system on progress towards meeting carbon goals
  • The EU announced it will pay €475million up to 2020 to support climate action in partner countries.
  • However, notable exceptions from the group include China and India. The plans for significant investments in coal by both countries are likely what’s leading them to block progress on the inclusion of a sentence requiring governments to reduce support for high emission investments. See this opinion piece from Navroz Dubash and Radhika Khosla at CDKN partner organisation the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, which unpicks the Indian context: “Why India Has a Point at the Paris Climate Talks”.
  • Coalitions involving thousands of international companies (including We Mean Business, CDP, WBSCD, and coordinated by the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group) have issued a letter to Heads of State and Government urging for a clear and specific long-term deal to be agreed. They state that they need to receive a clear message that internationally, governments are truly committed to a low carbon economy.

9:00Christina Elvers and Chris Webb report on the hot debates about food consumption on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Paris – and find that the conversation currently lacks the expertise of consumer marketing specialists.

With COP21 now in full swing, thousands of representatives from governments, civil society and the private sector have descended onto Paris. While the negotiations are going on in a disused airport just outside Paris, a myriad of events are being hosted in parallel all over the city. Claiming to be the largest, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) brought together over 3,000 participants over the weekend to discuss issues concerning sustainable rural landscapes.

Parallel streams of events filled the weekend, on a diverse set of subjects ranging from climate smart agriculture to landscape restoration and indigenous peoples’ rights. At this year’s GLF, the presence of the private sector was particularly noticeable – a huge number of private sector leaders (including the CEOs of Danone and Olam) spoke at the event. It reflected the strong the level of engagement of the private sector, brought to life as well through the many initiatives on display in the exhibition area.

However, whilst many corporates, particularly those with agricultural supply chains, were in attendance, the marketers who are at the frontline of shaping consumer behaviour were notable by their absence. Read Christina and Chris’ full blog: Climate change – bring in the marketing specialists.


Tuesday 8th December

10:00The CDKN team rounds up Monday’s developments at COP21 as follows:

8:00 – Kiran Sura leads the Climate and Development Knowledge Network’s negotiations support team. She writes: During the first week of COP21, the most significant feature for me was the disconnect between the political statements made by heads of state on Monday and the process that has ensued in the talks, since. Granted this was to be expected to some degree, but it hasn’t delivered the momentum the French Presidency was hoping for. The all-too-familiar negotiating dance has prevailed. Testament to this has been the lengthy interventions restating long-standing positions on issues such as differentiation, finance and loss and damage. Read Kiran’s full blog: Fragmented talks impede progress.

8:00 – It was a mixed first week at COP21: negotiations were tense and slow-moving and this challenged the positive mood generated by notable financial pledges and Heads of States’ visit to Paris to open the summit. Amid all this activity, CDKN’s Sam Unsworth takes stock, unpacks some of the action on the side lines and explains why there’s still cause to be cautiously optimistic that a robust and ambitious deal may be reached.

Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands Minister Tony de Brum remarked on Saturday morning that he would not go home to his grandchildren without a deal, citing this journey as being “the most important of his life”. These determined words would seem necessary following a week where negotiators, on the surface, appeared to have made limited progress on the draft agreement. The draft agreement text that has been handed to the Ministers still contains a myriad of options on different elements of the deal, rather than a small number of political issues to be resolved, as had been hoped for. Nonetheless, this was always going to be a challenging political process and it is these politicians who have a lot of heavy lifting to do this week. Read the full blog: CDKN review of the first week of COP21.


Monday 7th December

12:00 – The CDKN team rounds up the weekend’s activities at COP21:

  • The schedule currently shows plans to have a finalised document ready within the next 3 days (in order for it to be translated into the 5 UN languages before Saturday’s sign-off). For a document currently at 48 pages, with 900 square brackets (indicating areas of disagreement) – this will be no easy task!
  • To this end, Ministers have been chosen (in pairings of one developing country and one developed country minister) to lead group discussions on the most sensitive issues: financing, technologies and capacities; differentiation; ambition; pre-2020 actions; adaptation; and the preamble. See Climate Home’s briefing article.
  • Language on international shipping and aviation is now included in the draft text – with references to the ICAO and the IMO, which are not covered in INDCs. However, this calls for a limitation of emissions in these sectors (rather than a reduction) – so it remains to be seen as to whether a) this paragraph will stay in the agreement, and b) if this sector will be let off the hook by the relatively loose language.
  • Following my update sent on Friday – India may apparently be open to accepting a 1.5 degree Celsius target. Their Chief negotiator has stated that the new limit can be accepted (which over half the parties in the UNFCCC also agree with)  – so long as it is rich nations which bear the burden.
  • The heads of some of the world’s biggest companies revealed collective plans towards renewable energy drives. This included giants such as Unilever, Ikea and Google – with Google announcing plans to have 100% of energy sourced from renewables in partnership with CDP and RE100. Unilever pledged to be coal-free by 2020 and carbon positive by 2030, meaning its facilities will generate more renewable energy than needed, which will be sold to communities and markets where the company operates.

11:00 – This weekend in Paris, Development and Climate Days participants heard from Mary Robinson, former Irish President and champion of human rights and climate action, that the world is entering a new era for action on climate justice. She stressed that climate impacts will fall disproportionately on the poorest people. Mrs Robinson said that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in September “will not be very meaningful” without a “robust, binding climate agreement”.

Read the full blog by Mairi Dupar: Mary Robinson – Global solidarity needed to confront climate crisis. 

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