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OPINION: Taking stock of COP21, looking forward to 2016

Sam Bickersteth, CDKN’s Chief Executive talks about CDKN’s role in the lead up to and during COP21 – and the negotiations support work that CDKN plans to continue in the new year.

For many people, the 1997 Kyoto climate change agreement proved to be a disappointment. Among the many reasons for this, is the fact that despite climate change being a global challenge, the agreement was not universal and included only the most developed nations.

What was needed was a game changer – and that was exactly what was unveiled last month at COP21.

For the first time in history, we saw all 195 countries gather in Paris to reach a universal and ambitious agreement to halt dangerous climate change. This comes after almost 20 years of complex and at times acrimonious negotiations.

How did we get here?

Throughout much of this period, many developing countries have been doubly disadvantaged – suffering some of the worst effects of climate change, they have also had the least capacity to negotiate effectively to secure a sustainable solution. Typically arriving in small numbers for United Nation (UN) meetings, they were unable to prepare as effectively as their more developed counter parts and their voice was rarely influential.

In 2011 the Department for International Development (DFID) responded by appointing CDKN to manage the Climate Advocacy Fund, which aims to enhance the capability of negotiators from the least developed, small island and African nations.

Since then, our CDKN team has delivered over GBP10 million of valued support, building the wider climate diplomacy efforts of these groups and countries and providing training provision, strategy development, research, and media advice – and matched up sub-contracted innovators, researchers, lawyers and facilitators working with the developing country negotiators.  (This negotiation support programme is just one element of the £130m programme of work that CDKN is delivering for DFID, the Dutch Government and other donors).

Making an impact in Paris

Backed by effective teams and clear strategies, the Least Developed Countries, the Small Island Developing States and the African Group of Negotiators emerged strongly in the Paris climate talks.

Current and past LDC Chairs Giza Martins (from Angola) and Pa Ousman Jarju (from Gambia) and Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, played key roles in shaping the text, bridging differences between Parties and informing the media.

Minister de Brum in particular stood out in his role as a leader of the High Ambition Coalition that emerged in Paris and led to the game changing result of keeping the pathway towards a 1.5 degree limit with ratcheting five-yearly reviews.  Minister Jarju wrote after the COP to thank CDKN and the group of experts for its “immense contributions towards the Paris Agreement and the LDCs in particular”.

It’s not the end… just a stage in the journey

The Paris Agreement frames future economic development pathways for the least developed and most climate vulnerable countries as an element of the Sustainable Development Goals. Since Rio+20, there is commitment for the of post-2015 development goals to take over after the Millennium Development Goals and the establishment of the new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Since Rio+20, there is commitment for the of post-2015 development goals to take over after the Millennium Development Goals and the establishment of the new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.). And this will increase the flow of finance for both the low carbon and climate resilient investments needed to deliver on the national climate plans (the INDCs).

But huge implementation challenges lie ahead as countries strive to channel the funds, develop good investable proposals for both private and public financing, and shift the policy environment at sufficient speed to achieve the 1.5 or even a 2 degree target.

Another post-Paris challenge on which the credibility of the Agreement and heightened ambition is dependent, is the assessment and review of emissions. For developing countries forests and land use are a critical sector and during COP21, CDKN secured new support from the Norwegian Government to develop the capacity of forest dependent countries in their measurement and reporting of forest related emissions.   CDKN will be working with a group of developing countries and continuing to address these challenges alongside policy makers and leaders from the private and public sectors.

The Paris agreement is in many ways just the beginning, with some complex and intense negotiations still to be had to make the deal a reality. So, with an eye on the future challenges, the CDKN team will continue to provide support to these sectors and country groups.


Image: credit Pankaj Kaushal,

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