8 Dec 2015

Re-COP - Day 9 at the United Nations summit for the climate

By Luca Bonaccorsi in Paris and the BirdLife Team in Brussels

Welcome to Paris; the capital of France and, for the next two weeks, the world's climate capital. Thousands of people, including 151 world leaders, from 195 countries have descended on the 'Parc des Expositions Paris le Bourget' site aiming to agree on a deal which will reduce global carbon emissions. Below you can follow Team BirdLife and some of the main talking points at COP21.

Twitter: @BirdLife_News / @BirdLifeEurope - #BirdsTellUs / #COP21
Facebook: BirdLifeInternational

Day 9 - Tuesday 8th December

17:00 - If you haven't had a chance yet, check out the website we've launched for our climate change report The Messengers here.

The countdown is indeed on at COP21:

16:00 - How much money is being pledged for the Climate? An interesting article from China Dialogue here, summarising most of the available info so far. The target of getting $100billion by 2020 doesn't seem so far on paper! Climate finance is a crucial element of the negotiations.

15:00 - BirdLife's CEO, Patricia Zurita, has been meeting with the President of IUCN, Mr Zhang Xinsheng at COP21:

She's also popped in to see our Partners at LPO, who we're sharing a space with in the Climate Generation area - give them a visit!

14:00 - Just 4 days to go and in the very messy, gigantic, COP21 venue some key facts have finally emerged.

Firstly, there will be an agreement: we will have a Paris Treaty. Too much political capital has been spent by world leaders for Paris to end like Copenaghen. The agreement will be long but not too long, detailed but vague enough, binding but only on a few issues. It will be full of good things and bad things (from an environmental viewpoint). This really raises the question: will we even be able to assess its global value? Well, of course we’ll do our best. It’s just not going to be as easy as it used to be.

Second fact: the key issues are clear. The first one being ambition. Should the Treaty aim to limit average global warming to no more than 2°C? Or should it be more ambitious and aim for only a 1.5°C average rise (as many developing countries and small Islands states are asking)? Surprisingly enough, the consensus for a more ambitious Treaty is growing. Even the US could decide not to oppose it, as long as the goal was “collective” and generic enough as to not require going through Congress (which would sink it).

Thirdly: the overall goal (+1.5°C?) must be approved at national level. And that’s where we have problems. As things stand, the self-assigned national targets (the notorious INDCs - Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) do not add up to that, but to a rather scary +2.7°C. However, amazingly enough, even this hurdle could be overcome. Setting generically ambitious non-binding targets is something that negotiators could live with.

Fourth: the devil is in the detail. The review. The point is: when and how will the national plans (NDCs) be reviewed to check that the country is on track with its de-carbonisation goals and who will be doing the reviewing? Clearly this is a big issue. The protocols and rules to do proper reviews are in place, but.....they’re just not very popular. But this is a crucial battleground. Even more so than the “binding” nature of the set goals. We could live with non-binding targets as long as their progress is thoroughly and regularly assessed. Keeping everyone on-board is essential: a slow and painful process is always better than no process. But non-binding targets, coupled with unreliable reviews, is not a process.

Fifth: money, money, money. Lowering your emissions costs money and some newly industrialised countries will not accept bearing that cost on their own. With good reason, to be honest. The strongest example is India. The only way of getting the Indian giant to accept ambitious NDCs and stop burning its cheap coal is to guarantee enough funding for renewables. Funding the transition to a low carbon economy is a crucial issue. The US chief negotiator yesterday referred to it as “broadening the donors’ base”. It is the diplomatic formula for asking for more contributions from more states.

So what is decided and when? - Well, most probably, nothing will be until the very last moment (when everything then will be). The many details of the agreements must be seen as pieces of a complex jigsaw. Every country participates in different tables (funds, technology etc.) and will only assess at the end if all pieces constitute an acceptable deal. Tomorrow, however, we will have a “Draft2” of the Treaty text, which will hopefully provide insights on the direction of the negotiations.

And what about us? - Well we have one big concern and complaint: the “nature narrative” is largely missing. We know that renewables are crucial, but we also know
that if not properly planned and sited, renewable energy can have serious environmental impacts. This is often the case with hydro power - which can destroy entire river basins - and has been the case with the wrong-headed development of biofuels, which has gobbled up huge amounts of land (leading to the destruction of forests and wetlands, and fuelling land grabs). And we know that healthy ecosystems are the most efficient adaptation tools available. For life to adapt to climate change we need more nature. Now this is a crucial element which is largely missing in the language of the agreement. Something we need to work on.

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13:00 - Action at the COP21 Eiffel Tower this lunchtime by NGOs - Countries urged to follow the 1.5degree path (limiting average global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels), not the 3 degrees the current text will most likely lead to if agreed:

National Ministers from the delegations were also invited with a number in attendance - promising to follow the 1.5degree path:

11:00 - Today is Africa Day at COP21 - coincidentally next year's host (of COP22) is Morocco!

09:00 - Day 9 at COP21 and major actions planned to make sure an agreement isn't just an agreement for the sake of it - ecosystem integrity fundamentally important. For anyone at the COP site, an action planned by Climate Action Network this afternoon: