Prue Pickering, The Climate Institute

24 Nov, 2015

Next week the UN climate negotiations (called COP21) start in Paris. This meeting is aiming to build an agreement that facilitates stronger domestic policies for limiting pollution. For the first time, this agreement will call for domestic actions from all countries - a critical step toward keeping warming below the 2°C threshold. This blog outlines what we can expect from COP21.

Momentum keeps building:

Throughout 2015 we’ve seen huge momentum continuing to build behind action on climate change.

167 countries now have emissions reduction targets for the post-2020 period, representing 93 per cent of global emissions. Not a single major meeting of the G20, the IMF, the World Bank, global business leaders or defence officials without climate change being on the agenda. Leaders of all faiths are speaking out. And money is flowing out of fossil fuels and into renewable energy. Global investment in renewable energy has increased by 30 per cent since 2009, totalling more than US$1.12 trillion according to the US Department of Energy.

What will an effective agreement look like?

Paris will be effective if it builds on this momentum and encourages governments to ramp up domestic action on climate. Because ultimately, international treaties don’t limit greenhouse gas emissions, but domestic policies do.

While governments have been stepping up this year, we’re still not on track to keep warming well below 2°C. To help bridge this gap the Paris agreement should meet these three criteria:

  1. Is the agreement bankable? The Paris agreement can help catalyse the investment needed to transition out of fossil-fuels by sending strong signals to industry that government’s will continue to ramp up effort over time. This can be done if governments agree to routinely revisit their commitments, making them a little stronger with each visit.
  2. Does it build trust and accountability? Trust is key to successful international climate action. Greater global success can be achieved if the agreement includes credible rules and processes to ensure best practices are shared, and countries’ actions are transparent and internationally accountable.
  3. Is it fair? The world’s poorest nations are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They are often the most exposed to impacts, and have the least capacity to invest in zero carbon development and increased resilience. These countries have also contributed the least to carbon pollution. The Paris agreement can reduce these inequities by providing a mechanism for predictable support to help these countries participate in zero carbon solutions and the management of climate change risks.

To contribute to Paris Australia should: improve its own emission reduction targets so that they are a fair contribution to the 2°C goal, provide additional climate finance with a particular focus on adaptation projects and our Pacific neighbours, bolster domestic policies so that we can meet ambitious emission reduction targets, and support key elements of the agreement such as routine target update cycles.

In the event that the agreement is not as strong as we would have hoped, global momentum and action on climate change won’t stop. But it may become fragmented and concentrated in regions where the financial impetus for action is stronger, like in China and the EU. For governments, the real work begins after Paris when they come home and put policies in place to meet their international commitments.

For more information watch the Climate Institute’s animation on COP21 here or visit their website for all things Paris, including regular updates from the negotiations -

  • Prue Pickering, The Climate Institute
    Prue Pickering, The Climate Institute

    Prue joined TCI in 2015 and will be on the ground in Paris for COP21. She has worked engaging young people with the climate negotiations at the last three climate summits and completed an internship in the US Senate earlier this year. Prue has a Master of Environment, majoring in governance. 

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