COP21: Week 1 Insights

As the week comes to an end, Paris has shown some interesting colours as world leaders have hustled to make their climate pleas known. Coming into the week, the expectation was that Paris must bring-forth a long-term, realistic agreement that limits global warming to less than 1.5C and strengthens resilience to climate change. Although there…

logocop21-ppalAs the week comes to an end, Paris has shown some interesting colours as world leaders have hustled to make their climate pleas known.

Coming into the week, the expectation was that Paris must bring-forth a long-term, realistic agreement that limits global warming to less than 1.5C and strengthens resilience to climate change. Although there has been an apparent slow progression, pressure builds as leaders labour to amend the unfulfilled ‘Hopenhagen’ and work towards fashioning sufficient binding agreements. Although many were doubtful that this climate change conference would sprout the necessary results, it is proving to be more hopeful than expected. Little has been said in the way of “100% Renewable Energy by 2050” but there has been significant progression towards global climate action- or at least promises for action.

Some of the prominent actions include:

  • China (who is the Number 1 emitter of Carbon Dioxide) has taken a stance to upgrade its coal-fired power plants to reduce the discharge of pollutants by 60% before 2020.
  • African heads of state launched the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), through which the continent is expected to deliver at least 10 gigawatts of new and additional electrical installed capacity by 2020. The goal is to achieve universal access to energy on the continent through the use of renewable energy.
  • More than 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets have made some form of divestment commitment.
  • Rich countries pledged $100 billion at the Paris conference to help poor countries combat the climate change that the rich countries are largely responsible for
  • Developing countries have been particularly bold at the conference with the most passionate being the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) making advances with the richer countries. The US has been proactively engaging with small island states on the issue of how to rebuild after severe and unavoidable loss and damage caused by climate change.
  • Indian negotiators have indicated that their country is willing to cut back on its coal use if sufficient money for renewable energy emerges from a Paris agreement.

Although much progress has been made, there are still various protrusive issues that are proving to be contentious. As predicted by many prior to the conference, finance has been constraining the progress of decisions. Finance has been called a “sticking point” as there are disagreements about how, and how much, to compensate for the potential damages of climate change on developing countries. Differentiation is another issue that has emphasized the divide between the developed and developing countries as there are clashes on the topic of what actions need to be taken and by whom.

As this week comes to an end, there are still many decisions to be made and disagreements to be overcome. A draft text for a global climate agreement was announced on Thursday morning and negotiators are now tasked with the job of refining this document before handing over to COP president Laurent Fabius on Saturday.

Written by Tiffany Chalmers

Tiffany Chalmers acquired a BA Honours in Environmental and Geographic Science earlier this year and is now volunteering at Food & Trees for Africa.

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