The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing discussing the climate deal that came out of the 2015 Paris climate change conference, as well as what lies ahead for the 185 countries that pledged to reduce their emissions. The agreement set an ambitious goal of keeping warming significantly below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), in line with the international consensus that any warming above that level could lead to very serious consequences for the planet. The agreement specifies that each country will submit a more ambitious climate action plan every five years, showing a clear progression in emission reductions. In addition, the deal includes guidelines for countries to self-report their progress in meeting commitments, and a schedule for nations to meet and take stock of the progress made.
However, it is important to note that although every country has pledged to reduce emissions, none of these pledges are legally binding. The pledges so far will not reduce warming to below 2 degrees Celsius; according to data from the Climate Action Tracker, if countries stick to their commitments, warming should stay below 3 degrees Celsius. A target funding level for assistance to developing countries has not yet been set, although the agreement stipulates that funding will be more than $100 billion per year and will begin in 2025. Finally, in at least 55 countries (responsible for about 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions), the agreement will need to be ratified or approved, leaving it uncertain whether they will be able to stick to their commitments.
Dr. Dan Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, U.S. State Department
- Dr. Reifsnyder, the former co-chair of the Ad Hoc Group on the Durban Platform (which set the stage for the Paris agreement), spoke of the negotiating process behind the Paris agreement and how Paris differed from previous negotiations.
- The negotiations that led to the Paris agreement officially began in 2012, following COP-17 at Durban which established the Ad Hoc Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, or ADP. ADP met throughout 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 under three different sets of co-chairs. One of the co-chairs was always from a developed country and the other from a developing country.
- The Parties did not produce a negotiating text until February of last year, in Geneva, when Dan was co-chairing with Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria. The co-chairs’ job at Geneva was to revise an existing 39-page document with “elements for a negotiating text” that was created at COP-20 in Lima (Peru). The co-chairs had to revise the text before May 2015.
- To ensure the draft text was seen as legitimate, it needed input from every Party. The co-chairs asked all the Parties to contribute, with two rules: every proposal had to be read publicly at a plenary session, so everyone would know who asked for what, and every proposal had to be submitted in writing, so the co-chairs knew exactly what was asked for.
- What emerged from this process was the “Geneva Negotiating Text,” which was 86 pages long and represented a compilation of the Parties’ views.
- The ADP co-chairs then met in Bonn to consolidate and streamline the 86-page text, and eliminate options (there were 18 such options for a single paragraph). They managed to reduce the text by four pages, a frustratingly slow pace.
- At the June Bonn meeting, the Parties agreed to many very critical steps to advance the deal. In particular, the Parties agreed to work with textual consolidation prepared by the co-chairs, to help reduce and streamline the number of options. This may seem simple, but there was so much distrust that it was pretty radical at the time.
- Ambassador Djoghlaf and Dr. Reifsnyder agreed to put together a draft negotiating text, and used a negotiating “tool” to eliminate fluff without eliminating ideas or concerns. However, by the end of the September session, people were concerned that progress was too slow, and asked the ADP co-chairs to move forward more rapidly on the text.
- For the October session, the co-chairs produced a “nonpaper” that had nine pages of agreement text, 26 articles, and 11 pages of related decision text, reducing the Geneva paper from 86 pages to 20. This generated a lot of controversy, but was the single most important precursor to the Paris negotiating text, because it gave parties a workable template from which to fashion a deal.
- The Paris agreement ultimately consisted of 12 pages, 29 articles, and 19 pages of related decision text. It largely followed the shape and structure of the October agreement.
- What was different about the Paris negotiations? A lot.
- The negotiations didn’t really begin in Durban; they began in Copenhagen, which set a lot of important precedents (Green Climate Fund, record mitigation actions, etc.)
- Most negotiations take place under a single chair, who is elected at the outset and serves for the entire negotiation. The ADP had co-chairs, and they switched three times.
- It is generally accepted that the chair can propose text for the negotiation; in this case, the text was really “Party-driven” and proposed by the Parties.
- [Note: Dr. Reifsnyder was unable to give all his remarks due to time constraints. The full text of his remarks can be found here].
Bruno Fulda, Counselor for Ecology, Transportation and Energy, Embassy of France
- Fulda stated that the Paris deal is not the end; it is the start of a new process, and there is a lot yet to be done.
- COP21 was a success because it had plenty of time to conduct the negotiations, beginning in Copenhagen in 2009, and because there was so much political will to make the negotiations a success. The U.S.-China bilateral agreements on climate paved the way for an agreement, as did Pope Francis’s visit to the United States and the papal encyclical.
- The bottom-up approach to the negotiations helped, as negotiators spoke to many sectors of society (businesses, towns, cities) and received more than 180 contributions from NGOs.
- France worked closely with Peru (host of COP20) and is now working closely with Morocco (host of COP22).
- Unfortunately, due to the terrorist attacks in Paris, a planned March on Climate, similar to the one that took place in New York in 2014, had to be cancelled. They were expecting 1 million people on the streets of Paris.
- The Paris agreement is ambitious and universal. It’s universal because all the Parties have signed it. It is ambitious because it has a two degrees Celsius goal (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and a 1.5 degree Celsius stretch goal.
- The agreement is dynamic. It has a review mechanism to ensure that targets are being met and continually revised to be more ambitious. There will be an initial review as early as 2018, even before the agreement comes into force in 2020. The agreement establishes a common framework of transparency, so that commitments and contributions can be tracked and accounted for.
- The Paris agreement is also fair and inclusive. Every country must act, but it differentiates between developed and developing countries. Rich countries are responsible for helping the most vulnerable countries by providing $100 billion in annual financing by 2020.
- The involvement of civil society was very important in the negotiations. NGOs, cities, and businesses around the world helped the negotiators.
- The Lima/Paris action agenda, which has 10,000 stakeholders in 180 countries and 70 cooperative initiatives, is an example of the critical work of civil society. Initiatives include the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition, which has $230 billion in decarbonized assets; the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation, which has mobilized $1 billion to adapt river basins to climate change; and the International Solar Alliance between 120 countries to attract investments in solar energy.
- France will preside over the Conference of the Parties until the handoff to Morocco. Paris has three priority areas for 2016: to have the agreement signed and ratified by 55 percent of the parties, representing 55 percent of global emissions, enabling the agreement to come into force; to prepare the implementation of each country's climate actions; and to ensure immediate action – we cannot wait until 2020 to act.
- France is committed to Mission Innovation, a 20-country public-private collaboration which aims to double R&D investments in clean energy technology over the next five years.
- The maritime sector, HFCs, and aviation are not covered by the COP process, and will need to be considered in 2016. Just a few days ago, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) came out with new standards for aviation.
- France will be one of the first countries to ratify the agreement (they hope to ratify it before the summer) and President Hollande will come to the United States upon completion of the ratification. France has raised a lot of money for climate aid, is working on electrification in Africa, and is using public diplomacy to help the COP be more efficient.
- 2016 will be a year of action and mobilization, not only for governments but for all stakeholders. As we move forward to a less carbonized economy, it is important to have everyone build upon the foundation that was developed in Paris.
Dr. Georg Maue, Counselor for Energy and Climate Policy, Embassy of Germany
- Germany is quite happy with the Paris agreement. Although it initially wanted a legally-binding agreement, the German government understood that this was not possible given the situation in the United States.
- As far as Germany is concerned, not much has changed since Paris, since the country's climate and clean energy actions are already well underway.
- The centerpiece of its climate policy is the Energy Transition, or Energiewende. This has very ambitious targets to drive down emissions: Germany wants to reduce its emissions across all sectors 80-95 percent by 2050.
- Energiewende means fundamentally changing the power system to decarbonize it by the end of the century. Currently, 45 percent of Germany's electricity comes from coal. It aims to have renewables generate 80-90 percent of its electricity by midcentury, with the rest coming from gas. Germany want renewable energy to account for 60 percent of total energy production. It also wants to increase energy efficiency by 50 percent by 2050.
- Germany now generates 30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, and has more than tripled its renewable energy generation in ten years. This is working quite well for the country. But challenges remain:
- Challenge 1: Driving down German greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Without achieving success in the coal sector, it won’t meet this target.
- Challenge 2: Tapping the energy-saving potential of buildings: we can save 80 percent of our energy use with more efficient buildings.
- Challenge 3: Providing better grid infrastructure in Germany. It has a lot of clean electricity in the north (especially wind, onshore and offshore) but demand is predominantly in the south. The country will also need electricity storage.
- Challenge 4: Electricity distribution must move past baseload capacity, and must focus on demand response, smart grids, and distributed generation.
The influence of the Paris Climate Conference has spread beyond the governments involved, with over 2,025 businesses publicly pledging to reduce their carbon emissions. In the United States, 154 companies—with a combined market capitalization of more than $7 trillion—have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, committing to take significant climate actions. Additionally, 28 of the world's wealthiest investors have pledged to invest a combined $2 billion (including $1 billion from Microsoft founder Bill Gates alone) in clean energy research and development over the next five years. The private sector's support is critical in the effort to meet and surpass government commitments on climate.