A Double Helping from #CoP21Paris

9th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

This evening, Wednesday 9th December 2015, a double dose. The first from Professor John Sweeney, Ireland’s premier climate scientist and the second from Ian Lumley our Heritage Officer

John Sweeney - The Fault Lines Emerge

By this stage in the second week, COPs usually enter a crucial stage where the negotiations hit a wall. The issues are always the same, namely how the principle of Historic But Differentiated Responsibility(CBDR) is handled. Essentially, how much mitigation by the Developed Countries will occur and how much climate finance will they guarantee to the Developing World to aid their sustainable development and climate adaptation strategies. How should rapidly developing countries such as China, Brazil and South Africa be accommodated in a new world order of climate governance? Positive sentiments often give way to hard realities at this stage, and so it was today.

The culmination of the consultations thus far was expressed in a Draft Agreement document circulated by the COP President this afternoon. It is always the crucial Presidential action in all COP meetings. For the first time the noble statements of intent are crystallised in print and countries see who has had their concerns acknowledged, and who has not.

Thus it was today (Wednesday). The late night session of the Paris Committee was quite a brutal affair with country after country criticising the draft text offered by the Presidency. Of course trying to satisfy the demands of 194 countries is an impossible task and the language of the draft ultimately had to be vague enough to keep countries on board, and specific enough to be meaningful. For the first time this week countries used language such as ‘red line issue’ and ‘not negotiable’.

How much is posturing and how much is genuine is difficult to ascertain, but for the first time this week the mood turned rather pessimistic. Many countries interpreted the text offered as unbalanced, but from different perspectives. Indeed the Malaysian delegate took the interpretation further by claiming the text could be considered balanced on the basis that it antagonised everyone to some extent. The issue of targeting not a 2oC rise in temperature over pre-industrial levels, but rather a 1.5oC rise, has emerged as a major issue for many developing countries. The issue is especially considered a national priority for the Small Island Developing States. Of course this is understandable, given their inevitable demise should warming beyond this level continue. The reality however is that the world has already warmed by 1oC and there seems to be a disconnect between the science and the policy on this issue. To avoid a further 0.5oC of warming would probably require global peaking of emissions to have happened a decade ago and net negative greenhouse gas emissions to occur within the next decade. The insertion of such an aspiration in the final agreement is likely, but how operationalising it would occur in the context of a legal agreement seems not to have been thought out.

A similar issue arises for Loss and Damage which has also re-emerged as a major issue for the Developing World. How this would be operationalised in the context of financial transfers is extremely difficult to envisage. If the final agreement has legal status, can we envisage litigation efforts targeting countries following?

For all negotiations a point comes where a risk of overplaying your hand. This point is being approached with the risk that the Developed Countries could walk away from any agreement if compromise does not occur tomorrow. This would be a failure that is not currently being considered and the active intervention of the President to force compromise may yet be required.

Ian Lumley – An Taisce’s Heritage Officer

The experience is being an observer at the Paris #COP21Paris is overwhelming, with 45,000 reportedly accredited in different categorises in a vast complex of buildings.

The entire objectives to reach an agreement is happening in closed negotiations by national Governments, with progressive amendments emerging on line and through information filtering out as to where the points of disagreement are centred, and presented in evening plenary meetings to observers.

The lessons of Copenhagen 2009 where observers were left for hours queuing in the cold have been learned in the impressive French organisation of transport access and venue at Le Bourget. Arriving at the venue there is a central covered area forming a street between enormous hangar like buildings Within there is extensive use of mainly unpainted rough plywood partitioning subdividing the interior spaces into Government delegation meeting rooms and pavilions, press and media, general meeting and conference rooms, and NGO exhibition stands including the International National Trust Organisation of which An Taisce is part (photo attached)

For an observer the options of how best to constructively engage are huge. The key role of observers is in following the progress on the emerging agreement text and through their organisations, and wider networking, lobby national delegations to support or reject amendments. Today provided the opportunity for the Irish NGO contingent with includes representatives of Oxfam and Trocaire to meet Minister Alan Kelly and the Irish Government team

Parallel to the main negotiations are what are innocuously called "side" events. This is a continuous daily programme of presentations many of which would rank as significant international gatherings in their own right. Over the last three days I have been able to attend presentations and discussions on Climate Justice, the Carbon Budget, renewable energy, energy efficiency, integrating climate action with public health, new technologies, the City Mayors initiative and financing. Most moving have been the pleas of the people of the Pacific Island nations facing immediate threat.

The calibre of the meeting platform presentation is impressive with national politicians and big city mayors , leading climate scientists, climate campaigners, representatives of and advocates for the countries most at risk, and Directors General or senior figures in so many global bodies like the International Energy Agency and the World Health Organisation.

The climate scientists Bill McKibben from the US and Kevin Anderson for the Tyndall Institute Manchester delivered an uncompromising message on the need for rapid immediate emission cuts, and the untenable justification for fracking. The Scottish Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced developing country support and other initiatives by Scotland on top of that of the UK government. I was at a number of events led by the French Environment and Energy Minister Segolene Royal. Yesterday she hosted an inspiring platform with Mary Robinson and Vandama Shiva on the role of women which was given wide media converge.

The presentations on linking climate action with public health have been particularly impressive. Leading health experts and professionals are now treating climate instability and food insecurity as the systemic public health risk for the coming century. The overlap between climate emission impact and public health threat extends for from air pollution and respiratory damage to floods compromising sewage treatment and drinking water supplies. It was so relevant today to learn the news from Ireland today on the rising Shannon flood threat

The public health case for climate action on mitigation and adaptation, achieving the benefit of cleaner air and the need to mitigate health risk, is a potential breakthrough in advancing what has been to date the inadequate public and political support for climate action . An Taisce was able to raise this as a specific issue in discussion with Minister Alan Kelly today

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Note 1: The INTO (International National Trusts Organisation) stand at CoP21 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEekJuaDNNRTk5bFk/view?usp=sharing