02 Dec 2015

Day 3 – is the 2ºC target realistic?

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Talks continue today within focus groups, however, the content of these discussions has been kept very much under wraps. Reports suggest that progress is slow with most of the square brackets contained in the draft text, demonstrating disagreement, still remaining. There continue to be encouraging announcements by governments though, indicating that commitment to combatting climate change is not waning. For example, France is set to invest €2 billion in renewable energy in Africa, a continent particularly vulnerable to climate change due to poverty and a heavy dependency on rain-fed agriculture.

Aside from the legal form the agreement will take, discussed in yesterday's blog post, the effect of the INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions) is also uncertain. Countries were required to submit INDCs prior to COP21. A report prepared on the basis of the aggregate effect of the INDCs has indicated that collective levels of contribution from the INDCs are insufficient to achieve the target of a 2ºC temperature rise. Instead, a 2.7ºC rise is more likely, and given many have suggested even a 1.5ºC increase is damaging, this is concerning and could undermine the success of COP21.

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So the question remains as to whether INDCs will be renegotiated in Paris in order to try and achieve the target or whether the agreement will instead provide for voluntary increases of INDCs in the future. Currently, the draft agreement includes an option for members to review their INDCs every five years, enabling them to evolve with developments in science and technology. It is also unclear whether the INDCs will even be legally binding and whether countries will be under a legal requirement to meet their target, and if so, what the consequences would be for non-compliance … one for the lawyers to debate in the future!

The NAMA (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions) Fair has also taken place this afternoon. NAMAs are initiatives implemented by developing nations to achieve sustainable development while contributing towards the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Fair aims to showcase developing countries that are taking the lead in design and implementation of NAMAs. Developing countries have a large part to play in the success of COP21 and securing their cooperation is fundamental. However, they have concerns over the impact of climate change initiatives on their economic growth. This perceived conflict is highlighted by the fact that despite countries like India and China submitting INDCs promising to reduce or cap emissions, they are simultaneously approving the construction of additional coal plants to accelerate the rate at which their populations are on the electricity grid. The Indian government has made clear that coal will be an important factor in securing the country's growth going forward. One of the key challenges for COP21 is overcoming the notion that climate change initiatives must be at odds with economic growth.

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