"We must do it. We can do it. We will do it."
This was the message from Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework on Climate Change, who is leading talks at COP21. However, negotiators are likely to be feeling the pressure now, especially amid fresh calls for the global warming target to be reduced to 1.5°C rather than 2°C. So far we have seen two new drafts published since the Conference began, but the text still stands at 46 pages long. By noon tomorrow, they need to have a far simplified draft text which has significantly narrowed in options, ready for Environment Ministers to finalise next week. If they are unable to achieve this, there is a real risk that the Copenhagen fiasco will be repeated. Given all the hype and anticipation ahead of COP21, it would be even more disappointing, not to mention humiliating for world leaders, if the Conference ends with only a simple, high-level compromise agreement.
A key question yet to be answered is the duration of the COP21 agreement. Parties have suggested various options – anything from 2030 to 2100, or even for the agreement to be “durable forever.” The somewhat optimistic latter option seems rather unrealistic but anything sooner than 2050 would be surprising as much is referenced against this year, and the turn of the century. At the 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen, parties stated their determination to limit global warning to 2°C between now and 2100. To achieve this, it was estimated that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 40-70% by 2050 and that net zero emissions must be reached by the end of the century. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect the length of the agreement to at least correspond with these target dates.
A key factor in this is likely to be the role of the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) and whether there is a mechanism contained in the agreement allowing them to be increased over time. As long as there is, the commitments made can remain relevant and can adapt with changes in technology. If a 2°C rise is agreed upon in Paris, there must be a mechanism to allow parties to increase their commitments in the future. More stringent emissions reductions are going to be required, especially as the INDCs aren't even sufficient to meet the 2°C target in their current form.
Today's LPAA Focus session on Private Finance highlights another crucial element in the success of COP21, namely the role of the private sector in helping to raise $100 billion per year by 2020. We have highlighted previously in this blog the significant investments being pledged by private individuals and companies, and today has seen many more. However, clarity on the long-term global trajectory of carbon emissions is required in order to bring certainty to investment, as more will undoubtedly be needed. To this end, the private sector also calls for a framework which respects intellectual property rights and creates opportunities for partnerships with government in order to incentivise such investment.