The first week of negotiations was marked with national leaders and actors cheering, a draft text,  the launch of a Solar Alliance and a $500million fund for developing countries.


Modi Announces Solar Alliance (Bijli= Electricity) Credits- www.thelotpot.com 

Amidst all the negotiations onsite, cities,  local governments and famous actors met at Paris’ City Hall to discuss climate initiatives during the Climate Summit for Local Leaders on 4-6 December.


Celebrity, meet Mayor-  Celebrities endorse city-based climate action (credits- Getty Images)

Mayors discussed heating cooling, reliance on fossil fuels and released a report on finance at the meeting.

This report on the State of the City Climate Finance, which urges cities to invest in resilient and low-emission infrastructure, put a price on carbon, leverage existing financial institutions and innovate new funding models.

If cities outsource climate action to private actors, they reduce their financial and administrative burdens, but action is often mismatched.

One of the main problems with local action so far was the disconnect between local governments and funding for implementation (largely from non-state actors, particularly businesses). Now that Michael Bloomberg is envoy for cities, and also in the head of the Global Climate Taskforce, which will show companies what they risk to lose with climate change, it will become seemingly easier to match proposed action with funding.



Bloomberg doubles up as special envoy for cities and head of Global Climate Taskforce (Credits- Forbes.com)


The Text

Mentions of subnational action in the text is still in the same context- in the preamble, in recognition of capacity building, adaptation and mitigation, and to promote cooperation. The text uses “local” and “subnational” synonymously and each word appears 11 times in the 5 December text, in the same context. The word “cities” appears only twice, in the section on non-party actors and cooperation; local and subnational governments are also referred to in these clauses. Though the word cities appears only twice in the text, subnational actions in cities are more prominently publicized, and may be the focus of subnational action in collaboration with the UNFCCC.

What remains

The three main challenges to climate action are institutional, financial and capacity building. By piggybacking on local financial institutions as recommended by the State of the City Climate Finance, institutional and financial problems will be greatly reduced. Capacity building is recognized and called for in the Paris text, and cooperation amongst cities laterally, and vertically with nations, regions and international organization will increase capacity building. Now what remains is ironing out how to execute this, and then executing it.

And finally…

It seems that the UN and national governments are becoming more and more receptive to the stance  that…


and finally...
“To change everything, you need everyone.”

(Credits- WWF)

On 8 December, cities and regions will discuss the role of  cities and subnationals at a side event. For a schedule of events on local/ city/ subnational action, follow this link

Duke @ COP21: Day 2

We joined the RINGO (Research and independent NGOs) group meeting in the morning. It is great to meet with students and faculty from different disciplinary from all over the world. Today substantive negotiations really started picking up. While spinoff group meetings are completely closed to observers, we were able to sit in on the contact group overflow rooms as well as plenary rooms to watch the sessions. Jess, who is working for her client International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development at Climate Generation Zone this week, shook hands with French President Hollande! Let’s hear from our crew about their observations and thoughts!

We took the advantage of the free electric vehicle shuttle provided by COP21.  It was a smooth and fun ride!
Kait: I got a late start to day 2 due to my search for a cell phone SIM card, so I missed the first ADP contact group. In the afternoon I sat in on 2 side events; one concerning mitigation in developing countries and one about renewable projects in developing countries. The most interesting part of the day was hearing about all of the amazing projects developed countries are undertaking in developing ones. For example, Finland is paying for clean energy projects in Africa, including an 8 MW solar farm in Rwanda (which is built in the shape of Africa!). Another group ECN has been helping Latin America strengthen its modeling skills so the countries can start helping to inform important policy decisions regarding energy and mitigation.

Join a virtual COP tour with Kait by reading her latest blog post!

Will:  Theo and I listened in on an ADP group tackle several sections of the agreement. Well, the original plan was to tackle several sections, but the delegates got stuck on the very first line. In discussing how the UN would later adopt the Paris agreement, a delegate from Tuvalu asked to insert the phrase “under the context of Article 17,” harkening back to a two-sentence article outlining how countries should notify the UN that their national legislatures have agreed to the yet-unborn Paris agreement.

The United States cautioned that they would need time to consider this move, and Saudi Arabia objected outright. This led to a testy exchange involving Russia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Tuvalu. An hour later, no one was exactly satisfied, and Saudi Arabia moved to bracket the entire section.

The co-chair was visibly annoyed, and delegates made no discernible progress toward an agreement, but watching the personalities and conflicting agendas unfold on this global stage was fascinating. Later in the day I caught a great session about technology transfer and the business community and will follow up with more thoughts from that presentation.

Theo and Will concluded their day 2 by discussing the issues in ADP negotiations on the way back.
Theo and Will concluded their day by discussing the issues in ADP negotiations on the way back.

Theo: ADP, ADP, and more ADP. The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) finally opened its doors to observers yesterday, and my afternoon was largely spent watching the negotiations unfold. The two main topics discussed? 1) Adoption and implementation measures for whatever new agreement emerges next week and 2) the new structure for Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs). It was an eye-opening experience to see just how slow negotiations can move. Consensus is a hard thing to come by, and countries sure did not hesitate to block paragraphs and clauses they disagreed with. Once can only hope the pace picks up this week if the draft text is to be finalized by Saturday. More ADP sessions tomorrow!

Jess: On day 2 I witnessed the grand opening of the climate generations area where there are over 120 stands, 400 conferences, more than 60 film screenings, and several exhibits. Its located right next to the COP21 venue and the highlight of my day was when I was in the right place at the right time and shook hands with French President Francois Hollande when he visited the new site. During the rest of the day I visited the various booths and kept an eye on the progress, or lack thereof, of the negotiations.




Ever wanted to know what the inside of a COP looks like?

When we see pictures of a COP online its often a shot of the large plenary room where negotiations are taking place, but trust me the venues are so much bigger with so much more going on! So instead of writing about the inspiring speeches from world leaders yesterday, or the side events I attended today I figured I would give you all a brief tour of the venue.

Welcome to #COP21 !!



As you walk into le bourget (the venue) you are greeted by the flags of all the parties to the convention.



The main walkway of le bourget is know as “Champs Elysees.” It can be a little confusing to find your way around at first, but luckily there are directions and maps all over.

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Expected Business Community Positions at COP 21

Happy afternoon in Paris on the first day of COP 21! So proud to know a few great Duke Nicholas/Sanford students in attendance this year, and I’m very excited to follow your news over the next two weeks.

I’ll be tracking the business community’s response to the negotiations. To kick off my series of upcoming posts, I’ve outlined a few things I think we can expect from the private sector.

  • Call for clear signals to the private sector on the future of climate policy. The International Chamber of Commerce has strongly urged the UNFCCC to make unambiguous statements on climate action goals in order to send a clear signal to businesses about the scale of investment required in upcoming years. Greater certainty will enable companies to pursue strategies and business opportunities in the context of carbon goals and, eventually, a price on carbon. Without that certainty, companies fear volatile regulatory environments and are less likely to make meaningful investments in less carbon intensive practices and clean technology.
  • Promotion of party consultation with the private sector on INDCs. The ability of individual nations to achieve their mitigation goals will depend in large part on industry ability and willingness to actively pursue lower carbon practices. There is also a need to ensure that INDCs accurately capture the activities of the private sector to prevent either inaccurate claims or additionally issues of ‘double counting’ the contributions of non-state actors towards climate goals. There may be calls for incorporation of language to that end in the preamble, Article 3 (Mitigation – role of the private sector), Article 9 (Transparency – clarity on private sector role in national action), and the description of INDCs under the Draft Decision.
  • Strong advocacy around enabling environments for private investment – especially IP protection. The transition to less carbon-intensive economy requires huge investment to transform current industry practices. Even greater private sector investment is required to delink the burning of fossil fuels and economic growth. The business community position is often framed as the protection of ‘competitiveness,’ a stand-in description for pro-business policies including intellectual property protection, good governance (low corruption), and low entry barriers in new markets. These issues, especially the question of IP protection, are central to the negotiations over technology transfer and, to some extent, climate finance.

Avoiding the “zombie” deal at Paris

The media hype surrounding the upcoming Paris meeting is at risk of positioning COP21 as the “be-all and end-all” of climate agreements. In a recent report, environmental think tank E3G addresses the danger with this line of thinking. The Paris agreement, they suggest, should not be treated as a one-off event, but instead should be viewed as an important political opportunity in the broader context of global climate change objectives.

“Paris is the agreement but importantly it is also the political moment. Paris should be empowering, it should open up the political space in the future.” –E3G

To emphasize the position of COP21 as a political moment, instead of an isolated agreement, E3G developed a list of three possible political scenarios that could be created by the agreement. These scenarios illustrate the precarious position of the negotiations as a tipping point for climate action. The value of this analysis is that it does not outline specific policy outcomes, but rather addresses the shape of potential outcomes, in an effort to identify political areas where ambition can be increased. To this end, the report includes a “checklist” of potential textual indicators that position the agreement within the different scenarios.

Political scenarios

“Le Zombie”

In this scenario, the least ambitious of the three, the Paris agreement takes on the form of a tactical deal, decided at the negotiator level. The deal is limited to countries that have already submitted INDCs, lacks precision, is unstable and at risk of future collapse. Textual indicators of this scenario include vague language anchoring INDCs in the text, with no indication that they will be implemented. The mitigation goal is limited to a “low carbon transformation” with an imprecise “end of century” timeline. Further, there is no link between adaptation and mitigation efforts or the ambition mechanism, and loss and damage is not addressed.

“Comme ci, Comme ça”

This middle-of-the-road scenario provides some guarantees on financial and adaptation support, and the agreement arises from collaboration between parties. However, the outcome will not garner enough momentum to survive on its own, and therefore will need continual support going forward. Indicators of this scenario in the text include intent to implement INDCs, an ambition mechanism that references but does not directly involve finance and adaptation, and the development of an adaptation cycle to assess progress every five years.

“Va Va Voom”

The most ambitious political scenario, the “va va voom” deal is driven by leaders across developing and developed nations. In this agreement, all major components of the deal are addressed and enough detail is included to maintain 2oC as a realistic goal. The agreement provides clear guidance for both current and post 2020 action, ensuring an enduring regime. Indicators of this scenario in the text include clear and specific language anchoring INDCs in the text, and an ambition mechanism that is linked to finance and adaptation. Further, this scenario sees loss and damage addressed in the core agreement.

Potential for an enduring agreement

These three scenarios are described in an effort to bring attention to the political “space” that remains open within the agreement – space that can ultimately be used to maximize ambition and secure an enduring agreement. Fortunately, there is potential for Paris to capitalize on this space, due to the presence of multiple opportunities that make the global political environment conducive to an ambitious agreement.

E3G suggests that COP21 should take advantage of existing political and economic “tailwinds”, such as political momentum to address climate change driven by NGOs and the public, as well as momentum on divestment and the unstable nature of oil and gas prices. Parties should also aim to inscribe the voluntary emissions reductions set out in the INDCs into the Paris text, in order to keep the reductions ambitious but honest. Current INDC positions get close to the 2oC goal, but do not quite close the mitigation gap, so ensuring that countries take immediate and long-term action to see these goals through, as well as voluntarily increase ambition, is essential.

The Paris agreement has the potential to rebalance mitigation and adaptation, which is essential given that the current emissions path will not reach the 2oC goal. In fact, even if this goal is met, the impacts of climate change will still be felt worldwide. Therefore, the agreement must equally address the necessity of mitigating emissions, as well as dealing with inevitable climate impacts both currently, and looking into the future.

Finally, the Paris agreement comes at a time of strong multilateral politics worldwide, which provides an opportunity to capitalize on collaboration. The fact that there are large emitters working together, as illustrated by the US-China bilateral agreement, illustrates that there is a global interest in securing an agreement. This environment provides a unique opportunity for the Paris agreement to set out a collaborative, ambitious, and enduring climate deal.


INDIA’s INDC- “Working towards Climate Justice”

India’s INDC (Intended Nationally-Determined Contribution) was released just before the 1 October deadline for COP21. This article voices some preliminary observations.

India’s INDC[1] is ambitious and relies largely on external funding. While targeting an increase of 3.5-5 billion tons of tree-based carbon sequestration by 2030, the INDC supports “Make in India” and invites investments for low carbon growth– as the per dollar emissions reduction is greater in India than in developed countries.

With current emissions less GDP-intensive than developed countries historical emissions, India believes in the common but differentiated responsibility but agrees to reduce its emissions sharply, subject to funding. India also speaks of increased vulnerability, loss and damage due to extreme and creeping weather events to livestock, coasts, crops and health- particularly increased malaria and dengue; leaving the door open to negotiate funding at Paris.

India aspires to increase its Human Development Index (HDI) and access to infrastructure while preserving and improving the environment. As “a large forest cover provides huge ecological benefits, but there is also an opportunity cost in terms of area not available for other economic activities and this also serves as an important indicator of fiscal disability”[2], 7.5% of the state’s grant (approx. 7 Billion USD) from the federal tax pool will be based on the forest cover. This incentive to preserve and increase forest cover does not seem to prevent old growth forests from being replaced with younger trees. In fact, the current government is a strong advocate of a compensatory afforestation scheme that does not prohibit this.

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