Sunday, December 13, 2015

How the World Learned Its Lesson and Got a Climate Deal

Participants are seen in silhouette as they look at a screen showing a world map with climate anomalies during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 8, 2015. (Reuters/Stephane Mahe) Click to Enlarge.
For the survivors of Copenhagen, the key to success in Paris would be preparation.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon complained that the political leaders had not been well-prepared for the Copenhagen meeting, and this time he and the French conducted extensive advance work to get other leaders personally engaged.

They also decided that, if leaders were to come to Paris, they would do so at the beginning to lend the talks some political oxygen, rather than arriving for a scramble at the end.

So on Nov. 30, the sprawling conference hall near the Le Bourget airfield on the outskirts of Paris hosted world leaders, who were supposed to deliver three minutes of encouragement.
The opening day speeches were seen as a success.  UN officials were relieved at the relatively cooperative tone from Russian President Vladimir Putin who was among several leaders who assured Ban privately before the outset that Russia would not block a deal, UN officials said later.
Facing unbudging demands to put their financial commitments into legal language, U.S. negotiators knew they had to break the poor vs. rich country divide.  Their tactic was to sign up to a loose coalition of countries called the High Ambition Coalition.
As Paris approached, it expanded to include African, Caribbean and Pacific nations, developing an agenda that included the goal of keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels by the end of the 21st century.

The number had almost been banished from serious discussion ahead of Paris.  But the American decision to “join” the High Ambition Coalition brought the 1.5 goal back into play, sweetened with pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars to help island and developing states mitigate the ill-effects of climate change.

Although the promise is only aspirational, the re-emergence of references to 1.5 degrees in the Paris text brought several influential developing countries into the U.S. camp.  Soon Canada joined, then Australia and Brazil, a collection of wealthy, heavy-polluting western countries marching into the plenary hall alongside the Marshall Islands.

China’s negotiators dismissed the High Ambition Coalition as a stunt.  “This is a kind of performance by some members,” said Liu Zhenmin, deputy head of the China delegation.  But the solidarity of the developing nation bloc was broken.
There was to be one last hiccup.  The final text had settled on 143 items prefaced by “shall,” 40 with “should.”  But in one section, the words appeared to have been flipped.

Suddenly, there was a delay in the hall where delegates had convened amid smiles and air kisses to seal the deal.

Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister who presided over the conference, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left the room, replaced by rumors of trouble.  But then the French minister was back.  A technical glitch, he explained, brought on by the fatigue of a drafter.

The organizers announced corrections to a few typographical errors, and tellingly switched one last “should” for a “shall” before Fabius swiftly brought the gavel down.

Read more at How the World Learned Its Lesson and Got a Climate Deal

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