Politics of Poverty

COP21: What success for us all looks like in Paris

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Global climate negotiations begin in France on Sunday. Photo: http://bit.ly/1T4UMN8

There’s a lot on the line at the climate negotiations in Paris. We’re there, working to make sure that whatever deal is made, that it’s a fair one for us all.

As I head to the UN climate negotiations in Paris, I am flooded with a mix of emotions. Many of us who work on international climate change issues, and policy, in particular, have been investing in these talks for years. And while the UN negotiations in Copenhagen six years ago were largely viewed as a failure, even with some vitally important commitments made there, the past year has demonstrated that a sometimes mind-numbingly complex multilateral process can still serve to drive action and ambition.

For example: we have witnessed unprecedented bilateral cooperation between China and the U.S. as both countries have put forward meaningful domestic emissions reduction contributions. At the same time the OECD and other public finance institutions have signaled a shift away from dirty coal investments in favor of cleaner energy sources. Importantly, nearly forty countries, including many developing countries, have pledged and delivered finance to the Green Climate Fund, and 160 have submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which together will form the basis for the climate deal itself. And many companies have adopted science-based emissions reduction goals, deforestation commitments, and 100% renewable energy commitments. The list goes on, signaling that momentum has shifted. We are getting somewhere!

But we still have a long way to go. And working hard to deliver a strong outcome in Paris is imperative, though we know that even that won’t be enough to fully address the climate chaos we face. A report just released by Oxfam found that developing countries face losing $1.7 trillion annually to their economies by the middle of the century if global average temperatures rise by three degrees, which is within the range of what a Paris deal could deliver.

I am excited to join my Oxfam colleagues from around the world in Paris in the hope that we will finally take significant steps forward and really deliver for the millions of poor people on the front lines of climate change. With this in mind, here is what we believe are the key elements of success in Paris:

  • Includes a commitment to address the adaptation finance gap and to scale up climate finance (e.g., $100 billion floor to support low-carbon, climate resilient growth in developing countries; at least 50% public finance for adaptation; new contributors and sources of climate finance).
  • Lays out a strategy to increase mitigation ambition over time, to ensure global temperatures stay at or below the 2°C threshold (e.g., 5-year review and revision cycles for national mitigation targets designed to spur progressively more fair and ambitious commitments by all countries).
  • Contains a long-term goal that signals a transition to an equitable renewable energy economy.
  • Recognizes the ‘loss and damage’ that vulnerable communities face, and includes a mechanism to provide technical and financial support to those communities.
  • Is a durable, legally binding agreement that provides the foundation for stronger action down the road.
  • Additional bilateral commitments made that address the emissions and finance gap by supporting developing countries in implementing additional actions that require support be stepped up.

If the recent wave of horrifying terror attacks have taught us anything it’s that we need to stand strong as a global community in the face of challenge and catastrophe to address the root causes of global instability and injustice. Perhaps there has never been a more appropriate a time to unite to address one of the greatest challenges the world has ever faced.

If not now, when?


This blog is a part of Oxfam America’s ‘Dispatches from COP21’ blog series. Stay tuned over the next couple weeks for more commentary and analysis from Oxfam staff on-the-ground in Paris.

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