Politics of Poverty

Dispatches from COP21: Five essential elements of a good climate deal for the poor

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Demonstrators with banner reading: "false solutions COP21 No peace without climate justice" in front of the "Solutions COP21" exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. Photo: AFP

COP21 negotiations have been progressing smoothly thus far, but as ministers sit down this week to shape the final deal, there’s still a lot at stake for poor countries.

As expected, we’ve had a busy first week here in Paris. More than 190 country negotiators have been working furiously to agree on the final text to hand over to country ministers and kick-off the official, high-level COP negotiations — a goal that was achieved mid-day on Saturday.

Besides the normal tensions between country negotiators, the process thus far has gone surprisingly smoothly, dominated by a constructive, hopeful tone. Truly, everyone seems a bit friendlier and less sleep deprived than in years past.

Today, the text will be handed over to the COP Presidency, Laurent Fabius of France, who has the unenviable task of overseeing the process of translating the almost 50 page document into a legal agreement. Behind the scenes, Ministers are already hammering out some of the thornier issues. Here are five issues to watch as we reach the try to achieve the best possible adaptation package for poor people by the end of the week:

  • Adaptation finance goal: Rich countries must, at the very least, respond to the recent proposal put forward by African countries that asks them to commit to a substantial increase of adaptation support over the next five years. This will build trust and help the difficult negotiations on climate finance post- 2020.
  • Scaled up finance over time: Poor countries are demanding that rich countries build off of the $100 billion that they put on the table as their annual climate finance contributions by the year 2020. The hard truth is that least developed countries alone will face adaptation costs of at least $50 billion in 2025, and that’s just adaptation. The money on the table has to increase, especially if the deal doesn’t get us what we need to avoid the worst climate impacts.
  • Process for agreeing to new collective finance targets: It’s clear that countries will have a hard time putting dollar figures on the table for years well into the future, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t establish a process for doing so. At the very least, countries need to establish a process by which they will come together every five years to set collective targets for addressing climate finance needs in poor countries. The text is there, but we need more rich countries to step up and support it.
  • New countries contributing to climate finance: We’ve already seen large emerging economies, like China, and even least developed countries, like Vietnam, stepping up with near-term finance commitments to support the most vulnerable. But a thorny issue in the negotiations has been whether or not developing countries are expected to put forward financial support in future years, beginning in 2020. Ministers need to articulate that countries willing to step up with support, whether developed or developing, should do so. Everyone has to do their part.
  • Increase mitigation ambition: It goes without saying that we must have a deal that is as ambitious as possible and gets us to a place that avoids dangerous climate change. While we already know that national commitments put on the table before Paris do not get us to the recommended 2°C threshold, there are important things countries can and must do to scale up ambition over time. Most importantly, countries need to come together to put new targets on the table by 2020 and it needs to include a commitment to strengthen or “ratchet down” these targets over time. If we don’t achieve this here in Paris, it will be hard to consider the deal historic.

As the Ministers sit down to hash this all out today, there’s a lot to watch. Oxfam is keeping track on all of this and more, so stay tuned for more updates throughout the week. We know the world is watching and holding out hope that we can get a good, long-standing deal here, and we’re working the halls every day to make that happen.

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