Good COP, bad COP: Will Paris cli­mate sum­mit pre­vail?

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

PARIS: “Copen­hagen”. The mere men­tion of the Dan­ish cap­i­tal’s name can send a chill down the spine of even the tough­est cli­mate ne­go­tia­tor. It was there in De­cem­ber 2009 that high hopes for a le­gal pact to curb cli­mate-harm­ing green­house gases came crash­ing down as diplo­macy foundered in ex­tra time. Now, six years later, 195 na­tions will try again, this time in Paris. Much has changed in the cli­mate arena since 2009, and ob­servers say there is rea­son to be hope­ful that ne­go­tia­tors may fi­nally seal some sort of deal. “The world has learned some valu­able lessons from the ex­pe­ri­ence in Copen­hagen,” former US vice pres­i­dent turned cli­mate ac­tivist Al Gore said.

A key dif­fer­ence is that heads of state and govern­ment, who swooped in at the end of the 2009 sum­mit, have been in­vited to at­tend only the first day in Paris. When lead­ers failed to reach con­sen­sus six years ago, a hand­ful among them rep­re­sent­ing key play­ers such as the United States, Euro­pean Union, Ja­pan, China, In­dia and Brazil-hud­dled to­gether to thrash out a face-sav­ing “ac­cord”. In­stead of rat­i­fy­ing it, shell-shocked del­e­gates sim­ply “took note” of the non-bind­ing doc­u­ment-an event French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande re­mem­bered this week as “an im­mense fail­ure”.

“It was the worst mo­ment in my life,” Mal­dives ne­go­tia­tor Am­jad Ab­dulla said. “We all worked very hard day and night. And at the very last minute we were told there is a text be­ing ne­go­ti­ated by the heads of state,” he re­called. “You can’t just... pick... some peo­ple and say this is the draft, take it or leave it. That’s what hap­pened in Copen­hagen.” To avoid a re­peat, sum­mit host France has opted to leave heads of state out of the nitty-gritty hag­gling over text. In­stead, they will give back-to-back speeches on the first day of the Novem­ber 30-De­cem­ber 11 marathon, seek­ing to im­bue it with a sense of mis­sion.

‘Small text’

Bu­reau­crats who have been ham­mer­ing out a blue­print for the last six years will take a fi­nal stab at draft­ing, and then leave it to min­is­ters to seal the deal. Another change is that del­e­gates to the 21st an­nual Con­fer­ence of Par­ties (COP 21) in Paris will work with a much slim­mer draft, weigh­ing in at 55 pages. “This is the first time be­fore a COP that we have such a small text. Be­fore Copen­hagen we had 300” pages, France’s cli­mate ne­go­tia­tor Lau­rence Tu­biana said.

There are other rea­sons to ex­pect a more pos­i­tive out­come. The risk has come into sharper fo­cus as sci­en­tific ev­i­dence has ac­cu­mu­lated since 2009 of mankind’s dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on Earth’s cli­mate sys­tem. At the same time, many now ar­gue that shift­ing away from cli­mate-harm­ing fos­sil fuel makes not only en­vi­ron­men­tal but also eco­nomic sense. “The cost of so­lar power has halved since 2010 and re­new­ables are in­creas­ingly cost com­pet­i­tive or even cheaper than car­bon-in­ten­sive fu­els,” said World Re­sources In­sti­tute cli­mate ex­pert Jen­nifer Mor­gan.And on a po­lit­i­cal level, ob­servers say Paris has more buy-in. In the build-up, some 170 na­tions re­spon­si­ble for more than 90 per­cent of green­house gas (GHG) emis­sions have sub­mit­ted car­bon-curb­ing pledges. They in­clude num­ber one and two pol­luters China and the United States-both per­ceived as a drag on the Copen­hagen process. This time, they have joined forces to be­come the en­gine of COP21. The pledges for Paris are vol­un­tary, or “bot­tom-up” in cli­mate jar­gon, rather than im­posed “top-down” tar­gets, op­posed by Wash­ing­ton and oth­ers.

Ev­ery­one’s talk­ing

Ac­cord­ing to Ja­panese ne­go­tia­tor Aya Yoshida, the level of mu­tual trust ahead of Paris is “far, far bet­ter”. “At least we have a talk­ing turn, we know what the oth­ers are think­ing about,” she told AFP. “We have much more in­for­mal meet­ings, we have much more con­ver­sa­tions.” Many say the ji­hadist at­tacks that killed 130 peo­ple in Paris lit­tle over two weeks be­fore the sum­mit may forge a com­mon re­solve among na­tions, many of whose lead­ers said they de­cided to come in fact to take a stand against vi­o­lence.

Some things, how­ever, have not changed since Copen­hagen. Rich and de­vel­op­ing na­tions are still at odds about how to divvy up re­spon­si­bil­ity for emis­sions cuts, and who should pay. “I’ve seen this movie,” Venezue­lan ne­go­tia­tor Clau­dia Salerno warned at a com­bat­ive meet­ing last month, where de­vel­op­ing na­tions ac­cused rich ones of us­ing “apartheid” tac­tics to wipe their core de­mands off the ta­ble. “I hope this is not go­ing to be just a re­ally, re­ally nasty bad sec­ond Copen­hagen,” Salerno said. But UN cli­mate chief Chris­tiana Figueres said there was “no com­par­i­son” be­tween the two, “other than, you know, they are on the same con­ti­nent”.

— AP

PASIG CITY: Hun­dreds of stu­dents per­form to launch an ad­vo­cacy by the Govern­ment’s Na­tional Youth Com­mis­sion (NYC) that aims to en­hance pub­lic aware­ness on cli­mate change at the Rizal High School cam­pus at sub­ur­ban Pasig city, east of Manila, Philip­pines yes­ter­day.

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