More action emerging and more needed: Six months until new international climate agreement in Paris

Preparatory climate negotiations have concluded in Bonn, Germany and greater clarity has emerged on the path to Paris. Countries need to pick up the pace in the final six months if we are to have the kind of international action that our children and grandchildren need.

As I said in my final statement on the meeting:

"All around the world, we are witnessing a groundswell of climate action -- from companies, governments and financial institutions. Now there is a clear path for our leaders to make the necessary, bold decisions in the coming months that will ensure historic international action on climate change."

Here is a summary of the key elements that emerged the last two week.

Negotiating agreement has a much clearer path forward. Countries spent the past two weeks trying to make the draft negotiating text more manageable to help Ministers make decisions on the key crunch issues for the climate agreement. They streamlined the draft text, as all countries recognized that time is short before Paris and there is a need to speed up the process. No one wants a train-wreck where the draft negotiating text is a mess just weeks before leaders meet in Paris (as was the case for Copenhagen). As a result, countries gave the co-chairs of the process the mandate to produce a draft text no later than July 24th. And most countries urged the chairs to produce this document in early July as there are a number of Ministerial meetings in June and July that can help provide guidance to negotiators. This draft document will help to formulate the key options in a clearer and more concise fashion. And it will help to distinguish key elements that should be in the legal agreement and what could be in an accompanying set of decisions.

Countries were assessed on their progress to meet their current targets. The next round of countries was formally reviewed on the progress they are making to meet their emissions reductions targets including Canada, Japan, and Australia. It was quite clear from the assessment that Canada is off track to its target and that Australia's new actions just don't add-up. This formal assessment is an important tool to hold countries accountable and to put them in the spotlight to defend their domestic progress.

More countries announced their post-2020 targets or the outlines of their proposed emission reduction commitments. Morocco became the first Arab country to announce a target and they were joined by Ethiopia announcing its proposed target. These were welcome announcements. Unfortunately Japan floated its proposed target and independent assessments show that it is too weak. And South Korea has just proposed a set of targets for public discussion that show a lower level of effort than they committed to in the Copenhagen/Cancun agreements. China signaled that its formal target will be announced in June and New Zealand reaffirmed that they will announce their target in mid-July.

And in informal sessions countries that announced their targets earlier this year, including Canada and the United States, presented publicly to other countries what they had formally submitted. This provided some opportunity for countries to better understand these targets and to raise questions. After all, this was the first time countries formally met after this early round of targets was announced.

A groundswell of climate actions is emerging. In Paris this December, a "Lima-Paris Action Agenda" should help to encourage new and scaled-up commitments and strengthen the tens of thousands of actions already underway worldwide to combat and cope with climate change (as my colleague Jacob Scherr discussed). Emerging this past week is a clear recognition from countries, NGOs, business leaders, states/provinces, cities and others that we need actions from all players in the coming decades, not just national governments. And Paris will be an important opportunity for this groundswell to be better captured, cultivated, and mobilized.

The agreement from the Group of Seven countries provided momentum for the Paris agreement. These countries committed to significantly decarbonize their economies and reaffirmed the need for strong financing tools to help developing countries build low carbon and climate resilient economies.


This past week showed clearly that more action is emerging this year. This December will be a critical moment to agree on new international commitments to address climate change and help build a greater groundswell of actions on-the-ground.

Let's hope leaders of all stripes spend the next couple of months delivering the kind of strong actions that the world needs.