Paris Daily Digest - Nov 30: Heads of Government Set the Stage for Agreement

Here is a brief insider perspective on what is happening in Paris as countries attempt to negotiate a new international climate agreement to put us on a safer trajectory. For more on what should be in the agreement see our summary and issue brief. Below is the update from November 30th (the first day of the meeting).

Heads of Government set the stage for a Paris agreement

Today, heads of state arrived in Paris at the start of the Paris climate conference. Each made a statement in support of a strong Paris Agreement. You can read a live blog of the speeches from the Guardian, but here is the gist of what they said:

  • French President Hollande identified climate as one of the central threats of our time: "These are two big global challenges we have to face up to, because we have to leave our children more than a world freed of terror, we also owe them a planet protected from catastrophes."
  • Secretary Ban Ki Moon said in his statement: We cannot afford indecision, half measures or merely gradual approaches. Our goal must be transformation. The transition has begun. Enlightened investors and innovative businesses are striving to create a climate-friendly economy.
  • President Obama spoke at length about the need for greater ambition in Paris: "Here, in Paris, let's secure an agreement that builds in ambition, where progress paves the way for regularly updated targets -targets that are not set for each of us but by each of us, taking into account the differences that each nation is facing." He emphasized the universality of the challenge, the role of the US in tackling climate change, and the measure of success for future generations. Here is NRDC President Rhea Suh's statement on his speech:
  • Chinese President Xi then stated that "The Paris conference is not a finish line, but a new starting point" - announcing that China's South-South Cooperation Fund would be launching 10 low carbon industrial parks, 100 climate mitigation/adaptation projects and 1000 training opportunities in developing countries.
  • Canada Prime Minister Trudeau announced that "Canada is back" when it comes to addressing climate change and that the country will do its part to reduce climate emissions. Trudeau also noted that all Canadians should expect to do their fair share to meet its future climate- change commitments, which he promised would be "ambitious." These commitments will be part of a Pan-Canadian climate framework, which Trudeau has committed to develop in the 90 days following Paris. During his speech, Trudeau also announced that Canada would contribute $300 million to a clean energy R&D fund and reiterated Canada's recent commitment of $2.65 billion over five years for the Green Climate Fund to support efforts in developing countries to transition to clean energy.

More than two-thirds of Americans want US to join a global climate agreement

A NY Times/CBS News poll found that: "Two-thirds of Americans support the United States joining a binding international agreement to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but a slim majority of Republicans remain opposed, the poll found. Sixty-three percent of Americans -- including a bare majority of Republicans -- said they would support domestic policy limiting carbon emissions from power plants", according to the New York Times.

Major announcements on solar, clean energy innovation, deforestation, and others

A number of high-profile announcements were made today. Here are a couple of the notable ones:

  • New Solar Initiative launched by India and other countries. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President François Hollande, along with world leaders, launched the International Solar Alliance on the inaugural day of the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris today. The solar alliance brings together key countries and invites over 100 solar-rich countries to propel clean energy and protect the climate. The International Solar Alliance invites countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to join, including many African and Asian nations, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, France, China and the United States. Prime Minister Modi estimates $100 billion will be needed annually by 2020 to finance the clean power initiative. Here is NRDC's statement on the new initiative.
  • Energy innovation research and development launched. President Obama, Bill Gates, other world leaders, and other financial players announced two new initiatives to accelerate clean energy innovation and combat climate change. Through the first initiative, "Mission Innovation", twenty countries committed to double government investment in clean energy research over the next five years. The second initiative, the "Breakthrough Energy Coalition", is spearheaded by Bill Gates and a group of global investors to help transform clean energy research into commercial technologies. The coalition will help funnel billions of dollars of early investment into clean energy technologies that have high potential to bring affordable clean energy to a large number of people with minimal environmental impact. So far, 28 investors from 10 countries have joined the coalition, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon founder Mark Bezos, and the coalition is only planning to grow stronger. Here is a press statement from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) on the announcement.
  • Key countries announce funding to help address deforestation. The governments of Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom, whose joint commitment of $5 billion over five years provides positive momentum for much-needed climate finance targeted at tropical forests.

Lots of momentum building from citizens around the world

The day before COP21, over 570,000 people around the world marched and rallied for bold climate action at COP21. Following the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, all public marches in France were canceled. Despite this and in cooperation with the Paris police, ten thousand people from France and around the world linked arms along Boulevard Voltaire to demonstrate support for the negotiations and international climate action. Additionally, thousands of pairs of shoes were placed in Place de la Republique to symbolize those that were unable to march in the streets of Paris.

The plan for negotiating the text this week

The Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) - the technical-level working group in charge of developing the Paris agreement - had their opening session on Sunday evening. After welcome remarks from the Peruvian Environment Minister and the French Foreign Minister (who will lead the process the rest of the two-weeks), the Co-Chairs of the ADP outlined the plan for trying to move the text forward this week. Ministers will take over finalizing this the following week so this outlines the plan to try to move forward the agreement to set up a small number of key issues that Ministers need to help resolve. Here is the plan: (1) All spin-off groups (e.g., technical-level discussions on key sub-issues) will need to complete their work by 6 PM on Thursday, 3 December; (2) by 9pm on Thursday, 3 December the negotiations in the full ADP contact group will need to conclude; (3) a new draft text will be released on Friday, 4 December, by 8 AM; (4) further refinement of the revised text in the ADP contact group with the work finalized before Saturday, 5 December, 10 AM; (5) the ADP will close at noon on Saturday; and (6) the ADP will forward the current status of the negotiating text for Ministers to take-over by Saturday early afternoon.

NRDC in the News about Paris December 30

"This will be the first international legal agreement that has firm commitments from all the major bidders," Jake Schmidt told NBC News. Schmidt told Yahoo News that until now: ""For almost 20 years now, the single biggest barrier to getting international agreement [on emissions cuts] is the fact that the U.S. isn't prepared at home to act aggressively on climate change." He told the Associated Press that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates Bill Gates, would unveil a multibillion-dollar fund to develop new clean-energy technology on Monday, the opening day for the conference. "We know we're going to have to drive down the costs of technology deployment and maybe even create some new technologies," Schmidt said in a Bloomberg story on Gates' announcement. In advance of the Paris talks, the climate pledges made by countries represent promises to limit greenhouse gas emissions by shifting away from to cleaner forms of renewable energy, such as wind or solar power, Jake Thompson said in USA Today. Bob Deans gave an overview of the Paris negotiations on CSPAN's Washington Journal.