Halftime Recap

One week of COP21 down; one to go. Here’s where things currently stand.

Halftime snack, anyone?
Credit: Photo: bluewaikiki/Flickr

Time flies when you’re saving the world. Delegates representing 195 countries at the Paris climate change conference have already spent five days hashing out an agreement to avoid a business-as-usual emissions scenario (think: climategeddon), and only one week of the high-stakes negotiations remains.

Progress has been slow and steady. Between Monday and Thursday, negotiators whittled the 54-page draft text down to 50 pages. An even svelter version is due to be delivered to Laurent Fabius, president of COP21, tomorrow at noon. Fabius has been prodding negotiators to put some hustle into it so that when the big players, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, arrive on the scene next week as scheduled, they’ll have time to finalize a deal by December 11.

Here are the major battles still in play:

2 degrees Celsius, or 1.5?

This week, Germany and France joined 43 of the most climate-vulnerable countries in saying that the more ambitious 1.5-degree target should supplant the old and controversial 2-degree goal. (FYI: Based on current national strategies to cut carbon, we’re looking at a global temperature boost of 2.7 degrees by the end of the century.)

Who’s paying for all this?

President Obama said on Monday that “the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.” Wealthy nations benefited from industrialization at the expense of the developing countries now dealing with its consequences—but exactly what kind of financial support the latter are owed and how funding will be handled after 2020 has been a serious point of contention.

How will we stick to our goals?

Countries making promises (perhaps out of fear of looking uncaring on the global stage) will get us only so far. Once a deal is made, there must be some mechanism to enforce and/or reevaluate each country’s targets. That way, they can improve them as they go along. Most agree that a five-year review process is a good idea, but whether those check-ups would begin in 2020 or 2030 is in debate.


Even though the specifics of the main agreement aren’t quite there yet, plenty of other climate commitments have rolled in this week. Here are some of the most promising announcements:

  • Africa is making a big push for clean energy.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President François Hollande are launching an international solar alliance of 120 countries.
  • Twenty countries pledged to double their clean energy investments through Mission Innovation.
  • Agriculture got its own focus day, resulting in multiple initiatives to improve food security and reduce farming’s environmental impacts.
  • Eighteen countries launched the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to build more resilience into cities and accelerate the sector’s capacity for emissions reductions.
  • Mayors from major cities hosted their own Climate Summit for Local Leaders, where they swapped solutions for local climate action and resilience. Cities, as well as companies, will be major players in filling the gap between where our national carbon cuts bring us and where we’ll need to be.

Stay tuned.

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