COP21: Where do we stand?
by Barbara Unmüßig and Ralf Fücks, Co-Chairs of the Heinrich Böll Foundation
What has been achieved in the first week of COP21?
The draft text for a climate agreement that emerged from the first week of the conference gives only little assurance that the international community is ready to tackle the challenge head on, and provide the necessary support for those most affected by climate change. However, one of the encouraging signs from this week was the emergence of a growing number of countries - including Germany - who push for a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that 2 °C is clearly too much.
Despite the cancellation of the two large demonstrations, following the November 13 attacks, French civil society and their international allies found ways to make their voices heard, both within and outside the conference venue. Actions included a human chain, exposure of green-washing efforts by COP21 sponsors, and a whole range of discussions and events in and around the People's Climate Summit, happening in Montreuil this weekend.
What needs to happen next week?
Outstanding issues - and the list of them is long - need to be dealt with at the highest political level, in order to find common ground on crucial questions of a new climate accord: Which countries need to contribute how much to the global effort, both with regards to emission reductions and with regards to financial support? How do we ensure commitment towards implementing the national pledges and commitment towards revisiting them based on the latest climate science?
One of the issues that has gained a lot of attention (and rightly so) has been that of loss and damage. In light of the climate responsibility that the fossil fuel industry should shoulder, and the urgent need to mobilise additional financial resources for the most vulnerable countries, governments need to agree on a process to explore alternative sources of finance, including a fossil fuel extraction levy.
In next week’s outcome, human rights, gender equality and climate justice need to be clearly incorporated at the core of the Paris agreement. Although there is little hope at this point that a legally binding treaty can be achieved, the Paris summit must at least create a positive dynamic for further large efforts.