Quantcast

Progress Check: COP21 Week One

Climate

We said we would make history at this year’s UN COP21 climate conference. We never said it would be easy.

I’ve been in Paris this week to meet with government leaders, negotiators and civil society activists from all over the world taking part in talks on a global agreement to address the climate crisis. Five days on, so much is still in the balance, but three things are clear.

First, this is no ordinary COP meeting. The level of energy and intensity around these negotiations is extraordinary. Regardless of where people have come from, they’ve come with a tremendous sense of purpose and it shows in the focused discussions happening at every level. Tremendous credit is due to French President Francois Hollande, Foreign Minister and COP President Laurent Fabius, the city of Paris and the French team here as a whole for their tact and expert diplomacy in reaching this point and keeping discussions moving forward between parties with very different agendas, especially with these talks coming so quickly on the heels of the Nov. 13 tragedy. Still, so many options are on the table and so much is at stake—and everyone involved knows it.

Second, there are great reasons for hope. It’s hard to imagine a better opening for COP21 than the speeches we saw on Leaders Day from the likes of President Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which ensured talks began with positive momentum. In particular, the statement from the U.S. that reviews of country commitments should be binding will likely keep important options on the table that would not have been without it.

Plus, big announcements like the African Union’s plan to develop at least 10 GW of renewable energy before the end of the decade and India inaugurating a grand alliance of 120 countries working together to expand solar around the globe have kept the momentum building. At the same time, we’ve already seen that some issues are simply too contentious to resolve in only a week of negotiations. It’ll be up to the major government ministers arriving next week to take some brave steps to keep things moving forward.

Third, questions of the different responsibilities of developed and developing nations and who will help pay for low-carbon initiatives in emerging economies remain the major obstacles to a global agreement. The goal is for negotiators to produce a draft agreement by this afternoon that can be finalized for government ministers by Saturday evening. But with such limited time and key issues still to be resolved in order to bridge different country’s positions, there is significant work still to be done.

Image of Eiffel Tower with illuminated globe outside LeBourget airport as leaders arrive for COP21 in Paris.

Even with these obstacles in front of us, the discussions I’ve had with ministers in private and the determination I’ve seen from negotiators in public gives me hope that a breakthrough is coming. The urgency of our task and where we need to go are not in question. What’s left is to resolve how we’ll get there. And this week, I believe we will.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Leonardo DiCaprio: ‘Do Not Wait Another Day’ to Move to 100% Renewable Energy

Carl Pope: Cities Can Lead … Cities Want to Lead … So Let them!

Kick Big Polluters Out to Stop Corporate Capture of COP21

10 Cities Win C40 Award for Leading the Fight Against Climate Change

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Gretchen Goldman

The Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel has released their consensus recommendations to the EPA administrator on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter. The group of 20 independent experts, that were disbanded by Administrator Wheeler last October and reconvened last week, hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, has now made clear that the current particulate pollution standards don't protect public health and welfare.

Read More Show Less
An African elephant is pictured on November 19, 2012, in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The unprecedented drought that has caused a water crisis in Zimbabwe has now claimed the life of at least 55 elephants since September, according to a wildlife spokesman, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Maria Dornelas.

By John C. Cannon

Life is reshuffling itself at an unsettling clip across Earth's surface and in its oceans, a new study has found.

Read More Show Less
An Exxon station in Florida remains open despite losing its roof during Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. Florida Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Shaun Withers

The country's largest fossil fuel company goes on trial today to face charges that it lied to investors about the safety of its assets in the face of the climate crisis and potential legislation to fight it, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
El Niño's effect on Antarctica is seen in a tabular iceberg off of Thwaites ice shelf. Jeremy Harbeck / NASA

El Niños are getting stronger due to climate change, according to a new study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Julia Ries

  • Antibiotic resistance has doubled in the last 20 years.
  • Additionally a new study found one patient developed resistance to a last resort antibiotic in a matter of weeks.
  • Health experts say antibiotic prescriptions should only be given when absolutely necessary in order to avoid growing resistance.

Over the past decade, antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the greatest public health threats.

Read More Show Less
Pexels


There are hundreds of millions of acres of public land in the U.S., but not everyone has had the chance to hike in a national forest or picnic in a state park.

Read More Show Less
Workers attend to a rooftop solar panel project on May 14, 2017 in Wuhan, China. Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

By Simon Evans

Renewable sources of electricity are set for rapid growth over the next five years, which could see them match the output of the world's coal-fired power stations for the first time ever.

Read More Show Less