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Toward an agreement in Paris? Some critical issues

Without any sense of triumphalism, we have to recognize the development of the Conference is responding to the expectations. The President of the Conference, the French Foreign Minister Mr. Laurent Fabius had asked to the different working groups to have ready by Saturday, December the 5th, a consistent draft of an agreement that could be discussed by the ministers during this present week. While the last week it was the experts, from the different governments,who carried the weight of the negotiations, it is now the time for ministers (Foreign or Environment) to take the lead. This second week it’s the time for politics, in the most honourable sense of the word, it’s the time to negotiate and hopefully the time to reach agreements.

The request from Mr. Fabius got a successful response and on Saturday the 5th a draft was released. The methodology worked well and on Wednesday the 9th they produced a new revised version with the latest amendments. And although at a first glanceit can surprisebecause the text is full or phrases in between brackets;even often it appears the possibility for several options, all this means that many points have still to be agreed but the positive side is that the crucial issues have already been identified and that the discussion will be focused on them. This is a breakthrough and it is a positive message towards the negotiations.

Some of the most critical issues at this stage are:

The threshold to limit the increase of global average temperature under 1.5°C or well below 2°C. To limit the greenhouse emissions under 1.5°C is the only response that can offers some possibilities of success in order to decarbonize our societies by 2050. Although the discussion may seem irrelevant, talking about a difference 0,5 degrees, it can be crucial for many people making a real difference in terms of survival.

The obligatory character of the agreement. This is one the crucial aspects of the negotiations, although some creative alternatives are being proposed. For several countries it is very difficult to accept an external (international) authority imposing objectives on CO2 emissions. The alternative being considered is that the obligation can be born under the national legislation, the international agreement can acknowledge the enforcement not directly by itself but as a result of the implementation of the national legislation. This can open the space of collaboration to the USA, for example.

The possibility of revising the agreement every five years. This option is gaining support in the negotiations. It can be an effective tool to better align the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, the targets of reduction of emissions proposed by each state,with the new data provided by science about the increase of global average temperatures.

The financial engagements. The figure of the USD 100 billion by 2020 remains as a very concrete reference, and as the OECD reminded recently the total international investments for climate change amounts now y half of that figure. But many questions are still open. First is to determine who will contribute, China, India and South Africa they resist to contribute under the argument that they have polluted for much less time that the developed countries. Developed countries, at their turn, insist that this has to be a common effort according the present capacities. Certainly an issue for heavy discussion. Then it comes the concern by civil society of how this money will be spend, the fear is that the intermediate institutions that will handle the funds, namely development banks, can use the money to finance huge infrastructures or even to sustain dictators –as they are already doing-, but that these investments will not have a real impact in the life of those who struggle the most to resist the impacts of climate change.

Everything is open for discussion, that makes that the final result is today unpredictable but the tone of the communications, the content of the disclosed drafts and the obvious responsibility of these negotiations all this gives to us the necessary optimism, today, to expect an acceptable agreement by the end of the week.
10 dicembre 2015


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