Paris to host COP 21 dry run

The Palais de la Muette in Paris, seat of the OECD. [Andrea Anastasakis /Flickr]

The international climate negotiations will gain momentum this week with an informal meeting in Paris. The EU and Norway hope to inspire negotiators with greater ambition. EURACTIV France reports

The climate negotiation marathon is moving up a gear. Representatives from an estimated 50 countries will meet in Paris this week, from 6 to 8 May.

The informal meeting, hosted at the seat of the OECD, is meant to give fresh impetus to the discussions. Only 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions are covered by the 36 climate packages submitted so far by UN member countries. The latest addition to this list was Andorra, which revealed its national contribution on 30 April.

The addition of China’s national contribution, expected by the end of June, will bring the running total to 50% of global emissions. But this is only the start of the process. Today’s national plans are hardly compatible, and the challenge for the negotiators is to bring them together into an agreement that will find international consensus.

>> Read: COP 21 national contributions behind schedule, France warns

Encouraging news from Gabon and Mexico

“There are some very interesting points in the plans submitted so far. The United States went right to the limit of what it could achieve without Congress interfering, with a commitment to reduce its emissions by 26-28% by 2025,” an optimistic European source told EURACTIV.

Mexico has also raised some eyebrows, showing a level of innovation that some see as surprising for a developing country. The emerging Central American economy has committed to reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 25%, whether or not a global agreement is reached. If the international community does agree on binding emissions reduction targets, the Mexican commitment will increase to 40%.

Not to be outdone, Gabon has also tabled a demanding proposal. It plans to cut its emissions between 2010 and 2025 by 60%, not in absolute terms but relative to the increasing trend.

Worries over Japan, Australia and Canada

The ambition of these national contributions is tempered by the apparent indifference of some others. Liechtenstein is a small but symbolic example. The tiny alpine country, one of the richest in the world thanks to its status as a tax haven, has no plans to cut CO2 emissions within its own borders. It would agree to reduce its carbon footprint abroad, but only if a suitable global framework is developed, and no such plans currently exist.

At the bottom of the class, Russia, Australia, Japan and Canada appear to be competing with one another for the climate action wooden spoon. Russia, the only one of these countries to have submitted its plan to date, has gone so far as to back-track on its previous commitments, proposing a very passive programme to limit its CO2 emissions to 75% of 1990 levels by 2030.

>> Read: Climate: why Russia will not make it (in French)

While Japan claims that significant emissions reductions would only be possible if it were to reintegrate nuclear power into its energy mix, the reluctance of Canada and Australia is largely political.

Canada has historically followed the example of the United States on climate change issues, but is expected to announce a substantially less ambitious programme than its neighbour. Australia’s objectives are also likely to be modest given its resources.

Out in front: Norway and the EU… and the Pope

The EU and Norway, which are keen to stand out at the forefront of climate action, will meet on 17 May ahead of the summit in in Petersberg, Germany, where the most ambitious actors on climate change, including the small island states, certain less advanced countries and several European countries, will try to establish a common position.

>> Read: Maldives: many islands will disappear, despite COP 21 agreement

The European Parliament has appointed French MEP Gilles Pargneaux as its COP 21 representative. The institution hopes to see an ambitious global deal to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030.

Finally, the Vatican is preparing for an offensive. An encyclical is due to be published soon, encouraging countries to agree on climate measures that will bring justice between rich and poor. This moral vision is explained in a press-release from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 28 April.

Besides offering the opportunity for a country by country run-down of the situation, the talks in Paris next week will address the length of the draft text that is currently on the table.

One negotiator warned that “at nearly 130 pages, it is far too long, and that may be a real problem because the reluctant countries will be able to drag out the discussions and endanger their results”.

Negotiations on climate change began in 1992, and the UN organises an annual international climate change conference called the Conference of the Parites, or COP.

The 20th COP took place in Lima, Peru, from 1 to 12 December 2014, and Paris is hosting the all-important 21st conference in December 2015.

The participating states must reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the object of which was to reduce CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2012.

Agreeing on a framework, whether legally binding or not, is the priority between now and December.

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