Just a few weeks before the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UNFCCC in Paris, one can literally feel the attention and the tension rising – not only in the negotiation rooms, but also in the ministries, in the media and in the public in general.
During the last weeks, many people have asked me the same question: Will Paris deliver what Copenhagen was not able to deliver?
My answer is always “Jein” – a mixture between the German words Ja (yes) and Nein (no).
Just a few weeks before the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UNFCCC in Paris, one can literally feel the attention and the tension rising – not only in the negotiation rooms, but also in the ministries, in the media and in the public in general. During the last weeks, many people have asked me the same question: Will Paris deliver what Copenhagen was not able to deliver? My answer is always “Jein” – a mixture between the German words Ja (yes) and Nein (no).
To start with the “no”: Before COP 15 in Copenhagen, many had hoped and believed that states would agree to a treaty that solves more or less all the challenges associated with climate change at a blow. But such a result could not be delivered – and it will not be delivered in Paris either. However, to continue with the “yes”: Yes, I am convinced that at COP 21 we will make a huge step forward in our joint global efforts to combat climate change. In that sense, Paris will deliver.
There are several reasons for my optimism. Firstly, the economic realities have changed dramatically since 2009. Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies have become much more affordable and competitive. We can witness how this insight starts to shift investments at ever larger scales – both in the global north and in the global south. And second, the geopolitical realities have changed. Many multilateral and bilateral climate declarations and statements issued during the last months clearly show that all around the world, countries want Paris to be a success. And around 160 states covering around 90% of global emissions have communicated their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) to the new agreement already. This shows that the outcome of Paris will truly be a joint global effort.
Of course, the level of ambition resulting from the INDCs is still not sufficient to stay below a 2°C temperature rise. But it represents a substantial slowdown in emissions growth achieved in a cost-effective way, making it still possible and affordable to keep this limit. In order to achieve this goal, the new agreement to be adopted in Paris needs to have several essential features. One key element will be a clear long-term climate goal operationalizing the below 2°C limit, ideally a decarbonization target. The long-term goal should clearly express the need to end emissions from fossil fuels. It needs to be a strong signal that the international community is determined to embark on a process leading to a profound transformation of our economies and societies. I find it very encouraging to see how many countries call for such a long-term goal, be it the Group of Seven (G7) in their Leaders’ Declaration under the German Presidency, emerging economies such as Brazil, or small island states such as the Marshall Islands.
There also needs to be a mechanism for ratcheting up ambition over time regularly, in view of the long-term goal. This should include the principle of “no backtracking”. Despite all remaining controversies over the details, my sense is that many countries support the inclusion of such a feature. Furthermore, we need clear common rules on transparency in order to ensure comparability and enable us to see whether things are going well or not. We also need to substantially strengthen our efforts on adaptation. And last but not least, we have to ensure that there will be adequate support for mitigation and adaptation, to enable the transition towards decarbonized economies and climate-resilient societies.
Will we achieve these goals? As I have said, I am optimistic. This is why we have chosen the title “Below 2°C – Together we´ll make it” to be the slogan of the German Pavilion in Paris. In our pavilion we will showcase our domestic climate policies, but also many amazing initiatives and projects by other stakeholders that illustrate how much is already happening on the ground. Thereby, we join the approach of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda initiated by the Peruvian and French COP Presidencies, which will demonstrate the commitment of diverse state and non-state actors to mobilizing robust global climate action. I am confident that the action on the ground and the new Paris Agreement will mutually reinforce their impact and accelerate the dynamic transition, which has already started!