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Lima to Paris

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The Lima UN climate conference has set the stage for governments to deliver a new universal climate change agreement in Paris, at the end of 2015. The new agreement is aimed at putting the world on track to a low-carbon, sustainable future while keeping a global temperature rise under 2 degrees C.

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Mr Halldor Thorgeirsson, Director for Strategy at the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC), summed up the efforts of governments to reach a new, universal climate change agreement in Paris, in December, including the national climate plans which countries are putting forward as contributions to the final agreement.

He was speaking on March 27 to the International Safranbolu Climate Change Conference of the Economic Cooperation Organization. The full speech follows.

Speech by Director for Strategy at UN Climate Change Secretariat to ECO

It is an honour and pleasure to be with you today.  I applaud the initiative of the Economic Cooperation Organization to convene this meeting to contribute to the success of the Paris Climate Conference in December, a conference that is shaping up to become a watershed event.

The success of Paris will rest on four pillars:

  • A universal climate agreement under the Convention for 2020 onward
  • National contribution to the objective of the Convention
  • Scaled-up cooperative action with participation of all levels of Governments and of a broad range of stakeholders
  • Scaled-up finance in support of action by developing countries

A significant milestone towards the universal climate agreement was reached on 19 March when we formally communicated the negotiating text to capitals in all six UN languages. With this, all relevant legal and procedural requirements for the Conference of the Parties to adopt the Paris Agreement have been fulfilled.

These negotiations are complex and many options still remain in the negotiating text. We can be confident that these outstanding issues will be resolved, however, given the fact that Parties have already come to a common understanding on the overall concept. What now remains is to find the language that captures that understanding to everyone's satisfaction and to resolve challenging but tractable open issues.

To illustrate convergence already achieved on important design questions let me outline the emerging approach to

  • Nationally determined contributions or INDCs
  • The long-term pathway to restabilise the climate
  • Vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and adaptation to build resilience

National contributions

One of the early points of agreement was that national contribution to the objective of this new agreement would be nationally determined taking into account differing responsibility, capacity and national circumstances, guided by the principles of the Convention. Parties have also committed not to backtrack on earlier commitments. Each contribution will therefore represent a progression beyond their current level of effort.

These contributions will be rooted in domestic priorities and realities. They are in essence a blueprint for how Governments are planning to accelerate investment in their own low carbon and resilient development.

Parties have been invited to communicate their INDCs to the secretariat well in advance of Paris. Thirty one Parties have done so already and many others are in advanced stages of preparation. Over one hundred developing country Parties have received bilateral and multilateral support for their efforts to prepare INDCs. A series of regional dialogues has provided an opportunity to compare notes and share lessons learned.

Parties are also invited to provide information to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding of their contributions. This would include both quantitative and qualitative components. They are invited to articulate how they consider their contribution to be fair and ambitious in light of national circumstances and how it contributes to the objective of the Convention.

The Secretariat has been requested to issue a synthesis report by 1 November on the aggregate effect of the INDCs received by 1 October.

Meeting the objective of the Convention

Globally we are not on track to stay under the internationally agreed upper limit of acceptable warming of 2°C above the pre-industrial level. This is precisely why Governments agreed in Durban in 2011 to negotiate the Paris Agreement and to join forces to close the pre-2020 emission gap through cooperative action.

The Paris Agreement needs to be capable of bringing us on track to meet the ultimate objective of the Convention to avoid "dangerous interference with the climate system". The initial round of INDCs covering the first decade after 2020 will bring us closer to this objective but restabilising the climate will take sustained and accelerated effort for decades to come.

This and the coming decade are critical. Global emissions will need to stop rising and start declining soon. By 2030, global emissions will need to have turned the corner and be 10 per cent below 2010 levels.

It is important to underline that the 2°C upper limit is a defence line based on collective judgement of how much climate risk to accept. For the most vulnerable this level of risk is too high leading them to call for efforts to limit warming to a level well below this upper limit.

Negotiators are actively working on how the Paris Agreement will monitor and manage the pathway of global emissions over time. It will regularly monitor progress made in each cycle of contributions towards the objective of the Convention and take action to enhance national and collective action. This strategic review will be informed by assessments of the best available science and transparent reporting from Parties on their efforts and results achieved.

To make the longer-term direction clearer to the general public, investors and other decision makers, Parties are also considering establishing future milestones. One such milestone could be set for 2050 by agreeing an upper limit for global emissions in that year.

Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation

The final area of convergence I wanted to report to you is the determination to strengthen action on adaptation through the Paris Agreement. This will be done through a combination of the implementation of national adaptation plans, scaled-up adaptation finance and unprecedented level of global cooperation addressing adaptation as a global concern.

Loss and damage associated with extreme events continues to knock back development gains with the associated increases in vulnerability. Recent event in Vanuatu is a case in point. Governments represented in this room know this stark reality all too well from direct experience.

Risk sharing and risk mitigation instruments are available and the Paris Agreement has the potential to bolster their deployment.

Global solidarity has a role to play in building resilience. The recently agreed Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is relevant in this context and promised to mobilise political will to cooperate and contribute to building resilience.

Mobilising unprecedented level of cooperation

As I mentioned earlier, Parties agreed in Durban to join forces to close the pre-2020 emission gap through greater cooperative action. This effort has unleashed a flood of cooperative initiatives and action partnerships involving sub-national and non-state actors. The Secretary General's Climate Summit last September marked a turning point on this front.

Cities are moving to the forefront of the endeavour of turning the vision of low-carbon development into reality in the urban environment.

Scaling up the mobilisation of finance

Developed country Governments have pledged to mobilise from various sources at least $100 billion a year by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries.

The Green Climate Fund, which will be a central channel for climate finance to developing nations, has achieved its initial capitalisation goal of over 10 USD billion in contributions from governments and is slated to start investing this year.

With this milestone, the attention moves to the pathway to reaching to goal of mobilising 100 billion annually no later than 2020.

Bringing this complex effort to closure

Up to this point I have focused on the issues on the table - the what. Let me conclude with a few words on the how. How will this effort be concluded in an inclusive and transparent manner?

The following five ingredients will help in reaching that goal:

  • Cohesion between levels - through effective vertical integration of efforts by negotiators, ministers and heads of state or government.
  • Early compromise - this agreement too complex and important to rely on a package solution at the end or negotiations by exhaustion - the deal needs to be well understood before the Paris Conference opens.
  • Building unity of purpose - Parties know the concerns and red lines of their negotiating partners - now is the time for them to reach out to each other and build bridges and search for a common ground.
  • Strategic vision - the fundamental paradigm of the Paris Agreement needs to stand the test of time and therefore needs to be informed by long-term perspectives.
  • Focus on the essentials - there is no need to settle each and every detail by Paris.

The citizens of the world expect Governments to set aside their differences and join forces to avoid further disruption to our only climate system. This is what they are striving to do. They are not alone in this endeavour. Cities, civil society, investors, and innovative business are at their side ready to build the low-carbon resilient future we all seek.

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