COP 21: Week Two

The stage is being set for a renewable energy industry boom; targets for divestment, renewable energy uptake and greenhouse gas emissions reductions are falling into place; and the 48-page draft text of the next global climate agreement is slowly coming into focus as the final 72 hours of negotiations wind down.

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Read all about COP21 and the fight to curb climate change in our new special edition of EcoAlert Magazine

Hurdles as deadline approaches
The challenge of reaching an agreement was handed off from negotiators to ministers and cabinet officials over the weekend, and they inherited no small task. The 48-page draft agreement was riddled with more than 900 sets of brackets, representing areas of disagreement between countries. However, host nation France declared Tuesday (Dec. 8) that the talks will end with a strong outcome and on time by Friday (though these things usually run into the wee hours of Saturday or even Sunday morning). US Secretary of State John Kerry is also feeling optimistic, telling The Guardian newspaper, “I think consensus is slowly being built… there is a growing feeling of possibility.” Today, France will produce a new draft text for review by the 195 countries participating in COP21 as talks move into the endgame.

Sticking points
China is demanding transparency in countries’ greenhouse gas reduction plans, saying it puts high value on trust. The country has pledged US$3.1-billion to support developing countries with the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. This is one of the main points of contention in finalizing the agreement: how much responsibility do rich (or developed) nations have to help poor (or developing) nations deal with climate change and transition from fossil fuels. The United States has committed $30-million to climate risk insurance and has plans to contribute to the Green Climate Fund, a fund established to help developing nations cope and adapt to climate change. Read about Canada’s contribution to the fund here.

Divest from the old, invest in the (re)new(ables)
One thing is for certain, the world is poised to get a fair bit shinier after COP21. Five hundred institutions from around the globe have now divested more than $3.4-trillion in assets tied to fossil fuels. The African Development Bank — backed by the African Union representing 54 nations — has committed to building capacity for 300 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030. What’s more, 180 countries have adopted greenhouse gas emissions reduction pledges.

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Showing corporate leadership
A key group of corporate leaders, Richard Branson’s B Team group of chief executives, are joining the call of small island nations to contain global temperature rise to 1.5 C. These business leaders want carbon neutral by 2050 (carbon neutrality refers to a state in economic activity where the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere from industrial activity matches the amount of CO2 being offset with carbon credits or long-term carbon storage). Branson is looking for government regulation to structure business actions to meet this goal. Consensus on the 1.5C target means that low-lying countries and small nation-state islands will be saved from sea-level rise. In a much-welcome move that shocked many countries at COP21, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, said Canada would support striving toward a 1.5 C goal in closed-door talks this weekend.

Bringing Africa’s jungle back
More than a dozen African countries have joined with the World Bank on what’s being called an unprecedented initiative to fight climate change and create jobs by restoring 100 million hectares of forest across the continent by 2030. The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) was launched on Sunday during the UN climate summit. Similar initiatives, such as the Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests, have seen millions of hectares of forests restored across North America, South America and Africa. According to Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the CEO of Nepad (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), there are 700 million hectares of land in Africa that are ripe to be restored.

Rewarding clean tech innovators
As talks got underway Monday for Week 2 in Paris, the Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop announced Australia will reward climate change technological breakthroughs. Maybe Canada should put in place a similar incentive to drive clean tech innovation here at home! Australia also announced it will give $200 million a year in climate aid to developing countries.

Read more about COP21 and climate change in our new special edition of EcoAlert


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