Climate Talks, COP21 - Paris

The calm before the storm?

This article is written by Elizabeth Buchan and Sabrina Marquant.


It is mid way through the second week of climate talks (also known as COP21) in Paris, which are expected to deliver a new international agreement on climate change that takes effect in 2020. The final landing zones of the remaining sticking points have the potential to dramatically alter how effective this agreement and its implementation are, to avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change. These remaining elements will be frantically thrashed out by countries’ Minister’s and negotiating teams in the next couple of days.


It is now Wednesday afternoon. The negotiations are currently taking place in a Comité de Paris format where Parties negotiate behind closed doors and report back in a plenary, open to observers. We just received a cleaner draft of the agreement text ‘the text’ arrived at based on discussions in groups covering major themes described by COP21 President M. Fabius as “political and transversal” issues. This is the first version of the text since the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for enhanced Action (ADP), (basically the ongoing negotiations on what the next climate agreement should be) closed last Saturday and since the Comité de Paris process has been launched.

Since the Comité de Paris launched we have a certain feeling here at Le Bourget that everybody is quiet, seems happy, sending some love and support to the French Presidency. During the first plenary meeting of the Comité de Paris, some Parties expressed directly their support for the COP21 President highlighting the unusual, more peaceful atmosphere over the negotiations. (The beginning of the second week of COP21 week started as the first week finished: with a calm and studious atmosphere.

But what hides this seemingly calm vibe at Le Bourget?

As we mentioned, at 3pm today countries and observers received the text and they are right now analysing both as countries, and regional and thematic coalitions, the differences between this text and the previous version. This is a complex exercise: it is not only comparing the two texts but also analysing the inputs made during the different thematic groups during the last three days and seeing how the political will, positioning, bargaining and deals have been translated into outcomes. Parties and the groups based on the thematic group discussions are giving feedback in an open plenary on their perceptions of the new draft text tonight.

It is becoming clear that there has been progress on compromising language on many challenging issues in the text. For example there is a reference to limiting global average warming to 1.5-2C° which, if achieved would save low island developing states from certain destruction. However, from the other side of closed doors some of this “progress” seems too good to be true and it feels like the “calm before the storm”.

We are now at a critical juncture, the last issues on the table in the talks are the “big ticket” political items that we have not seen and clear convergence and direction on. They include:

  • a meaningful mechanism to address loss and damage from climate change

  • a pre 2020 plan for ambitious mitigation targets, and the mechanism to ratchet after 2020

  • mobilisation of adequate finance for adaptation

  • a clear signal for carbon markets anchored in environmental integrity

  • the legal strength and applicability of the agreement

As we are writing we are watching the report back from the Presidency and are expecting for some countries and coalitions to clearly express their political positions on the last remaining issues. Additionally, the next few hours are likely to be the final window of time for Non-Governmental Organisations to make the final push on their strategies for influencing the outcomes of the agreement.

We are likely to see the amplifying of the voices of some countries we haven’t heard that much since the start of this week.

Finally in these last hours before a new agreement, we believe we will see more negotiation and tactical strategies for some countries, which have to play their last card. Hopefully the effect of these strategies will lead to an ambitious, equitable, inclusive climate change agreement with adequate support for countries vulnerable to climate change to accelerate the momentum towards a low carbon and climate-safe world.

About the authors: Elizabeth Buchan has a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Policy) and Bachelor of Arts (International Relations and French), from the Australian Nationally University. She is currently undertaking post-graduate studies on carbon markets and international negotiations and is a delegate at COP21. Sabrina Marquant.« Passionate about climate negotiations since Bali in 2007, Sabrina Marquant decided to join CliMates in order to develop a better concrete and critical analysis on the blocking points slowing down the negotiations process and to work on innovative solutions to re-invigorate this process on the road to COP21. In December 2013, at the COP19, she had the opportunity to integrate the Official French Delegation as a Youth Delegate. In 2014, she was one of the two UNFCCC focal points for YOUNGO. Those two opportunities give to her a new vision and understandings of the negotiation process and youth participation at the international level. More determined than ever to work on these issues she decided to focus her time on tracking the climate negotiations towards the COP21, analyzing potential bridges between this negotiation and other global processes (especially SDGs and Sendai Framework) and preparing the youth mobilization on the road to Paris and beyond. »

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