Paris 2015 – just a first step
The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change (COP 20) recently concluded in Lima, Peru. It was the last COP before the Paris Climate Change Conference, to be held in December 2015, when the parties are expected to sign a universal agreement that would take effect from 2020. The first part of this article by David Robinson explains the pessimism about reaching a meaningful agreement in Paris, with a particular focus on mitigation. Part two summarizes the reasons why an agreement is widely anticipated in spite of this pessimism. Of course, the point is not just to reach an agreement and to let the negotiators declare victory, but to make a meaningful contribution to combatting climate change; part three of this article identifies some of the key negotiation issues that will determine the level of ambition, the structure of the agreement and, indeed, whether there will be any agreement at all. Part four identifies some of the initiatives that are required to bridge the gap between the mitigation called for by the science and the pledges that are expected in Paris. It argues that the currently low price of oil offers an opportunity for governments to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, introduce carbon taxes, and pay owners of fossil fuels to leave their resources in the ground; all tangible ways of combating climate change. However, successful de-carbonization also requires action by civil society and business, in particular technological innovation, improved energy efficiency, widespread implementation of low-carbon technologies, and the adoption of transformative and profitable low-carbon energy business models.