On December 5, the Chairs of Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action—the body constituted in 2011 to prepare for the historic multilateral climate agreement being negotiated here—handed over a 47-page document, the Draft Paris Outcome, comprising the 20-page umbrella draft climate agreement and a draft decision to enable the implementation of the agreement. It is now up to the various ministers gathered here to iron out the deal in this second crucial week of negotiations.
There are many open issues in the current text, but it is the unique handling of the negotiation process by the French Presidency that allowed for such a smooth transition of a heavily bracketed text to the ministers.
So what is different this time around from where we were at this juncture in 2009 in Copenhagen? The foremost difference is the level of transparency and openness instituted by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who is chairing the process in its final leg, and a commitment that the final agreement will ensure that no one will be left behind, that has engendered confidence. The second is the genuine universality of commitments that are on the table in the form of intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs, that has heralded a burden sharing among all countries in the context of common but differentiated responsibilities, while erasing the developed versus developing country dividing lines.
Even though the INDCs will not collectively put the globe on a path of a less-than-2°C temperature rise, the willingness of all countries to come together to make a commitment to reduce their emissions and embark on climate-resilient development—with a likely proviso to increase their emissions reductions commitments periodically—is creating a momentum to address the climate challenge.
Article 3 of the Draft Paris Outcome articulates the different options of how a peaking of global emissions could be effected including deep reductions after peaking. Articles 4 and 5 draw the vision for adaptation to climate change and a loss and damage mechanism to deal with residual impacts.
The big question from developing countries is the financing (Article 6) that will be made available to allow them to make the transition to a low-carbon future and climate-resilient development. In 2009, developed countries outlined their goal of providing a $100 billion flow annually by 2020.
At this juncture, no new financing target is being bandied about in Paris – although the option of making the $100 billion a floor has been introduced. A variety of commitments have been made by different countries in the lead-up to COP 21 that indicate a willingness to provide financing to least developed countries, small island developing states and the most vulnerable countries. But a clear roadmap to reaching the $100 billion is still elusive, and a clear intent of scaling up beyond that is still under negotiation.
The role of technology development and transfer (Article 7) is recognized as important in the draft agreement, but the issue of sharing intellectual property rights is still contentious.
The question on the extent to which this agreement will be legally binding is being interpreted differently by different actors, and will be the subject of intense discussion this week. While the Draft Paris Outcome has provisions for transparency of action and support (Article 9) , global stocktake (Article 10) in 2024 and every five years thereon to measure progress and rules for ratification and entry into force (Articles 16 and 18), the issue of compliance (Article 11) is still vague enough to allow for a consensus to emerge by December 11, when the final package will be sealed.
The minsters have been given all of the ingredients for forging the climate deal. It is now up to them to deliver a balanced and equitable agreement that protects the future of the planet. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in the opening of the high-level segment on December 7, decisions taken in Paris will reverberate through the ages.