Original article published at nofibs.com.au
A high level informal Ministerial pre-summit climate conference is currently under way in Paris to try and close some of the differences in negotiating positions to set up momentum for the Paris Climate Conference. The outstanding highlight has been the return of Canada to the serious climate discussion table, although it is still very early to see how strong Canada's climate policy and negotiating position will be.
The French Government is putting a lot of diplomatic effort into the UN climate conference (COP21), due to start on Monday November 30 with an initial leaders summit with more than 100 Heads of State attending.
The Draft negotiating text is currently some 55 pages in length with many options which need debating and deciding upon before the end of the conference.
We know that country pledges, known as INDCs, many of them conditional, will realise a global temperature increase of at least 2.7 to 3 degrees Celsius this century, and that's with optimistic calculations including all conditional pledges. Yet countries affiliated with the UNFCCC have already declared the need to limit temperatures to no more than 2 degrees C this century, with many countries arguing that 1.5 degrees needs to be the limit for safety and survival of island nations and tropical regions. (see for example the Suva Declaration (PDF))
The latest informal negotiations, colloquially known as Pre-cop, started on Sunday in Paris and will conclude on Tuesday. These talks were called by French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, who will also chair the work of the UN climate conference.
"The essence of life on our planet is at stake, it is an absolute urgency" (""C'est la vie même sur notre planète qui est en cause, l'urgence est absolue",") said Fabius introducing the informal meeting of ministers. He told the gathering that they need to find the path of compromise on the largest number of issues, of the need to give political momentum to the negotiations.
"It's our responsibility as ministers and heads of delegation to give political impetus and facilitate what should be the final agreement," said Laurent Fabius.
This Pre-COP entails a meeting of more than 60 Energy and Environment Ministers to further work on theme areas of: fairness, ambition, post-2020 financial support and pre-2020 actions.
Some of the important areas that need progressing include financial aid for developing countries to finance climate policies for mitigation and adaptation, the importance of setting global long-term objectives, the distribution of the effort between industrialized countries and developing and least developed nations, and the upward revision of the commitments made by States to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).
A study from October found that Rich nations lag in 'fair share' of climate action.
Australia promises much but substance unclear
Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt was there and spoke on the Sunday.
...but provided no details of the substance of his speech. Certainly current climate policies are inefficient and ineffective to even meet the current poor climate targets that Australia has committed to.
Recent rumours are that Australia may increase it's commitment to the Green Climate Fund in some way, including the possibility of a Clean Energy Finance Corporation-style financing mechanism so that the funding would not impact the government's budget bottom line. An increased commitment to this fund would also assist Australia co-chairing the fund again. (See The Guardian: Turnbull government weighs increasing contribution to Green Climate Fund)
While increasing Australia's financial funding commitment is crucial, elevating Australia's climate targets to stop emissions continuing to rise is just as important.
while some were more cynical that Australia has really changed it's spots or is just offering up the same regurgitated inadequate climate policies and targets:
Canada returns to climate negotiations table
The good news, of course, is that Canada is seen to have returned to the ring with climate negotiations and a positive momentum. Let us hope there is a lot of climate policy substance in the negotiating stance of Justin Trudeau's new Government. Certainly Canadian citizens have been giving him a climate welcome outside his official residence in recent days.
Here is Marshall Islands Foreign Affairs Minister Tony De Brum with Canada's new Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, who has a background as a human rights and social justice lawyer.
"We’re fully committed to the successful negotiations of a fair and effective international climate change agreement in Paris #COP21" Catherine McKenna tweeted.
Canada agrees the science is indisputable, and we recognize the need for urgent/greater action that is grounded in robust science #COP21— Catherine McKenna (@ec_minister) November 8, 2015
It is the first time in 10 years a Canadian environment minister has attended a pre-Summit climate meeting said journalist J-Francois Belanger in a tweet.
Civil Society concern with transparency, closing temperature pathway gap
A few peak civil society groups were able to give a brief address on the Sunday morning. Maxime Combes delivered a statement on behalf of Attac France, as a member of the international coalition Climate Justice Now.
"If the Paris Agreement welcomes warmly the current INDCs, without any strong and fair process to raise the level of ambition, here in Paris, the Paris agreement won't be at the level of ambition people from all over the world are expecting from you.
"We are urging you to close the emission gap between the current 3°C pathway and a 2°C or 1.5°C pathway, without using harmful strategies and technologies, and this new effort should be based on the CSO equity review which is telling us that the developed countries commitments are not ambitious enough and should be reviewed according their fair shares.
"Let me say that we do not accept that fossil fuel companies are now part of the Lima-Paris action agenda promoted by the French and peruvian governments, the UN and the UNFCCC general secretariats, which is a way to delegitimise the whole LPAA process."
He concluded his statement calling for a "fair, transparent and open negotiations process." alluding to NGO being locked out of the negotiating process 3 weeks ago in Bonn.
Civil Society groups have been disappointed by the level of support given to support discussion and activities by citizens and civil society groups during COP21. The Danish government provided 2.2 million Euros funding to help civil society participate at Copenhagen in 2009, the French Government so far have provided just 150,000 Euros to the Climate Coalition organising events and accommodation for the thousands of people travelling to Paris to voice their concerns. You can sign a petition here to the French Government requesting more support.
Important science markers
Two important scientific markers were also published at the time of these talks. The World Meteorological Organisation released it's latest bulletin on atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014 greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached yet another new record high in 2014, continuing a relentless rise which is fuelling climate change.
“Every year we report a new record in greenhouse gas concentrations,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Every year we say that time is running out. We have to act NOW to slash greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have a chance to keep the increase in temperatures to manageable levels.”
The UK Met Office also advised that global mean temperatures will for the first time in recorded history reach more than one degree of global warming.
"We have seen a strong El Nino develop in the Tropical Pacific this year and that will have had some impact on this year's global temperature."said Stephen Belcher, Director of the Met Office Hadley Centre.
"We've had similar natural events in the past, yet this is the first time we're set to reach the 1 °C marker and it's clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory." said Belcher in a statement.
Update 10 November: The Turnbull government accused of blocking US, Japan plan to reduce coal. Adam Morton writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that Australia and Korea are currently blocking a Japan/US proposal in an OECD forum that would dramatically reduce rich country funding coal plants in developing countries. The proposal advocates that only the "cleanest" coal plants, mostly those classed as "ultra-supercritical", could be funded, and only if renewable energy projects were unviable. The present funding of coal plants for the developing world has been labelled as a 'negative carbon price' supporting and subsidising greater production of greenhouse gas emissions. Japan recently reversed it's position to support the US proposal.
The 34 OECD countries provided about $32 billion in public funding of coal plants between 2007 and 2013, with more than half this amount from Japan, Morton reports.
Jennifer Morgan, global climate director at the World Resources Institute in Washington said Australia's proposal would effectively continue the status quo. "Internationally, people are looking to see whether the Turnbull government will differentiate itself from the Abbott government and join the rest of the OECD in charting a path for clean energy." reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
The OECD meets next week in Paris, a fortnight before the COP21 conference, and will debate the US/Japan proposal.
Some progress but the gap between 2 and 3 degrees remains after Precop2nd Update 10 November: ThePrecop has ended.
Maxime Combes (@MaximCombes) for Attac commented on twitter: "The #PreCOP ends while the gap between the real (3 ° C or +) and desirable (2 ° C or -) prepares new climate crimes #COP21"
The Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands Tony De Brum met with Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt for this photo opportunity. So we find out from Mr DeBrum that Australia supports 5 year review cycles, starting in 2020. The question is, why do we learn this small advance from a tweet from a Foreign Government minister and not directly from Greg Hunt? It seems one of the issues that progess was made at Precop was adopting 5 year reviews.
Isobelle Hanne (@isabellehanne), a journalist with Liberation (@libe) reported the closing press conference. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that progess was made on issues including that there were discussions on the formulation of the long term goal...a Low-Emission Climate Resilient Pathway, which could lead to a low emissions trajectory for climate adaptation.
The Precop also seems to have recorded that $100 billion a year by 2020 will be provided by developed countries to developing countries as a floor amount, to which addition financing will be added. (See Hanne's report in Liberation (La préCOP, pleine de bonnes intentions).
Christina Figueres re-iterated that the #cop21 is "the last opportunity to reduce our emissions" of greenhouse gases reported Hanne.
Foundation Hulot is one of the French civil society NGOs active on climate issues. They issued this short statement saying while there was some progress on finance and reviews, there was too little progress on carbon pricing and closing the gap between 2 degrees and 3 degrees of global warming.
Update 3: November 11, 2015
Precop progress on reviews and financing
The official summation of the Ministerial PreCOP has now been released and shows the limited progress made.
On ambition : confirmation of a common determination to reach a universal agreement in Paris this December; there is a large consensus for a periodic review of the national contributions. Accepted the principle of regular presentation of new contributions by all countries. There was a consensus on a “no backtracking” clause: each new objective must be more ambitious than the previous.
On fairness: increasingly wide-ranging support for the idea of a single system, with flexibilities depending on capabilities.
On post 2020 financing: positive signals for new financial announcements during the Paris Climate Conference, to achieve the goal of $100 billion per year. And the idea that, alongside developed countries, the developing countries capable of doing so are encouraged to contribute to climate financing is increasingly accepted.
actions to carry out ahead of 2020: idea to take stock in 2017 or 2018 of implementation of all pre-2020 commitments. Strong support for the continuation of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, an initiative instigated by France and Peru to involve non-governmental actors which now contains more than 6000 individual and collective commitments.
It was also noted that Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt all submitted their INDC pledges during the PreCOP. Saudi Arabia is one of the ten largest CO2 emitters.
Here are some media reports of the final results of the 3 day ministerial meeting: