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Climate Change

New Climate Rewrite May Herald Success At COP21 In Paris

Last time we visited the topic of the draft treaty for December’s international talks on cutting post-2020 carbon emissions, the co-chairs of the United Nations ADP (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action), Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria and Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States, promised delegates that the UN executive would come up with another version before the next Bonn meeting (October 19). The climate rewrite presented today derives from a version passed by the UN body at last year’s conference in Lima, Peru, via several revisions made earlier this year.

World Climate Summit banner (

The Peru draft, crafted and approved a day and a half after the conference was scheduled to end, shifted the UN’s emphasis away from attempting to reach hard universal targets. Instead, it adopted the mechanism originally proposed in Warsaw two years ago: individual nations would report their current status and make measurable national commitments, and the loss and damage element would be respected. However, the text arrived at then (the Lima Call to Action) also contained all the other options recommended by individual nations at the meeting in a bulky and convoluted format.

Numerous efforts have taken place since the Lima call. The UN made attempts to trim it in February (86 pages), and then July  (76 pages) before involving the executive secretariat again. Their first effort was much less than successful. The new iteration bears a very important change: it measures just 20 pages. The preamble begins with these important caveats:

  • Recognizing the intrinsic relationship between climate change, poverty eradication, and sustainable development,
  • Emphasizing the need for universal and sustained action by all to respond to the urgent threat of climate change based on the best available scientific knowledge,
  • Taking account of the particular vulnerabilities and specific needs of Parties, especially the least developed countries.

Only five official negotiating days remain before the Paris conference begins. These take place the week of October 19 in Bonn.

The climate rewrite marks a critical step toward worldwide consensus on combatting, mitigating, and adapting to climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 onward, after the current agreement runs out. Key points in the agreement:

  • Hold global warming to no more than a peak of 2 degrees C (or possibly 1.5C, as recommended by a growing body of scientists as new data comes in) above preindustrial levels.
  • Allow review of INDCs following the Paris agreement five years.
  • Commit to “common but differentiated responsibilities” for poorer and richer nations.
  • Assist developing countries financially in cutting emissions (no level of financial help from developed nations is set. Developing countries have repeated demands for support in each phase of negotiations. $100 billion per year has already been promised by 2020 through the Green Climate Fund. Both governments and private entities will participate.
  • Incorporate “loss and damage,” a critical concept especially to poor countries and NGOs that has stymied prior negotiations: “Parties acknowledge the importance of addressing loss and damage associated with climate change impacts and recognize the need for international cooperation and solidarity[, including through the institutional arrangements as defined in [this Agreement][decision 1/CP.21]].” A last-minute “bridge agreement” in Bonn enabled this change to be made.

A three-page supplement details ways for countries to increase emission cuts before 2020. Read the treaty draft here. Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish texts are available.

Fiona Harvey of The Guardian sees the climate rewrite as “a crucial step forward for the talks.” Andrew Revkin of The New York Times states that commitments by India in its just-released INDC to boost renewable and nuclear energy generation (along with expanding coal use to meet its energy needs) will contribute to the success of the international effort.

Although the exact wording of some text elements of the draft treaty remains open to debate at Bonn in two weeks and in Paris, the new draft clears up much repetition, clarifies some important points, and consolidates options flexibly.  Various alternatives show up within brackets. Its brevity may well pave the way for a meaningful and sorely needed agreement this year.


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Written By

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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