Friday, 11 December 2015

What’s the verdict; are we seeing success in Paris?

By Hannah Scott
EMEA Sustainability Coordinator, at CBRE

This is it. We can see the finish line. How likely is it that the long-awaited legally binding, international deal on climate change will be delivered at COP21? Let us reflect on the past two weeks of the Paris climate talks.

A timeline of (key) conference headlines
Day 1: Record breaking numbers in attendance, world leaders make motivational speeches, and Laurent Fabius is elected as president of COP21.

Day 2: France promises Africa €2 billion by 2020, the 4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate is launched, and world leaders depart leaving negotiators to do the heavy lifting.

Day 4: Buildings Day; a day devoted to the built environment. The Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction is launched, and it is announced that a draft outcome will be submitted on conference day 6.

Day 5: Education Day; a day devoted to youth and education. The UNFCCC Climate Funding Snapshot, a live climate finance tracker, is launched.

Day 6: The ‘Climate Action 2016’ partnership to aid momentum post-COP21 is announced, astronauts send a message from space, and the first Draft Paris Outcome is released.

Day 7: Laurent Fabius selects his 14 facilitators to help lead discussions in the second “compromise” week of the conference.

Day 8: A $5 billion initiative to expand African renewables is launched, and the first fall in carbon emissions during a period of global economic growth is reported.

Day 9: A “High Ambition Coalition” of more than 100 countries, formed in secrecy six months ago, is revealed.

Day 10: A revised (‘clean’) ‘Draft Paris Outcome’ is presented. Countries share their views in a long, late-night plenary session.

Day 11: A third revision of the ‘Draft Paris Outcome’ is presented at just past 9pm in Paris, with less than 24 scheduled hours of COP21 remaining.

Day 12: It is announced that negotiators aim to wrap up the agreement a day later than expected, but according to Fabius “things are moving in the right direction”.

The last push – what final steps are needed for COP21 to be successful?
Remarkably, the 27-page draft agreement released late last night contains only 50 points of disagreement. This is 889 fewer points of disagreement than those detailed in the first draft, published just 6 days ago. Let’s take a look at how three major issues – discussed previously on the Green Perspective – have progressed.

What is the limit? Finally, we have seen progress! The limit agreed in the latest draft is “well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”. A somewhat waffley compromise, but it is progress.

Who is responsible? The current draft agreement takes a heavily differentiated approach. This aims to deliver fair apportionment of responsibility between nations (and is arguably a small miracle!). However the eligibility criteria for countries receiving financial support through the deal remains to be agreed.

Who will pay? Estimates come in a mixed bag but, according to the new UNFCCC Climate Funding Snapshot, pledges may add up to more than previously expected.

Another key question on everyone’s lips; what form will the final document take? Will it be the long-awaited legally-binding treaty, or a weaker international agreement? Despite the deadline extension, it would seem that the election of Fabius is proving a smart choice. The majority of deadlines have so far been met (a rarity at the UN), and according to Fabius "the atmosphere is good, things are positive" – astonishing, considering negotiators have been at it for 12 days straight, with very little sleep!

A seemingly positive industry response
The influence of the built environment on global warming is well documented and, if the sector is to play its part in limiting global temperature increase to 2°C, it needs to reduce carbon emissions by 84 gigatonnes by 2050. Over the course of the conference, a number of positive outcomes have resulted.

·         Launch of the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. The Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction brings together 18 nations and 60 organisations in a combined effort to build climate resilience into cities and infrastructure.

·         Commitment to nZED by the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group. A dozen major companies have announced their intention to prioritise nearly zero energy building (nZED) designs.

·         World Green Building Council makes collective commitment for 2050. The WGBC have pledged support for Net Zero status of new builds, and the deep refurbishment of existing stock by 2050.

·         A multitude of individual corporate pledges. More than 50 UK Green Building Council members, and 114 international corporates have each committed to carbon reduction targets, which if achieved will deliver a combined saving equivalent to the annual emissions of South Africa.

·         26 major financial institutions to integrate climate considerations. A record number of financial institutions – with combined balance sheets in excess of $11tn – have signed up to the World Bank’s Five Voluntary Principles to Mainstream Climate Action within Financial Institutions.

·         The Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition reaches $600 billion. Following the registration of Allianz and ABP, the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition now boasts 25 investors and oversees the decarbonisation of $600 billion in assets under management, surpassing their $100 billion target tremendously.

·        More than 500 industry climate solutions publicised. A plethora of corporate success stories have been uploaded to the COP21 Climate Solutions Hub, including the work on greening IT systems by CBRE France.

      Positive outcomes of COP21 seem to be coming from all directions and – with less than 48 hours to go – we remain hopeful that everything will go to plan, all 195 parties will sign on the dotted line, and the long-awaited legally binding, international deal on climate change will be delivered on Saturday. 

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