Messages for Ministers

By Barry Coates, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

As Ministers arrive from around the world they have a historic responsibility. While it is clear that most countries want a global agreement, the current draft is not good enough. It will put us into an era of dangerous climate change. After eight years of often acrimonious negotiations, government officials have left a draft agreement that needs political leadership. There is still time for Ministers to salvage an agreement that would provide a foundation for a safe climate future.

Setting a goal for a safe climate

The effort to accommodate all countries in a global agreement has resulted in a weak, ‘pledge and review’ process. Unsurprisingly, the current pledges for emissions reductions and finance fall well short. Even with the most generous of assumptions, emissions reduction pledges would increase global temperatures by 2.7 -3.5°C.  

More ambition is needed. Governments are well behind the changes that are taking place in society. Instead of protecting the polluters, governments need to put in place policies that will use pricing, regulation, education and investment to accelerate the transition towards a just and low emissions world. Far more needs to be done to scale up the transition away from fossil fuels towards a low carbon society, resilient communities and to protect the most vulnerable people.

This means a Paris Agreement must include:

  • a long term goal of 1.5°C which is essential to avoid devastating impacts on vulnerable people. As global temperature rise approaches 1°C, extreme events are already causing massive damage, suffering, loss of life and loss of biodiversity.

  • A commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies and to put an adequate price on greenhouse gas emissions

  • A rapid transition to decarbonisation by 2050.


A review and ratchet mechanism to increase ambition

Regular and frequent reviews of pledges to action are important because government targets made so far are nowhere near sufficient to prevent dangerous climate change.

In the real world business, consumer action and technology are moving rapidly, as are cities and institutions. In the past five years we have seen rapid changes in the cost of solar PV, battery storage, electric vehicles and business action on climate change. We have also seen a wave of action by consumers, households and cities. Much has changed over the past five years and the situation in five years’ time will again be very different. There must be reviews and new pledges for action frequently - each five years or less.

Setting the parameters of the first review is crucial. It should be based on a scientific review, followed by a stocktake of progress against the long term goal, an analysis of contributions by each country against objective criteria for emissions reductions and provision of finance (including their responsibility for past emissions and capability to take action), and the targets for emissions reductions by each country. The process needs to start immediately to ensure that more ambitious targets for action are in place by 2020 when the Paris Agreement is due to come into force. A similar process should be repeated at least each five years.

Currently the review and ratchet mechanism in the draft agreement is incoherent and ineffective. Ministers need to bring clarity to the process. It is vital that there is a mechanism to progressively strengthen commitments to stay within the rapidly depleting carbon budget that will avoid dangerous climate change.

Supporting clean development in poorer countries

Around $2 trillion of investment will be needed over the next three decades for a transition renewable energy, and much of that investment needs to take place in the poorer developing countries. There has been a promise of $100 billion to be provided by 2020, but this has not been delivered. This level of funding is also not going to be sufficient to leverage funds for investment in the poorer developing countries future beyond 2020. OECD countries need to lead the way, supplemented by funding from the richer developing countries.

It is crucial that there is clarity about the funding being new and additional (not just re-labelled aid money), adequate, predictable and transparent, complemented by access to clean technologies.

Protection for the most vulnerable people

Millions of people around the world are already suffering from climate impacts. Vulnerable communities are bearing the brunt of the impact, but have no safety nets and no assets to fall back on. It is crucial that the richer nations that primarily caused the problem of climate change take the lead in helping countries to protect themselves and adapt to climate impacts.

This means there needs to be adequate levels of climate finance, without impossible hurdles and bureaucratic procedures. It also needs a mechanism to provide resources for vulnerable countries suffering from extreme weather, through a loss and damage fund.

Transparency and accountability

Increasing the level of ambition will require trust and cooperation that has been sorely lacking in negotiations over the past 23 years. It is essential that countries abide by the spirit of the agreement without trying to twist the rules for their own advantage. That means there need to be clear rules and definitions, and strong accountability mechanisms.

These next few days are crucial. We need politicians to step up and elevate their vision beyond the interests of polluters and their short term commercial interests. Green Party members from across all continents are in Paris to help make this happen, supported by our members and voters.


Portfolios: