Too much hot air, not enough trust – Day one from the Climate summit

By Barry Coates, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Memories of the Copenhagen climate summit are never far from the minds of negotiators at the climate change talks currently being held in Paris. In 2009 the Copenhagen talks collapsed in an atmosphere of political mistrust and mutual blame. It has taken six years to get negotiators back to the point of trying again to sign a global agreement.

Now there is hope for a deal. Many of the conditions are favourable for a global agreement – strong public support and growing support from business, falling costs of renewable energy and pledges to reduce emissions from US, China and others. But many of the political differences remain unresolved.

These include the crucial issue of climate justice. Most of the climate change problem has been caused by emissions from the industrialised countries and they need to take the lead in reducing their emissions. But few have made the commitments that are deep enough to put them on track to decarbonise their economy by 2050, which is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

In these first days of the climate summit there needs to be a package of measures to show commitment is needed from the developed countries, including a ratchet mechanism to continue reducing emissions, enough finance to support the poorer countries to accelerate clean energy and defend themselves from climate impacts, including a type of insurance fund against disasters, and access to clean technology. They are also calling for a long term target to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C – the current negotiating target of 2°C is too dangerous.  

The speeches from leaders on the first day – the largest ever gathering of world leaders - introduced some promising initiatives – a solar alliance, clean energy R&D, a call for a price on carbon and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels – but a patchwork of new initiatives is less important than a global agreement that will build trust and momentum for action. We need to see the climate justice issues addressed.

The next few days will be crucial. Unless there is real commitment from the richer nations to take action and provide finance, the climate summit may end up with an empty shell of an agreement that results in continued suffering and loss of lives, causes irreversible loss of biodiversity and threatens even worse catastrophe from runaway climate change.

Green Parties have been at the forefront of demands for climate action. Their efforts helped organise marches around the world. The people have spoken. Now it is time for the governments to deliver. Green Parliamentarians, members and supporters from around the world are in Paris building support for urgent action and climate justice and holding their governments to account. We must ensure that governments do not fail this time.

Barry Coates is a Green Party candidate from New Zealand, next on the list to get into Parliament, and a Councillor on the Asia-Pacific Greens Federation. He has been a campaigner on climate change since the Earth Summit in 1992. He is currently fasting in support of people suffering the impacts of climate change.

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