Expectations Raised: Now it’s time to deliver

Tearfund’s Advocacy Director Paul Cook, continues our series of blogs on the COP21 Paris Climate Summit. 

Expectations were raised and there was an air of hope in the first days of the UN climate change talks in Paris.  Have we finally reached a tipping point for real progress on climate change?  Millions of ordinary people took part in more than 2000 people’s climate marches all around the world over the weekend of 28-29 November . In London more than 50,000 people took to the streets in the biggest climate march the UK has ever seen.  

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The baton was then passed to the politicians as more than 140 world leaders including David Cameron, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping lined up on Monday at the launch of UN climate change talks in Paris to call for an ambitious deal to ensure global average temperatures do not rise by more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial norms, in what is believed to be the largest gathering of world leaders ever assembled.  Rich nations also pledged $248 million to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to the impact of climate change.  The bar was set high for their negotiating teams to deliver a good deal over the coming two weeks.

Monday also saw a range of other welcome announcements and initiatives all of which raise expectations still further.  The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of nations of the world’s most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, called for a complete end to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels for the first time. They made the case that the world should switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050.  This was a moving and powerful moral call by some of the world’s poorest nations who have done the least to cause climate change and are being hit hardest by it.  

Bill Gates and a number of investors and rich nations launched the Breakthrough Energy Coalition fund, an initiative to pump significant amounts of private and public money into fast forwarding research and development into progressing and scaling up renewable energy technology.  India’s Prime Minister Modi, launched the Solar Alliance of over 100 nations driving the provision of solar power energy for poor communities around the world.

The talks in Paris started well with all of this momentum, but will the governments of the world deliver or fumble this good start as they negotiate over the next two weeks?  We know we won’t get everything we need.  There will still be a lot of work to do after Paris.  However, some 183 countries, including all the major developed nations, representing more than 90% of the world’s population have now submitted their own national plans setting out what they will do to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, which together would limit warming to 2.7 degrees.  Ultimately this needs to come down to 1.5 degrees, but if the nations of the world can lock those commitments into a legally binding deal and agree a mechanism whereby they can regularly review and ratchet up those commitments, even before they come into force in 2020 they will have made a big step to finally get the world on that journey.  If nations can also agree with the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s proposed long-term goal of zero emissions and 100% renewable energy by 2050, and stump up more money (getting to $100 bill a year from 2020) to help the poorest nations adapt and make this transition, then the world (and most of all the poorest, most vulnerable communities with whom Tearfund works) can finally have an outcome from climate talks it can truly celebrate.

A good start then from the negotiating rooms in Paris.  But we still have a long two weeks ahead of us.  Do keep praying and campaigning for a good outcome from the talks.  

You can follow Paul Cook as he engages in the process over the next two weeks.

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