COP23: Preserving the spirit of Paris: where do we stand and what are the issues at stake?

COP23, which opens in Bonn on Monday 6 November until 17 November, comes after another year of extreme weather events, the impacts of which have again broken historical records - such as the floods in Central and South Asia or the recent series of hurricanes in North America and the Caribbean. The IDDRI (Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations) presents the challenges of the event in its latest editorial: make progress on an urgent and delicate implementation of the Paris Agreement. 
Por the first time, an island state, the Republic of Fiji, will chair the COP. Given the particular context and the uncertainty about future financial flows, Fiji can be expected to focus on issues of importance to the coalitions such as the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which calls for a 'solidarity package' encompassing closely related issues such as finance, adaptation, capacity building and loss and damage. While solidarity is symbolically important, Fiji's chairmanship will have the daunting task of maintaining the constructive spirit and framework of unity that prevailed in the Paris Accord, despite the temptation for some to rekindle old divisions.
This is a delicate climate diplomacy task, which the European Union will also have to carry out, because trust between vulnerable developing countries and developed countries is the key to greater ambition.

State of play

While this came as no surprise, the announcement of the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Accord was a shock that went far beyond the climate community and played a mobilizing and even catalytic role in terms of climate action by all kinds of actors, from nations to individuals, from cities to businesses. While most countries together refused to renegotiate the agreement and reaffirmed the need for strong climate action and global governance, it remains to be seen how the first COP after the announcement of the US withdrawal will assimilate and translate these declarations of goodwill into concrete climate action. Let us hope that Donald Trump has not lowered the bar to the point where being "ambitious" is now not limited to simply staying within the Paris agreement. Because, as scientists tell us more than ever, it would be far from enough if we want to keep our temperature targets within reach.
Given the reduced expectations of COP23 in terms of outcomes, the world's attention will undoubtedly shift from the Bula (blue zone) area - devoted to the negotiations - to the Bonn (green zone) area - which will focus on the Global Climate Action Plan.
This year, the main signs of progress on global climate policies may not come from intergovernmental debates but rather from voluntary coalitions of governments, civil society and economic actors. Everyone will be looking for a re-emergence of climate leadership, but in a decentralized manner, as countries are no longer its sole embodiment.
The European Union has been more active in the Agenda for Action than in the negotiations, even though one of its Member States (Poland) will chair the COP next year. Sub-national leaders have been at the forefront, such as California Governor Jerry Brown, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the "We are still in" coalition, which is pursuing climate action in the United States despite the obstacles. It remains to be seen whether this leadership will translate into concrete action on the ground. There will be many opportunities to raise awareness of climate action, which will help to assess the momentum of the Global Climate Action Plan and the progress it can generate.

COP 23 negotiations

The forthcoming negotiations must fulfil two important tasks: to advance the current skeleton of the Paris Agreement settlement, and to design the Facilitative Dialogue. While many expect a technical COP - with negotiators questioning a consensus formulation of the rules - it should also lead to another outcome that will not be negotiated as such: the design of the Facilitative Dialogue, through which Parties will collectively take stock of their climate efforts next year; designed in a robust and appropriate way, this Dialogue can already help create the conditions for Parties to scale up their climate ambition.


With regard to the regulation, progress at previous climate conferences has been slow but steady, and issues that remain to be resolved include: the transparency framework, communication on adaptation, guidance for NDCs or the design of the Global Stocktake, and implementation and compliance issues. [1]. Although the regulation will not be finalised before COP24, success will be judged on the basis of progress made on a set of rules common to all and sufficiently flexible according to countries' capacities.

Facilitative Dialogue

Following extensive consultations with Parties and non-state actors, the Fiji Presidency will have the onerous task of proposing the design of a dialogue, a process that will not be limited to a single moment at COP24.
This process is likely to include a preparatory phase at the next meeting in Bonn in early 2018 and a political phase during COP24. To accompany the necessary progress, the Fiji Presidency has introduced the Talanoa concept, which refers to a free-flowing conversation in which ideas are shared and trust is built on mutual understanding and empathy.
Recall that current levels of ambition are far from sufficient: it is therefore urgent that the right incentives are in place for Parties to want to revise their CDFs, and that the right opportunities are available for them to effectively submit more ambitious contributions before 2020.

Beyond COP23, the road to ambition

Overall, this COP is likely to be much more important and symbolic than many people recognize, as it kicks off a three-year political sequence of climate summits: just weeks after COP23, President Macron will invite the world to Paris on 12 December to celebrate the second anniversary of the Paris Accord and mobilize climate finance for a real and deep low-carbon, resilient transformation.
Less than a year later, and just months before COP24, California Governor Jerry Brown wants to reassure the world that the US climate ambition has not weakened but has moved from the federal level to the national and local levels. [2]. Finally, the UN Secretary General promises another summit in 2019.
This profusion of meetings should help to clearly highlight the inadequacy of existing efforts and create a new dynamic of ambition.
But the very notion of ambition, often limited to countries' cumulative emission levels, suffers from a lack of global recognition, which would allow countries to engage in a constructive discussion. [3]. Only by adopting a broader approach - and a richer, more operational and therefore more effective vision - will policymakers be able to raise their level of ambition, considering the long-term sectoral transformations needed to drive decarbonation. [4]. COP23 seems to be the right time to address this issue and to launch the reflection on ambition from a multidimensional perspective.
Judith Voss-Stemping and David Levaï, Director Climate Programme - International Climate Change Negotiations IDDRI
4] Transport Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project Consortium (2017, forthcoming). Beyond emission targets: how to decarbonize the passenger transport sector. Iddri, Policy Briefs N°13/17.
In the run-up to COP23, IDDRI proposed analyses and recommendations on how to promote sectoral climate action as a means of raising national and global ambition. In addition, IDDrI will organise and will participate in several events in Bonn.
Photo: Fiji Islands
To go further :
- Annales des Mines Thematic Dossier "What effective financing of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? » by Françoise ROURE, Economic and Financial General Controller, President of the "Security and Risks" section of the General Council for the Economy (Ministry of Economy and Finance) and Mireille CAMPANA, General Mining Engineer, Senior Official for Sustainable Development - General Council for the Economy.
Industrial Realities Collection, October 2017.

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