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COP21: building an unprecedented and sustainable agreement

Working Papers N°13/2015. Iddri, 2015. 16 p.

The December 2015 Paris meeting aims for nothing less than setting up a new binding and universal regime to replace the Kyoto Protocol. In order to meet this objective, should diplomatic success be favoured over climate success? Or, behind the somewhat obscure and laborious United Nations negotiation process, is there real vision and ambition that could lead to a useful, effective agreement? If so, where are the fault lines and potential sticking points of such an agreement, which could indirectly reveal what is at stake in this debate?

Key Points:

  • PRE-COPENHAGEN: THE NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE

Rio (1992) and Kyoto (1997) were built on rules and categories: responsibilities and objectives were collectively and generically established, but only applied to the so called “Annex I” countries, historically responsible for emissions. Copenhagen’s preparation was still coloured by this vision of the world, which came up against a series of major hurdles. A new approach was therefore needed, to imagine the post-Kyoto Protocol.

  • COPENHAGEN: A CREATIVE FAILURE?

Copenhagen (2009) was a painful step, but brought an important new turn in climate negotiations. It showed that an agreement cannot bear fruit if not universally validated, transparent and assessable. This led to a major change in climate negotiations, built on a bottom-up—rather than top-down and “effort-sharing”—approach: at the Conference of the Parties in Warsaw (2013), it was agreed that each country would prepare and submit its “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC) to the process.

  • TOWARDS PARIS: A PARADIGM SHIFT

As early as 2012, the Durban climate discussions had set the agenda for the Paris conference preparation, including two components: the setting-up of a new international post-2020 climate regime involving all countries and meeting the internationally agreed 2°C target, and an action plan to launch additional short-term initiatives to narrow the gap between the Parties’ pledges for emissions reduction by 2020 and their maximum allowable carbon budget for the same period, in line with the IPCC’s work. From countries’ point of view, the fight against climate change is no longer simply a matter of emissions and distribution of efforts, but also of technology, economic and social choices, a vision of the future.

  • PARIS: A TRANSFORMATIONAL AGENDA?

The December 2015 Paris meeting aims at setting up a new binding and universal regime to replace the Kyoto agreement. The task awaiting the negotiators is not a simple one: they will need to reach an agreement on a new model that is more procedure-based than demonstrative. Their vision is now focused on: establishing a new universal regime both binding and durable; strengthening the benefits of cooperation under a renewed framework of rules and instruments, thus encouraging collective learning and support; and creating a cyclical dynamic of regular renegotiations so as to keep up the political pressure.