Paris Outcome: a (re)new(ed) hope

Published on
December 18, 2015

This blog reflects ENP PhD candidate Nila Kamil's take on the mitigation and transparency aspects of the Paris Outcome.

As countries sealed the climate deal in Paris last week, there is a surge of relieve in everyone who has been following the UNFCCC negotiation rounds. French Presidency was lauded for its meticulous preparation not only during the two-weeks meeting, but also the whole year round. Unlike in the Copenhagen COP 15 six-years prior, Head of States conveyed their commitments at the beginning of meeting to serve as guidance to all the delegations. There were no secret meetings and secret texts, a tight schedule was provided well in advance with almost no breaks during the weekends, transparency in every meeting processes, and no changing of COP President at last moment, showed how diligent and united the French team was. And the world stand united under its presidency.

The Paris Outcome consists of 20 pages of COP decision and 12 pages of agreement as annex. The Paris Agreement contains huge ambition that aims to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 oC above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1,5 oC above pre-industrial levels”, to “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible” and to “achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”.

Another point is that all countries agreed to participate in mitigation measures through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which reflect highest possible ambition, and also reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances. In accounting for their NDCs, countries shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting.

The NDCs progress of implementation and achievement shall be tracked through an enhanced transparency framework. Apart of the NDCs, countries are also to communicate their national inventory report and developed countries to provide information on financial, technology transfer and capacity-building support provided to developing countries. This information shall undergo a technical expert review, where the review process for developing countries shall include assistance in identifying capacity-building needs.

The transparency framework, established to provide clarity for both climate change actions and support provided and received to implement those actions, is built upon UNFCCC approaches used to date. The modalities, procedure and guidelines are also still under development and to be adopted later on. Questions remain on whether the bottom-up approach, topped by the built-in flexibility in the implementation of the provisions of the framework, and the non-intrusive and non-punitive manner respectful to national sovereignty, will instigate difficulties in operationalization. Will this rather weak framework mechanism realise a high degree of transparency, accountability and effectiveness of implementation of mitigation actions that is much needed to achieve the huge ambition mentioned above?

Thus the Paris Outcome, in spite of being historical moment and renewed hope, leaves many challenges open.