Event ReportsPublished on Aug 06, 2015
The COP21 was at the heart of the conversation on July 28 at the French Embassy in India, where the fifth in a monthly series of talks leading up to the Paris conference was held in partnership with Observer Research Foundation.
French envoys hopeful of COP21 success

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is set to take place in Paris during December this year. An effective and equitable international agreement will be critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, limiting the global temperature rise, and supporting adaptation to climate impacts. The COP21 was at the heart of the conversation on July 28 at the French Embassy in India, where the fifth in a monthly series of talks leading up to the Paris conference was held in partnership with Observer Research Foundation.

French Ambassador to India, Mr. Francois Richier, kicked off the event by introducing the two speakers, H.E. Mrs. Laurence Tubiana and H.E. Mr. Nicolas Hulot, to the audience. Mrs. Tubiana is the Special Representative of the French government for COP21, while Mr. Hulot serves as the Special Envoy of the French President for the protection of the planet. Mr. J. M. Mauskar, Advisor at ORF, chaired the discussion, raising three important questions for the speakers to comment on. The first of these attempted to explore the key takeaways from the Summit of Conscience for the Climate, which took place in Paris between the Indian government and French counterparts last Monday. Mr. Mauskar also asked the speakers whether they were worried or excited by the imminence of COP21, before finally inviting Mrs. Tubiana and Mr. Hulot to share what they had observed through extensive interactions with different stakeholders.

Mrs. Tubiana, who has served as the climate negotiator for France over two decades, began her answer by first reaffirming the main pillars of the climate debate, including Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), financial packages, and mechanisms of implementations post-2015. She expressed the hope that COP21 would allow nations to come up with a long lasting legal document crucial to limiting and maintaining the rising temperatures due to greenhouse gases. Secondly, Mrs. Tubiana identified some of the key political questions governing negotiations, including decentralization, differentiation, adaptation, finance and technology, and means of measuring climate impacts and net losses. Stressing the need for long-term strategies, she also touched on the incorporation of a top down approach to climate change, addressing the facilitation of the historically determined common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). According to her, although India and several other countries agreed that there should be a review of any resulting agreement in five years this should not mean a revision of existing ambitions to reduce carbon emissions.

Moving on to the big challenges ahead, Mrs. Tubiana was wary of repeating the Copenhagen incident during COP21, insisting, "We want to create a real transparent relationship with proper process and discussions." She emphasized thinking beyond the notion of historical emissions and responsibilities, urging a concerted effort where every country should stand with their own plan. To reinforce this point, pointing out "countries like Peru and Mexico, which were not part of historical emissions, are taking first steps and coming up with their respective INDCs." With respect to emissions reductions in India, H.E. Laurence Tubiana suggested that the country "is well sorted and working towards it <...> creating a great discussion on coal to energy mixing, energy efficiency, and other issues." At the same time, she brought up coal contributions to energy as a sensitive issue for India and advocated renewable alternatives such as solar coalitions. Concluding her opening remarks, Mrs. Tubiana backed the country to play a "proactive role" in the negotiations, stating that the hosts of COP21 could "count on India to be on the table to achieve success in Paris.

Mr. Hulot then addressed the opening questions himself, suggesting that "it’s too late to be either optimistic or pessimistic for the upcoming climate talks because this is the time to speak, talk and take an action, now." He acknowledged the sense of urgency surrounding the Paris conference, declaring that "we just have 5 months in our hand and we need to do something big." Mr. Hulot supported this call for action by saying that "if we are able to arrive in Paris to some common legal framework, it will be a great success" and highlighting the necessity of soliciting a "clear commitment from people."

Mr. Nicolas Hulot also identified COP21 as a "great opportunity to work together" and warned, "the future will be tragic if we don’t realize our responsibilities now," especially since "the window is short." Referring to India, he presented access to energy as one of the priorities for the nation, before concluding by reasserting the "need to protest for clean energy in developed countries <...> so that technology sharing could happen easily."

Mr. Mauskar then segued into a lively question and answer session, where members of the audience inquired about lessons to be learned from previous protocols like the Kyoto, the feasibility of using carbon credits to aid mitigation and adaptation, the debate around equity in the context of per capita emissions, and potential responses by the French government if nothing materializes with regards to the INDCs.

To these, Mrs. Tubiana responded by expressing the hope that more countries would adhere to the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol (by September 2015). Secondly she admitted that the discussion around carbon credits was dense and complicated, with some countries in favor of market mechanisms, while others are not too keen on them. Reasserting, "we want a peaceful COP", Mrs. Tubiana ended by stressing the need for countries to trust each other. While trust is necessary to the success of COP21, only time will tell whether or not it will be sufficient.

(This report is prepared by Parijat Lal, Research Intern with Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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