The groundbreaking Paris Agreement adopted at COP21 last month sets the stage for unprecedented international climate action. Much of the discussion about benefits from the Agreement has focused on countries’ new climate plans, or “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), which are aimed at the post-2020 period. But the decisions made in Paris can also ramp up climate action in the short term, too—even before 2020.
The decision adopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP) in tandem with the Paris Agreement itself includes a set of elements to “ensure the highest possible mitigation efforts in the pre-2020 period.” These actions are essential if we’re going to achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels and try to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) to avoid the worst climate impacts.
The COP decision includes a coherent package of elements to spur this essential action, including plans to:
1) Strengthen technical knowledge sharing
Parties agreed to strengthen existing efforts to significantly reduce emissions while also providing a space to learn from each other. The meetings held under this “Technical Examination Process” will continue through 2020, allowing Parties to share effective scalable policies, practices and actions in the hopes of replicating them in new locations. Parties also agreed to expand this work program and launch a parallel technical examination process on adaptation efforts, recognizing the urgency of the situation and that countries cannot wait to start building resilience to climate impacts.
2) Continue positive momentum created by non-state actors
While much of the attention around the negotiations focused on national actions, the Paris moment also included significant commitments from non-state actors—especially cities and businesses. The Lima-Paris Action Agenda, a platform to accelerate cooperative climate action, brought hundreds of non-state actors to the table. The final decision text recognized the ambitious actions of cities, businesses and other non-state actors, and encouraged them to scale-up their actions. These non-state actors will now become a regular part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, with high-level events to be held alongside future COP sessions through 2020. The current and future COP Presidencies (France and Morocco) will appoint two high-level climate champions to act on behalf of the president of the COP and plan the future events on non-state actors’ actions. France recently appointed Laurence Tubiana, the French Ambassador responsible for climate change negotiations, as their Climate Champion to take this work forward. Her post will run until the end of COP 22 in 2016.
3) Enhance financial support
The Paris decision urges developed countries to increase their financial, technological and capacity-building support for developing nations before 2020. Specifically, the text encourages developed nations to set a concrete roadmap for providing $100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020. The importance of enhancing adaptation efforts in the near-term was again highlighted as the text calls for significantly increasing the finance earmarked for adaptation.
4) Improve coordination
As important new streams of work evolve from the negotiations, it is essential to have good coordination between UNFCCC activities in order to maximize impact and support countries in raising their ambition. The Agreement asks key UNFCCC bodies dedicated to providing financial, technological and adaptation support to engage directly in the Technical Examination Process focused on raising pre-2020 ambition. They are to provide updates on their progress to better understand their role in supporting the policies, practices and actions identified during the technical meetings. Furthermore, the introduction of Climate Champions establishes a link between the Technical Examination Process and the growing number of voluntary climate initiatives happing outside the UNFCCC. The Champions will play a role in organizing the meetings held under the Technical Examination Process, as well as the preparation of a summary document for policymakers highlighting scalable, replicable and ambitious policies and actions to support advancing implementation. This improved coordination can lead to faster implementation and scale-up of climate initiatives.
Although countries made unprecedented progress during and in the lead-up to Paris, we’ve still got a long way to go to limit warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and prevent the worst climate impacts. The important provisions in the Paris Agreement on accelerating climate action combined with the efforts on raising ambition before 2020 will help ensure the Agreement’s long-term goals remain within reach.