Five Year Commitments to Keep Us Below 2°CSam Harris
In Paris, the climate change negotiations are underway with over 140 world leaders opening the talks while brimming with enthusiasm about the development of a low-carbon economy. President Barack Obama said, “There are hundreds of billions of dollars ready to deploy to countries around the world if they get the signal that we mean business this time” about climate change. While we expected the speeches to be optimistic, leaders pushed the line by delving into the policy specifics, including that of how ambition will be increased over the coming years.
To date, over 180 countries have come to Paris with their national climate action plans, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which include a specific emissions reduction commitment recognizing that reigning in carbon emissions is indeed a very long term problem. One analysis shows that these commitments could keep us to 2.7°C of global warming, which is above the globally agreed level 2°C.
The key will be how to increase the emissions reduction commitments in order to stay below 2°C.
To climate policy wonks, this would take the shape of a “ratcheting mechanism” or “ambition mechanism” – more specifically, a mechanism firmly embedded in what will be the global climate agreement expected as the outcome of these two weeks of negotiations.
In the current negotiating text, released on November 10, the opportunity for a five year ambition mechanism appears in Article 3 (Mitigation), Article 10 (Global Stocktake), and the COP Decision.
We Mean Business has created text options in the “Business Brief: Shaping a catalytic Paris Agreement”, each of these sections. For example, in Article 3 (Mitigation):
- “Successive nationally determined commitments shall be communicated every 5 years.”
- “Each Party shall progressively strengthen the ambition of their successive nationally determined commitment every 5 years from 2020 onwards, informed by the global stocktake set out in Article 10 and by the best available science, until the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC and the objective of this Agreement are achieved.”
Over the next few days, we ask negotiators to take the opportunities presented in the ADP Contact Group and the spin-offs, to establish this mechanism to increase ambition over time.
If governments fail to update the policy environment around 2020 – and every five years thereafter – their progress will lag behind that of businesses and investors, slowing progress in constructing the low carbon economy. We also lose clarity of how the world can keep global warming under 2°C, exposing the private sector to the substantial additional risks of an even warmer world.