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Paris climate summit: better finance, greater ambition

Written by Smita Nakhooda


​The much-anticipated UN climate summit has begun in Paris, with heads of state gathering to demonstrate commitment to climate change at the highest political levels. 

Most of their countries – including the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, some of the poorest countries and vulnerable small island states – have submitted offers of climate action through their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

While these are a hugely significant step in the right direction, they are not enough.

An agreement must help countries must go beyond what’s currently on the table

We’ve already emitted more than two thirds of the emissions that the atmosphere can absorb before temperatures rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the target agreed during previous climate talks. The best available estimates suggest that even if current INDCs are fully implemented, we would still be heading to a 2.7 degree increase in temperature.

Negotiations in Paris must therefore support and incentivise ever greater action at all levels – government, business, and civil society – and result in arrangements that support countries to not just achieve, but exceed the goals set in their INDCs.  An agreement in Paris can make a difference by mobilising investment to realise and accelerate action, and establishing a clear process to review and increase efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. 

Mobilising finance to accelerate action can be a part of the solution 

Developed countries will need to meet their commitments to finance adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. Many donors have committed to significant increases in public climate finance: several European countries have offered to double their public climate finance contributions by 2020. 

But developing countries will seek greater clarity over how finance will be scaled up over time. Increasing adaptation finance to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries will be essential.

Ideally, developed countries would commit to increase the concessional finance that will be available to address risks that impede investment in climate change.

More flexible low cost finance and better ways of spending it will catalyse action at all levels, particularly by the private sector, which could accelerate the transition to climate-compatible development.

It would also help to increase funding under the UNFCCC, including the Green Climate Fund. Of course UNFCCC funds must show they can deliver real impact quickly

Paris should signal support for the greening of all investment and financial flows

The business case for climate action is clear: over the last five years the costs of clean energy have plummeted.

Yet governments around the world – developed and developing alike – continue to offer billions of dollars of subsidies for the production of fossil fuels that cause climate change. There’s an urgent need to phase these out, and instead increase investment in research, development and innovation to make climate action even more viable faster. 

Taking steps to mobilise finance for INDCs to support ambitious implementation, would help all countries meet and exceed their proposed goals.

We need a process to ratchet up action 

An international framework for action must prompt countries to offer new commitments of action, through which they do more to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience to climate change. Without clarity on this process, it will be hard to consider the agreement a success.

Parties will need to agree on a set of rules and systems for tracking and ramping up progress in implementing national contributions. Many have called for a requirement to review INDCs every five years and ratchet up action.

No international agreement can be expected to address all relevant aspects or approaches to a problem as urgent and encompassing as climate change. But the players gathered in Paris have a historic opportunity to set the world on a safer trajectory that delivers better outcomes for people and the planet. Now they must mobilise the investment to ensure that this happens.