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Mitigation: Ambitious yet unclear

By December 10, 2015 No Comments



Many may see the mitigation as the strongest part of this agreement, but the lack of precision on the long term goal worries me.

It is ambitious. The long term goal sets a clear objective and perhaps this deal will significantly accelerate the growth of clean energy infrastructure, scaling technology and driving further innovation.

But in the latest text, we haven’t got everything we may have hoped for.

Negotiators have now shifted from a quantified or time-bound reduction goal, to a peaking goal.

Hopes of quantified cuts are gone, and our timeframe remains aspirational.

Instead, GHG emissions are planned to “peak as soon as possible” in the hope that we could achieve and “to achieve GHG emissions neutrality in the second half of the century”. This is linked to efforts to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees, or as much as possible, below 1.5. However, this will be almost impossible unless that “second half of the century” is as close to 2050 as possible.

Quantified emissions reduction targets have also been removed as there is no longer any reference to a clear baseline to compare emissions to.

The new draft also eliminated any reference to “decarbonization” of the global economy which was one of civil society’s key demands.

Nevertheless, emissions neutrality should ensure clear direction towards a clean energy pathway.

Some progress was made on differentiation as well. It is now less rigid. There is a clear indication that developed countries should take leadership on mitigation and the removal of all references to Annex 1 and 2.

The agreement also clearly indicates that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, recognising their particular circumstances.
This gives me some hope that we will find an agreement soon. But as negotations kick on into the night, it is still difficult to predict.

The language on neutrality opens up a lot of uncertain doors, but certainly doesn’t close any of the ambitious ones.

On the positive side, Parties have now agreed on 5-year mitigation cycles, a key component of the ‘ratchet up’ mechanism. Ousted in previous versions of the draft, a lighter version of that mechanism can now be found in the decision part of the draft Paris outcome. It says that INDCs must be confirmed or updated by 2020 but doesn’t clearly state that they should be ramped up.

The text on the ex-ante review which had also been wiped out has now found its place in the decision section, although in a slightly lighter version. This review aims for parties to communicate their INDCS prior to their finalization in order to ensure their adequacy with the long term temperature goal.

Finally, two elements are still to be subjected to a decision by Parties and are currently between brackets: internationally transferred emission reductions and a mechanism to support sustainable development.

Overall, this gives me hope that this mitigation section, with 5 year cycles, emissions neutrality, a peak year push and some semblance of an ex-ante review could salvage the negotiations on mitigation.

However, without the precise timeframe for emissions reductions we have no clarity on how mitigation actions should be verified and tracked over time.

While “ASAP” sounds great when you’re sending an aggressive email, it lacks the tiered clarity we need to push developed and developing economies into transition.

Charlotte Flechet

About Charlotte Flechet

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