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The Road from Paris

January 3, 2016
As COP21 concludes, questions arise on its impact on our future. What near and long-term implications would the Paris Agreement have? How does it affect the common folk? What sort of responses are we expecting from civil society organizations, NGOs, academics and businesses?

What matters in particular are these reactions by non-state actors across the globe. At the opening of the COP, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres expressed her wish to see an agreement that “enables the achievement of national climate change goals, delivers necessary support for the developing world, and catalyzes increasing action by all.” We would ideally expect to see scaled up efforts across all sectors, with governments working more closely than non-state actors than before. In particular, the issues surrounding finance would play a central role in the successes of global, national and local efforts.

On Finance, and Innovation

We’d ideally see a better elucidation of climate finance mechanisms. Most experts at COP21 were optimistic that UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, at a speaker panel event on UNEP addressing the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, emphasized the need not to underestimate the capability of the world’s economies to reinvent themselves; by issuing the right incentives and signals, we could begin to drive transformation and scale up efforts in adaptation and mitigation.

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Professor Daniel Esty at a panel discussion on Energizing Climate Action through Broader Engagement and City-Scale Climate Finance

A key component of successful climate financing is a broader engagement across all stakeholders – mayors, CEOs, governors, business leaders. As Daniel Esty (Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University) described, the COP21 talks in Paris offer room for innovation, allowing governments to eventually develop methods to utilize limited public finances to leverage on private capital. This is a crucial element in successful financing as we expect public funds to be inadequate for investments in new technologies or renewables. Hence experts emphasize that we need greater engagement with various stakeholders, as they too play increasingly important roles in the solution.

Furthermore, accompanying the development of new financing mechanisms is the need for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) mechanisms. The processes of reporting progress transparently and regularly ultimately determines the success of the negotiations in Paris and the Paris Agreement.

Thus while Paris might have been a success to many, we would be unable to discover the true success of the conference until years later – when we then begin to look back to evaluate the actions and solutions that arose from the ‘landmark’ COP21 in 2015.
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