Preparation for Paris


The post Lima preparation for Paris is already underway. While each country and their delegations have their own expectations and responsibilities, it is imperative that the entire global community prepares as well. What better way to spread global awareness and participation than with live music!? Al Gore and pop icon Pharrell Williams have teamed up to announce a global Live Earth concert in June. This concert, with its purpose to demand climate action, will be staged in six cities on all seven continents. Yes, Antarctica will also be participating in this global event. On this day, the entire globe will stand up together for a cause that is affecting all aspects of our shared planet. The ultimate goal of this music festival is to collect 1 billion signatures to encourage world leaders to adopt a new climate agreement in Paris at COP21. There is a lot of pressure for the outcomes in Paris, especially after 2014 was recorded as the Earth’s warmest year on record. A global event like this could be groundbreaking for increasing public action and awareness.


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A New Kind of Climate Agreement.



Throughout its history, the UNFCCC negotiations have been struggling to find the right kind of agreement that will have enough stringency in regulating emissions to avoid dangerous warming, participation from many nations involved in the global problem of climate change, and compliance of the pacts agreed upon by the Parties.  The Kyoto Protocol was, for some parties, too contractual of an agreement. The US refused to ratify it, Canada dropped out rather than legally exceed its set emission limits, and Japan and Russia decided not to accept the second commitment period targets. This top-down approach, a focus on the international governance of the UNFCCC, made participation and compliance difficult, and, currently, global emission regulations are not powerful enough to keep us from exceeding a 2ºC warming.


In order to step away from this sort of tactic, the bottom-up agreement reached in Cancun had nations volunteer their own mitigation and adaptation strategies. This resulted in participation among more nations but, because nations had an incentive to underestimate their capabilities, the agreement exudes a lack of ambition.


How can we find the perfect balance of governance that invites widespread participation, strict obedience to the rules, and ambitious guidelines that give this planet a better chance of staying below a 2ºC increase? The planet is warming quickly and many domestic governments do not seem willing to pass stringent emission regulations. It is difficult to enact a stringent climate policy when nations feel there is no reciprocity. At the same time, watering down an agreement so that more people participate is not enough action to stop dangerous global warming.


The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) was established at the Durban Climate Change Conference in 2011. They are working on a protocol or agreement to present at the COP21 in Paris to implement in 2020. They hope for some agreement with legal force and a large impact in preventing dangerous climate change. The ADP needs an agreement with the stringency of a top-down approach with the compliance and participation of a bottom-up method. To do this, the ADP should try both- a mixed track approach.


We do not need everyone to participate, but we do need the largest emitters of greenhouse gases to comply with regulations. In the current political climate, a legally binding emission reduction agreement probably would not pass many nations’ governing bodies. The US Senate, for example, does not seem willing to approve a stringent protocol regarding climate change. Because of the recent recession, many nations are hesitant to enact legislation that may decrease GDP or economic revenue in any way. Some agreement is better than no agreement with these countries. A non-legally binding agreement from the bottom-up will allow big greenhouse gas emitters such as the US and China to get involved in reducing their emissions.    This may be the best we can do with regards to these countries. However, with a mixed track approach, we would not have to let the political failings of a couple large emitting countries hold the rest of the world back. It is foreseeable that the European Union (EU) and other developed nations would pass a legally binding climate agreement. Like the Kyoto Protocol, they could have an emission trading system and more stringent emission caps. As Bodansky and O’Connor point out, “stringency and participation should be seen as dynamic variables.” Hopefully, the US, China, and India can transition into the legally binding agreement with time and become participants in the emissions trading system.


The mixed track approach is the best solution for our current political situation. It is better to include large emitting countries like the US in a voluntary emission reduction program than send an agreement to their Congress knowing it will not pass. For other nations, a stringent global emission policy is necessary in order to prevent catastrophic warming. Ideally, even nations such as China, Brazil, and India may elect to sign onto the legally binding, top-down track. They may find that it is their nation’s best interest to reduce air pollution, increase energy independence, and be perceived favorably by the EU. With a mixed track approach, policy can retain the best aspects of both the bottom-up and top-down approaches. We can enact more stringent policy with select nations while allowing less compliant nations to participate. Many difficulties lay ahead, but trying this approach my make the negotiating efforts of the ADP more effective.


Works Cited:

Bodansky, Daniel and O’Connor, Sandra Day. “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement.” December 2012. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Web. file:///C:/Users/Jess/Downloads/03%20Bodansky%202012%20durban-platform-issues-and-options.pdf.


COP21 calls for Momentous Mixin’

By Elizabeth Plascencia

A chart modeling past and projected climate meeting participation (Photo: Till Neeff, Elsevier, ES & P)
A chart modeling past and projected climate meeting participation (Photo: Till Neeff, Elsevier, ES & P)

A match was lit at COP17 in Durban, South Africa. The supplementary body known as the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) was established that December. The inclusive nature of this platform is proposed to ignite change at COP21 in Paris. The mandate of the ADP calls to “…develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, which is to be completed no later than 2015 in order for it to be adopted at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and for it to come into effect and be implemented by 2020” (UNFCCC, 2014). “Bottom-up” and “top-down” are two predominant approaches to climate change policy within the two decades of the work under the Convention. This seemingly urgent call of action as per the ADP requires a symbiotic relationship between the two. A “mixed-track” approach is better suited to achieving the post-2020 goals of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform on Enhanced Action under the balanced dimensions of stringency, compliance, and participation for all Parties.

The international climate regime exhibits both approaches working well independently to a certain extent. Therefore it is proposed that a combination of the two will facilitate a more efficient and effective global combat on climate change by 2020. Within the article The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement, Bodansky clarifies the range of confounding variables to international agreements, historic context relating to the Convention, and options to possible Durban outcomes. I initially gravitated towards the “bottom-up” approach as better suited on the basis of personal optimism regarding local grass-roots movements and voluntary national programs. Upon reading the article I soon realized that there are hard to ignore pros to the “top-down” method and that solely voluntary programs do little when brought in a global context. I found that the policy informs and enforces to a further extent in which “International law can serve a number of catalytic and facilitative functions. Gathering such as the annual meeting of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties can focus attention, help raise public concern, and prod states to do more” (Bodansky, 2012). Legal agreements, legislation, and recommendations remain crucial in terms of maintaining stringency. However, it is important to be mindful of all Parties’ capacity in order to balance compliance and participation.

Working towards the cooperation of 195 countries with distinct agendas and interests may seem like a nearly impossible task but in order to achieve equitable, efficient, and effective international policy a new approach must be considered. A “mixed-track” combining both “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches is better suited to achieving the post-2020 goals of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform on Enhanced Action under the balanced dimensions of stringency, compliance, and participation for all Parties.

***Check out this article about projections for COP21 in Paris next year:

Works Cited

Bodansky, Daniel. “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. 2012

UNFCCC – Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. “What is ADP?” 2014

UNFCCC – Draft Decision “Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” 2014