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COP21 Paris: Day Three

COP21 Paris: Day Three
The polluted waters of the Yamuna in New Delhi. 2012.
File - AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal

Even though media is not giving as much attention as it did on the first day of the conference, many things are still happening in Paris. During the third day of the conference negotiations persisted, with talks continuing as usual mainly in closed-door “ spin-off groups”. Rumours say that so far the progress has been very limited, but this is very common for this sort of climate conferences. Most of the decisions are in fact taken only in the second week. 

The focus of these negotiations is to find an agreement that will gain consensus among all the parties. The issues that are discussed during consultations are (1) format of text, (2) key issues, (3) transparency of the process and (4) timeline. These meeting are supervised by Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister and COP president.

On the other hand, the main focus event organised yesterday by LPAA was on Resilience and attracted a lot of attention. The major point of discussion among keynote speakers was how to protect victims of climate change. Of course, most of the debate was centered on the amount of money that must be invested to save the lifestyle of millions of people that will be affected by droughts, floods and other natural disasters. More importantly, the debate was about who should be paying for these adaptation costs. The West has already committed itself to sustain most of these costs, at least verbally, but many doubt if the money they will provide will be enough in the end. 

When talking about Resilience, water became the main point of attention. Water is one of the most of important areas related to global warming. A lot of attention is given to decarbonisation and natural disasters, while discourses about water access and justice is often neglected. In the end, water is vital for the functioning of many businesses, and more importantly agriculture. The discussions were not only centered on the availability of water but also on the risks related to poor quality of water. Many officials argued that resilience to climate change requires adaptive water management and robust water infrastructure. In order to ensure resilient societies, water should be included in the climate agenda and in the Paris Agreement. As a starting point, cities and countries joined the water stewardship act, launching several new initiatives under the umbrella of the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation. At the same time, the World Bank announced that it will invest one billion dollars to support groundwater management programmes in India and tackle water scarcity.

Another major topic of the day was divestment: the Divestment movement argued that there have been impressive leaps for the divestment efforts, with enormous amounts of resources being withdrawn from fossil-focused projects to sustainable renewable energies. Campaigners argue that 3.4 Trillion dollars have flown from fossil fuels. Yet, they point out that divestment makes sense for three reasons: First of all, divesting is a moral obligation. Secondly, it's supported by financial rationale. Finally, the regulatory framework and the reform of these investments is now a major issue. 

The financial rationality of divestment was celebrated during the speech of Kevin de Leon, President of the Californian Senate, who argued that decoupling GDP from carbon has resulted in economic growth and in the creation of many new jobs. The message is that reducing climate emissions can bring economic prosperity. 

The resilience focus event was certainly shaped by the noise created by a new Oxfam report on the historical responsibility of global warming. In the new research, Oxfam shows that the richest 1% of the world's population produces 175 times as much CO2 per person as the bottom 10%. Furthermore, the richest 10th of the world produces 50% of the greenhouse emissions. At the same time the poorest 50% produces just 10% of these emissions. Many officials acknowledge that global warming will require a lot of operations to adapt to climate change, mainly in the poorest regions of the world. Yet, these regions often lack resources to start and coordinate these operations. In these settings, financial investments from Western countries become an imperative.

Today, the fourth day of the conference, is the Young and Future generations day. The focus events organised by LPAA are on Transport and Building. Watch this space for more updates on the conference.

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