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Paris: It’s All About the Money

At the climate talks, rich countries and poor countries are squaring off.

Loic Venance / Getty

In the end, a successful climate change accord all comes down to money. Financial commitments from richer nations historically responsible for greenhouse gas emissions are important to the outcome of the talks, because they serve as carrots for poorer nations to cut back on their reliance on coal. The problem is, rich nations just don’t have enough of an appetite to foot the full bill on adaptation and clean energy, and the U.S. wants to ask large developing nations like China to help.

China has balked at that proposal. China and a group of 130 developing nations released a statement Wednesday evening that exposes just how deep the fault lines run between developed and developing nations on who pays for climate change. According to a spokesman for the bloc of countries, they were “deeply concerned” with these economic conditions: “Any attempt to replace the core obligation of developed countries to provide financial support to developing countries with a number of arbitrarily identified economic conditions is a violation of the rules-based multilateral process and threatens an outcome here in Paris.”

Yikes! As longtime conference-participants note, though, this is all part of the usual rhythm of the COP.

Here’s our progress report on COP21. Blue bars indicate progress toward the goals, compared to yesterday, red bars indicate backward momentum, and gray bars indicate no change:

Progress Report   December 3, 2015

Commit to cut carbon emissions significantly by 2030.

There’s a vigorous debate over whether an agreement will include a directive that countries “shall implement” their individual plans to cut carbon, in the legally binding section of the agreement. The Obama administration wants more “wiggle room” in that phrasing, reports E&E News.

Establish reporting and transparency requirements.

Obama wants tough oversight of individual countries’ climate progress in order to deliver on his promise that the Paris deal can still be meaningful even without a treaty. China and India are working to strike paragraphs on oversight.

Create a payment system to finance climate adaptation.

Countries are far from figuring out how to mobilize $100 billion in annual climate finance by 2020, but developing nations are also “asking that $100 billion is a floor to the finance that will be mobilized over time,” Natural Resources Defense Council’s Jake Schmidt said.

Put past disagreements aside.

Conflicting messages from India: While issuing a warning on the tense negotiations surrounding climate finance yesterday, a negotiator from India’s delegation also suggested there could be reconciliation: In that case, India “absolutely” would be less reliant on coal if it gained more in climate finance.

Agree to return to the negotiating table regularly.

Search the text of the agreement, and you’ll find the word “ratchet” does not appear once, a key idea to having countries ramp up their ambitions every few years. But UN climate chief Christiana Figueres says “there is a growing consensus” that the review period for these targets “will be every five years.”

Rethink the 2-degree target.

The latest draft includes five options for how to spell out another long-term goal on global warming, one that isn’t expressed as a 2-degree red line. It could be anything from the strongly worded “zero global GHG emissions by 2060-2080,” a weaker promise to peak in emissions as soon as possible, or a vaguer sentiment that pledges lower emissions in the long-term.

On Thursday, climate negotiators released their updated text of the climate change agreement, which, at 50 pages, is marginally shorter than the draft at the start of the conference. There is a long way to go, though: The final agreement shouldn’t be more than roughly 20 pages.

Here’s a roundup of the biggest news from around the conference:

  • Jonathan M. Katz, reporting from Paris, meets with environmental activists who have their own vision for the future. If COP21 echoes the failures of Copenhagen, environmentalists won’t waste time crying. (New Republic)
  • Many developing countries want an agreement to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, but that number is a “red line” for other nations. As the conference progresses, Australia acts as a go-between to make sure all nations might have their goals at least referenced in the text. (The Guardian)
  • While negotiators shuttle between press briefings and meetings, radical activists are competing in the Climate Games. One action made a hilarious spectacle of a VW dealership. (New Republic)
  • This week, the House of Representatives approved two Senate resolutions to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan. But the symbolic gesture hasn’t scared Paris negotiators about the U.S.’s dedication to combating climate change. (E&E Publishing)
  • An Oxfam report published December 2 found that the richest 10 percent produce half of the globe’s most harmful emissions, while the poorest half contribute only 10 percent. Disagreements about which countries should be held liable for climate change are likely to plague COP21. (The Guardian)
  • Exxon Mobil, a company accused of both exacerbating climate change and covering up the effects of fossil fuels, voiced its support for a Paris agreement, especially one that includes a tax on carbon pollution. (Bloomberg Business)
  • The Marshall Islands face rising water while their foreign minister in Paris attempts to convince rich countries to pay loss and damage to islands that have climate change lapping at their borders. (New York Times)
  • Germanwatch released its newest Climate Risk Index today, which maps climate vulnerability in an effort to contextualize the climate talks. According to the report, Honduras, Myanmar, and Haiti were hit hardest from 1995 to 2014. (Pacific Standard)
  • Forests have become an important topic in the climate talks, but the protection of trees is not a simple issue. Indigenous, public, and private stakeholders often disagree on the best plan of action. (Grist)   
  • French authorities may have banned public protests during the conference, but artists have still managed to capture the spirit of dissent with installations throughout the city. (Yahoo News)
  • The hacker collective Anonymous leaked passwords and login details of officials from several countries involved in climate negotiations in response to the arrest of several climate protesters on November 29. (The Guardian)

Read our previous progress reports:

Monday, November 30

Tuesday, December 1

Wednesday, December 2