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Elements of a good Paris

Agreement on climate
change
Here are the key themes and objectives of the Agreement on Climate
Transformation 2015, and the work it has produced
Dean Tony La Via, Niner Guiao, and Railla Puno
Published 1:00 PM, May 17, 2015
Updated 1:00 PM, May 17, 2015

A picture taken on May 6, 2015 shows an earth globe at a school during a ministers' visit to students
working on a project about global warming to prepare the COP21 international meetings, also known
as 2015 Paris Climate Conference, in Le Bourget. Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

In two weeks, representatives from most governments of the world will be


gathering in Bonn, Germany to accelerate negotiations for a new global
agreement on climate change. The prospect of such an agreement, hopefully to
be adopted in Paris, France, in December 2015 comes at a most critical time fort
the world as critical thresholds are about to be crossed that could determine that
we will be getting the worst impacts of climate change in the years and decades
to come.
Here in the Philippines, we are definitely no strangers to the devastating effects of
climate change. The record-breaking super typhoons that we have recently
experienced, such as Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) and Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda),
which occurred around the time that the 18th and 19thConference of the Parties
(COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) were in session, prompted Vice Chair Lucille Sering of the Climate
Change Commission to state before the plenary during the 20th COP in Lima,
Peru, that our typhoons have already spoken on our behalf.
The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
leaves no doubt that these series of super typhoons, as well as all the other
climate-related calamities being experienced around the globe, are directly
related to human activities. It goes on to say that the further warming of the earth
will result in harsher impacts on the poor, marginalized, and rural communities. It
is because of these imminent and devastating impacts that the Parties to the
UNFCCC are pressured to come up with an agreement that will push the global
economy to adopt low-carbon arrangements, while at the same time ensuring
resilience to climate change impacts.
It is on this premise that the Agreement on Climate Transformation 2015 or ACT
2015 project was conceptualized and embarked upon. ACT 2015 is made up of
the worlds top climate experts and think tanks from both developed and

developing countries. As a consortium, they have come together to formulate and


present a well-researched but concise proposal for the upcoming global climate
agreement.
Headed by the World Resources Institute, a global research institute, and funded
by the Climate Works Foundation, the European Commission, and the Prospect
Hill Foundation, ACT 2015 brings together bright minds from E3G (Third
Generation Environmentalism), Ecofys, Energeia, the Institute for European
Studies Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the New Climate Institute, the PBL
Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Tsinghua University, and South
Centre Special Advisor on Sustainable Development Mr. Youba Sokona.
The Philippines is represented in this consortium by the Ateneo School of
Government, headed by veteran member and main negotiator for the Ad-Hoc
Working Group on the Durban Platform of the Philippine delegation to the
UNFCCC, Dean Tony La Via, and supported by Atty. Therese Guiao, Atty. Railla
Puno and Carlie Labaria.
Last May 10, 2015, ACT 2015 officially launched a legal paper entitled Getting
Specific on the 2015 Climate Change Agreement: Suggestions for the Legal Text
with an Explanatory Memorandum. This paper contains a set of ideas and legal
suggestions for an international climate agreement and hopes to serve as a
reference tool for negotiators on the road to Paris. Based on significant research
and analysis, this legal text has undergone several consultations with different
representatives from governments, NGOs, and business groups in different
regions of the world over a span of two years, with the hope of presenting a
unified proposal containing balanced views and priorities of different
stakeholders.
This article is the first part of a two-part examination of this ACT 2015 proposal.
In this part we would like to share with you the key themes and objectives of the
consortium, and the work it has produced. The second part will then attempt to
explain the specific parts of the suggested legal text.

Core Functions
During the numerous convenings that were held all over the world with different
stakeholders, the primary question that was presented to the members was
always: What functions should this Agreement fulfill? This question comes from
the understanding that the adoption of a global climate agreement in Paris will
only be the first step towards the solution to climate change. The real battle will
be at the implementation stage, where all sectors and members of society will
have to adopt low-carbon pathways. For the Agreement to ultimately achieve a
low-carbon and climate-resilient world, the consensus was that it must fulfill the
following core functions:
1. send a clear signal to policy makers, businesses, investors, and the public
that the low-carbon, climate-resilient economy is inevitable
2. link to science with a sense of urgency
3. connect the global Agreement to the real economy and real people and
enhance sustainable development
4. demonstrate fairness, equity and justice in climate actions and outcomes
5. provide transparency and accountability for country commitments
6. accelerate the investment shift to low-carbon and climate-resilient
economies
7. protect the most vulnerable
8. incentivize action
Two Long-term Goals

A view of the logo for the upcoming COP21 Climate Change Conference to be held in France, during
a press conference at the Quai d'Orsay foreign ministry in Paris, France, 14 January 2015. Ian
Langsdon/EPA

Guided by these core functions, ACT 2015 proposes two long-term goals that aim
to operationalize the overall objective of the UNFCCC. This will send clear
signals to all stakeholders of the urgent need to catalyze climate action and will
provide a clear and steady path for the Parties to follow. These long-term goals
are:
- to ensure that global temperature increase stays below an average of 2 degrees
C in comparison to preindustrial levels, by implementing a phase-out of all GHG
emissions to net zero as early as possible in the second half of this century, and
- to reduce the vulnerability, and build the resilience of communities to climate
change impacts, through collective actions applicable to all countries, based on
their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
These two long-term goals, independently and combined, will fulfill the functions
of the Agreement and will facilitate the way towards a low-carbon and climate
resilient world.
Continuous Cycle of Improvement
Perhaps the biggest criticism of the climate regime is its slow progress in
addressing the overall objective of the UNFCCC. It is admittedly worrying that
since the Convention was drafted 23 years ago, binding GHG emission targets,
which are modest at best, are still limited to a handful of UNFCCC Parties. In
order to raise global ambition, the 2015 Agreement must have universal
participation and must be firm in its mandates. The Agreement must therefore
prohibit rolling back of targets and compel Parties to strengthen their reduction
commitments every five years.

This global rise in ambition can only be achieved through a strong support
mechanism. The Agreement recognizes the principle of common but
differentiated principles throughout its provisions, providing for some flexibility
based on respective capabilities and different national circumstances. The
support mechanism under the Agreement, which comes in a package that
includes finance, capacity building, and technology development and transfer, will
follow the same five-year cycle under Mitigation and Adaptation. Through this,
Parties are assured of true global mobilization and equality both in effort and in
performance. The Agreement will ensure that all Parties will be able to
substantially contribute to achieving the long-term goals, aiding those countries
that need support while at the same time providing avenues for able countries to
continually better themselves.
Transparency and accountability
At the heart of every international convention or treaty between contracting
parties is something very intangible and ambiguous: trust. Given the structure of
public international law and the supremacy given to State sovereignty, the
implementation of international conventions and treaties can be a tricky matter.
While there are international courts that adjudicate on the basis of these
agreements between countries, using stringent enforcement measures to force a
country to comply with the judgment, save for issues relating to genocide and the
like, is very rarely done.
It is therefore of utmost importance, especially in multilateral agreements such as
this, that there is a mechanism in place that will ensure transparency and integrity
in the fulfillment of obligations. Under this Agreement, a strong system that will
measure, report and verify countries actions will be put in place to ensure
transparency and accountability. This framework will encourage Parties to collect
and report complete and genuine data in a common format that will be accessible
to all Parties.
Road to Paris

While the United States of America has long been heavily criticized for its
marginal involvement in the climate battle, President Barack Obama at the 2015
White House Correspondents Dinner mentioned the words stupid, shortsighted, and irresponsible in reference to climate deniers within his own
government. Significant statements such as these from prominent decisionmakers all over the world indicate a global shift in perception and recognition of
the climate change problem. No less than Pope Francis stated in his pontifical
message to the 20th COP last December that there is a clear, definitive and
urgent ethical imperative to act.
While an optimist will see this developing societal shift as a sign of a truly
productive COP in December, a realist knows that in the months leading up to
Paris, delegates from around the world will need all the help they can get in order
to produce a legal text that will be acceptable to all countries and will truly
address our climate problem. Rappler.com