After the close of the first day of the momentous COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, what's the mood in the exalted halls (or plywood walls) of Le Bourget? "Cautious optimism" was a common phrase, and there did seem to be a mood of positivity in the air. 150 heads of state taking to the stand to show their country's commitment to stepping up to the climate challenge is undoubtedly a strong statement.
One of the key shifts from the Copenhagen talks 6 years ago in 2009 is a focus on the opportunities coming out of a move to a low carbon economy. Yes there is still talk of common but differentiated responsibilities and conditional commitments - but alongside the environmental impetus for a global agreement there is also a strong recognition of the benefits for global and national economies.
Korea spoke about a new consumer market for saved power, net zero buildings and electric vehicles. Paraguay talked about its efforts to protect its forests, develop hydro projects and look at energy efficiency and clean fuels in transport. Barack Obama gave a rousing speech about this being the "moment we finally determine to save our planet", about fighting cynicism and the need for a long term strategy to give the world confidence in a low carbon future - highlighting the "hundreds of billions" of dollars which can be deployed if there is a strong signal to the market. Speaking soon afterwards, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping spoke about China's efforts in energy conservation and renewable energy capacity, about new policy measures to develop low carbon transport and green buildings, and about the development of a nationwide emissions trading scheme. Canada admitted that whilst at a national level it had perhaps been "less enthusiastic than some" in recent years about doing something about climate change, 86% of its economy is now covered by province-led emission trading schemes. India, in conjunction with France, launched an international solar alliance of over 120 countries, putting forward an initial US$30 million in investment capitalising on opportunities from falling costs, evolving technologies and better grid connectivity.
Climate finance and carbon pricing were also key items on the agenda for side events and for a heads of state session where 6 premiers came together to show their support for the need to develop a coordinated carbon price. Francois Hollande estimated that by 2020 most of the G20 would have carbon pricing in place and asserted that the current carbon price in the EU should by then have more than doubled. The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition was also formally launched, with the World Bank at the helm and a strong commitment to a carbon price from national and sub-national corners as well as big business, with Engie as a leading representative.
Another trend was a focus on Africa. In an OECD session on mobilising climate finance, the Africa Development Bank highlighted the need to scale up ambition to power Africa, harnessing potential in wind, water and geothermal projects, and raising prospects for double digit GDP growth. With US$62 billion of the US$100 billion per annum committed at Copenhagen for climate finance now deployed, there is at least another US$38 billion per annum to go.
As day 2 dawns, the VIP Heads of State leave and the negotiations get properly underway, there is now a feeling of let's get down to business. In the words of Angela Merkel, an agreement needs to be "ambitious, comprehensive, fair and binding." The next 2 weeks will see if this can be achieved.
Stay tuned for more developments and don't forget to join us at our side event in the IETA pavilion if you're at COP later this afternoon:
‘The keys to successfully developing renewable energy projects in emerging markets’
15:30 – 17:00 – Tuesday, December 1
IETA – WBCSD COP21 Business Hub (pavilion 4, Hall 3) Conference Center (Blue Zone), Le Bourget, Paris