Tuesday: gearing up for a draft final agreement

Well, things got more somber yesterday at COP21. The parties directed ministers, including Canada's environment minister, to adopt a collaborative approach, to work in a series of interlocking and overlapping working groups, and to get the job done.

Several thousand people overflowed the meeting hall to hear last night's update. Despite the respectful tone and the expressions of goodwill it is clear that there is still much work to do to bridge significant gaps, some of which are aspirational while others are very tangible. Seeing the faces of the delegates and negotiators on the giant screens around the room you could see the fatigue etched in their faces.

They will work through the night again. As it evolves, the draft text will be posted on the website.

Yesterday, some of the things that stood out for me include:

  • Decoupling emissions from GDP growth
  • Incorporating fairness into the Paris Agreement, since the intentions of nations are not perfectly on the 2% reduction trajectory and more effort will be required
  • Continuing support for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees versus 2 degrees. Canada supports this.

Canada has, according to an afternoon briefing, also sided with the U.S. on issue loss and damage. The Americans do not want to open the agreement up to unlimited liability and compensation. The G77 and China are not happy.

It was also good to see the Canadian youth delegation state their support at that briefing for the 1.5 degree target, and for eliminating CO2 emissions by 2050.

Now, for those who question why there is a strong Yukon/Canada presence at COP21, and what influence we have here, I'd like to tell you about the informal gathering I attended to commemorate Maurice Strong, a Canadian international emissary who died December 5th. The room was full of people of all ages from around the world who gathered to express their gratitude for this Manitoban, born into poverty who went from being a security guard at the United Nations building in New York to being one of the most powerful international non-elected figures in modern history. Strong, among his many accomplishments, convened the first environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972. He was quoted tonight as saying: "if we act as true custodians of the planet we may yet inherit the Earth".

Tomorrow we will see what the negotiators have been able to craft from dozens of conversations between hundreds of people. I will be attending yet more sessions. More on those tomorrow!

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