After observing the first week of COP21, it is clear that reaching agreement is not the measure of success in Paris. Everyone from the Executive Secretary to heads of delegation have expressed confidence that all Parties can agree on a final outcome. In fact, at the closing of the ADP plenary, ADP Co-Chair Ahmed Djoghlaf suggested that we have already made history in that the “final general debate” had concluded at Thursday’s ADP Contact Group meeting and all 196 Parties agreed on the draft Paris Outcome on Saturday.
Now that a Paris Outcome seems inevitable, what is the next measure of success? In describing a successful agreement throughout the first week, Parties have rattled off buzzwords such as “comprehensive,” “ambitious,” “fair,” “legally binding,” “enduring,” “long-term,” and “strong.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon addressed this question with more specificity during Monday’s Leaders Event where he listed four criteria for success. First, he stated, the agreement must be durable by providing “a long-term vision that anchors the below-2-degrees-Celsius goal, and recognizes the imperative to strengthen resilience.” Second, he continued, the agreement must be dynamic in order to “accommodate changes in the global economy, and not have to be continually renegotiated.” The third requirement for success is an agreement that embodies solidarity with the poor and most vulnerable by ensuring “sufficient and balanced adaptation and mitigation support for developing countries.” Fourth, he concluded, the agreement must be credible by ratcheting up ambition every five years, beginning before 2020.
To me, Paris has already been successful. COP21 has raised public awareness about climate change by bringing together an unprecedented number of world leaders, country delegates, CEOs, governors, mayors, civil society members, and investors to “demonstrate that they understand both the risks associated with inaction and the opportunities from being part of the solution.” As President Obama said in his speech on Monday, we are “marshaling our best efforts to save the world.”