COP21 Day 1 review: Cameron says poor nations must be supported in climate fight

Poorer nations must be given the financial support to develop low-carbon infrastructure and to deal with the impacts of climate change, Prime Minister David Cameron told the UN and other world leaders as the Paris climate talks got off to a flying start.

“A deal in Paris must include clear support to the poorest nations,” Cameron said on the opening day of COP21 (30 November).

“The UK has led the way in pledging 0.7% of GDP to help the most vulnerable across the world, including £5.8bn this Parliament to help them deal with the potentially devastating risks of climate change.

“The deal must also support adaption projects in developing countries. The UK has led by example, spending 50% of our climate finance to improve climate resilience. And I hope the Paris deal sets others on course to meet this commitment.”

One of the sticking points in the build up to the talks was climate finance – back in 2009, rich countries made a promise to deliver $100bn annually from 2020, but it was unclear where that money would come from.

However, other leaders seemed to match Cameron’s ambition, notably President Barack Obama and Chiense premier Xi Jinpeng.

What they said…

Barack Obama, who has been explicit in his support for climate action, said that rich nations must accept responsibility for global warming and provide finance for poorer countries

He said: “We must make sure these resources [of climate finance] fall to countries that need help … and help vulnerable populations rebuild stronger after climate related disasters.”

Obama said the US embraced its responsibility – as the world’s largest economy and second largest emitter – to act, and he urged a “common purpose for a world that is not driven by conflict but by cooperation – not by human suffering but human progress.”

“Let’s get to work,” he said.

Obama was followed by Chinese premier XI Jinpeng, who also recognised the responsibility that needed to be shouldered by the world’s largest polluter. Jinpeng said ecological endeavours will feature prominently in China’s 35-year plan and that the country was already the world leader in terms of “energy conservation and utilisation of new and renewable energies”.

Earlier in the day, French President Francois Hollande declared that “everything depends” on the ministers and officials gathered together for the two week long summit. “The hope of all humanity rests on your shoulders,” Hollande said. “What we decide here in Paris we will decide on the very future of the planet.”

World leaders making the right noises about climate change was part of an intriguing opening to COP21 in Paris, with citizens taking to the streets of the world’s cities, police locking down the streets of northern Paris, and NGOs making bold commitments on sustainability.

Paris day 1: What you need to know

Climate marches round the world

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world took the streets of capital cities on Sunday, from Sydney to London to New York, in order to pressure world leaders for a strong climate change deal.

In Paris, where security concerns meant marches were cancelled, thousands of empty shoes were laid out to represent those who were unable to march

“It’s an incredible monument to the voices that have been silenced but also to that hope for action that comes out of this city,” said Emma Ruby-Sachs, acting executive director at campaign group Avaaz.

Nearly 1.8 million people also signed a climate change petition, organised by faith groups, that was delivered to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres on Monday.

‘Hermetically sealed’

Another consequence of last week’s terror attacks was the air-tight security surrounding the conference venue near Le Bourget airport.

Around 2,800 police and soldiers are guarding the conference, with normally-busy roads closed for the arrival of world leaders.

Negotiators got straight down to it

Senior negotiators from almost 200 nations began their talks a day ahead of schedule on Sunday, in response to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’ request that nations avoid the “chaos” that beset previous COPs.

Fabius has requested that the agreement text be submitted to him by next Saturday midday, at which point the high-level talks begin, as nations try and work out the final sticking points.

Billionaires and nations aim to boost renewable investment

Some of the world’s most powerful figures including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson have set up a new group to invest in zero-carbon energy technology around the world.

It was launched alongside other new clean energy initiative called Mission Innovation, which commits its members to doubling their respective R&D investments over five years.

So far, 19 countries representing 80% of global R&D spending are participating in Mission Innovation.

France and India launch global solar alliance

The leaders of the two nations announced a “international solar alliance” aimed at bringing clean and affordable solar energy within the reach of all.

The alliance will be a unique club of more than a 100 countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Observers said that the objective of this alliance should be to offer cooperation for better technology diffusion, faster costs reductions, and sound policy lessons to partners of the coalition.

According to India’s principal spokesperson for the Paris summit Ajay Mathur: “The solar alliance brings together countries that have high solar resource, which have been relatively underexploited, and represents a large market for solar technology. The idea is that larger markets and bigger volumes will lead to lower costs making it possible to spur demand,” he said. 

$250m climate finance for poorest nations

Eleven countries have pledged $248m in new money for adaptation support to the most vulnerable countries on the planet.

Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America announced their contributions today to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF).

In his speech at the COP today, President Barack Obama said “For some, particularly island nations , climate change is a threat to their very existence. That’s why today, in concert with other nations, America confirms our strong and ongoing commitment to the Least Developed Countries Fund. And tomorrow, we’ll pledge new contributions to risk insurance initiatives that help vulnerable populations rebuild stronger after climate related disasters”. 

European powers create $500m green incentives fund

Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland have teamed up with the World Bank to create a new fund that will offer incentives for developing nations to make low-carbon investment decisions.

For example, the new mechanism, known as the Transformative Carbon Asset Facility, might offer reductions to countries that remove fossil fuel subsidies or embark on other reforms like simplifying regulations for renewable energy.

This new initiative is planned to start operations in 2016 with an initial expected commitment of more than $250 million from contributing countries. The facility will remain open for additional contributions until a target of $500 million is reached. 

Calls for end to fossil fuel subsidies

A coalition of close to 40 governments, hundreds of businesses and influential international organisations have called today for accelerated action to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

The US, France, Germany and the UK were all backing the call, which they say would reduce greenhouse gas emission by 10% by 2050.

The move is supported by the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (23 global companies employing 2 million people worldwide with combined revenues exceeding $170 billion) and other business organisations working with thousands of corporations and investors, including The B Team, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the We Mean Business coalition.

Global fossil fuel subsidies cost approximately $5.3trn a year.

Cameron and UK delegation get UK business backing

Rhian Kelly, the director of business environment policy at the UK largest business group the CBI, said: “As world leaders head to Paris to secure an ambitious, lasting climate deal, they have the full support of British business.

“We all know there is no easy answer to climate change. But, business and industry are part of the solution – developing innovative new products and services, and leading the way in cutting emissions, to propel us towards a low carbon future.

“Firms need confidence to invest in this future though, so the Climate Change Conference is a golden opportunity to create the long-term frameworks that businesses crave. This means a clear sense of direction, support for carbon pricing that can drive investment and getting finance and technology flowing.

COP21 Day One: As it happened

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Brad Allen

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