The road to Paris and beyond


Headline issue

Effective international cooperation can help the world develop along a 2°C pathway and adapt to the climatic changes already locked-in as a result of past and ongoing greenhouse gas emissions. It can also help countries seize the many opportunities and benefits associated with the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The United Nations climate change conference in Paris at the end of 2015 is an important opportunity to advance toward those objectives.

The French Government, which will host the Paris summit, has indicated that it will seek a ‘Paris Climate Alliance’ as an outcome, based on four aspects:

  1. A universal legal agreement, applicable to all countries
  2. National commitments covering control and reduction of emissions
  3. A financial and technology aspect aimed at scaling up finance and technology for climate change mitigation and adaptation while guaranteeing international solidarity with the most vulnerable countries
  4. An ‘Agenda of Solutions’ aimed at implementing accelerators to ensure more ambitious progress, above and beyond binding commitments.

The legal agreement that is emerging is a hybrid agreement, involving a mix of centralised and decentralised, binding and non-binding elements. The agreement will be associated with ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs) by countries to restrain and reduce emissions, the achievement of which will be non-binding internationally. The agreement is also likely to involve centralised, common processes to ensure the transparency of countries’ efforts and. It is widely hoped, that the agreement will also include a review-and-revision process for countries to increase the ambition of their commitments regularly over time (e.g. every five years).

Yet, many obstacles remain on the road to Paris, and on the longer pathway toward an effective and equitable response to climate change.

Key findings 

  • International climate cooperation should be organised around:
    • The long-term objective of achieving net zero emissions within the second half of this century
    • Associated medium-term goals including the decarbonisation of electricity by mid-century and, well before mid-century, the phasing out of unabated coal-fired electricity generation
  • It is appropriate to interpret the principle of equity (contained in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” (CBDR) in a dynamic, collaborative, and opportunity-focused way.
  • The Paris agreement should contain dynamic elements that enable ambition to be raised over time, including a regular (e.g. five-yearly) review-and-revision process.
  • Countries should be encouraged and assisted to develop domestic institutions, laws, policies, and political configurations that are conducive to:
    • Increasing ambition
    • Seizing opportunities for better growth
    • Implementing commitments effectively
  • Around US$6 trillion per year will need to be spent globally, and mostly in developing and emerging market countries, on infrastructure over the next 15 years. The climate finance being mobilised through the UNFCCC’s Paris process should be structured in a way that is complementary to the Sustainable Development Goals finance.
  • International coordination on low-carbon innovation should include:
    • Coordinated scale-up of national expenditure on research and development
    • New public-private regional networks for the development and demonstration of new and locally-adapted technologies and processes
    • Scaled-up public venture capital for innovative clean technology firms
    • Better global coordination of clean energy deployment support