Skip to content

International climate talks begin in Paris

World leaders have gathered in Paris to commence historic negotiations on tackling climate change, with optimism high for a strong global agreement despite political and legal challenges.

World leaders have gathered in Paris to commence historic negotiations on tackling climate change, with optimism high for a strong global agreement despite political and legal challenges. 

The talks in Paris, which run until 11 December, aim to set a clear course for global action on climate change beyond 2020, when current UN agreements are set to expire.

Delegates hope to agree a deal which will keep progress in line with the need to limit global warming to within the 2°C deemed safe by climate scientists.

Challenges

147 national leaders attended the opening day of talks on 30 November, including Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Xinping, who all made bold statements on the need for action.

However, the pledges brought to the table by nearly 200 countries will only reduce global emissions by half the amount required, meaning that fraught negotiations are likely to be needed over the coming days. 

The EU has already committed to a binding emissions reduction target of at least 40 per cent by 2030 against a 1990 baseline.

Further difficulties are also likely to emerge regarding the legality of any eventual agreement. The EU and many developing countries have insisted that the agreement must take the form of a legally-binding treaty to ensure that countries deliver on their commitments. However, the US has so far steadfastly refused to sign a treaty.

Market signal

In his speech, David Cameron called for the deal to include a binding legal mechanism, a 5 year review to verify progress and financial support for the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

Meanwhile, UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, informed leaders that the agreement “must send a clear signal to markets that the low emissions transformation of the global economy is inevitable, beneficial and already under way’. 

‘Golden opportunity’

Rhian Kelly, director of business environmental policy at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said the negotiations had “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”, she said. 

“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.”

Several new pledges have already been announced at the conference, including the Mission Innovation initiative, which will see twenty participating countries - including the UK, US, China and India - double their investments in clean energy research and development over the next five years.