Road to Paris: Time for Climate Action

The 21st United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) taking place in Paris in December 2015 is one of the most significant COP meetings to date. The aim is to mitigate climate change by controlling & reducing anthropogenic emissions in order to lessen the impacts for humans and the environment. Health Care Without Harm Europe will produce a regular blog with the latest climate negotiation news and updates about events and meetings taking place in the lead-up to Paris. 

What is all the fuss about?

After failed negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, the aim of COP21 is to agree a legally binding text and agree on universal actions to reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change, with the overarching goal of keeping global warming under 2C. For many climate change activists and experts, a successful COP21 is crucial if we are to set and meet ambitious targets and save ourselves from catastrophic climatic consequences. The new agreement will hopefully be adopted in Paris in December 2015, and implemented in 2020.[1]

The Text

Arriving at the end of scheduled formal negotiations, a number of concerns have been raised about the status of the present text. The text is said to be too long, currently at 80 pages, but is expected to be reduced to twenty by mid-October. [2] It also appears to be lagging behind schedule. Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, has expressed his concern with the way “technical talks are seriously lagging behind the political discussion.”[3]

Considerable progress has been made so far, in so far as the top three emitters, China, the United States and the European Union have all submitted their CO2 emission reduction targets. However, there are still plenty G20 nations who have yet to submit theirs, such as India (the world’s fourth largest polluter), and others including Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa.

One of the biggest concerns about the targets submitted so far has been their lack of ambition, with experts claiming that they will be insufficient in terms of meeting the 2 degrees Celsius limit. Just over 50 nations have submitted their contributions so far, yet French officials remain confident that once all final offers are submitted, 90% of the world’s emissions will be covered.[4]

For a more detailed look at the emission reduction targets submitted so far, check out the Carbon Brief Paris 2015 Tracker (a blog dedicated to keeping track of countries’ climate pledges) and the Climate Action Tracker.

Climate Financial Package

A great deal of doubt surrounds the Paris’s finance package that will accompany the COP21 agreements. On August 26th, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for a clear methodology of how developed nations should supply $100 billion dollars each year by 2020, to fund developing nation’s climate actions.[5] We expect to hear more financial news in the coming weeks. 

For more details on a possible finance package (with expert opinions on what a decent package should contain), check out the Responding To Climate Change (RTCC) article: What will a decent climate finance package in Paris look like?

Measuring Success

On August 20th, Commissioner Cañete held a press conference where he discussed the progresses and inefficiencies of the last few weeks of negotiations. 

Mr. Canete focused most of this briefing on the elements that will be used to measure success in Paris. He shared four key goals:

  1. High level of mitigation ambition. He expressed that the nations with greatest responsibility as well as capabilities should be making the most ambitious mitigation commitments. Therefore, for Paris to be a success: all big emitters must be on board.
  2. A dynamic review to strengthen ambition over time. The commissioner called for a five-year round-up of nation’s actions in order to fill the gap between target agreements and new scientific data. 
  3. Long-Term Goal: Cañete called for a long-term target to collectively reduce global emissions by at least 60% by 2050, to reach a fossil-fuel-free-world by 2100.
  4. Transparency and accountability: Targets must be backed by multilaterally agreed rules on transparency and accountability.

Commissioner Cañete explained that if these four key elements are addressed, COP21 will be considered successful.

HCWH goes to Paris

Climate change is not only an environmental issue, but also a great health concern. The consequences of climate change have a range of complex health impacts, including temperature-related illness and death, injuries and illnesses due to extreme weather events, the spread of infectious disease vectors, increases in water borne illnesses, and wide-ranging impacts from air pollution. Health professionals have an important role to play on our global fight against climate change, and it is crucial that the health sector develops an educated, effective voice in the climate policymaking process. 

This summer, the Lancet Commission published a report titled: Health and Climate Change: policy responses to protect public health. The document provides ten underlying recommendations to accelerate action in the next 5 years. Amongst its central findings, they affirm that:“Climate change is fundamentally an issue of human health, and health professionals have a vital role to play in accelerating progress on mitigation and adaptation policies.” [6]

In light of the important responsibility of the health sector to take action on climate change, Health Care Without Harm Europe published a report titled Reducing the Climate Footprint. The report presents an overview of the EU legislative Framework on climate change and the opportunities for the European Healthcare sector to reduce its carbon footprint. 

Health Care Without Harm seeks to play a leading role in linking the healthcare sector with climate change. We work to advocate for sustainable health, and we are bringing health discussion to Paris to this December. HCWH will be hosting and participating in a number of climate change and health events in Paris to coincide with the COP21 negotiations and we will have more details about these events in future editions of this blog. 

2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge

Our project Green Global and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) is hosting the 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge, which invites hospitals and healthcare systems to reduce their carbon footprint. The 2020 challenge falls in line with the ambitious climate change goals of the COP21 negotiations. For this reason, GGHH has announced its new climate awards program for the 2020 challenge participants. The awards will give organisations global recognition for their leadership role in the health sector’s road to sustainability. The winners of these awards will be announced at our event in Paris in December 2015 (more details to follow).

Interesting Reads

  1. Climate Action – Three Reasons Why It’s a Foreign Policy Issue
    In an interview, European Commission president Jean-Cleade Juncker explains three reasons why climate change is a foreign policy issue. Firstly, he states that failing to act upon climate change is a failure of many other foreign policy goals. He then highlights the close relationship between climate action policy and energy policy. Europe imports over half of its energy, making it reliant on many of the less stable regions of the world, nations that may be most affected by climate change. And lastly, he states that climate change can only be solved collectively, and globally. “Climate action is an international issue because it can only be solved if we work internationally. This is the premise of COP21..."

  2. Mass Migration is no “crisis”: It’s the new normal as the climate changes.  
    This article from the Guardian takes a look at migration in Europe as a form of adaptation to climate change. Although climate migration is exacerbating the flow of migrants into Europe, the article suggests even European nations will have to consider this alternative. "Thanks to global climate change, mass migration could be the new normal"

  3. Bogus Carbon Offsets Increased emissions 
    A study published by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) found bogus carbon credits might have increased emissions by as much as 600 million tons of carbon dioxide.  Such findings undercut the credibility of carbon trading schemes, which raises great concern for the EU’s climate targets.

Important Upcoming Dates 

31 August – 4 September: Bonn Climate Change Conference

6 September: Ministerial meeting in Paris

15 September: Opening of 70th General Assembly in New York 

25-27 September: Summit for the Adoption of Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals in New York

1 October: Cut-off date for Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to be included in summary report

9-11 October: Annual World Bank and IMF meeting in Lima

1 November:  Summery Report on INDC

15 -16 November: G20 Leaders Summit in Antalya 

30 November – 11 December: COP21 in Paris 


- Ana-Christina Gaeta, Communications Assistant, HCWH Europe










 (Preview Photo Credit: Dineshraj Goomany via Flickr CC)