Road to Paris: Time for COP21

With the past five years (2011-2015) being the warmest period on record, and climate change finally recognised as a global threat, this year’s conference of parties (COP21) in Paris is of utmost importance in the international political agenda. All countries that are members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – 195 nations, plus the EU – have agreed to adopt a new global climate agreement in Paris next week, which will take effect in 2020.

Attacks on Paris & COP21

The horrific attacks that took place in Paris on November 13th have introduced a great deal of insecurity and concerns to the preparations for COP21. There is widespread concern that a climate agreement will not be reached in Paris as security concerns are brought to the fore in the internationals community’s priority list. 

Europe’s stability has been shaken by the awful attacks on our Parisian neighbours. However, world leaders are expecting negotiations to maintain a firm focus on the objective of reaching a climate agreement for the sake of global warming and, in the words of President Obama; “…every leader [needs] to send a signal that the viciousness of a handful of killers does not stop the world from doing vital business.” [1] France has also made it clear that the climate summit will continue as planned, and that they will not allow terrorists to determine the negotiation’s agenda. It is great news that none of the 130+ heads of state and governments have yet pulled out of attending the negotiations. 

Security around the summit will be stringent. There is great pressure on France to ensure maximum security at the climate summit, thus in efforts to keep civilians safe from threat, the Paris Climate March expected to take place on November 28-29 has been cancelled.  The cancellation of the climate march is an important safety precaution, yet also an unfortunate loss to civil society’s active participation at the climate negotiations. Climate activists, NGOs and other grassroots groups are encouraging civilians to stay safe, yet make their voices be heard through social media. 

Image: PEACE4PARIS by Alain Van den Hende via Flickr CC

Poland Against the Climate

Poland’s new conservative government has expressed its clear intentions to protect the country’s large coal industry, and is currently pursuing efforts to veto a deal at COP21. Poland is the only European country that is responding with such resistance to reaching a global climate agreement. If Poland maintains its stance, it could possibly derail the whole climate agreement, which must be accepted by all 196 governments including Poland and the European Union. Commissioner Arias Cañete affirmed in a press conference this week that Poland would not stunt the EU’s ambitions, and is expected to stick to its already submitted pledge. You can find out more about this topic from POLITICO.

Climate Finance – Oxfam Report

A new report by Oxfam includes the results of new modelling (carried out by Climate Analytics) which estimates developing countries’ adaptation finance needs and the economic losses that would be associated with a global temperature increase of 3°C. The report reveals that developing countries will have to pay $270bn extra each year to adapt to the impacts of climate change if global pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions do not increase.

Under the currently submitted pledges (INDCs), global temperature is likely to rise by 2.7-3°C above pre-industrial times. According to the report, it would cost developing countries $790bn every year to adapt to this scenario, 50% more than the $520bn it would cost them to adapt to a 2°C rise, the target for avoiding catastrophic climate change agreed at previous UN conferences.[2] Although INDCs have already been submitted, these alarming predictions are the reason why the Paris agreement must have a review mechanism for nations to increase their ambitions in the future. 

Oxfam looks at potential game-changers on finance and mitigation ambition that could prevent these costs for the world’s poorest people. These are the issues that will determine whether the Paris deal reflects the power of the biggest fossil fuel emitters, or whether it will be a turning point to begin to address the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

EU Climate Action

The EU has set out its vision for the new agreement, which aims to limit the rise in global average surface temperature to below 2°C compared to pre-industrial times to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. The European Commission’s Climate Action website provides insights on what the EU is currently doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all areas of activity, including: energy, transport, land-use, agriculture, resilient cities, emissions and finance. On this site you can also find a series of short videos outlining the EU’s plans for climate action, along with other useful resources and infographics. 

Commissioner Arias Cañete held a pre-Paris press conference where he outlined the EU priorities for the COP. 

The three priorities are:[3]

  1. A global vision for a long term goal as a signal for stakeholders, including businesses, investors and the public, of the resolve to shift to low-carbon economies;
  2. A mechanism to regularly review and raise the collective ambition;
  3. A robust transparency and accountability system to ensure that parties and stakeholders can trust that what is promised will be delivered. 

EU Representation

The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission will both be responsible for negotiating on behalf of the EU in Paris.  The EU will be represented jointly by the Environment Minister of Luxembourg, Carole Dieschbourg, and European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete. Representatives from several Member States are designated as lead negotiators for the EU on specific issues and therefore also speak on the EU's behalf in the negotiations on these issues.

Here you can find a list of the key representatives who will make or break a new climate change agreement. “Get to know them as the ‘COP21’ game of chess begins.[4]"

Climate & Health

With only days to go to COP21, we are ready and more encouraged than ever to bring the topic of health to the climate change negotiations in Paris. It has been repeatedly acknowledged that climate change is the greatest threat to global health of the 21st century.  At HCWH, we are proud to be one of many organisations speaking out about the need to tackle climate change not only for the environment, but also for global health and well being. Check out our Climate & Health infographic, illustrating the the relationship between climate change and the health sector. 

WHO "Protect Health from Climate Change" - The WHO calls on the global health community to add its voice to the call for a strong and effective climate agreement that will save lives, both now and in the future. Sign the pledge to shine a brighter spotlight on health for more meaningful climate action at COP21.

GCHA - The Global Climate and Health Alliance, whom HCWH is partner with, has developed a briefing report, a film, and a series of infographics to explain the health implications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group II report. The report summarises key findings, discusses their implications for health, and provides recommendations on the way forward. “Climate change could be 'the biggest global health threat of the 21st century’, but by working together, we can turn it into this century's greatest opportunity for public health.”

Climate Health Summit

“Our Climate, Our Health” is a Global Climate & Health Alliance (GCHA) campaign that aims to place health at the heart of the COP21 climate change negotiations. The campaign seeks to raise awareness and educate the world on the relationship between climate and health, empower and support health professionals to take action on climate change within the health sector, and to push for stronger policy action and a firm climate deal at COP21.

5 December - Climate and Health Summit 

GCHA will be hosting the Climate and Health Summit on December 5, bringing together health professionals and stakeholders to find and develop answers to the overarching question: How can public health change the conversation on climate change in a post-2015 world?

HCWH Goes to Paris

Health Care Without Harm will be in Paris hosting a couple of events in parallel to COP21. We will be speaking out about the relationship between climate change and health, and advocating for climate action for the protection of global public health and the environment. You can follow our activities by tuning in through our Facebook page and twitter. Follow us with the hashtag #2020Challenge.


3rd December – Health Care Climate Leadership Roundtable

HCWH is bringing together top health system officials from US, Europe, Asia and Latin America in a private, closed-door meeting where strategies to accelerate carbon footprint reduction in the health care sector will be discussed.

4th December – Conference on Climate Change and Health Care

In collaboration with the French Hospital Federation (FHF) and the French Federation of Private Non-profit Hospitals (FEHAP), HCWH will host an all-day event focusing on the reduction of health system’s carbon footprint. Examples of best practice from around the world will also be presented at this event. View the event programme here. 

Event Location: Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou, Paris

Free of charge, limited space. Register here!

Other Resources

Interactive: The Paris Climate Deal - The 54-page negotiating text for the Paris climate negotiations has been in the making since 2010, and can be a bit challenging to digest. Carbon Brief has broken up the text into its component parts and summarised the issues, creating an interactive tool that maps out the draft of the Paris climate deal.

Fuelling the Fire - Corporate Accountability International released a new report, “Fuelling the Fire: The corporate sponsors bankrolling COP21,” exposing the filthy track record of the corporations sponsoring the Paris climate talks. With less than one week before the start of 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the climate treaty, the report pulls back the green veil of four of the meeting’s dirtiest sponsors.

BBC Video "COP21 primer: A brief history of climate talks" - This 8 min video gives a quick overview of what is expected from COP21 and provides a brief history of climate talks. 

The Tree Podcast – Communicating Adaptation and Resilience

EU Climate Change Survey - The EU’s Eurobarometer is the website for the Public Opinion Analysis sector of the European Commission. They have recently completed a survey about climate change, the results of which were just published. Find the results, including a summary and national fact-sheets in all EU languages.

Interesting Reads

  • Paris attacks - COP21 and the War on Terror
    This article by the Ecologists explores possible links between the horrific attacks that took place in Paris on November 13th, and the upcoming UN Climate Summit (COP21). The author, Oliver Tickell discusses ways in which the attacks will impact the outcomes of the conference, and addresses the question of whether the attacks could be related to COP21. 
  • Leapfrogging to Solar: Emerging Markets Outspend Rich Countries for the First Time
    This article by Bloomberg provides significant data demonstrating how emerging markets are taking the lead on clean energy. “China alone is adding more renewables than the U.S., U.K., and France combined.” This article also includes great infographics and other media to convey how “Energy Markets Could Shift in 2016.”
  • Meat tax far less unpalatable than government thinks, research finds
    Meat production produces 15% of all greenhouse gases – more than all cars, trains, planes and ships combined. Tackling global warming will be impossible if the world’s appetite for meat is not addressed. This article by the Guardian takes a look at the important role the meat industry plays on our climate and addresses the need for governments to emphasize this link. The article doesn’t call for a switch to a vegan diet, but rather to simply “cut down” on mean consumption.

Stay Active on Social Media

Tweet your LeaderSend your country's leader a tweet today to show you care about our planet and stand with them as they meet in Paris to change climate change.


Elephants in the Room The NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) are speaking out about the need to include Shipping and Aviation in the Paris agreement. Visit their website to find out how you can join them on this call next week in Paris.

#eyesonparis - Oxfam has launched its“#eyesonparis” campaign, which calls on people to post an image of their eyes on social media to show world leaders they have their ‘eyesonparis’.  

#StopFundingFossils – Use this hash tag to demand world leaders to end fossil fuels subsidies by 2020.  

#EarthToParis - Watch this video and use this hashtag to tell our climate leaders to make bold commitments to combat climate change at COP21 and beyond!


- Ana-Christina Gaeta, Communications Assistant, HCWH Europe