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Paris deadline in sight ahead of Geneva climate talks

Geneva

Creative Commons: UN Climate Talks, 2014

As we enter 2015, climate change is firmly back on the agenda and the stage is now set for a comprehensive deal to be agreed in Paris in December.

Next week (8-13 February) diplomats from around the world will meet for the first time since Lima, with the aim of shaping and sharpening the global agreement on climate change, set to be signed by the end of the year.

In Lima, governments crafted a sprawling 38-page text laying out the various options for the landmark deal – which will see all countries, big and small, rich and poor, take on climate commitments.

The last UN climate session before the draft agreement will be translated in May – to be ready for negotiations in June – countries are expected to streamline this text in Geneva.

Ahead of the meeting, the newly appointed co-chairs – Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria and Dan Reifsnyder from the US – laid out their instructions for the week ahead, calling on delegates to identify the elements crucial for the new agreement, eliminate duplications, and present alternatives and divergences.

Set against the backdrop in which scientists have confirmed 2014 as the hottest year on record, Geneva is an opportunity for government to harness the growing momentum around the world calling for a fossil free future.

Nearly 90 countries, including Mexico and South Africa together with institutions such as the World bank, business voices such as Unilever chief Paul Polman and Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson are calling for a Paris agreement to have at its core the aim of phasing out fossil fuel emissions.

This call is backed by the latest science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is what people around the world are calling for.

As well as being the hottest on record, last year was also a monumental moment for the climate movement, with mass public mobilisations, a stark report by the world’s climate scientists, and demands from a diverse range of communities including business and religious groups.

This momentum will continue into 2015, with a highly anticipated encyclical from the Pope as well as hundreds of thousands of individuals who will attend LiveEarth climate concerts around the globe this June.

This growing chorus is calling on leaders to scale up the ongoing transition away from climate change-driving fossil fuels towards renewable energy and in Geneva, governments can act by strengthening this element of the draft Paris deal, for example by adding the phase in to 100% renewable energy.

Despite the best intentions to achieve a more succinct text coming out of Geneva, however, there is still potential for the text to expand before it is whittled down, as countries work to ensure their views are captured.

Least developed countries will want to be sure the agreement will be structured fairly, with adequate support to spread the burden of managing climate risks and to empower them to develop sustainably. Such support will be linked to finance and technological capacity: to reduce emissions, to build resilient communities and to prepare for the climate impacts that will leave lasting damages.

And while in Geneva countries work to develop the basis for the international agreement, back in the capitals countries are now preparing their climate action commitments (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – INDCs) which will form the foundation of the 2015 agreement.

These commitments are expected to start rolling in at the end of next month adding to those already put forward by major economies such as the EU, US and China.

Collectively, these plans can accelerate the transition away from dirty fossil fuels towards 100% renewable energy.

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