Blog 2 from our co-convenor in Paris

Health in the COP21 – the final 24 hours of negotiations

From the start of this round of negotiations, it seemed clear that the climate and health message was getting through.  At least for low- and middle-income countries the link between climate is a clear and present danger to health on a daily basis.

Not only that, it was obvious that the negotiators had learnt from Copenhagen and built the international political will for a global agreement that might be strong enough to protect human health equitably.

In the lead-up to the COP and over the last week, the French have been using their famed diplomacy to the utmost to ensure success.

The Agreement itself is short compared with previous attempts – the draft released at the start of the week by the diplomats a mere pamphlet at 20 pages long, with the latest version at 27 pages. This includes a preamble of short paragraphs where values and matters considered are introduced followed by the Treaty itself as a series of Articles.

A health protecting agreement would be one that all the major emitting countries have signed up to, it would set a ceiling on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in keeping with the a goal of leaving nobody behind, and it would include clear timeframes and mechanisms for accountability.

So how has human health fared in the agreement as it’s come together over the last week?

Firstly, a coalition of the most vulnerable countries, the EU and the US, called the “high ambition coalition” has formed a powerful bloc on the side of a 1.5 C target. This bloc has been sticky, with other countries joining over the week, including Canada, with NZ being a notable absentee until the last moment.

The result has been a strong compromise to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5, recognising that this would significantly reduce the impacts of climate change.”

In the current draft, countries will be required to submit progressive national commitments every 5 years that will have to be better than the previous one, and the aim is to reach carbon “neutrality” by the “second half of the century”.

Mentions of health have slowly been disappearing from the agreement over the week. However, the “right to health” is still recognised in the preamble and “health co-benefits” of mitigation are recognised in the operational part of the agreement.

It’s not yet clear which parts will be binding, if any. Some big sticking points remain: the flow of funding from high income to low-and middle-income countries for adaptation and mitigation, along with how irreversible loss and damages of climate change will be compensated.

Despite these last points of contention though, the mood feels optimistic here that a good foundation for action will be reached by tomorrow (Saturday 12 December). But civil society attending the COP are also clear that we can’t leave climate action in the hands of national governments… more on that later.

 #ICEWATCH – climate art at the Panthèon

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