Second Report from Paris – The COP Unfolds

Thursday, December 3

With the announcements of Monday long forgotten based on all of the activity and distractions here, the COP Policy Work and Business Networking is in full swing, with the former mainly in closed sessions at this point but the latter extremely visible.  An example of the latter is the entire conference within a conference that a number of business organizations are putting on inside one of the giant halls here.  The groups, examples of which are the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), the International Energy Agency (IEA), are putting on stellar sessions separate from the UNFCC Side Events that part aimed at impacting the Text of the Agreement and part aimed at facilitating business understanding, advocacy and deal making.

Here is an update where things stand based on briefings by the COP Presidency and others last night and this morning to the energy industry groups such as mine that are in attendance.

  • The subgroups (think issue or section groups) of Parties (countries) working on different sections of the Text (Agreement) have been told to speed up in the preparation of language options that can be presented to Ministers for decision making.
  • More specifically and significantly, however, all of the subgroups have been told that they must work overnight to complete new drafts by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow (Friday).  Then there will be a 24 straight negotiation period to produce a new draft by Saturday at 10:00 a.m.
  • On Saturday afternoon, the President of the COP (a French official) will formally receive the Text and decide how it will be finalized over the course of the remaining days.  The Plan will include however a target of Wednesday for issuing the final text and then Friday for adoption.

How to interpret this:  The above is obviously mostly about process.  But that is not odd at this point.  The Party negotiators are keeping content close to their vests and many of their meetings are closed.  But as a colleague noted to me:  the Parties look tired, which is a good sign that have really been working on things.

There are indications, however, that one content issue may end up in the Text that has not been talked about that much in the US as far as I can tell.  That issue is peaking emissions, i.e. when global emissions will hit a peak.  The Text could include numerical objectives to reach by 2050

Here are some of my other thoughts and reports at this juncture:

  1. No one I have talked to thinks the “money” announcements of Monday were anyway near enough to do anything other than prime the pump.  But in that vein, they have been welcomed.  There have been events on the Green Climate Fund, but the one I was able to attend was quite murky.  I plan to talk to the Principals
  2.  One of the interesting things being pursued in terms of Text language right now is carbon pricing.   The group mentioned above, IETA, is spearheading this, and they were successful in getting a bit of language into the text that came into this COP and are now trying for more.  The language is simply a general acknowledgement but it would be significant.  Overall, there is a lot more talk about carbon pricing at this COP than in past.
  3. Panels at the Official UN Side Events, starting yesterday, included renewable energy and energy efficiency speakers.  Their presentations could be said to be “same old”, and that has been a problem at COPs, i.e. they are still stuck thinking that those are the only two buckets.  This is primarily, in my opinion, a case of the country representatives attending being much more likely to come from an environmental than energy ministry.

Yesterday one panel showed that the Delegates may want more than that.  After the type of presentation I mentioned above, a Delegate from Kenya took the Q&A session opportunity to say that for her country they needed energy storage and that they also needed to think about energy access.  One of the speakers on the panel was from Schneider Electric, who had actually talked a bit about microgrids during her presentation, and she expanded on smart grid technology solutions and after the session ended, she had quite a few people who wanted some of her time.  Tomorrow, I will be on a panel that is more focused on smart grid, and it has been selected by the UN to be one of the primary panels of they day, in terms of the way they are promoting it.

  1. The incident I just mentioned involving Schneider and microgrids is not the only example I have run into here on that topic.  In a typical COP encounter, while I was eating lunch and catching up on some work, environmental ministry representatives from two different developing countries sat down at my table in succession.  As we chatted about our respective work, their was immediate interest in talking about microgrids, particulary as a means of improving energy access for their citizens.
  2. Just before filing this Report, Al Gore spoke to a group of us here about the issue of stranded assets, as in stranded by actions to reduce carbon.  He talked about that issue but also touched upon actions that needed to happen.  One of those was time-based pricing.  The idea of stranded assets seems to be another new topic you hear people talking about here.