A new group has been announced during the Paris Climate Talks – the High Ambition Coalition. It is not a formal negotiation group like the G77+ China or the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Rather it represents a block of countries with a common position – recognition of the need for a target of less than 1.5℃. Apparently, it has been gathering strength for the past six months during secret discussions.
During the press briefing to an unusually packed room on Friday, December 11th at 4:00 pm Paris time, the founder of the group, the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister Tony de Brum, announced that Brazil has just joined. Later that evening Australia announced its acceptance into the group.
The composition of the group of more than 100 countries is a mixed bag of other Parties as well. There are LDCs, SIDS, accompanied by the United States, the EU, and Canada.
During the press briefing, Minister de Brum made it clear that this was a serious group that did not take their commitments lightly. If the countries are to tackle climate change, high ambition coupled with political will are necessary. Simply stated, this is the pathway to survival. Any country that wished to join must demonstrate dedication to that goal. He further expressed displeasure at some Parties that wished to “gut the text” with a minimalist approach to the Agreement. When asked why China and India were not members, Minister de Brum answered that while they welcomed new Parties to broaden their reach, they would not sacrifice this core belief that high ambition was required in the Paris Agreement. In a later press Conference, the Chinese deputy foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, dismissed the Coalition stating: “We heard of this so-called ambitious coalition only since a few days ago, of course it has had a high in profile in the media, but we haven’t seen they have really acted for ambitious emissions commitments, so this is kind of performance by some members” .
Further, they underscore that the Agreement must be durable and legally binding with rigorous review every five years. This may be the reason that India is so reluctant to join as it has stood by its position for review every ten years. The member Parties agree that they cannot go home without the ambition that they are fighting for; they are determined for its inclusion in the Paris Agreement. During a Press Conference on Monday, December 9th, Secretary Kerry announced the United States’ participation in the Coalition stating : “Addressing climate change will require a fundamental change in the way that we decide to power our planet. And our aim can be nothing less than a steady transformation of a global economy.” Minister de Brum called for decarbonization as well, this is not just about a temperature target. Clearly, to reach this goal, the framework for transparency will be critical ; “so everybody knows what we are all doing”. Finance, one of the hot button topics, is also critical to the success of a high ambition goal; the 100 billion pledged will need to be actually delivered. Other mechanisms for securing future finance flows, technology transfer and capacity-building must be included in the text for developing Parties for full implementation of their mitigation and adaptation plans. The German Environmental Minister, Barbara Hendricks, further noted that what was needed was a “fair and modern system of differentiation”, one in which every Party contributes to emissions reductions “as much as they can.” After all, she concluded, the Paris Agreement “is more than just a piece of paper.”