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December is a cold month in Stockholm. The average daily maximum temperature is -1°C. But as Stockholmers walked around the city’s parks in their t-shirts with 12°C and sunshine during December, negotiations in Paris were also hotting up. Swedes were once again reminded of the sensitivity of their environment to climate change and so the government was pleased with progress at COP 21. The official government press release following negotiations lauded the result, highlighting Åsa Romson’s role in mitigation and loss and damage negotiations.
After the dust settled on events, Mundus International spoke again to Turid Tersmeden – a Negotiating Expert for the Swedish Climate Delegation – to get an expanded view from the Swedish team. Readers may remember that we interviewed Ms Tersmeden in the October 2015 edition. Then, she spoke clearly about Sweden’s strategy of being a role model, and the breadth of activities currently underway to support this. Then there was a general sense of positivity about both the outcome that was hoped for, and the role that Sweden had played to date. This January edition looks at the immediate implications for Sweden using the medium of Q&A to three questions.
Interview with Turid Tersmeden, Ministry of the Environment and Energy
1. Given the views expressed in October about the 2°C target, and other parameters, did the Paris Agreement exceed expectations?
Ahead of Paris we (SE) had a strong mandate to agree a global, fair and legally binding agreement, and we are glad to see such a result from COP21. It is a balanced agreement in the sense that all Parties have some of their priority issues reflected in the agreement. But at the same time, all Parties would probably have liked to see stronger language in some parts of the agreement. In our view it is a good outcome that will form the basis for enhanced efforts on climate change in the years to come.
A priority issue for Sweden has been to strengthen global ambition to address climate change and to reach a new agreement that over time limits global temperature increase as far below two degrees as possible. The INDC process exceeded expectations in the sense that most countries submitted their intended nationally determined contributions ahead of or in Paris. However, already before COP21 had begun it was clear that the aggregate ambition of the INDCs was not going to be enough. That is why Sweden has been working for a dynamic agreement under which ambition will increase over time. We are pleased to see an outcome that makes increased ambition possible and we welcome the 5 yearly cycles for mitigation contributions.
Still, we would have liked to see a clearer operationalization of the global temperature goal in the formulation of the long-term mitigation objective as well as stronger provisions on transparency. These are issues that can inform and enable countries to strengthen their climate policies.
Another important result is the reformulation and strengthening of the global temperature goal. In its strategy for COP21, the Swedish government has set out that the global temperature increase should be kept as far below two degrees as possible. All countries have now agreed to “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels (…)”. This is an important development for all countries, but not least for those particularly vulnerable to climate change. The temperature goal of the agreement sends a signal to all countries and actors contributing to address climate change.
In the preparations for COP21 it became clear that any new agreement must have a political balance between adaptation and mitigation, this was a priority issue for many countries. Together with the Bolivian minister, the Swedish Minister for Climate and the Environment, Åsa Romson, facilitated ministerial discussions on adaptation and loss and damage, and we are pleased to see these discussions resulting in an enhanced signal regarding the importance of adaptation. It is also essential that the new agreement confirms that climate finance for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries will continue. At the same time, more countries are encouraged to contribute to climate finance.
There was also a discussion during the meeting of the appropriate way to reflect inter alia gender equality and the rights of indigenous peoples. Sweden would have welcomed a stronger signal regarding the importance of these issues.
2. Our readers will have seen the many positive comments in the press regarding the diplomatic process run by the French in Paris. Do you have anything to add regarding the UN process?
It is important that we were able to secure an agreement under the UN. Climate change is a global challenge that needs global solutions. The process of negotiating a new agreement has been on-going since COP 17 in Durban 2011. It is a challenge to find compromises that nearly 200 countries agree to. Now, for the first time we have an agreement where all countries contribute with mitigation and adaptation action, according to their capacity.
The COP-presidencies are very important for the success of any COP. The French presidency has done a remarkable job. The close collaboration with the previous Peruvian presidency and the incoming presidency of Morocco also seems to have strengthened their leadership.
The French presidency organized the so-called Leaders’ Event at the beginning of the COP and invited Heads of States and Government to attend. Initially, there were questions from different Parties and actors on whether this meeting would have a real impact on negotiations. As it turned out, the meeting was successful. Global leaders demonstrated their commitment to work together and reach a new agreement, and Parties were reminded of this commitment throughout the negotiations that followed.
Another new element was the Lima – Paris Action Agenda. Even though the first action day took place at COP20 in Lima, the French presidency highlighted this process and there were different thematic discussions during each day of the first week of the COP. The focus was on concrete and complementary climate action. The Lima-Paris Action Agenda was a good way to involve all actors and inspire ongoing or new collaborations. The active involvement of inter alia local government, businesses and civil society that we saw in Paris will hopefully continue, and we welcome that the outcome from COP21 provides space for their involvement in the continued UNFCCC process.
3. What are the immediate implications for Sweden? Does anything change?
Paris marks the beginning of our work to strengthen and implement the new agreement. All countries should now look at how they can strengthen climate policies over time. This includes Sweden and the EU. 2016 will be a crucial starting point for the EU with legislation to be presented for the implementation of the Energy Union and the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework. The Swedish government has set out an aim to become one of the first fossil fuel-free welfare nations. This work will continue together with companies, municipalities and organisations.
Regarding the continued work under the UNFCCC, important processes are inter alia the facilitative dialogue on global ambition in 2018 and the communication, renewal or update of commitments in 2020.
With a result that arguably exceeded the GOS’s realistic expectations, the government is allowing itself a few weeks over the holiday season to absorb and interpret the outcome before hitting the ground running in January 2016. Mundus International expects that we will hear much more about ‘Fossil fuel free Sweden’, as both a measured policy response to COP 21, and also to enable the Greens to profile their signature issue. We also believe that the government will continue to link green growth to export opportunities and jobs. We will continue to cover this agenda, as policy and politics evolve in 2016.
Note: This is a shortened version of the original. Tables and footnotes are only available in the subscriber version of this article.