Tangible results at the Paris Climate Conference

Article, 18.12.2015

The SDC will be able to draw on its solid bilateral and multilateral work on climate-related issues when the Paris Agreement is put into action. Anton Hilber, Head of the Global Programme Climate Change at the SDC speaks about the results of COP21 and Switzerland's role in the implementation of the agreement.

Palm trees at the beach bend in a storm
Hurricane in Florida as a consequence of climate change © pixabay

In your opinion, what is the most important result to have come out of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference?

The biggest result is the international community's declaration on cooperation in combating manmade climate change and its consequences. The right to economic development now implies a duty to safeguard natural resources. Increasingly stricter collective efforts and international cooperation aim to limit global warming to +1.5–+2 degrees Celsius. As the average temperature has already risen by 1 degree, all countries have now committed themselves to promoting nationally determined adaptation actions. 

What effect will the outcome of the climate conference have on the SDC's development cooperation?

After the debates in Paris on the legal form, the principles and the exact wording of the agreement ('shall' or 'should'), a phase of national implementation now lies ahead during which international cooperation must be strengthened. Development cooperation has a key role to play here and the funding of climate efforts in developing countries will be credited by all OECD states as official development assistance. Together with these funds and efforts, additional private-sector cash flows are being mobilised, which will also be included. The SDC's Global Programme Climate Change (GPCC) plays a leading role in this area and also finances Switzerland's contributions to the multilateral Green Climate Fund and Adaptation Fund.

Did you feel a consensus that climate issues pose an international challenge?

This consensus has existed for some time and could be keenly felt in Paris. The level of international commitment is good proof of this. In Paris, 187 countries, who together are responsible for over 90% of global emissions, presented their own plans, outlining how they intend to reduce their emissions by 2030 and to increase their adaption efforts.

What were the obstacles and sticking points? 

There were obstacles and disagreement in almost every area of negotiation. One should not forget that the G77 is composed of 130 nations whose interests with regard to climate change are sometimes directly opposed. For example, small island states whose very existence is threatened, oil-exporting countries and the major emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil. Disparity between countries and the respective apportionment of responsibility was one of the biggest problems. The interpretation of some imprecise wording in the Paris Agreement will be a subject of discussion over the next few years until the agreement comes into force in 2020. Before then it will be open for signature until April 2017. After this date various possibilities exist to adhere to the agreement. 

How will the outcome of COP21 influence the countries' cooperation on climate change and its consequences?

All countries will have to work together more closely in order to implement the Paris Agreement successfully. Priority will be given to research and the development of technologies as well as the transfer of technologies and knowledge in which development cooperation plays an important role. 

How can we ensure that the results of the conference are actually implemented? What is the way forward for the SDC?

The new agreement conveys universal recognition of the need to implement its declared goals in a transparent manner. These goals are to be adapted on a regular basis and to become progressively stricter until the world's economy becomes carbon-neutral. An important factor is that the industrial nations have agreed to maintain their leading role in the implementation of climate-related policy and actions. 

True to its name, as always the SDC chooses the path of cooperation. We can draw on our solid bilateral and multilateral work in climate-related matters. The SDC will continue to represent Switzerland on the board of the Green Climate Fund, to which $10 billion have been pledged. We still belong to the decision-making bodies of the Adaptation Fund and the Global Environment Fund, which will also perform important functions. Furthermore we wish to strengthen cooperation with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). The key mandates of each of the three federal offices are an excellent complement to one another.  

Side event on the issue of gender equality and climate change

The panellists at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference gender equality side event
Women from various countries discussed gender mainstreaming in climate change action. © SDC

The panellists at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference gender equality side event

Switzerland, together with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and France, Morocco and Peru, held a side event on gender equality and climate change at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) on 3 December 2015.

Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Climate Change, Pascale Boistard, French State Secretary for Women’s Rights , Hakima El Haite, Morocco’s Minister of the Environment,  Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, indigenous women’s representative in Chad, Thilmeeza Hussain, founder of Voice of Women, an NGO that promotes women’s rights in the Maldives, Rupa Mukerji of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, and Christine Albanel, Executive Director for Corporate Social Responsibility at Orange, took part in the discussion. All agreed that the Paris climate agreement at COP21 must take women’s rights and participation into account.

Swiss ambassador Ulrich Lehner, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the OECD, mentioned Switzerland’s commitment to gender equality and women’s rights in relation to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and to the framework for development financing that was agreed in July 2015.

The Peruvian Minister of the Environment, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, called on Morocco, the upcoming host of COP22, to put gender equality high on the agenda.

Side event details