Finnish negotiators optimistic about COP21

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Finland's chief negotiator Harri Laurikka. (Petteri Juuti / Yle)
Finland’s chief negotiator Harri Laurikka. (Petteri Juuti / Yle)
Despite the recent terrorist attacks, there is a hopeful atmosphere in the run-up to the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference, which opens in Paris next week, says Finland’s chief negotiator, Harri Laurikka.

“The political will to bring about a climate agreement is now clearly at a high level,” Laurikka told Yle.

There have been many changes since the last major climate conference ended in failure in Copenhagen in 2009. This time, member states have been asked to submit their national emissions reductions commitments in advance.

“Unprecedented” commitments

So far 174 out of about 190 countries have sent in plans, covering an estimated 94 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is unprecedented,” says Laurikka.

The aim for Paris was to achieve a pact limiting the planet’s warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. The state commitments so far handed in are insufficient for this goal, leading instead to close to three degrees of warming in this century, estimates the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Laurikka sees many signs that the time is now ripe for a serious climate agreement. For instance climatologists’ data on climate change has become more precise while the cost of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind has dropped dramatically.

High-powered delegation

The French hosts also have a different strategy than the Danes did six years ago. The heads of state and government were invited to Copenhagen for the last days of the conference in the hope that they would hammer out a strong deal at the end – which did not happen.

This time the leaders of 147 nations are invited to the conference’s opening on Monday. Finnish Environment Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen has high hopes for this strategy for the 12-day meeting, which is scheduled to end on December 11.

“I hope they’ll say to the thousands of negotiators: Make a climate agreement,” he says.

Finland is sending a high-powered delegation to France, chaired by President Sauli Niinistö. The group’s deputy chairs are Prime Minister Juha Sipilä along with Tiilikainen and Laurikka. Also attending will be Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Minister of Justice and Employment Jari Lindström and a large group of other officials and experts.

Related stories from around the North:

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Germany:  Energy giant sued for climate change, Deutsche Welle

Norway:  Arctic residents in hot water, Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

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United States:  Cleaner atmosphere means more Arctic ice melt: study, Alaska Dispatch News

 

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