There was a lot of symbolism in the climate summit, which the French President Macron had hosted yesterday. But when symbolism is accompanied by strong statements, it is in fact not meaningless.
Collecting many of the world leaders in Paris on the anniversary of the Paris Agreement is a symbolic act to show that the French president now want to show a way to a solution to the climate crisis. All respect for showing climate leadership – a leadership we have missed for a long time. Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban-Ki Moon did the same in September 2014, calling for a climate summit in New York to give the world a kick prior to the major climate summit in Paris the following year.
Macron was also given the opportunity to show the American President Trump as undesirable in the climate debate. Partly, Trump was not invited, and on the other hand, Macron invited American climate scientists to France, where they would have good opportunities to continue their research, which would likely be difficult in the United States during the Trump presidential term.
Several of the world’s leaders took advantage of Macron’s meeting to show kindness to the sluggish financing of climate change adaptation in several developing countries. During the latest COP meeting – the 23rd in line – in Bonn, climate change was one of the main issues, and a more lasting solution was postponed to next year. But now in Paris, leaders could get some important political points by increasing contributions to the Green Fund or other climate action. Our own Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen also took advantage of the event by raising Denmark’s contribution to the UN climate panel by five million Danish Crowns over five years. It was also a nice symbolic act to show that Denmark in international climate contexts would like to be seen, but more will be needed if Denmark is to reappear on international climate scenes.
However, the big overriding question is how, when and how much the Paris agreement from 2015 can be made more ambitious. Of course there were no decisions here, but I guess talks were made during dinner or in other meetings outside the reach of journalists, where this particular question has been raised. Everyone knows that the reduction targets currently attached to the Paris Agreement will not limit the rise in temperature to below the famous two degrees.
This discussion will be more intense in 2018, where we get both the IPCC’s report on the subject in early October and a month later, the countries meet in Katowice, Poland in COP24, where there will be a good opportunity to show leadership towards an increased level of ambition for Paris Agreement. Macron’s recently held climate meeting in Paris can therefore prove to be more valuable than the symbolic actions, we have witnessed. Because when the leaders of the world gather on the climate issue outside of the usual COP meetings, there will be a greater chance that, when appropriate, they will agree on major actions that can help solving the climate crisis.
The next year will show if I will be right.