15 DECEMBER 2015


Persistent dedicated efforts by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon finally paid off, with similarly welcome efforts by French hosts and all participants. The 2015 Paris Summit on Climate Change was well-arranged in a conducive atmosphere, allowing for a flow of exchanges among experts as well as government officials and civil society. Over 150 governments, some say 184, came out with positive suggestions while taking into account known limitations.

Obstacles will certainly remain, particularly that decisions by governments not only take time to implement, but may also be subject to change. Another drawback is that the time focus is about 2020, which is five years from now. What happens in the meantime?

There is also the problem of the extent of commitment. While the Kyoto Protocol was binding and the Framework Convention on Climate Change was expected to be binding to those who signed it, most of the current talk is about understandings, which again are open to interpretation. There is a lesser-known angle of discreet concern, which relates to trading in carbon allotments, an issue that was raised earlier by on a number of occasions. Briefly explained, certain countries could buy or sell from or to allowed allotment to others looking for a cleaner image rather than cleaner air. However, a positive aspect in Paris was that practical creative talks continue. A more positive element is that by now there is a worldwide public clamor for less carbon, cleaner air and better care for the climate.

By now, Kyoto is a distant memory. Those who went to Copenhagen in 2009 would recall the "Hopenhagen" campaign, and the thrill of an approaching deal on which a new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had hoped to build a rock of support. His enthusiastic trip to the Arctic, prompted an inside refrain about "time to hug a penguin." But despite valiant efforts to strengthen the Secretariat for Climate Change ever since, and an escalating number of former dignitaries assigned advisory titles, the only practical result was more jobs, more talk, and less results.

A basic value for the Paris summit was highlighting the serious need for specific measures and pushing the governments, the private sector, and civil society leaders to make serious decisions on an increasingly pressing issue.

However, the main question remains: Where would the money come from?

While developing countries are hopefully yet doubtfully waiting, governments of industrial countries are indicating that it was not only up to officials, but to business and others interested to come up with the needed funds. Amounts tentatively mentioned vary between 100 billion to 200 billion U.S. dollars -- per year.

Where would that money come from?

This proclaimed requirement of funds for climate change competes with other pressing needs. For example, migration by refugees, according to the UN Under-Secretary-General directly in charge, is estimated at 30 billion dollars. This amount only covers the immediate need for the current year; more is required for the coming ones. There are also peacekeeping funding gaps in an increasing number of countries .Equally pressing, development work particularly in the poorest of the poor countries would require further millions.

These questions are raised to highlight the need for a coordinated and collaborative planning by the leadership of the international community in practical contact with member states and potential contributors.

It is about time to stop making more statements and start offering more money.