Our Perspectives

Long days and nights on the road to Paris


Community members planting trees with the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. Photo: Jackie Curtis/UNDP

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their perspective on issues of climate change, in the lead up to COP21 in December.

It is 1 September and I am sitting at a table in the basement of the World Conference Center in Bonn, Germany, with a group of delegates from ten countries. We are discussing a proposal regarding how the crucial element of finance will be included in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

We are exhausted, yet determined—this is the second to last negotiation session before countries gather in Paris for the annual Conference of Parties (COP) to agree on a new, universal deal on climate change. Finance is a key part of the deal and the decisions made at this negotiation will be a key stepping stone toward an ambitious outcome in Paris.

While we work together to identify the key concepts that are critical for their positions, I am humbled by the delegates’ commitment to make progress. My first UNFCCC negotiation was in 2006, and I have provided technical and advisory services to over 100 governments and six COP Presidents.  I’ve seen the darker side of negotiations—I was there on the night in 2009 when the Copenhagen negotiations collapsed, leaving the world with a deal that was not nearly as ambitious as we had hoped for. But now, on the road to Paris, we are all determined to use the hard lessons of 2009 to ensure that this year we achieve a deal that launches a new era of global cooperation.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Fourteen of the fifteen hottest summers on record have occurred since 2000, and the world is already feeling the impacts of climate change, ranging from severe weather to rising sea levels to agricultural shortfalls. Tropical Storm Erika, which hit the Caribbean recently, has damaged Dominica’s infrastructure so badly that the losses add up to half of the country’s GDP.

In Germany, we hunch over a pile of papers and discuss what the priorities for the finance section should be, and how finance will support the other elements of the deal—mitigation, adaptation, technology, capacity building and transparency. A key lesson from Copenhagen was that all of the elements of a negotiation must come together into a cohesive whole in the final agreement. Like weaving an intricate cloth, each string must support the other. Each element of the negotiations—such as finance, which is negotiated as its own distinct track—must eventually join back up with the other elements to form a single, whole agreement. We keep this in mind as we discuss options for countries’ positions and prepare their statements.

Thirty minutes later, as we get up from the table to head back into the negotiating room, I am filled with a sense of cautious hope. Paris will not be able to resolve all the issues at stake, but delegates are determined to create a deal that will help countries get the resources they need to reduce emissions and increase their resilience to climate shocks and long-term impacts. This determination will hopefully lead to an ambitious Paris deal, one in which the strands come together to form a strong fabric that will last for decades to come.

In the lead-up to the COP21 Paris climate change conference, UNDP's experts and practitioners highlight the challenges and opportunities in addressing this global concern. For more information, visit www.undp.org/cop21

Cassie Flynn Blog post blog series Climate change and disaster risk reduction Energy Climate change Effective development cooperation

UNDP Around the world