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The rubber hits the road on the way to Paris

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It’s unusual for climate conferences to be set against the backdrop of good news. Anyone who remembers COP19 in Warsaw will recall the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan coupled with the news of the Japanese backsliding on ambition. This was absurd to those of us inside the football stadium. We sank to a new low.

But Peru has the extraordinary task of channelling better politics. A sense of confidence opened the talks. Perhaps it was the sunshine, perhaps it was the pisco. Who knows?

We’ve seen many countries in the past few months step outside their comfort zone both inside and outside of the negotiations. China is the obvious contender through its joint announcement with the US. But also countries from AILAC who have rightly demanded that more political attention is centred on the tools to cope with a changing climate like Adaptation in the agreement. Countries are really getting to grips with what 2015 means for their real-economy and geopolitics.

This is the result of the rubber hitting the road on the way to Paris. Countries true colours are emerging as leaders and real-economy decision makers begin to take a keener interest in the details of these talks. The negotiators are going to have to dance to the tune of their political masters, even if it’s a tune they’re not used to hearing.

Of course there are grumblings. Some countries are pushing back against the text as the basis of negotiations, and China and Brazil puffed up their chests early on about the $100 billion. But it all feels a bit tame. Where’s the sense of jeopardy? Where are countries taking risks?

The initial sense of optimism is waning. We’re waiting for the dust to settle from the US-China announcement. This political flux is good. It means things are different to Copenhagen. No longer are the negotiations divided along traditional lines, but fluid and dynamic.

But this shouldn’t come at the expense of the substance. Negotiators appear preoccupied with how this affects their tried and tested alliances, rather than how to get the best out of Lima for Paris.

What is needed is an injection of jeopardy; of political reality and political energy. If Lima is the curtain raiser to Paris, we don’t quite have the drama ready for the audience.

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