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An Idea Whose Time Has Come

“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” These are the words of Victor Hugo, iterated by Claudia Salerno, the head of Venezuela’s delegation, during one of the final sessions of the Geneva climate negotiations on February 13, 2015. In her statement, the Venezuelan delegate indicated that she was herself surprised that she was agreeing with proposals provided by the European Union and the “Umbrella Group” of countries (which includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and others). As parties discussed the way forward, many referenced a “Geneva Spirit:” a sense that everyone was moving forward together toward a common goal.

The cause for this enthusiasm was the development of the so-called “Geneva text.” Starting from the “elements for a draft negotiating text” annex to the “Lima Call for Action,” agreed to last December, this text was created through parties’ additions over the first two and a half days of the negotiations, with progress happening so fast that co-chairs adjourned a few sessions early.

Don’t break out the champagne just yet. There is a key reason everyone was happy with the text: it has everything in it. Coming in at over 90 pages, this text is packed with a variety of options for every paragraph. From this you could craft a wide range of agreements, for example: with or without markets; with 2025 or 2030 end date for commitments; where developing and developed country parties are not divided into specific categories or are divided into two categories based on the 1992 convention or on evolving criteria; with or without global goals for mitigation and adaptation; and with various schemes which speak to the provision of finance, as well as its distribution and use. Getting to a final agreement will require a lot of work.

Bonn, in June 2015, where the hard process of negotiating down the text toward a final agreement w