Recap: COP21 from the ground

Christopher Hakes, VP Business Development for Offsetters, recently returned from a busy two week trip to COP21. Below are his words and impressions from COP21.

I have just returned from Paris where I was attending COP21 – the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change. Parties reached a landmark agreement on December 12, charting a new global climate course.

The culmination of four years of negotiations, the new treaty moves past some of the traditional sticking points of earlier efforts such as the differentiation between developed and developing countries. For the first time, the agreement requires that all parties report regularly on their emissions while undergoing international review. Some other highlights include:

  • Affirming the goal of limiting global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, while urging efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees
  • Establishing binding commitments by all parties
  • Calling for a new mechanism that enables emission reductions in one country to be counted toward another country’s targets – carbon offsets will play a role here

In addition to some 150 Heads of State, impetus came from an array of non-state actors including Governors, Premiers, Mayors, and CEOs. Indeed, business played a key role in both advocating for an agreement and in getting it across the line.

One of the biggest takeaways for me (next to the dozens of pain au chocolat I crushed into my carry-on) was the clear focus on sustainable land use, and how carbon finance is one of the key instruments to support it. Spending two days at the Global Landscapes forum, the need for landscape level projects that boast myriad co-benefits was clear. In addition to reduced emissions, projects will also support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (

This was the first COP in many years where Canada played a productive role. Our new Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, was named to a group of 14 international ministers that served as facilitators that assisted the conference’s president, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius. At an event for Canadians at the COP hosted by The Pembina Institute and Environmental Defence, we were some 300 people and the progressive, collective energy in the room was palpable.

The new Agreement will have implications for business and NatureBank / Offsetters is well positioned to respond. I look forward to working with our clients to help them to understand the opportunities created in Paris.

- Christopher Hakes