Thursday 8 December 2016

Historic Paris deal will pave way for a low carbon future

Nations inch closer to finalising ambitious plan, writes Paul Melia, but reaction is mixed

Published 13/12/2015 | 02:30

Audience members and delgates cheers after the adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference
Audience members and delgates cheers after the adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference

Almost 200 nations are expected to strike a historic climate deal which will pave the way for a low-carbon future and limit global temperature rises to no more than 2C.

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Following 12 days and three nights of intense negotiations, the French presidency of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) yesterday produced a final text which sets out ambitious targets to reduce emissions and prevent dangerous climate change.

The deal commits developed nations to providing $100bn a year from 2020 to developing countries most at risk, with a mechanism to ramp-up investment.

In a powerful speech, COP21 president and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said the proposed accord was ambitious, fair, balanced and legally-binding, and urged nations to accept.

"Our responsibility to history is immense. If we were to fail, how could we rebuild this hope?" he asked.

"Success is built collectively. You will be deciding on a historic agreement. The world is holding its breath. It counts on all of us."

The 'Paris Agreement', which will take effect from 2020, must be ratified by at least 55 parties, which account for at least 55pc of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

It says that developed countries, which include Ireland, must play their part in moving to "sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production".

Main points also include:

• A commitment to keep average temperature rises to no more than 2C, with a goal to reduce these rises to 1.5C.

• Emissions will peak "as soon as possible" and reach neutral levels in the second half of the century. This means emissions must be balanced by developing forests and other carbon sinks, which absorb greenhouse gases.

• Countries will have to increase commitments, which will be reviewed every five years.

• There is also a commitment to food security, indigenous people and gender, which were not in earlier drafts. Human rights are also referenced in the preamble.

• Countries must provide "transparent" information on emission cuts delivered. This will be overseen in a "non-intrusive" manner.

• Forestry is given also special mention, as is protecting all ecosystems including oceans.

There is no reference to emissions from shipping and aviation, which account for some 8pc of global greenhouse gas emissions.

There has also been criticism about clauses surrounding 'loss and damage', which involves mechanisms to protect the most vulnerable countries, including small island states.

It also rules out compensating countries affected by climate change.

However, it does commit to helping countries mitigate against damage, such as providing early warning systems and assisting in emergency preparedness.

Friends of the Earth International said it was a "bad deal" and a "sham" and showed that developed countries had "totally erased their responsibilities" towards developing countries.

But Greenpeace struck a more positive note, with executive director Kumi Naidoo saying it put the fossil fuel industry on the "wrong side of history".

"There's much in the text that has been diluted and polluted by the people who despoil our planet, but it contains a new imperative to limit temperature rises to 1.5C. That single number, and the new goal of net zero emissions by the second half of this century, will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and the palaces of oil-exporting states," he said.

"This deal alone won't dig us out the hole we're in, but it makes the sides less steep."

Sunday Independent

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