Wednesday 21 February 2018

Paris agreement paves way for greener future

RALLY: An activist holds up a sign reading ‘I am climate’ as other activists form a giant red line during a demonstration near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris yesterday
RALLY: An activist holds up a sign reading ‘I am climate’ as other activists form a giant red line during a demonstration near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris yesterday
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

World leaders have struck an historic deal to combat climate change after almost a fortnight of intensive talks.

Almost 200 nations have agreed to sign the Paris Agreement, which paves the way to a low-carbon future and limits global temperature rises to no more than 2C.

Following 12 days and three nights of intense discussions, the final text from the French presidency of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) was accepted. The decision was greeted with applause from thousands of delegates across the Le Bourget conference venue, just north of Paris.

After formalising a number of technical amendments, shortly after 7.25pm local time (6.25pm in Ireland), COP president Laurent Fabius opened the floor to comments, but none were forthcoming.

"I see no objections. The Paris Agreement is adopted," he announced.

Just moments later, he added that a formality had yet to be completed. "I'm reminded I'm supposed to bang the gavel," he said. "It's a small gavel but it can do a great job."

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.

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

It follows 20 years of negotiations at UN level.

"The final agreement is a real achievement for everyone involved in the negotiation process," Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said.

"No one should underestimate its significance. We now have a new consensus, where every country agrees to ramp up actions to avoid dangerous climate change. This means leaving fossil fuels in the ground and switching to a more sustainable economic model."

The deal 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.

• 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.

Friends of the Earth International said it was a "bad deal" and a "sham", while aid agency Trocaire said it should be regarded as a road map for urgent action, as opposed to a definitive solution.

"The fact that the whole world has agreed to united action on climate change for the first time is hugely significant," head of policy Lorna Gold said.

"The deal is far from perfect, but it has the potential to set governments on a determined path."

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

Sunday Independent

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