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Paris turns to 'City of Hope' for planet
December 12, 2015, 8:06 pm
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Years of lengthy discussions that led to two weeks of intense negotiations in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget has finally produced a final draft that when ratified would become an international climate pact to come into effect in 2020.

The Paris Agreement is seen as the much-needed push that finally gets the wheels of climate action turning in the world’s fight against unmanaged climate change. Presenting the final draft, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabiuscalled it a “historic moment and a turning point” in the global challenge to address climate change.

Saying that it is a “fair, ambitious and balanced agreement”, the foreign-minister added it would limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C.Noting that the deal would also mean mobilizing a minimum of US$100 billion a year from 2020 to help the developing world cope with global warming, Mr. Fabius added, “More importantly, a new figure for the financing would be set by 2025. The minister also clarified that the overall agreement would be “legally binding”, and that it would be reviewed every five years.

The draft deal which has now been submitted to the ministerial committee for approval calls on countries to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels andto pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C with the aim of reducing the risks and impacts of climate change.

It urges nations to increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production and making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

Thedraft agreement also notes that it will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances, a key demand by many developing countries.

It calls on countries to prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve every five years, reflecting its highest possible ambition, which will be recorded in a public registry maintained by the UNFCCC secretariat. The agreement notes that in communicating their nationally determined contributions, all Parties shall provide the information necessary for clarity, transparency and understandingand be informed by the outcomes of the global stock-take.

Environmental groups praised that provision, which is seen by many as the core of the document, since it would create a permanent system for reducing emissions over coming decades. It represents a crucial compromise, since many developing nations had pushed for a longer, 10-year cycle.

In his remarks on the final-day of the talks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world envoy’s to approve the pact. “The time has come to acknowledge that national interests are best served by acting in the global interest,” he said. He added, “The end is in sight. Let's now finish the job. The world is watching. Billions of people depend on your wisdom."

He went on to note that over the past nine years he hadtravelled to the climate front-lines and raised awareness of the dangers of a warming world and the immense opportunities of a clean-energy, climate resilient future.  “I have talked to world leaders, and engaged with the private sector, civil society and vulnerable groups,” said the Secretary-General, adding, “The issues are many and complex. But we must not let the quest for perfection become the enemy of the public good.”

He called on developed countries to provide financial resources for mitigation and adaptation, and to embark decisively on a low-emissions pathway. He also asked all developing nations to play an increasingly active role, according to their capacities.

Among the disagreements that dragged the talks to Saturday were the question of ‘differentiation’ — different demands on different countries, depending on their wealth and level of development.

Another major stumbling block was ‘transparency’ — with richer countries wanting a single system of measuring, reporting and verifying the commitments countries make as part of this agreement. It is said to be crucial to the US, which wants to ensure that China is subject to the same sort of oversight as it is. China and India are not keen on this type of oversight.

One positive note came with the announcement that Brazil was willing to join the so-called “high-ambition coalition" of countries, including the EU, the US and 79 countries. The alliance said it would push for an ambitious and legally binding deal with a strong review mechanism.

US President Barack Obama spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping by phone on Friday, with both leaders saying they were committed to an "ambitious" deal. "Both leaders agreed that the Paris conference presents a crucial opportunity to galvanize global efforts to meet the climate change challenge," a White House statement said.

In the lead up to the conclusion of COP21, the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres had called for a final push to meet the funding goals for the Adaptation Fund, which assists vulnerable communities in developing countries adapt to climate change.

The Adaptation Fund has received new pledges for 2015 amounting to almost $75 million, including from Germany, Sweden, Italy, and the Walloon Region of Belgium, very close to the $80 million a year target for 2014-15 which was set about two years ago.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “I would like to thank all those who have prior to and at COP21 pledged financial support to the Adaptation Fund. I would call on others to come forward with the final support needed in order to register yet another success here in Paris towards the overall goal of a low emission, resilient world.”

Academics, non-governmental organizations and environmental groups welcomed the Paris Agreement. Calling the final agreement a historic moment, not just for us and world today, but for our children, grandchildren and future generations, Nicholas Stern, of the London School of Economics and President of the British Academy said, “The Agreement creates enormous opportunities as countries begin to accelerate along the path towards long-carbon economic development and growth.”

Chris Field, Founding Director, Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology: “The world truly reached a turning point with the historic Paris agreement, but this is not a time for self-congratulations.  This is our moment to unleash ambition with new levels of innovation, building the clean energy system of the 21st century, developing sustainably, and comprehensively protecting people and the planet.”

Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Climate Change Lead, World Health Organization: “Every tonne of carbon that we put into the atmosphere turns up the planet’s thermostat, and increases risks to health. The actions that we need to take to reduce climate change would also help clean up our air and our water, and save lives. To take a medical analogy: We already have good treatments available for climate change, but we are late in starting the course. The Paris Agreement helps us take this forward and is a crucial step in protecting our climate and our health."

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo noted, “This deal alone won’t dig us out the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep. To pull us free of fossil fuels we are going to need to mobilise in ever greater numbers. This year the climate movement beat the Keystone Pipeline, we kicked Shell out of the Arctic and put coal into terminal decline. We stand for a future powered by renewable energy, and it is a future we will win.

Michael Jacobs, Senior Adviser for the New Climate Economy project, and former advisor to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown: “This is a historic moment. The world's governments have finally understood what the science has long been telling them - we have to act now if the earth's climate is to remain safe.

Today they have committed to act - and to act together. Historians will see this as the turning point: the moment when the world started shifting decisively away from fossil fuels and towards clean and safe energy systems.

- Reaven D'Souza
Managing Editor

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