The Paris Agreement – Towards a Safer World The Paris Agreement represents an historic moment and a crucial turning point in the long, tortuous diplomatic struggle to reduce the risks of catastrophic climate change. Significant elements include more ambitious long-term mitigation objectives, an agreement for all countries – developed and developing – to review and scale up their mitigation efforts every five years, and a robust transparency framework for emissions reductions, including common accounting standards, regular national reporting and independent expert reviews. Importantly, the Paris Agreement strengthens the long-term mitigation goal agreed to in Copenhagen in 2009. Under the Copenhagen Accord, world leaders sought to limit the increase in the global average temperature to ‘below’ 2°C (i.e. above pre-industrial levels). Under Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, the goal is now ‘well below’ 2°C. There is also a commitment to ‘pursue efforts’ to keep the temperature increase to only 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – admittedly, a formidable technical and political challenge. Additionally, the parties have agreed (under Article 4) for global greenhouse gas emissions to peak ‘as soon as possible’ and to achieve overall carbon neutrality ‘in the second half of the century’. Collectively, these provisions send a powerful signal: the unmistakable intention of the international community is to end humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels within several generations (except perhaps in the context of carbon capture and storage). Hopefully, this signal will decisively affect global investment patterns over the coming decades. It should, amongst other things, hasten the current shift to renewable energy sources and away from fossil fuel exploration and production. Almost certainly, fund managers will be under greater pressure to review and restructure their portfolios, and gradually divest of their fossil fuel stocks. Similarly, major banks will be more reluctant to support new, large-scale energy projects based on fossil fuels – partly because such projects will be more risky financially and partly for reputational reasons. There are of course risks to the effectiveness of the new Agreement. One of these is the possible election of a Republican as US President in late 2016. Currently, all the leading Republican candidates oppose significant policy measures to mitigate climate change, and most have distanced themselves from mainstream scientific views. Plainly, a skeptical Republican President could abandon the Obama Administration’s current climate change commitments, including its emissions-reductions target for 2030 (of -27% against 1990 levels) and, in effect, withdraw support for the Paris Agreement. A Republican administration could also undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts via the Clean Air Act to curb emissions from power stations. To compound matters, if the Republicans retain clear majorities in the House and Senate after 2016, additional legislative and fiscal initiatives to thwart mitigation efforts are highly probable.
By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster. Inside the narrow frame within which the talks have taken place, the draft agreement at the UN climate talks in Paris is a great success. The relief and self-congratulation with which the final text was greeted, acknowledges the failure at Copenhagen six years ago, where the negotiations ran wildly over time before collapsing. The Paris agreement is still awaiting formal adoption, but its aspirational limit of 1.5C of global warming, after the rejection of this demand for so many years, can be seen within this frame as a resounding victory. In this respect and others, the final text is stronger than most people anticipated. Live Paris climate talks: French hosts release text of final deal – live Live coverage from COP21 in Paris, as nearly 200 governments prepare to officially adopt a climate change deal on how to cut carbon emissions post-2020 Read more Outside the frame it looks like something else. I doubt any of the negotiators believe that there will be no more than 1.5C of global warming as a result of these talks.
Le Bourget (France) (AFP) – World powers led a frenetic final push Friday to seal a UN accord aimed at averting catastrophic climate change, as sleep-deprived envoys battled in Paris over trillion-dollar disputes blocking a deal. The 195-nation conference in Paris had been scheduled to wrap up on Friday, delivering a historic agreement that would brake global warming and ease its impacts. But weary negotiators braced themselves for a third straight round of all-night haggling after ministers wrestled with a myriad of deal-busting rows. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he would submit a proposed final agreement on Saturday morning, and declared he was “sure” of success. “We are almost at the end of the road and I am optimistic,” said Fabius, who is presiding over the talks that began nearly a fortnight ago with a record summit of more than 150 world leaders. Many leaders billed the talks as the last chance to avert disastrous climate change: increasingly severe drought, floods and storms, as well as rising seas that would engulf islands and populated coasts. The planned accord would seek to revolutionise the world’s energy system by cutting back or potentially eliminating coal and other fossil fuels, replacing them with renewables such as solar and wind. The Paris talks have largely been free of the fierce arguments that have plagued previous UN climate conferences. But the biggest disputes over funding the climate fight, worth trillions of dollars over the decades to come, remain as potential deal-breakers in a draft accord released on Thursday night. – Success not guaranteed –
The Canadian government is one of the only rich countries fighting for the inclusion of Indigenous rights in the Paris climate accord against the resistance of U.S. and European Union powers, according to several sources. The news came as Indigenious peoples from the Arctic to the Amazon launched a flotilla of kayaks in downtown Paris on Sunday to paddle their point to “keep fossil fuels in the ground” and to urge state governments to respect their collective Indigenous rights. The Trudeau government is, said a prominent a First Nations leader, acting with great leadership, and in sharp contrast to the previous Harper regime and other wealthy countries now. “Canada has taken a very supportive role in Paris which is absolutely welcome given where we have been over the last decade on this issue. The only recourse we have had is to the courts,” wrote Grand Chief Edward John with the First Nations Summit on Monday.