COP21 climate change summit reaches deal in Paris

BBC 13 Dec 15;

A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C has been agreed at the climate change summit in Paris after two weeks of intense negotiations.

The pact is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.

The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary.

Earlier, key blocs, including the G77 group of developing countries, and nations such as China and India said they supported the proposals.

President of the UN climate conference of parties (COP) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: "I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document.

"Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted."

As he struck the gavel to signal the adoption of the deal, delegates rose to their feet cheering and applauding.

US President Barack Obama has hailed the agreement as "ambitious" and "historic", but also warned against complacency.

"Together, we've shown what's possible when the world stands as one," he said.

And although admitting that the deal was not "perfect", he said it was "the best chance to save the one planet we have".

China's chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua said the deal was not perfect. But he added that "this does not prevent us from marching historical steps forward".

Nearly 200 countries took part in the negotiations to strike the first climate deal to commit all countries to cut emissions, which would come into being in 2020.

The chairman of the group representing some of the world's poorest countries called the deal historic, adding: "We are living in unprecedented times, which call for unprecedented measures.

"It is the best outcome we could have hoped for, not just for the Least Developed Countries, but for all citizens of the world."

Key points

The measures in the agreement included:
• To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century
• To keep global temperature increase "well below" 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C
• To review progress every five years
• $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

The speeches and the cliches at the adoption of the Paris Agreement flowed like good champagne - success after all has many fathers! The main emotion is relief. The influence of the COP president, Laurent Fabius, cannot be overstated. His long diplomatic career gave him a credibility seldom matched in this arena. He used his power well.

The deal that has been agreed, under Mr Fabius, is without parallel in terms of climate change or of the environment. It sets out a clear long term temperature limit for the planet and a clear way of getting there. There is money for poor countries to adapt, there is a strong review mechanism to increase ambition over time. This is key if the deal is to achieve the aim of keeping warming well below 2C.

More than anything though the deal signifies a new way for the world to achieve progress - without it costing the Earth. A long term perspective on the way we do sustainability is at the heart of this deal. If it delivers that, it truly will be world changing.

Ahead of the deal being struck, delegates were in a buoyant mood as they gathered in the hall waiting for the plenary session to resume.

Mr Fabius was applauded as he entered the hall ahead of the announcement.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande called the proposals unprecedented, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on negotiators to "finish the job".
However, the celebratory mood has not been shared among all observers.

'Almost nothing binding'

Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, said: "It's outrageous that the deal that's on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world's most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations."

Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal.

However, the targets set by nations will not be binding under the deal struck in Paris.

Observers say the attempt to impose emissions targets on countries was one of the main reasons why the Copenhagen talks in 2009 failed.

At the time, nations including China, India and South Africa were unwilling to sign up to a condition that they felt could hamper economic growth and development.

The latest negotiations managed to avoid such an impasse by developing a system of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

In these, which form the basis of the Paris agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise "well below" 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels, nations outline their plans on cutting their post-2020 emissions.

An assessment published during the two-week talks suggested that the emission reductions currently outlined in the INDCs submitted by countries would only limit global temperature rise by 2.7C.

Nick Mabey, chief executive of climate diplomacy organisation E3G, said the agreement was an ambitious one that would require serious political commitment to deliver.

"Paris means governments will go further and faster to tackle climate change than ever before," he said.

"The transition to a low carbon economy is now unstoppable, ensuring the end of the fossil fuel age."

COP21: UN chief hails new climate change agreement as 'monumental triumph'
UN Press Release 12 Dec 15;

12 December 2015 – Following the adoption of the new Paris Agreement on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said government representatives made history today.

“The Paris Agreement is a monumental triumph for people and our planet,” said Mr. Ban in a tweet, immediately following its adoption. “It sets the stage for progress in ending poverty, strengthening peace and ensuring a life of dignity and opportunity for all.”

Gaveling the Agreement with a green hammer, the French Foreign Minister and President of COP21, Laurent Fabius, announced the historic news – a moment greeted with loud applause and cheers, as the room stood up. Many delegates hugged, while others had tears in their eyes.

For the first time today, 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and joined to take common climate action. This followed two weeks of tireless negotiations at the United Nations climate change conference (COP21).

The Paris Agreement and the outcomes of COP21 cover all the crucial areas identified as essential for a landmark conclusion: mitigation – reducing emissions fast enough to achieve the temperature goal; a transparency system and global stock-take – accounting for climate action; adaptation – strengthening ability of countries to deal with climate impacts; loss and damage – strengthening ability to recover from climate impacts; and support – including finance, for nations to build clean, resilient futures.

“In the face of an unprecedented challenge, you have demonstrated unprecedented leadership,” the UN chief said taking the COP21 stage just minutes later. “You have worked collaboratively to achieve something that no one nation could achieve alone. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”

Recalling that he made climate change one of the defining priorities of his tenure as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban said that most of all, he has listened to people – the young, the poor and the vulnerable, including indigenous peoples, from every corner of the globe.

“They seek protection from the perils of a warming planet, and the opportunity to live in a safer, more bountiful world,” he underlined. “They have demanded that world leaders act to safeguard their well-being and that of generations to come.”

Turning to the agreement itself, the Secretary-General said negotiators reached “solid results on all key points,” with an agreement that demonstrates solidarity and “is ambitious, flexible, credible and durable.”

“All countries have agreed to hold global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. And recognizing the risk of grave consequences, you have further agreed to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees,” he announced.

In addition, a review mechanism has been established whereby every five years, beginning in 2018, Parties will regularly review what is needed in line with science.

“Governments have agreed to binding, robust, transparent rules of the road to ensure that all countries do what they have agreed across a range of issues,” Mr. Ban added.

Meanwhile, highlighting the role of the private sector, the UN chief said business leaders came to Paris in unprecedented numbers and that “powerful” climate solutions are already available while many more are to come.

“With these elements in place, markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, resilient growth,” he said, adding that “what was once unthinkable has now become unstoppable.”

“When historians look back on this day, they will say that global cooperation to secure a future safe from climate change took a dramatic new turn here in Paris,” Mr. Ban stated. “Today, we can look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren, and we can finally say, tell them that we have joined hands to bequeath a more habitable world to them and to future generations.”

Ending his remarks, the UN chief said that all Parties should be proud of the Paris Agreement and that “the work starts tomorrow.”

“For today, congratulations again on a job well done,” he concluded. “Let us work together, with renewed commitment, to make this a better world.”

Addressing the hundreds of delegates, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, said “we did it in Paris.”

“We have made history together. It is an agreement of conviction. It is an agreement of solidarity with the most vulnerable. It is an agreement of long-term vision, for we have to turn this agreement into an engine of safe growth,” she exclaimed.

Several other top UN officials joined the Secretary-General in welcoming the new Agreement. This included the President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft.

“Today's agreement signals nothing less than a renaissance for humankind as we collectively embrace the global challenge of climate change and endeavor to transition to a more sustainable way of living that respects the needs of people and our planet,” Mr. Lykketoft said in a statement.

Echoing this message, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Oh Joon, said the world has reached a key milestone in collective action for sustainable development.

“Bold action against climate change will contribute to poverty reduction. The United Nations Economic and Social Council will take part in follow-up efforts,” he added.

Earlier today, at a meeting of the Committee of Paris [Comité de Paris] – the body which is overseeing the negotiations at COP21 – the UN chief spoke alongside the President of France, François Hollande as well Minister Fabius.

“The end is in sight. Let us now finish the job. The whole world is watching. Billions of people are relying on your wisdom,” the Secretary-General had told delegates.

In an emotional address during which he held back tears, Laurent Fabius said the agreement “will serve meaningful causes, food safety and security, public health, the fight against poverty and for essential rights, and therefore peace.”

“People worldwide, our citizens, our children, wouldn't understand if we didn't adopt it and wouldn't forgive us,” he insisted.

“It is rare to be given the opportunity to change the world,” said President François Hollande, wrapping up the meeting. “You have the opportunity to do that.”

Has history been made at COP21?
Matt McGrath BBC News 13 Dec 15;

I'm not a fan of hyperbole, but it would be churlish to say the adoption of the Paris Agreement was anything other than a globally, historic moment.

This carefully worded document that balances the right of countries to develop with the need to protect the planet is a truly world changing instrument.

It sets out, for the first time, a global approach to a problem of humanity's own making: the recent rapid warming of the Earth that science says is mainly down to the use of fossil fuels.

The deal sets out a firm goal of keeping temperature rises well below 2C, and will strive for 1.5C.

This is no easy task as researchers say that this year 2015, the world has gone through 1C above pre-industrial levels.

It also sets out a means of getting there. It's a little convoluted in terms of language, but that's what you get when you try and get 196 parties to agree to a plan of action.

Critical sentence

The agreement text means that emissions of greenhouse gases will have to peak globally and reduce rapidly thereafter, in accordance with the best possible science.

This phrase is crucial according to observers, meaning that the Paris deal will be guided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And the IPCC say that carbon emissions will have to go to zero by the end of this century.

There is a stonking piece of UN jargon that has been crafted to get around the tricky business of differentiation, the long standing division of the world into developed and developing countries only.

It's called CBDRRCILNDC, which translates as Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities, In the Light of Different National Circumstances.
Essentially it means a gradual shift away from the absolute firewall set up in 1992 when the UN Convention was adopted. Over time more countries will take on more cuts.

Another sign of this breakdown of differentiation is the adoption of a single system of measuring, reporting and verifying that countries will do what they say under the terms of the agreement.

But it is not all one way. The deal re-iterates the "flexibility" that the developing nations will only come into this system when they are ready to do so.

There is also a separate article on loss and damage. While it doesn't put the rich countries on the hook for compensation or liability, the fact that it is there in the body of the agreement is a big win for the poorer nations.

The finance sections also reflect this give and take. The poorer nations won't have to contribute any cash; the richer ones will have to give more money in the new deal and with greater predictability.

A key part of keeping ambitions high is a reviewing mechanism - and the one agreed is built on the idea of no backsliding on promises. There will be a review of what countries are now proposing in 2018. Countries will have to endure a "global stocktake" in 2023 and two years later make new carbon cutting commitments.

While the deal is toothless when it comes to penalties for missing any targets, the UN is counting on peer pressure to keep countries moving forward. It's worked so far, with 187 countries lodging national climate plans before the end of this meeting. No one wanted to turn up empty handed.

The key thing about this deal may ultimately not be the rules and mechanisms and targets it sets - it's about signals and signs.

"We are sending a critical message to the global marketplace," said US Secretary of State John Kerry at the conclusion of the meeting.

Among the celebrations though were reminders that the hard work on climate change was now only beginning.

South African Minister Edna Molewa channelled the spirit of Nelson Mandela, not for the first time:

"I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb….I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."

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