Paris Agreement adopted, countries whimper 'hooray'

Saturday 12 December 2015

More than 190 nations agree to a historic yet compromised climate deal

French President François Hollande was ecstatic when he announced, “December 12, 2015 would be remembered as the day the world came together and signed a historical, ambitious, universal and binding agreement on climate change,” at the closing meeting of the COP21 in Paris.

The mandate for an agreement on climate change had been laid in Durban in 2011 and the agreement was adopted in COP21 in Paris on Saturday. This agreement brought together over 190 countries to decide how they plan to resolve the challenges posed by climate change. The adoption was met with thunderous applause and support from all countries.

“The Agreement is fair, just, comprehensive and balanced. It would send a strong positive signal to the business community that the world is going to achieve low carbon development and soon peak emissions,” said the Special Representative for Climate Change of China, Xie Zhenhua. The same sentiments were echoed throughout by many nations and groups including South Africa, United States, Morocco, Umbrella Group, Singapore, Senegal, Maldives, European Union and Environmental Integrity Group.

However, as the Ecuadorian representative pointed out, the Agreement is very weak at some ends. There is no specific commitment of emission reduction, no commitment for finance has been provided and there are no specifics in the deal for technology transfer. “Stating that the emissions would peak in sometime in future is not enough; we need to show the world, especially the future generation, that business is not what is important, nature is much more important than a carbon price.”

Interestingly, Australia speaking on behalf of Umbrella Group emphasised several times that the Agreement implores all nations to act according to their national circumstances. “Congratulations to everyone on producing a global agreement for all nations to play a part in reducing emissions across the globe. Even though it is not a perfect agreement, it requires every nation to implement the legal agreement for long term transformation towards a climate resilient world,” Australian minister said.

All nations reinstated their faith in the multilateral processes of The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

St Lucia, an island nation in the eastern Caribbean, went as far as saying that the Agreement is fair, balanced and ambitious and a result of voices of all nations being heard. “This is the first time in a long time that our concerns were being heard at a COP,” it said.

Prakash Javedekar, India's Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change praised the agreement and said, “The agreement acknowledges the development imperatives of the developing world and shows a pathway of harmonising the environment with development for countries like India and others. The agreement speaks of climate justice, equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, sustainable lifestyles and sustainable consumption, differentiated actions for both the developed and developing countries. However, the deal could have more ambitious with developed countries taking upon more responsibility on the basis of historical emissions and fair share.”

Many countries raised issues with some specific paragraphs. Sudan expressed that African continent was not included in the list of vulnerable countries. COP President Fabius Laurent iterated that he personally will conduct specific consultations with Turkey and Africa Group to resolve the issues.

The agreement promises something for every country. It talks about 1.5 degrees for the island states. It promises developed countries leading on finance and facilitating access for technology to the developing world. It offers commitments on loss and damage for the most vulnerable nations. It has international emissions trading and yet is vague enough that the developed world can escape their responsibilities.

Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, South Africa, summed the future of climate change negotiations by quoting Nelso Mandela: After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. She further described the numerous open-ended issues including that of ratcheting up of ambition and pre-2020 mitigation measures by developed countries.

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