History was made in Paris, France on Saturday (December12, 2015) when the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted around 19:27 hours local time.
It is the first time in history that all countries will agree to participate in addressing climate change.
“The Paris agreement is not perfect but it represents a major leap forward for developing countries,” says a South African delegate, amid widespread elation at the conference centre in the French capital city.
Nigeria’s Environment Minister, Amina Mohammed, stresses: “Africa’s vulnerability is complex and at the core of many of the challenges we face in the world today. It is a region full of promise, yet extreme poverty, inequality, conflicts, forced migration are all exacerbated by climate change and inaction. It is regrettable that this has not been given the required attention Africa deserves.
“However, we acknowledge today, that the world stands in a much better place for future generations because of this historic Agreement. We have agreed towards holding the temperature rise to 1.5 degree and the long term goal.”
World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim on the global climate change agreement at COP21, says: “We welcome the historic agreement that has just been reached in Paris. The world has come together to forge a deal that finally reflects the aspiration, and the seriousness, to preserve our planet for future generations.
“First, it leaves no one behind – protecting the poorest people and the most vulnerable countries by calling on all of us to hold the increase in temperatures to well below 2 degrees C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“Second, it sends the much needed signal to trigger the massive sums of public and private sector investments needed to drive economies toward a carbon neutral world as advised by science. While doing this, we will strive to ensure that there is the necessary finance to provide resilience for developing countries.
“Third, it changes development. We agree there is no development without tackling climate change. We cannot poison the planet and thrive.
“We called for strong ambition, for remarkable partnerships, for mobilisation of finance, and for implementation of national climate plans. Paris delivered. Now the job becomes our shared responsibility. The World Bank Group is ready to help immediately and will do its utmost to realise this vision of prosperity.
“We are grateful to the heads of state and governments for their leadership, to the government of France and the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for their unwavering and inspiring commitment, and for the tireless efforts of the negotiators, businesses, and civil society worldwide that have made this agreement possible.”
BirdLife International welcomes the adoption of the Paris agreement, adding that it sends an important signal to governments back home and businesses alike that the world must act now and rapidly shift to a low-carbon climate-resilient development.
Patricia Zurita, CEO at BirdLife International, states: “Despite all difficulties now the international community has a global agreement, that applies to all countries and that aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping people and ecosystems to adapt. We’ve demonstrated we are willing to come together to defend our Planet, our future and that of our children. Much remains to be done, in particular when it comes to protect the poorest and most vulnerable. We remain optimistic that implementation will continue to demonstrate the crucial role protecting nature plays in managing the climate crisis. What we have before us is not perfect but does represent an historic step forward.”
Melanie Heath, Director of Science, Policy and Information at BirdLife International: “The overall goal agreed upon – that increases in temperature must be kept well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C – is clearly good. It is also good that carbon neutrality is a set goal in the second half of the century. Unfortunately, these two important targets are weak when it comes to implementation: there is no set date for a peak in emissions, nor for the achievement of carbon neutrality. These targets are binding at global level but there is nothing binding for countries involved. Although there is an important “no-backsliding clause” that obliges all countries to do progressively better, the planned stocktake and reviews will be key to scale up ambition and commitments.”
Edward Perry, Global Climate Change Policy Coordinator at BirdLife International: “For the first time in history we have a global climate change agreement that recognises the critical role of forests, oceans and other ecosystems in combatting climate change and helping communities adapt. Importantly, the Agreement also stresses the need to ensure the integrity of ecosystems and the protection of biodiversity when taking action to address climate change. This is critical for safeguarding ecosystems and ensuring that climate change actions are truly sustainable.”
John Lanchbery, Principal Climate Change Adviser at RSPB: “Article 5 theAgreement stresses the need for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation and sustainable management of forests (REDD+). This should help to ensure that more money is available to conserve forests, especially tropical forests. This is very positive, because that’s where wildlife is.”
However, impacted communities insist that the accord has failed humanity. In a statement, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance submits: “As impacted communities, we are deeply aware of the imperative of the climate crisis. Our waters are being poisoned from fossil fuel extraction, our livelihoods are threatened by floods and drought, our communities are the hardest hit and the least protected in extreme weather events. The climate crisis is a reality, but the COP21 Paris Accord is not based on that reality.
“The atmosphere within the COP21 meeting was one of business instead of saving Mother Earth. World leaders were in deep negotiations not over climate policy, they were in negotiations about commercialisation of nature. The result is a Paris Accord that is based on a carbon market that allows developed countries to continue to emit dangerously high levels of greenhouse gasses through shell games, imaginary technofixes, and pollution trading schemes that simultaneously let big polluters to continue polluting and result in land grabs and violations of human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“When Obama says we are doing out best, it is simply not true. From cap and trade in California, to the carbon trading requirements of the Clean Power Plan, the US came into Paris with a predetermined model based on false solutions and bullied other countries to jump on board. The commitments they made ignore the overwhelming historic responsibility as a leader greenhouse gas emitter, and are far too low to stop the burning of the planet.
“The COP21 agreement is a failure, condemning humanity to a slow and painful death. In imposing a market strategy, global leaders, particularly those in the US and Canada, are choosing a course of inaction that is blind to the stark realities of climate crisis.
“The Paris Accord failed humanity and now we have to take things into our own hands and push at all levels of government. We know that the extraction of fossil fuels must end completely by 2050 to keep the earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees. The Paris Accord will now be moved into implementation at the national, regional, and local levels and we need to be organised to remain vigilant around the demand to keep fossil fuels in the ground, because anything short of that equals destruction.
“We join the call for System Change, Not Climate Change because we know that the fundamental driving force behind the climate crisis is capitalism, and the very nature of the extractive economy as a whole. Climate Justice is not only about the environment. It is tied to jobs, housing, poverty, migration, food security, gender equality, access to health care. System Change requires fundamental respect for human rights, particularly the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the rights of Mother Earth. System Change requires that we reject the corporate driven, free trade and investment agreements and how that is linked to also harmonising trading regimes, investment regimes, and trees, and nature itself. We are building new alternative economic models based on an internationalist strategy of Just Transition toward renewable energy, cooperative economies, and community control. We will continue to resist extraction at the local level in all frontline communities.
“We had no illusion coming into this COP. We knew that the fossil fuel companies had already hijacked the UNFCCC process. We leave Paris only more aligned, and more committed than ever that our collective power and growing movement is what is forcing the question of extraction into the global arena. We will continue to fight at every level to defend our communities, the earth and future generations. As Franz Fanon wrote, ‘the magic hands are the hands of the people’.”
Jesse Bragg, Media Director, Corporate Accountability International, speaks in a similar vein, pointing out that the agreement has failed people.
His words: “Today’s Paris Agreement falls far short of the mark. In fact, it’s potentially a death sentence for millions. While it may earn pats on the back for US negotiators from ExxonMobil and the other big polluters pulling the strings, it fails the people who need decisive action most urgently.
“Not only is this agreement weak, it undermines the architecture of the convention–rewriting the rules around finance to let the US and other historically high emitters off the hook for new and additional finance agreed to in the Convention and shifting the financial burden to the Global South. This text, from a complete fantasyland, disregards over 200 years of emissions that have made those in the Global North the economic powers of the globe.
“Fundamentally, the Paris Agreement fails to deliver meaningfully toward the systemic transition the current climate crisis requires. Whether it’s ambition or differentiation, finance or liability and compensation, the positions reflected in this agreement are heavily biased towards the US, Japan, the EU and other Global North countries, and the emissions-intensive industries they represent.
But, while the agreement fails to outline the action and commitments necessary to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the negotiations in Paris were a rallying point for civil society full of moments of hope and momentum for real solutions on the horizon.
“Around the world, people organised in unprecedented numbers to demand that leaders take urgent action to address climate change. This global mobilisation brings light to an otherwise dim outcome. Now more than ever it is clear that people can and will continue lead this movement. Our livelihoods depend on it.
“The mention of the goal to limit warming to 1.5 degrees in the agreement, while only aspirational, is the direct result of this people-powered action, proving that when people unite and collectively demand something from our leaders, they must listen. We must take small victories like this and use them to build our movement, make uncompromising demands of our leaders and hold them to account.
“In the weeks, months and years to come, we must not relent. The Paris Agreement is not enough. We must secure more decisive science-based action now, no more platitudes about the need for it later. Most of all, we must take back our democratic processes and ensure they are working for people and the environment, not big polluter profits.
“At the national level, emissions-intensive corporations have shaped our policies in their interest for decades and obscured their impacts on the environment. And, at the international level, these same corporations have forced themselves into every aspect of policymaking to not only influence policy outcomes but greenwash their otherwise dirty track records.
“For climate policy – including the Paris Agreement – to compel the rapid transition our planet so desperately needs, we must first address this conflict of interest. More than half a million people around the globe are already demanding that the policymaking process be insulated from those corporations who so richly benefit from the continuation of the fossil fuel economy. And it’s high time they listened.
“The Paris Agreement is not nearly enough for those whose lives are in peril from the climate crisis today. If governments are serious about taking the action necessary to limit warming to at least 1.5 degrees, it cannot do so with big polluters in the room. Movements have proved time and time again that when people unite around something and demand action, systemic change is possible. Now is the time to demand our leaders kick big polluters out of climate policy. The future of our world truly hangs in the balance.”
Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace responds: “It sometimes seems that the countries of the United Nations can unite on nothing, but nearly two hundred countries have come together and agreed a deal. Today the human race has joined in a common cause, but it’s what happens after this conference that really matters. The Paris Agreement is only one step on long a road, and there are parts of it that frustrate and disappoint me, but it is progress. This deal alone won’t dig us out the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep.
“The deal sets out the objective of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, but the emissions targets on the table take us closer to 3 degrees. That’s a critical problem, but it’s one with a solution. Renewable energy is already doing heavy-lifting across the globe, but now its moment must come. It’s the only technology mentioned in the Paris Agreement. There’s a yawning gap in this deal, but it can be bridged by clean technology. We’re in a race between the roll-out of renewables and rising temperatures, and the Paris Agreement could give renewables a vital boost. The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned.
“This is not a moment for triumphalism given the lives that have been lost already as a result of climate impacts, and the lives that are on the precipice as temperatures rise. This is a time for urgent action. The climate clock is ticking and the window of opportunity is closing fast.
“Now governments need to revise their short-term targets to be in line with their new goals, and revise their energy policies to speed up renewable energy uptake. They must stop funding fossil fuels and end deforestation by 2020.
“The Paris Agreement is a Treaty under international law, so it is legally binding. But the national targets (the so-called INDCs) aren’t legally binding and nor are the financial commitments. This is primarily to enable the United States to be part of this global agreement.
“The ‘Long Term Goa’” is written in seemingly incomprehensible language (“to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”), but combined with the 1.5C limit, it implies a goal of achieving net zero in all emissions by around 2060-2080. This effectively means we need to phase out fossil fuels by 2050.
“Indigenous Peoples rights are in the pre-amble and in the Adaptation section of the Agreement. But they’re not given the protection they deserve, particularly given that forest protection will be key to achieving 1.5 degrees. The Paris Agreement acknowledges that countries should respect and promote human rights in addressing climate change.
“The conference saw good initiatives around renewables during the negotiations – though outside the official talks. India’s Solar Initiative, the launch of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, mayors and leaders of more than 1000 cities giving their support to a 100% renewable energy future, to name a few. In the text itself, renewables are recognised in the context of promoting universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries, in particular in Africa, through the enhanced deployment of renewable energy.”