December 12, 2015
- Historic deal on climate change is signed in Paris.
Emotional scenes as nearly 200 countries put pen to a
document that was as difficult to define as it was to
get leading industrial and developing economies singing
from the same sheet.
It has been described as historic - the
first ever agreement on climate change that would see
developed, developing and under-developed economies
working together to save planet earth from the ravages
of the unbridled and reckless use of its resources. It
was not an easy task as could be seen from the host
country's Foreign minister Fabius' plea that the debate
be extended for a further twenty four hours so that the
world can get a workable and practical answer to
limiting the overall global temperature of Planet Earth.
"Governments have signalled an end to
the fossil fuel era, committing for the first time to a
universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and
to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change.
After 20 years of fraught meetings, including the past
two weeks spent in an exhibition hall on the outskirts
of Paris, negotiators from nearly 200 countries signed
on to a legal agreement on Saturday evening that set
ambitious goals to limit temperature rises and to hold
governments to account for reaching those targets.
Government and business leaders said
the agreement, which set a new goal to reach net zero
emissions in the second half of the century, sent a
powerful signal to global markets, hastening the
transition away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy
economy. The deal was carefully constructed to carry
legal force but without requiring approval by the US
Congress - which would have almost certainly rejected
After last-minute delays, caused by
typos, mistranslations and disagreements over a single
verb in the highly complicated legal text, Laurent
Fabius, the French foreign minister, brought down a
special leaf-shaped gavel to adopt the agreement. The
hall erupted in applause and cheers. “It is a small
gavel but I think it can do a great job,” Fabius said.
François Hollande, the French
president, who had invested enormous capital and
diplomatic effort in shepherding the agreement, said
countries had a rare chance to make history. “We are at
a decisive point in time,” he said. Fabius said: “It is
my deep conviction that we have come up with an
ambitious and balanced agreement. Today it is a moment
US president, Barack Obama,
hailed the agreement as “a tribute to strong, principled
American leadership” and a vital step in ensuring the
future of the planet. Al Gore, the former US
vice-president who helped draft the 1997 Kyoto climate
treaty, was in the hall. He appeared visibly moved when
the agreement was gavelled in and said the accord would
have a powerful effect on the economy. “This universal
and ambitious agreement sends a clear signal to
governments, businesses, and investors everywhere: the
transformation of our global economy from one fuelled by
dirty energy to one fuelled by sustainable economic
growth is now firmly and inevitably underway,” Gore said
in a statement.
Six years after the chaotic ending of the Copenhagen
climate summit, the agreement now known as the Paris
Agreement for the first time commits rich countries,
rising economies and some of the poorest countries to
work together to curb emissions.
Rich countries agreed to raise $100bn
(£66bn) a year by 2020 to help poor countries transform
their economies. The overall agreement is legally
binding, but some elements – including the pledges to
curb emissions by individual countries and the climate
finance elements – are not.
The deal was also hailed for
delivering a clear message to business leaders. The
International Investors Group on Climate Change, a
network managing €13tn of assets, said the decision
would help trigger a shift away from fossil fuels and
encourage greater investments in renewable energy.
Saturday’s agreement was the product
of years of preparation, two weeks of intense
negotiations, capped off by three sleepless nights, with
Barack Obama and Hollande phoning other leaders to bring
them on side with the deal.
Accounts from behind the closed doors
of negotiating session described tense exchanges between
oil-producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia and
Russia, and a rapidly constituted US- and Europe-backed
High Ambition Coalition, which kept up the pressure for
a strong temperature goal and regular reviews of
The universal nature of the agreement
was a radical departure from the Kyoto Protocol, the
1997 agreement that drew sharp divisions between the
obligations of wealthy and developing countries but
ultimately failed to lower emissions. Unlike Kyoto, the
agreement reached on Saturday depends on political will,
with countries setting their own climate action plans."
also painted this picture of what arguably is a rare
form of agreement with so many countries trying to
protect their national interests. The developed
countries not perceived as willing to cut emissions
while the developing and new industrialised countries
using quite a huge amount of fossil fuels wanted to be
allowed to use as much as they could to catch up with
their developed counterparts. It was a difficult
situation, but in the end a deal was reached and the
hard task ahead now is the implementation.
"The agreement, adopted after 13 days
of intense bargaining in a Paris suburb, puts the
world’s nations on a course that could fundamentally
change the way energy is produced and consumed,
gradually reducing reliance on fossil fuels in favor of
cleaner forms of energy.
“History will remember this day,” U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the pact was
gaveled through to thunderous applause. “The Paris
agreement on climate change is a monumental success for
the planet and its people.”
The deal was struck in a rare show of
near-universal accord, as poor and wealthy nations from
across the political and geographic spectrum expressed
support for measures that require all to take steps to
battle climate change. The agreement binds together
pledges by individual nations to cut or limit emissions
from fossil-fuel burning, within a framework of rules
that provide for monitoring and verification as well as
financial and technical assistance for developing
countries. The overarching goal is to bring down
pollution levels so that the rise in global temperatures
is limited to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6
degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial averages.
Delegates added language that
expressed an ambition to restrict the temperature
increase even further, to 1.5 degrees C, if possible.
“This is a tremendous victory for all of our
citizens–not for any one country or bloc, but a victory
for all of the planet, and for future generations,”
Secretary of State John F. Kerry said after the accord
was announced. “The world has come together behind an
agreement that will empower us to chart a new path for
our planet: a smart and responsible path, a sustainable
The accord is the first to call on all
nations—rich and poor—to take action to limit emissions
of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with
additional reviews required every five years to
encourage even deeper pollution cuts. A major goal,
officials said, is to spur governments and private
industry to rapidly develop new technologies to help
solve the climate challenge.
“Markets now have the clear signal to
unleash the full force of human ingenuity,” said Ban Ki-moon,
who praised the pact as “ambitious, credible, flexible
and durable.” “The work starts tomorrow,” he said.
the BBC reminded
its audience of what all this means.
"The measures in the agreement
• 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 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.
It reminds us that despite the
euphoria surrounding the signing of the Paris Agreement,
there were questions to be answered.
"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).
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."
US President Barack Obama
paid special tribute, not only to US personnel at the
Paris Climate Change meeting, but to all those who
helped bring about the agreement.
"Now, no agreement is perfect,
including this one. Negotiations that involve nearly 200
nations are always challenging. Even if all the initial
targets set in Paris are met, we'll only be part of the
way there when it comes to reducing carbon from the
atmosphere. So we cannot be complacent because of
The problem is not solved because of
this accord. But make no mistake, the Paris agreement
establishes the enduring framework the world needs to
solve the climate crisis. It creates the mechanism, the
architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem
in an effective way.
This agreement is ambitious, with
every nation setting and committing to their own
specific targets, even as we take into account
differences among nations. We'll have a strong system of
transparency, including periodic reviews and independent
assessments, to help hold every country accountable for
meeting its commitments.
As technology advances, this agreement
allows progress to pave the way for even more ambitious
targets over time. And we have secured a broader
commitment to support the most vulnerable countries as
they pursue cleaner economic growth. In short, this
agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that
threatens our planet, and more of the jobs and economic
growth driven by low-carbon investment.
Full implementation of this agreement
will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences
of climate change, and will pave the way for even more
progress, in successive stages, over the coming years.
Moreover, this agreement sends a
powerful signal that the world is firmly committed to a
low-carbon future. And that has the potential to unleash
investment and innovation in clean energy at a scale we
have never seen before. The targets we've set are bold.
And by empowering businesses, scientists, engineers,
workers, and the private sector -- investors -- to work
together, this agreement represents the best chance
we've had to save the one planet that we've got."