COP 21’s Historic Agreement’s devilish details

Monsieur Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and president of the 21st UN climate conference (COP21), declared on Saturday 12 December 2015 that an Agreement on the future earth climate was reached by the world representativesL. Fabius at COP21

All the delegations then welcomed the success of the Paris conference, forgetting the hesitations, mistakes and failures of the twenty previous COPs.  It has not been an international conference of 195 countries before that has agreed on such major issues concerning the world’s people common destiny with such a consensus.

All world leaders hailed the new Paris climate deal, including the UAE that felt “happy” with the agreement that calls for addressing global warming and the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions.

United States President Barack Obama called the agreement “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.”

Speaking at the White House, he said: “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.”

He added: “I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world.”

In a statement, managing director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde said the Paris agreement is a critical step for addressing the challenge of global climate change.

“Governments must now put words into actions, in particular by implementing policies that make effective progress on the mitigation pledges they have made,” she said.

“That is why my key message is to price carbon right and to do it now. Charging for the emissions of fossil fuels puts in place the needed incentives for low-carbon investments; it also provides revenues to safeguard the poor, reduce debt, and lower the burden of other taxes on households and businesses. We look forward to dialogue on carbon pricing and helping governments put this vital policy into practice.”The Pact, which will come into force in 2020, must allow to redirect the world economy towards a low carbon model. It means a phase-out of fossil resources (coal, oil, gas), which dominate global energy production, a boom in renewable energy, immense energy savings or even greater protection of forests.

The new accord, set to take effect as of 2020, received a consensus from all the nations present at the 21st Conference of Parties.  It seeks to limit global warming.

It also calls for limiting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity; notably through the strict reviewing of each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years; and for rich countries to provide poorer nations “climate finance”.

Although this is only the beginning of the road, the Paris Conference sealed three major points in the agreement.  These are :

  1. All countries have agreed to limit the global temperature increase to not more than 2°C and even “well below 2°C” says the text, citing even the objective of 1.5°C.

The objective seems much more ambitious that the current real trajectory of the increase in the Earth’s temperature lies between 3 and 3.5 degrees.

  1. The solidarity of rich countries towards the poorer ones. Nations are therefore committed to ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’: Western societies, historically responsible for the climate pollution, are thus more involved as the Brics, ‘new polluters’:. The countries of the North must “assume more responsibility” because developing countries must be “allowed to grow”, had insisted the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during negotiations.

Even the United Arab Emirates’ chief climate change negotiator Majid Al Suwaidi, perceiving a faint leaning of the agreement towards the oil producers countries, said the deal recognised the challenges that countries dependent on fossil fuels face.

“We are pretty happy as the UAE with this proposed deal because we were able to achieve all our goals in terms of the negotiations and what we wanted to see in the deal,” he said.

  1. Furthermore, the principle of a global event every five years to look at the performance of the measures undertaken during that time and setting more ambitious targets each time for the ensuing period is of vital importance for the future. This 3rd component is however felt little blurry and negotiators gave to quantify the effort while the previous drafts of the agreement spoke of a reduction of gas emissions to greenhouse effect, by 40 to 70% by 2050.

Of course, the devil being in a thick forest of details, the adopted text is perceived by many to have numerous omissions that may potentially dovetail, thus making this agreement not really binding.  For instance, it will not be a matter of an instance of international justice to see to it being put to implementation not only consistently but to have each Government honouring its promises.

The most difficult effort would be that of the poorest nations whom to date and by far the least polluting be persuaded to abandon fossil fuels, to stop deforestation, to limit the fisheries, etc.

The agreement is also dependent on the world’s leading regions socio-economic conjectural stability, that in case of a sudden new economic crisis, as in the one that shook international finance in 2008 / 2009, would bring out yet again forces of all national self-interest, making vain promises of it.

«History will judge the outcome not on the basis of today’s agreement, but on what we do today» summarized Thoriq Ibrahim, Minister of the Environment of the Maldives, the most threatened by the raising of sea level and Chairman of the Group of small States.

The accord was nevertheless criticised for being not very specific.  Friends of the Earth’s CEO Craig Bennett venting his frustration said that the climate deal was “far short of the soaring rhetoric from world leaders” less than two weeks ago.

“An ambition to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees is all very well, but we still don’t have an adequate global plan to make this a reality.  This agreement leaves millions of people across the world under threat from climate-related floods, droughts and super-storms,” he said in a statement.

However he admitted that the agreement was “historic” and that: “People power across the world has forced governments to start taking this issue seriously – and people power will win the day,” he added.