The Paris pact on climate change, agreed over the weekend, has been hailed as ‘historic’ in political and diplomatic circles.
But what do the scientists and NGOs make of the deal and its various components?
1. Temperature increase limited to at least +2 °C or +1,5 °C
The deal talks of keeping worldwide temperature increases below +2 °C 2.0C and “endeavour” to limit them to +1.5 °C
“If the outcome of the Paris climate Summit was meant to keep the window open for a 1.5 degree temperature limit – crucial if we are to protect the most vulnerable people from the worst impacts, and to avoid runaway climate change – then Paris has failed.“ Lucy Cadena, climate justice and energy coordinator for Friends of the Earth International “By including an objective to limit the long-term temperature increase to 2°C – with a reference to 1,5°C – governments sent a strong message that they are committed to aligning themselves with the science.“ Isabelle Autissier, president of WWF France ---
2. To review, every five years, each country’s contribution to cutting emissions
Paragraph 9 of article 4 of the agreement says “each party will communicate a contribution, determined at national level, every five years” from 2025.
“The next 15 years are decisive for staying under 2°C, according to Giec (a group of international climate experts) so 2025 is too late.“ Pascal Canfin, expert at World Resources Institute “The contributions on the table are clearly insufficient. It is absolutely necessary that they be identified before the implementation of the agreement, in 2020.“ Marion Richard, of the Climate Action Network ---
Rich countries have agreed to help poorer nations in their fight against climate change.
“The 100 billion per year by 2020 is now extended to 2025 and a new goal is to be set after that. So developed countries have obtained another five years to deliver what they agreed to do. It is regrettable that this has happened as it delays action in developing countries who are in need.“ Meena Raman of the Third World Network “The political number mentioned for finance has no bearing on the scale of need. It’s empty. The iceberg has struck, the ship is going down and the band is still playing to warm applause.“ Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth International “The deal recognises that that rich countries are expected to mobilise more financial support to help poor countries make the transition to a low-carbon economy and become more climate-resilient. Increased investments will be needed, particularly in infrastructure, and the multilateral financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the regional development banks, must play a leading role in scaling up finance and bringing down the costs of capital.“ Nicholas Stern, president of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change ---
4. Principle of fairness
Article 2 of the Paris accord reads: “This Agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.”
“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.“ Press statement, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance ““There’s not enough in this deal for the nations and people on the frontlines of climate change. It contains an inherent, ingrained injustice. The nations which caused this problem have promised too little help to the people who are already losing their lives and livelihoods.“ Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International ---
Paragraph 52 of the agreement dismisses the idea of compensation for countries affected by climate change.
““The US is a cruel hypocrite. Obama spoke about embracing the US’s role of creating the problem and the need to take responsibility. This is all talk and no action. They created a clause that excludes compensation and liability for the losses and damages brought on by climate chaos. This is a deliberate plan to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.“ Lidy Nacpil, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development ---
6. Reducing emissions
The agreement does not provide quantified target reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for countries. Instead, they set their own objectives.
“The deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe“ Helen Szoke, d’Oxfam Australie “Achieving a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century will require net carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced, in effect, to zero. It seems governments understand this, even if they couldn’t quite bring themselves to say so. To have a good chance of staying below 2 degrees, we need to aim for 1.5 degrees anyway, and it is sensible to acknowledge that 2 degrees itself is hardly ‘safe’. So, all told, a great outcome. Chapeau to French diplomacy.“ Myles Allen, Unversity of Oxford ---
7. Renewable energies vs fossil fuels
“As both a Kenyan and a climate policy expert, I have never been more proud. The significance of of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative is not to be understated: it is an exceptional moment in Africa’s history and a game-changer for the continent. And our leadership has inspired other countries to show their support.“ Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid “The negotiations but equally the commitments of various actors sent a strong signal: the era of fossil fuels is over.“ Samantha Smith, WWF “The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned. This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history.“ Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International “The historic Paris climate deal paves the way for the shift to clean energy that the world wants and the planet needs. Eighteen months ago, we were told this transition away from fossil fuels was all but impossible, but the massive marches and the call from citizens everywhere for real action on climate change created momentum that has and will continue to be unstoppable.“ Emma Ruby-Sachs, d’Avaaz “Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done.“ Bill McKibben, 350.org ---
8. An historic turning point
“At least this moment has brought so many people together to understand that climate change is relevant to all our lives. In spite of this result in Paris, people all over the world must push their governments to go beyond what they have agreed here.“ Teresa Anderson, ActionAid International “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.“ Corporate Accountability International