The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is being held in Paris, France from November 30th to December 11th.
In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
Emission reduction targets
|26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030
|Peak CO2 emissions around 2030 Cut CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 60 to 65 per cent from 2005 level
|26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025
|40 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels
|70 to 75 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030
Announcement and policies
The African Union announced it will double the continent’s energy capacity by 2030 using only clean, renewable energy.
Thirty developing countries from the Climate Vulnerable Forum pledged to support 100% renewable energy by 2050, as did 1,000 city mayors from around the world.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande launched a 120 nation solar alliance, which committed funds to grow solar power to increase energy access for the poor.
A coalition has emerged at the conference of 105 of the most vulnerable countries that are after a 1.5℃ limit to global temperature rise.
Fossil fuel subsidy reform communique
The fossil fuel subsidy reform communique, led by New Zealand, encourages countries to phase out subsidies to help limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, extending on previous commitments made by the G20 in 2009.
Australia refused to sign the communique, even though Australian taxpayers subsidise the fossil fuel industry A$182 per taxpayer every year. $9.4 billion over the next four years will be handed out to the most profitable fossil fuel companies in Australia. Australian politicians are captive to “big coal” in particular – which donates to both major political parties.
The communique – which was ceremonially handed over to the UNFCCC head Christina Figueres – stated that even a partial phase out of fossil fuel subsidies would generate 12% of the total abatement needed by 2020 to keep the door open to meet the 2°C target.
Greg Hunt extends the “Australia Clause”
Environment Minister Greg Hunt got what the Turnbull government had keenly sought: the acceptance of accounting rules that allow Australia unrestricted access to the 128 million tonnes of surplus emissions credits it claims from the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. That surplus will allow a big increase of emissions above current levels, and should the current upward trajectory of pollution breach the weak targets, Australia – once it ratifies stage two of the Kyoto Protocol – will get to tap international carbon markets to make up the difference.
At present prices, UN certified carbon units are selling for under $1 a tonne – a bargain compared with the $13.12 a tonne paid by the Abbott-Turnbull governments under its $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund.
Hunt’s success was to nullify opposition from tiny St Lucia in the Caribbean and South Africa to Australia’s preferred definition of carbon emissions to include deforestation.
Had Australian negotiators not prevailed, the country would likely have struggled to meet the modest goal of cutting 2000 level emissions by 5 per cent by 2020. Excluding land use changes, the increase could be as high as 11 per cent, Melbourne University estimates.
Australia ranked third last in an annual assessment of 58 nations’ climate policies
Australia has come third last in an annual assessment of 58 nations’ climate policies, with only Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan ranking worse.
The assessment by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe was released at the Paris climate summit, just one day after foreign minister Julie Bishop told the assembled ministers Australia was meeting and beating its climate targets and transforming its energy production.
Australia awarded “Fossil of the Day”
Activists in Paris awarded Australia the “fossil of the day” award – a dubious honour given to a country that has done the most in the past 24 hours to stop a meaningful response to climate change, following a speech from Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who stated that traditional energy sources such as coal would “remain a significant part of the global energy mix for the foreseeable future”.
“Barring some technological breakthrough, fossil fuels will remain critical to promoting prosperity, growing economies and alleviating hunger for years to come”
Final text of agreement
The final agreement was endorsed by 190 countries with the new treaty commencing in 2020. It is hoped that the deal will limit global warming – which threatens humanity with rising seas and worsening droughts, floods and storms – to well below 2 degrees Celsius, perhaps 1.5.
Final agreement: ADOPTION OF THE PARIS AGREEMENT, Proposal by the President, Draft decision CP.21 (PDF)
Here’s what the many NGOs here in Paris think of the final draft. It’s overwhelmingly positive with caveats.
Avaaz: “a turning point in history, paving the way for the shift to 100% clean energy that the world wants and the planet needs”
WWF UK: “We have a clear vision in the strong long term goal; mechanisms to address the gap between that aspiration and the countries’ current commitments; and the foundations for financing the transition to a low-carbon future.” Greenpeace: “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. There’s much in the text that has been diluted and polluted by the people who despoil our planet, but it contains a new imperative to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.”
350.org: “This marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground.”
EDF (Environmental Defense Fund): The agreement will send a powerful, immediate signal to global markets that the clean energy future is open for business. It makes a moral call for dramatic action that leaves no one behind, and it moves us closer to the crucial turning point when global carbon emissions, which have been rising for more than two centuries, finally begin to decline.”
Christian Aid: “This is a historic agreement and the culmination of a path the world set out on four years ago.”
Cafod, Catholic aid agency: “For poor people living on the frontline of climate change this deal offers hope for a brighter future, but not yet the security that we’ll get there quick enough.”
E3G, thinktank: “The transition to a low carbon economy is now unstoppable, ensuring the end of the fossil fuel age.”
ActionAid: “what we have been presented with doesn’t go far enough to improve the fragile existence of millions around the world”
Dermot O’Gorman, WWF-Australia, CEO: “The agreement puts in place a global framework that sees countries continually strengthen the pollution reduction targets they set over time.”
“Paris marks the end of the fossil fuel age, and the acceleration of the renewable energy era, sending a clear long-term signal to business and investors.”
“Now that we have a new global agreement, it’s time for the Australian government to step up and put in place a long-term plan to achieve its promised pollution reductions. This plan should include policies to clean up and modernise our energy sector, and a ramp-up of funding to help vulnerable nations and communities adapt to climate change.”
Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia, Chief Executive: “The Paris agreement can be a major marker in the fight against hunger, poverty and inequality. But only if countries including Australia now match what has been agreed with action. And fast.”
“The real leadership in Paris came from those on the frontline of the climate crisis, including our Pacific neighbours, and from the millions of people around the world already working to build a resilient and sustainable future.”
“The outcome demands Australia now step up, transition rapidly from a polluting backwater to a modern clean energy economy, and provide far greater support to poorer countries with tackling climate change.”
Kelly O’Shanassy, Australian Conservation Foundation, CEO: “For the first time in history, humanity has agreed to limit pollution and create a pathway towards a safer climate. Now the real work starts and Australia, as one of the world’s biggest polluters, must do its fair share to cut pollution.
“As we head into the 2016 election year, ACF urges Prime Minister Turnbull to listen to the millions of Australians and people around the world calling for a better future by making genuine changes that will unshackle our country from dirty energy and pave the way for a truly innovative renewable future.
Ben Davison, Chief of Staff, ACTU: “It is crucial as we make the transition towards a net zero emissions planet that it is a just transition.
“Working people, low income households, the poorest nations and their communities should not bear the costs of the Climate change whether through job destruction, lack of access to new energy sources or destruction of their Eco systems.
“While we would have preferred stronger language and more ambition, the paris agreement does provide us with a baseline from which to build that just transition and we will be continuing to work with civil society, business and government towards a better outcome after COP21.”
Josh Gilbert, Chair, NSW Young Farmers: “The COP21 Paris agreement is an exciting time for Australia, particularly the Australian agricultural sector.
“It is widely recognised that farmers are on the front lines of climate change and that there is a great opportunity for farmers to not only feed and clothe the world, but also power and empower our communities through renewables.
“I also welcome comments regarding the importance of food security. In the next 35 years, farmers will need to double food production to feed an additional 2.3 billion people. While there will be challenges in Australia to help accomplish this feat, particularly climate change and urban encroachment, there is also a great opportunity to share our knowledge systems internationally with our colleagues.
Jaden Harris, Climate Change Campaigner, Australian Youth Climate Coalition: “This historic agreement gives young people hope that a safe climate future is still within reach. We’re still on track for a 3-degree warmer world, which would devastate vulnerable communities worldwide, but now we have a structure to increase ambition and young people will lead the call to use it.
“The transition to a clean energy future is inevitable, today confirms the fossil fuel era is coming to an end. Australia is being left behind, Turnbull needs to match our rhetoric in Paris with real change back home. Young people are missing out on the opportunities of renewable energy and the fairer society it helps create”
Michael Jacobs, Senior Adviser for the New Climate Economy project, and former advisor to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown: “This is a historic moment. The world’s governments have finally understood what the science has long been telling them – we have to act now if the earth’s climate is to remain safe. Today they have committed to act – and to act together. Historians will see this as the turning point: the moment when the world started shifting decisively away from fossil fuels and towards clean and safe energy systems. Remarkably this effectively signals the end of the fossil fuel era. This is unquestionably a great success. But the work really starts now. These commitments now need to turn into policy, and policy into investment. They can congratulate themselves for 24 hours – now they need to act.”
- Media contact: Benjamin Jullien, Benjamin.firstname.lastname@example.org +33 669 016 384
Jennifer Morgan, World Resources Institute: “This agreement would mark a true turning point in the global effort to address climate change. The text reflects both the push for high ambition and the voices of the most vulnerable. It accelerates the energy transformation that is well underway, pointing us to a safer and stronger future.”
- Media contact: Rhys Gerholdt, email@example.com +1 202 341 1323
Monica Araya, member of the Climate Vulnerable expert group: “This agreement marks the beginning of a new era where we find good examples of climate action from all, developed and developing countries, because it is in everyone’s best interests to do so. It is no longer about who is acting and who is not, but how strong the world can act together.”
- Media contact: James Lorenz, firstname.lastname@example.org, +61 400 376 021
Nigel Topping, We Mean Business (WMB): “This is a remarkable diplomatic settlement and a historic economic catalyst. The world’s governments have sent a decisive signal to businesses and investors that will accelerate the shift towards a thriving, clean global economy. The Paris Agreement for net zero emissions will turn the billions of investment we’ve seen so far into the trillions the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all. The diplomatic process that included businesses, investors, cities, states, regions and civil society created a powerful alliance which has clearly raised the level of ambition in the negotiations. Businesses and investors look forward to playing a continued role in turning this agreement into on the ground reality.”
- Press contact: Callum Grieve, email@example.com, +44 7734 399 994
Major General (ret) A M N Muniruzzaman, Chairman of Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC) Bangladesh: “Military leaders, assembled under GMACCC, realising the fragility of the situation call upon leaders for urgent action to implement the Paris agreement, to save mankind from the catastrophic consequences of climate change. The Paris agreement must be more than paperwork. Its success depends on a verifiable, implementable, transparent and fair agreement which is made accountable. The military has a new, definitive, more humanitarian role, to deal with millions of people on the move, and this will only grow over time as climate impacts bite.”
- Press contact: Matt Luna, +31 68 394 8959, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony Hobley, the Carbon Tracker Initiative: “A 1.5 degrees Carbon Budget means the fossil fuel era is well and truly over. There is absolutely no room for error. Fossil fuel companies must accept that they are an ex growth stock and urgently re-assess their business plans. New energy technologies have leapt down the cost curve in recent years. The effect of the momentum created in Paris means this is only going to accelerate. The need for the financial markets to fund the clean energy transition creates unparalleled opportunity for growth on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution.”
- Contact: email@example.com
Christoph Bals, Political Director at Germanwatch: “Our experience in Germany has shown that renewable energy can be scaled up rapidly with significant economic benefit. The decarbonisation signal from the Paris Agreement will increase and accelerate these benefits, but Germany still needs to up its game. Chancellor Merkel needs to commit to a plan to phase out the use of coal within the next two decades. The Paris outcome requires developed countries to come back next year with a credible plan for reaching their 2020 targets – that just is not going to be possible without a coal phase-out.”
- Press contact 1: Vera Künzel, +33 643 80 69 99, firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Press contact 2: Katrin Riegger, +49 157 71 33 57 96, email@example.com
Chris Field, Founding Director, Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology: “The world truly reached a turning point with the historic Paris agreement, but this is not a time for self-congratulations. This is our moment to unleash ambition with new levels of innovation, building the clean energy system of the 21st century, developing sustainably, and comprehensively protecting people and the planet.”
Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Senior Policy Advisor in Poverty Reduction at Islamic Relief Worldwide, an international humanitarian organization, and the former CEO of Nigeria’s leading national environmental NGO: “Muslims living in some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries can be hopeful that this climate deal provides a foundation for positive change. In August, Muslim leaders laid out in a declaration, grounded in the Qur’anic teachings, their vision of the low-carbon future necessary for the peace and prosperity of the planet: while COP21 reaffirmed that this vision is necessary and feasible with strong political willpower, the various positive announcements of the last two weeks (and last six years) prove that it is already on its way to becoming a reality. There is still much work to be done: the Muslim community, in continued solidarity with those from other faiths and humanity at large, must now encourage those in Paris and beyond to live out their pledges and take responsibility as stewards of the Earth.”
- Press contact for Muhtari Aminu-Kano: Lotifa Begum, Lotifa.Begum@irworldwide.org, +447850226689
Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft: “Microsoft stands with the many voices within the private and public sectors urging the negotiators in Paris to come to a final agreement on climate change. Reaching agreement on a long-term goal framework for cutting carbon emissions and achieving GHG neutrality is critical to address climate change. It will also provide the certainty required for corporations around the world to accelerate their low-carbon investments and foster the creation of a true low-carbon global economy.”
Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.: “We believe climate change is an urgent and pressing challenge, and it is clear that we must all do our part to reduce, avoid and mitigate the impact of rising greenhouse gas (GHG) levels. That’s why we support the UN’s call for the U.S. corporate sector to commit to science-based targets to reduce emissions. In addition, we have already successfully decoupled our growth from emissions, and recently announced that we exceeded our goal to reduce 20 MMT of GHG emissions from our supply chain.”
Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Incorporated: “Back in October, we joined with the rest of the food and drink industry calling on global leaders to embrace the opportunity presented in Paris. Now really is the time for talk to become action and to meaningfully address the reality of climate change. Global policy makers should think big. Because big thinking leads to big results. Having a long term science based target will drive ideas and innovation, ultimately making what may have seemed impossible – possible. We are on the cusp of a deal that can change the world. And as a business we are committed to tackling the climate challenges that face us. We hope that global leaders will do the same.”
Professor Peng Gong, Co-Chair, Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, Tsinghua University, Beijing: “Beijing’s first-ever ‘red alert’ this week, called due to dangerous levels of air pollution in the city, is a clear symbol of the crucial importance of a strong climate deal here in Paris. Concerted action on climate change, particularly through a transition to clean energy, has immense potential to protect respiratory and cardiovascular health and to improve quality of life. In China, it is estimated that over 4000 people die every day as a result of air pollution, much of which comes from burning coal, and worldwide, air pollution is responsible for 7 million deaths every year: a shocking one in eight of all deaths. By accelerating the transition to healthy renewable energy sources and continuing to scale up climate ambition over the coming years, we can protect millions of people from air pollution as well as the serious health impacts of climate change.”
Dr. Xavier Deau, Former-President of the World Medical Association: “We the physicians have the ethical duty to stand for the health of the population, so do all the politicians here in France today. We leave Paris with a strong public health agreement and are encouraged to see elements crucial to the protection of health central to the final agreement. Millions of physicians around the world have their eyes on Paris and are now looking forward and calling on their governments to get to work protecting the health of their populations.”
Mr José Luis Castro, Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease: “The Paris Climate Agreement cements a decisive call for concerted action to reduce emissions which are toxic to human and planetary health. It is now the duty of the health community to work with others to ensure that these emissions are dramatically reduced – to reduce exposure to leading NCD risk factors, limit global warming, and promote health for all.”
Ms Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Heart Federation: “The adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement and its embedded references to health mean that NCDs and other health issues can no longer be side-lined in the global response to climate change. The NCD Alliance and its Federations are dedicated to ensuring a comprehensive response to create sustainable environments in which we can live, work and prosper.”
Ms Katie Dain, Executive Director, NCD Alliance: “The adoption of the Paris agreement is an unprecedented victory for people and planet, and a catalyst for the next phase of action. Now, all of government and all of society must come together in a coordinated response to mitigate the impacts of global warming, NCDs and ill-health.”
Professor Hugh Montgomery, Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change: “The impact of climate change on everything from food production to heat stress and water scarcity means it poses the single biggest threat to global health. This agreement is incredibly important for beginning to ease that health burden, ultimately saving lives. It will also set us on a path to a cleaner, less polluted world which in turn reduces costs for our healthcare systems.”
Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Climate Change Lead, World Health Organization: “Every tonne of carbon that we put into the atmosphere turns up the planet’s thermostat, and increases risks to health. The actions that we need to take to reduce climate change would also help clean up our air and our water, and save lives. To take a medical analogy: We already have good treatments available for climate change, but we are late in starting the course. The Paris Agreement helps us take this forward and is a crucial step in protecting our climate and our health.”
Dr. Bettina Menne, Climate Lead, WHO Europe: “As doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, it is our duty to safeguard the health of our families and communities. The Paris Agreement takes us one step closer to securing a future which protects the public from the impacts of climate change – the defining health issue of this century. Today, we are leaving France with a deal that bolsters community resilience, strengthens our health systems, and helps to ackle inequalities.”
Analysis and criticisms
The world has reached an historic agreement on climate change. The deal concluded at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris commits countries to take steps to limit warming to “well below” 2C relative to pre-industrial levels and to pursue “efforts” to limit warming to 1.5C. It also obliges developed countries to provide $100 billion per year in assistance to developing countries. But, unfortunately, the final negotiations dropped the one number that truly matters for the future of our planet: zero.
George Monbiot: “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now:
“The Paris negotiators are caught up in a frenzy of self-congratulation about 1.5 degrees being included in the agreement, but the reality is that the reductions on the table are still locking us into 3 degrees of global warming. This will have catastrophic impacts on some of the most vulnerable countries and communities. And yet the deal seems to be shifting more responsibility on those countries who are least responsible for the problem, and the finance that has been agreed on is just a fraction of what is broadly agreed is necessary for those countries to cope with the impacts of climate catastrophe. The bullying and arm twisting of rich countries, combined with the pressure to agree to a deal at all costs, has ensured that the agreement will prevent poor countries from seeking redress for the devastating impacts of a crisis that has been thrust upon them.”
“What has been inspiring in Paris is the multitude of action on climate being taken by a huge cross section of global civil society, from small farmers, to indigenous people, to trade unions, to direct action groups. As politicians fail to respond to the crisis, people power is stepping up to meet the challenge.”
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