In the Paris iteration of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change it took just 2 weeks for 196 countries to agree to limit global warming to below 2℃.
The 196 have agreed to the following conditions outlined in the Paris Agreement:
- Participating Countries have agreed to keep temperatures “well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels”, with the aim to limit the increase to 1.5℃.
- Individual countries have committed to emissions targets from 2020 onwards.
- Developed countries will jointly provide $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries achieve their targets.
- Emission targets will be reviewed every five years.
- ‘Carbon sinks’ (natural or artificial carbon storage, such as forests) to be introduced to balance out greenhouse gas emissions by the later half of the 21st
The big surprise to climate change experts was the achievement of a unilateral 1.5℃ target and “net zero emissions” long-term goal as soon as possible after mid-century. The agreement to targets, and financial commitment to assist developing countries shift to renewable energy, left commentators in no doubt that the climate science has had some impact finally in the global political sphere.
The USA- China joint statement on clean energy cooperation was a stand out accomplishment that is being hailed as the moment that solidified the real possibility of change, in this iteration of conference talks.
The star of negotiations has been COP President and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who despite the horrendous attacks that took place on the eve of the conference and associated security concerns, ran a very successful conference. Fabius is being celebrated for skillfully managing the negotiations through tensions, compromises and last minute developments.
Though some are still skeptical about the agreement’s viability and the political commitment from countries who initially opposed the 1.5℃ target, some environmental scientists are praising the agreement as a great milestone.
Peter Christoff, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne is hopeful:
“The new goal is not empty symbolism. It is still achievable and has beneficial real-world implications. It ramps up urgency, strengthens expectations for rapid mitigation by governments and the private sector, and intensifies pressure for funding transfers to the developing world.”
The pressure is now on governments to fulfill this target, no doubt we will begin to see what renewable energy plans have been kept up sleeves, while fossil fuel industries shift uncomfortably.