The stage is set for all countries to move to a low carbon pathway with the Paris Agreement on climate change adopting a goal of “well below 2 degrees C” for temperature rise, and instituting a regime of financing of developing economies to help make the transition. Nations are to pursue efforts to aim at the more difficult objective of pegging temperature rise under 1.5 degrees C.
Underpinning the >Agreement , which is scheduled to go into effect from 2020, is the system of voluntary pledges, or nationally determined contributions made by individual countries to peak their greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the atmosphere and changing the climate. The reference in the text for the need to achieve an equalisation between emission of Green House Gases (GHGs) and their removal by ‘sinks’ by the second half of the present century has been welcomed widely since it turns attention to renewable energy, and away from fossil fuels.
The text of the Agreement unveiled on Saturday at the 21st meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention Climate Change after two weeks of talks and an intensive three days of convergence negotiations was formally adopted amid cheers at the Plenary.
The UNFCCC principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities ensuring equity is incorporated into the Paris Agreement to provide developing countries a cushion.
India's Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar expressed happiness that the text addressed the concerns raised by India in all areas — mitigation of carbon emissions, adaptation to climate change, financing, technology development and transfer, capacity building and transparency. He said there were some concerns, which he would raise at the Plenary.
Mr. Javadekar told the media that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had always advocated a sustainable lifestyle and climate justice. Both find a place in the Agreement text. The solar alliance which the Prime Minister had launched was another success, bringing together 120 nations and winning plaudits from France. French President Francois Hollande had on Saturday called Mr. Modi about the Agreement, and he expressed hope that it would be a historic pact fulfilling the aspirations of seven billion people. The Paris Agreement requires developed countries to raise finances with $100 billion per year as the floor by 2020, to help developing nations in both mitigation and adaptation activities, while other nations are encouraged to provide funding voluntarily. However, any basis for liability of countries which have historically accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causing disastrous climate events such as droughts, floods and extinctions, has been excluded.
The first global evaluation of the implementation of the Paris Agreement is to take place in 2023, and thereafter every five years to help all countries. Pledges by countries with an end date of 2025 or 2030 will need to be updated by 2020, and enhanced action every five years thereafter. It will also be possible for countries to cooperate voluntarily, form groups of nations for climate goals, and use both public and private finances, market and non-market mechanisms to meet the objective. A facilitative dialogue of countries is to be held in 2018 to review the collective efforts, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is to be asked for a special report in the same year, on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
Major features of the text outlined by French Foreign Minister and CoP21 president Laurent Fabius are:
>> It takes into account the differentiation and responsibility of developing countries, and their respective capacities in light of national circumstances
>> Confirms the key objective of containing mean global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and to endeavour to limit it to 1.5 degrees
>> There will be five-yearly national contributions on actions taken to address climate change
>> There is provision for adaptation to climate change. Cooperation on loss and damage suffered by countries on a long term basis to provide necessary means to all countries for durable development.
>> Provision of 100 billion per year as a floor by 2020 to help developing nations.
>> A new figure to be defined for the period between now and 2020
>> Collective stocktaking every five years of national actions and consideration of steps if efforts are insufficient for the objective set
Road to curb temperature rises
The goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, COP21, is to achieve a legally binding, international agreement to keep average global temperatures no more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures*
Global mean temperatures above pre-industrial levels
- 1850-1900 Average temperature 13.7°C
- 1.0°C Temperature rise expected to surpass 1°C in 2015
- 2.7°C Forecast warming† by 2100 even if all COP21 pledges are implemented
- 4-5°C Forecast rise by 2060 if current emissions levels continue
- 2.0°C 2010: 193 nations sign Cancun Agreements committing governments to “hold increase in global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”
- 3-5°C Warming on existing emissions-reduction policies. Low-lying island states at risk from rising sea levels
*Accurate assessment of temperatures in 1750s – when industrial revolution began – is difficult. To overcome problem, climatologists use average temperatures recorded between 1850 and 1900. †United Nations Synthesis report on aggregate effect of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)
Sources: UK Met. Office Hadley Centre, Climate Action Tracker, WMO - © GRAPHIC NEWS