Civil society: Paris pact a ‘turning point in history’
PARIS — It’s not everything they wanted but the final draft outcome of the ongoing climate negotiations might be a good start, climate activists and civil society groups said Saturday.
The 31-page document was released at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, an hour and a half after the Comite de Paris was convened by 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) President Laurent Fabius. During the meeting, Fabius, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande called on negotiators to decide on the world’s future in the face of worsening effects of climate change.
“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,” Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.
Emma Ruby-Sachs, acting executive director of Avaaz, said “this deal (if agreed upon) will represent a turning point in history, paving the way for the shift to 100 percent clean energy that the world wants and the planet needs.”
“By marching in the streets, calling leaders and signing petitions, people everywhere created this moment, and now people everywhere will deliver on it to secure the future of humanity,” she said.
Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and President of the British Academy, echoed the sentiment.
“This is a historic moment, not just for us and our world today, but for our children, our grandchildren and future generations. The Paris Agreement is a turning point in the world’s fight against unmanaged climate change, which threatens prosperity and well-being among both rich and poor countries,” he said, adding that it creates opportunities for countries to pursue a low-carbon economic development.
He applauded the agreement’s acknowledgment of the need to limit global warming and to “reach net zero annual emissions of greenhouse gases.”
Naidoo said that while many parts of the draft document was “diluted and polluted,” the “imperative to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees” was a good sign.
“That single number, and the new goal of net zero emissions by the second half of this century, will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and the palaces of oil-exporting states,” he said.
He warned, however, that much has to be done to meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“We have a 1.5 degree wall to climb, but the ladder isn’t long enough. The emissions targets on the table aren’t big enough, and the deal doesn’t do enough to change that. The new goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of the century effectively means we need to phase out fossil fuels – the easiest to cut – by 2050,” he said.
350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, however, had a slightly different take, saying that while governments recognise the need to end the “fossil fuel era,” the document “drags out the transition (to a clean energy economy) so far that endless climate damage will be done.”
Nevertheless, he said of the draft, “This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.”
May Boeve, 350.org executive director, was more optimistic. She said, “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. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now.”
Like Naidoo, she said the final text “still has some serious gaps.”
“We’re very concerned about the exclusion of the rights of indigenous peoples, the lack of finance for loss and damage, and that while the text recognizes the importance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C, the current commitments from countries still add up to well over 3 degrees of warming,” Boeve said.
“These are red lines we cannot cross. After Paris, we’ll be redoubling our efforts to deliver the real solutions that science and justice demand,” she added.
Oxfam, on the other hand, criticized the agreement. While it recognized that the pact will be a “landmark step,” it will “short-change” the poor and vulnerable communities.
“This deal offers a frayed life-line to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Only the vague promise of a new future climate funding target has been made, while the deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe,” Oxfam executive director Helen Szoke said.
Szoke said it is crucial for governments to re-negotiate before the new agreement takes effect from 2020, in order to pursue more ambitious goals.
Poor countries and finance
ActionAid chief executive Adriano Campolina said the draft Paris agreement should “put the world’s poorest people first” but “what we have been presented with doesn’t go far enough to improve the fragile existence of millions around the world.”
He called the 1.5 degree warming limit a “hype,” which cannot be achieved with the current emission cuts presented by developed countries.
Campolina said the provisions on loss and damage will also “strip developing countries of their rights to assistance from richer nations.”
“While the issue of providing climate finance to developing countries has been agreed upon, the final deal does not provide any real assurance to poor countries on how much finance will be delivered, when it will be delivered, or how much of it will be available for adaptation,” he explained.
“Much like the rest of the agreement, the finance section lets the world’s biggest historical polluters off the hook and fails to deliver for the poorest and most vulnerable,” he further said, pointing out that “finance is a key issue that underpins everything.”
Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the Paris agreement will provide “an important hook on which people can hang their demand.”
Szoke said there is no clear step on how to facilitate more funding for communities that need to adapt to climate change, only a finance target “and no recognition of the need for a separate target for adaptation finance.”
Oxfam estimates that developing countries will need $800 billion a year by 2050 just for adaptation.
Naidoo said that while the deal “won’t dig us out the hole we’re in…it makes the sides less steep.”
He said people still need to mobilize to promote renewable energy.
“In the coming years new political leaders will come to power, and many of them will stand against us and our goals. They will wield great power, but so will we. For us, Paris was always a stop on an ongoing journey. Ultimately our fate will be decided over the coming decades by the collective courage of our species. I believe we will succeed,” he explained.