Historic deal at UN Climate Change Conference?

14.12.2015 06:53
Kategorie: News

Global energy turnaround by Paris Agreement?

Coral Reef - © Karsten Kasper
Does the breakthrough in the UN Conference on
Climate Change represent a good signal for the future of coral reefs? © K.Kasper

After days and nights of tough negotiations, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) has put forth the first world climate agreement with the blessings of all 195 countries involved, following the failed Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

The negotiators have managed to come up with a masterpiece of climate diplomacy. “The COP President Laurent Fabius has brought the Treaty to the finishing line. Paris has delivered,” said Regine Günther, Director General Policy and Climate Change at WWF Germany.

Stating that the international climate has taken a great leap forward, she added that it was the first time an architecture of common, transparent objectives and rules had been placed on all nations, in a bid to tackle climate change.
Based on the Paris Agreement, global warming would be limited to pre-industrial levels of well below 2 degrees Celcius, so as to bring the objective of 1.5 degrees within sight. Günther said that this was an important step, especially for the most vulnerable countries and small islands.

However, with the current emission reduction targets submitted by the 195 nations at the conference, global warming would increase by about 3 degree Celsius. Günther said that the efforts needed to reach the 1.5 degree limit are enormous. She added that the message from the Paris Agreement is that the world would have to accelerate their efforts in moving away from coal, oil and gas at the national levels. In Germany, this reduction in carbon usage is more than ever on the agenda, as in the other countries.

In addition, the Agreement sends a clear signal that forest conservation is also essential to keep global warming below the critical 1.5 degree threshold. All countries are encouraged to take immediate measures to promote forest protection and sustainable land management. The land sector is the second largest source of emissions, after the energy sector.

However, Günther pointed out that the emissions from international aviation and maritime transport had not been included in the Agreement, attributing this to their lobbyists’ efforts.

Developing countries would receive assistance from industrialised countries to help them in efforts to reduce and cope with climate change. However, their level of commitment appeared far from sufficient to achieve this mammoth task. This needs to be urgently rectified in Paris.

The results of the Paris Agreement are important for the survival of the world's coral reefs, which remain vulnerable without any precise limitations (and action) on carbon emissions, as the current situation stands (see also article regarding corals & global warming).

As the Paris Agreement gets progressively implemented, the penalties for those not fulfilling their prescribed national objectives remain to be seen. Would this historic global project be a true milestone for environmental protection or simply end up as lip service, as so often was in the past?