From 30th November to 11th December 2015, the global community came together in Paris to negotiate a new global and legally binding climate protection agreement. The 21st Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) was the last chance for climate diplomacy for the 196 member states.
Historic climate protection agreement adopted in Paris
(December 2015) The final text of the climate summit in Paris, France, contains much that is desired and only little that is demanded. Concrete steps were not agreed but, as usual, postponed to the future.
Climate witnesses up close
A first-hand impression was provided in Paris of just what the impacts of climate change are like in poor countries and among marginalised sections of the population nowadays. Participants included Indios from Brazil whose forest habitat is simply being clear-cut, Eskimos from Northern Alaska, where the ground is melting away, island and coastal dwellers who had to be resettled because they were threatened by sea-level rise, and Indios who no longer know how to get water to drink or to farm with now that the Andes glaciers have melted away. This was more than just a face-to-face encounter with reality – it was an outcry, a call on the polluters, on the big greenhouse gas emitters, to at least do a U-turn and get the world onto another, sustainable development path.
Climate Conference in Paris: United for climate action
EU and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries joint forces for ambitious global climate deal. The group of small island nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea have succeeded in turning anger and despair into a political asset. Tony de Brum, Foreign Affairs Minister of the Marshall Is-lands, spoke of “fossil fuels” and “fossil fools”, referring to the blockers represented in Paris who were living almost exclusively on revenue from oil exports. de Brum brought about the coalition of ambitious states. In addition to the developing countries, the USA, the European Union as well as Canada, Brazil and other hardliners joined it. Thanks to this initiative, the agreement stipulates that global warming be limited to less than two degrees Celsius until the end of the century. There is even mention of 1.5 degrees, a question of survival for the island nations.
Abandoning coal and oil: wishful thinking or reality?
Only how should this goal be achieved? Decarbonisation, a total departure from coal, oil and gas, is not demanded in the accord. Agreement was reached that, in the second half of the century, no more greenhouse gases must be emitted than what nature could absorb. This was a demand that China, India and Saudi Arabia were able to come to terms with, although the balance reached polit-ically must not conceal the fact that scientific insights call for significantly more stringent measures on the part of government actors. Continuing the decarbonisation initiative of the G7 states launched in the June Paris agreement and focusing on a social and economic transformation making use of socially and environmentally compatible technologies would have made more sense than opt-ing for immature technologies that a clause in the new agreement refers to. According to the latter, greenhouse gases may further be discharged as long as emissions are compensated for or absorbed through biomass or stored underground. The abbreviation of this approach is BECCS (Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage). We are well aware of the negative implications that this has for food security and poverty eradication, given the phenomenon of land-grabbing.
A further question that remains unanswered is how the necessary decarbonisation of the world economy is to be achieved if the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), an-nounced by 186 states, are insufficient for this purpose. If they are implemented, the world will be moving towards a warming up of 2.7 degrees Celsius. We have already reached one degree of warming. What is still at issue is whether the monitoring conferences agreed to be held every five years will be able to bridge the emission gap.
The agreement also lacks any strategy to raise the 100 billion US dollars needed for climate protec-tion and adaptation from 2020 on. Although the industrialised nations are “requested” to mobilise financial resources to combat global warming and emerging economies are “encouraged” to volun-tarily contribute to climate financing, just what this process will look like is only going to be negoti-ated at the next climate conference in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Civil society must not let itself be lulled by the agreement
The agreement explicitly refers to damage and losses caused by climate change. This aspect is of particular importance to the inhabitants of island nations and other vulnerable groups. But here too, a timetable is lacking that would demonstrate how alternative and innovative financial resources could be tapped. The USA urged that the agreement mention that including “loss and damage” did not imply assuming liability let alone paying compensation for damages or losses already suffered.
Paris certainly marks a historic agreement. Ultimately, it was indeed thanks to clever French diplomacy that the conflicts of interests between the negotiating governments did not stand in the way of the agreement. At the last minute, US legal experts discovered an obliging “shall” in the paragraph addressing the industrialised countries’ commitments to reductions and replaced it with a voluntary “should”. COP President Laurent Fabius explained the delay this had resulted in by referring to a translating error that he apologised for and attributed to the tired-out staff. Good for di-plomacy, but bad for climate protection. For this is where the real work starts. Civil society world-wide, which has contributed constructive and critical support to the process, will not let itself be dazzled by the success achieved in Paris but will immediately insist on its implementation. At any rate, for Germany, this means bidding coal farewell. Immediately.
Welthungerhilfe places the following demands on the German Federal Government for climate action after Paris:
- The anchoring of the withdrawal from coal, oil and gas as well as the development of renewable energies as a global long-term goal in the Paris agreement.
- The increase of the reduction goal for greenhouse gases t EU level to 30% by 2020 and to 55% by 2030 (in comparison with the year 1990).
- A mechanism, which examines the national goals for the reduction of emissions every five years and adapts them to the latest scientific findings.
- The inclusion of the various functions of a sustainable and location-appropriate agriculture into the Paris agreement. Sustainable resources use, food and nutrition security and poverty reduction must be central criteria in the allocation of climate financing in agriculture.
- A commitment from industrial and emerging countries to fully disclose their agricultural emissions and introduce measures for their reduction.
- In the fight against hunger and poverty, poor countries must place a priority on the adaptation of agriculture to climate change.
- A perpetrator-based financing for the tackling of climate damage.
- The establishment of a plan for how the 100 billion USD per year by 2020 promised by industrialised countries for climate financing will be ensured - as immediate aid for countries that are particularly affected by climate change. These funds must be paid additionally to the public development financing (ODA).
- If the Green Climate Fund becomes the most important fund, other climate funds such as the Adaptation Fund or the Least Developed Countries Fund may not be neglected.
Study: Effects of climate change on food security. Case examples from Kenya, Pakistan and Peru.
Alliance2015: Climate deal will amount to little without strong implementation
Michael Kühn of Welthungerhilfe on