COP21 Reaches Agreement to End Fossil Fuel Era
After being extended for one more day of intense negotiations, COP21 has finally concluded. Nearly 200 countries signed on to the first universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and confront the negative effects of climate change. Throughout the two weeks of negotiations, delegates discussed ambitious goals and mechanisms to create a new climate change agenda.
At the beginning of the last plenary session, French President François Hollande urged countries to make history by approving the 31-page text. Laurent Fabius, COP21 President and French Foreign Minister, also invited delegates to adopt the agreement: “It is my deep conviction that we have come up with an ambitious and balanced agreement. Today it is a moment of truth.”
The Paris Outcome commits developed and developing countries to work together for the first time in the fight against climate change. All countries agreed to reduce emissions, and rich countries agreed to raise USD100 billion per year to support poor countries transitioning their economies away from hydrocarbons. Some parts of the agreement are legally binding, but others, like the individual country pledges to reduce emissions and the climate finances elements, are not.
Private sector leaders see the agreement as a strong signal to businesses about the end of the fossil fuel era. Corporations and investors said the decision encourages greater investments in renewable energy and opportunities for low carbon transitions.
The agreement limits warming below 2°C and strives to keep temperatures at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It also incorporates previous commitments from 186 countries in terms of emissions reduction. Delegates established a procedure for regular emissions reduction reviews and decided to seek balance between anthropogenic emissions and removals by carbon sinks.
Critics remain concerned about the effects of the agreement on coastal areas and small islands. Despite the absence of strong language on loss and damage that protects the most vulnerable countries, supporters argue that the Paris Outcome represents a significant step in bringing all countries together to combat climate change. Countries would have to move aggressively before year 2030 to guarantee eliminating emissions by 2050 through reforestation and technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
The agreement departs from previous approaches that reflected a strong differentiation between high and low income countries. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Outcome depends on political will, with countries setting their own climate plans. Emissions reductions will be reviewed ever five-years, a demand presented by the U.S. and the European Union but resisted by China.
In summary, there are five key points int he new climate agreement:
- Keeping temperatures below 1.5°C
- It incorporates the previous emissions reduction commitments. The INDCs are incorporated in the agreement but are not legally binding.
- Long-term goal for net zero emissions
- Five-years stocktaking periods
- Includes loss and damages but does not provide the bases for any liability or compensation.
The French government won a praise from negotiators for using diplomatic and multilateral negotiation instruments to complete the climate deal.
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