Paris climate change conference, Dec12, 2015 report from Rebecca Solnit

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Report from Paris on the conclusion of the Paris summit

December 12, 2015

from Rebecca Solnit

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If there is to be a day that marks the end of the fossil fuel era, it may be 12/12/15.

The treaty is, according to the policy experts I listened to at press conferences, stronger than previous versions. It cites the 1.5 temperature limit as one to aim for four times and also states a below-two-degrees standard. Both require leaving fossil fuels behind and achieving net zero emissions in the second half of the century--"Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty." It includes language requiring wealthier/developed nations to help developing nations (though that categorization doesn't differentiate between China and the Congo, Saudi Arabia and the Sudan).

There are grounds to argue that it is not good enough. And to argue that it is good -- as a floor not a ceiling, a beginning point, not an end. After two weeks of hanging around outside the negotiations and reading drafts and trying to understand the innumerable aspect of finance, politics, science, and timeframes, it seems a bit of a miracle that there is an agreement at all.

Bill McKibben tweeted, "This agreement won't save the planet. It may have saved the chance to save the planet (if we all fight like hell in the years ahead) @cop21"

Michael Brune tweeted, "Final good news, countries, surprisingly, commit 2 pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C. More ambition needed 2 reach." and "‪#‎COP21‬ final - good news - 1st agreement ever where every country commits to peak/lower carbon pollution. Every nation has a role to play."

Here's a key passage:

1. This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by:

(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;

(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate- resilient development.

2. This Agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

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At May Boeve stated, "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.

"Our job now is to hold countries to their word and accelerate the transition to 100% renewable energy. Over ten thousand of us took to the streets of Paris today to demonstrate our commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice, while many more demonstrated around the world. Our message is simple: a livable climate is a red line we’re prepared to defend.

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. 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.”

Climate Nexus put out these comments a few hours ago:

Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University & Working Group II Lead Author, Chapter 18, UN IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

“These negotiations have made enormous progress, not only because of the ice breaking leadership of the U.S. and China, but also and perhaps ultimately more important participation and engagement of developing country Parties. A real sense of trust and understanding seems to have emerged - an essential anchor for progress moving beyond Paris.”

Chris Field, Founding Director, Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology

“The world truly reached a turning point with the historic Paris agreement, but this is not a time for self-congratulations. This is our moment to unleash ambition with new levels of innovation, building the clean energy system of the 21st century, developing sustainably, and comprehensively protecting people and the planet.”

Michael Jacobs, Senior Adviser for the New Climate Economy project, and former advisor to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown

“This is a historic moment. The world's governments have finally understood what the science has long been telling them - we have to act now if the earth's climate is to remain safe. Today they have committed to act - and to act together. Historians will see this as the turning point: the moment when the world started shifting decisively away from fossil fuels and towards clean and safe energy systems. Remarkably this effectively signals the end of the fossil fuel era. This is unquestionably a great success. But the work really starts now. These commitments now need to turn into policy, and policy into investment. They can congratulate themselves for 24 hours - now they need to act.”

Jennifer Morgan, World Resources Institute

“This agreement would mark a true turning point in the global effort to address climate change. The text reflects both the push for high ambition and the voices of the most vulnerable. It accelerates the energy transformation that is well underway, pointing us to a safer and stronger future.”

Heather Coleman, Climate Change Policy Manager, Oxfam

“Poor people suffering from the devastating impacts of climate change have no time left. This agreement represents an important step towards avoiding 3 degrees of temperature change or worse, but more ambition is clearly needed. The Paris agreement is a launching point for further actions that address the needs of those who have done the least to cause this crisis but who are suffering the most.”

Monica Araya, member of the Climate Vulnerable expert group

“This agreement marks the beginning of a new era where we find good examples of climate action from all, developed and developing countries, because it is in everyone’s best interests to do so. It is no longer about who is acting and who is not, but how strong the world can act together.”

Contact: James Lorenz, [email protected], +61 400 376 021
Anthony Hobley, the Carbon Tracker Initiative

“A 1.5 degrees Carbon Budget means the fossil fuel era is well and truly over. There is absolutely no room for error. Fossil fuel companies must accept that they are an ex growth stock and urgently re-assess their business plans. New energy technologies have leapt down the cost curve in recent years. The effect of the momentum created in Paris means this is only going to accelerate. The need for the financial markets to fund the clean energy transition creates unparalleled opportunity for growth on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution.