The global climate summit in Paris forged a landmark agreement on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.
After four years of fraught UN talks often pitting the interests of rich nations against poor, imperilled island states against rising economic powerhouses, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared the pact adopted, to the standing applause and whistles of delegates from almost 200 nations.
“With a small hammer you can achieve great things,” Fabius said as he gavelled the agreement, capping two weeks of tense negotiations at the summit on the outskirts of the French capital.
Hailed as the first truly global climate deal, committing both rich and poor nations to reining in rising emissions blamed for warming the planet, it sets out a sweeping, long-term goal of eliminating net manmade greenhouse gas output this century.
“It is a victory for all of the planet and for future generations,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the US negotiations in Paris.
“We have set a course here. The world has come together around an agreement that will empower us to chart a new path for our planet, a smart and responsible path, a sustainable path.”
It also creates a system to encourage nations to step up voluntary domestic efforts to curb emissions, and provides billions more dollars to help poor nations cope with the transition to a greener economy powered by renewable energy.
Calling it “ambitious and balanced”, Fabius said the accord would mark a “historic turning point” in efforts to avert the potentially disastrous consequences of an overheated planet.
Pledge to Save the Future
- After four years of fraught UN talks often pitting the interests of rich nations against poor, pact was declared adopted.
- 187 nations have submitted detailed plans for how they will contain the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
- It will be mandatory for developed countries to take emission reduction targets, developing countries will have the option to determine the nature and quantum of these.
- Low-lying nations would “pursue efforts” to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
For US President Barack Obama, it is a legacy-defining accomplishment that, he said at the White House, represents “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.”
The final agreement was essentially unchanged from a draft unveiled earlier in the day, including a more ambitious objective of restraining the rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, a mark scientists fear could be a tipping point for the climate. Until now the line was drawn only at 2 degrees.
In some ways, its success was assured before the summit began: 187 nations have submitted detailed national plans for how they will contain the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, commitments that are the core of the Paris deal.
While leaving each country to pursue those measures on its own, the agreement finally sets a common vision and course of action after years of bickering over how to move forward.
Officials hope a unified stance will be a powerful symbol for world citizens and a potent signal to the executives and investors they are counting on to spend trillions of dollars to replace coal-fired power with solar panels and windmills.
“This agreement establishes a clear path to decarbonise the global economy within the lifetimes of many people alive today,” said Paul Polman, the CEO of consumer goods maker Unilever and a leading advocate for sustainable business practices. Polman said it will “drive real change in the real economy”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not reacted on the decision yet. French President Hollande had lauded India’s contribution at the Climate Change Summit in Paris before signing the agreement.
Read the implication of the Climate Change Agreement here.