THE just-concluded Paris climate summit has surprisingly reached a deal, although it has received as much criticism as praise since it was announced early Sunday morning. It deserves both, but the initiative also deserves to be given a chance to work.
The Paris climate agreement commits countries to limiting the rise in global temperatures until the year 2100 to “well below” 2 degrees C above its level at the beginning of the industrial age, and “to endeavor to limit” them further to 1.5 degrees °C. Global average temperatures have already risen about 1 degree °C since that time, so in order to reach the target, significant emission cuts will be necessary, which will in turn require big changes in how the world gets the energy it needs.
In addition, the new climate agreement provides for considerable assistance from the developed countries – who are also the world’s biggest polluters – to those most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
The obvious problem with the climate agreement is that it contains little in the way of details about how countries intend to go about achieving the 2-degree target. Climate scientists, while happy to have a deal of any kind, expressed disappointment that most of the specific targets in terms of emission levels were removed, mostly due to the resistance of countries such as India, China, and Saudi Arabia. There is also the no small matter of ratification of the agreement; countries must individually ratify the agreement for it to take effect, and that process could take several years.
That should not, however, detract much from the overall significance of the agreement, in which the years of endless quibbling over whether climate change even existed, and if so to what extent is it really a problem, have finally been put to rest. The world agrees that we must limit the damage we are inflicting on the planet to a certain measurable amount by a certain deadline in order to limit the negative consequences of our human activity. That is a move in the right direction even if the world still does not seem to have a clear idea of how to accomplish that goal.
The best reason to give the climate pact a chance, however, may be economic. The deal potentially opens up a huge number of investment opportunities in energy, in infrastructure development, transportation, and other sectors. For us here in the Philippines, where there may yet be small contribution to global emissions, the pact could provide the boost to the economy that has been largely missing from the last five-plus years under President BS Aquino 3rd and his political machine.