LE BOURGET, France: Cheering envoys from 195 nations on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) approved a historic accord in Paris to stop global warming, a move that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described as “a monumental triumph for planet Earth.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius ended nearly a fortnight of grueling UN negotiations on the outskirts of Paris with the bang of a gavel, marking consensus among the ministers, who stood for several minutes to clap and shout their joy, with some shedding tears of relief.
“I see the room, I see the reaction is positive, I hear no objection. The Paris climate accord is adopted,” declared Fabius, the president of the talks.
Ban said the agreement is a “monumental triumph” for planet Earth that will set the stage for achieving an end to poverty and development for all.
“In the face of an unprecedented challenge, you have demonstrated unprecedented leadership,” the UN Secretary General said.
In a landmark deal, 195 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and take common climate action.
“The Paris Agreement is a monumental triumph for people and our planet,” Ban tweeted. “It sets the stage for progress in ending poverty, strengthening peace and ensuring a life of dignity and opportunity for all.”
Recalling that he made climate change one of the defining priorities of his tenure, Ban said he has listened to the young, the poor and the vulnerable, including indigenous peoples, from every corner of the globe.
“They seek protection from the perils of a warming planet, and the opportunity to live in a safer, more bountiful world,” he said. “They have demanded that world leaders act to safeguard their well-being and that of generations to come.”
The UN chief said negotiators reached “solid results on all key points,” with an agreement that demonstrates solidarity and “is ambitious, flexible, credible and durable.”
“All countries have agreed to hold global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. And recognizing the risk of grave consequences, you have further agreed to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees,” he added.
“Governments have agreed to binding, robust, transparent rules of the road to ensure that all countries do what they have agreed across a range of issues,” Ban said.
“When historians look back on this day, they will say that global cooperation to secure a future safe from climate change took a dramatic new turn here in Paris. Today, we can look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren, and we can finally say, tell them that we have joined hands to bequeath a more habitable world to them and to future generations,” he added.
The Philippine government also welcomed the deal forged in Paris.
“The Philippines welcomes the Paris agreement as it responds to President [Benigno Aquino 3rd’s] call at the start of COP21 for all people to act and come to an agreement that allows all voices to be heard and takes into consideration the particular situations of all the nations that have taken this historic step to end decades of deadlock and take decisive climate change action,” said Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
The official added that the Paris agreement also addresses the situation of climate vulnerable countries like the Philippines that bear the heaviest blow of strong typhoons.
Coloma said the Philippines will fulfill its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC), committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions conditionally by 70 percent by 2030.
This, he explained, would be done in solidarity with other nations that will provide support in terms of finance, technology and capacity-building.
“The government will continually engage our people in the spirit of bayanihan [cooperation]to work together in building disaster resilient communities,” Coloma pointed out.
Developing nations insist rich countries must shoulder the lion’s share of responsibility for tackling climate change as they have polluted most since the Industrial Revolution—a principle known as “differentiation.”
With 2015 forecast to be the hottest year on record, world leaders and scientists had said the accord was vital for capping rising temperatures and averting the most calamitous effects of climate change.
Without urgent action, they warned, mankind faced increasingly severe droughts, floods and storms and rising seas that would engulf islands and coastal areas populated by hundreds of millions of people.
“The Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis,” US President Barack Obama said.
“We came together around the strong agreement the world needed. We met the moment.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel added: “Paris will always be connected with this historic turning point in climate policy.”
The crux of the fight entails slashing or eliminating the use of coal, oil and gas for energy, which has largely powered prosperity since the Industrial Revolution.
The burning of those fossil fuels releases invisible greenhouse gases, which cause the planet to warm and disrupt Earth’s delicate climate system.
Ending the vicious circle requires a switch to cleaner sources, such as solar and wind, and improving energy efficiency.
Some nations are also aggressively pursuing nuclear power, which does not emit greenhouse gases.
The Paris accord sets a target of limiting warming of the planet to “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with the Industrial Revolution, while aiming for an even more ambitious goal of 1.5C.
To do so, emissions of greenhouse gases will need to peak “as soon as possible”, followed by rapid reductions, the agreement states.
The world has already warmed by almost 1C, which has caused major problems in dry developing countries, according to scientists.
‘Consternation in boardrooms’
Some environmentalists said the Paris agreement was a turning point, predicting the 1.5C goal would help to doom the fossil-fuel industry.
“That single number, and the new goal of net zero emissions by the second half of this century, will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and the palaces of oil-exporting states,” Greenpeace International chief Kumi Naidoo said.
On the crucial financing issue, developed countries agreed to muster at least $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year from 2020 to help developing nations.
After US objections, however, it was not included in the legally binding section of the deal.
But scientists say that, even if the pledges were fully honored, Earth will still be on track for warming far above safe limits.
In an effort to get countries to scale up their commitments, the agreement will have five-yearly reviews of their pledges starting from 2023.
Nations most vulnerable to climate change lobbied hard for the wording to limit warming to 1.5C.
Big polluters, such as China, India and oil-producing giant Saudi Arabia, preferred a ceiling of 2C, which would have enabled them to burn fossil fuels for longer.
China’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua said the pact was not perfect.
“However, this does not prevent us from marching historical steps forward,” he added.
“This indeed is a marvelous act that belongs to our generation and all of us.”
United Nations Foundation chairman Ted Turner and other officials said the deal will provide the turning point in the fight against climate change.
“Now we must move with great urgency to deliver on that promise. We know this agreement alone will not meet the threat of climate change that will require continued ambitious action from governments, the private sector, and all of us to limit the global rise in temperature and move more rapidly toward a clean energy future with net zero emissions,” the officials said.
“There is reason for celebration. Combined with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, this has been a historic year for people and the planet. Our collective task is immense, but so is the opportunity to usher in a new era of sustainable development,” Turner said.
Aaron Sherinian, chief of the foundation’s communication and marketing, said the foundation will continue to work with the United Nations and partners around the world to help achieve the global legal binding agreement in the fight against climate change.
“We know this agreement alone will not meet the threat of climate change that will require continued ambitious action from governments, the private sector, and all of us to limit the global rise in temperature and move more rapidly toward a clean energy future with net zero emissions,” Sherinian added.
“The battle over the reality of climate change is over after decades of debate. Thank you for all your efforts and being part of the turning point on climate change,” he said.
AFP, PNA AND RHAYDZ B. BARCIA