Five Things You Need To Know About The Paris Climate Deal

Five Things You Need To Know About The Paris Climate Deal

The UN climate talks in Paris have ended with an agreement between 195 countries to tackle global warming. The climate deal is at once both historic, important – and inadequate. From whether it is enough to avoid dangerous climate change to unexpected wins for vulnerable nations, here are five things to help understand what was just agreed at COP21.

1. This Is A Momentous, World-changing Event

The most striking thing about the agreement is that there is one. For all countries, from superpowers to wealthy city-states, fossil fuel-dependent kingdoms to vulnerable low-lying island nations, to all agree to globally coordinate action on climate change is astonishing.

And it is not just warm words. Any robust agreement has to have four elements. First, it needs a common goal, which has now been defined. The agreement states that the parties will hold temperatures 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”.

Second, it requires matching scientifically credible reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement is woollier here, but it does state that emissions should peak “as soon as possible” and then be rapidly reduced. The next step is 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 …

Third, as current pledges to reduce emissions imply a warming of nearly 3°C above pre-industrial levels, there needs to be a mechanism to move from where countries are today, to zero emissions. There are five-year reviews, and “the efforts of all parties will represent a progression over time”, which means at each step countries should increase their levels of emission cuts from today’s agreements.

Finally, this all means developed countries need to rapidly move from fossil fuel energy to renewable sources. But the challenge is larger for the developing world: these countries must leapfrog the fossil fuel age. They need funds to do so and a key part of the agreement provides US$100 billion per year to 2020, and more than that after 2020.

There is a lot to like about this agreement: it gives a common goal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the overall emissions cuts stated are reasonably credible, there is a mechanism to increase national emissions cuts over time towards “net zero”, and there is funding secured to help poorer countries harness the power of the sun, wind and waves instead of coal, oil and gas. It provides a roadmap to get the world off its dangerous addiction to fossil fuel energy.

2. It’s Not Enough To Avoid Dangerous Climate Change

What constitutes dangerous climate change is different for different people. For some poor people climate change is already beyond dangerous, it’s deadly. The threats escalate as the cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increase. Because this deal has been so long in arriving, the window of opportunity to limit temperature rises at 1.5°C is closing fast; this spells trouble for many low-lying areas. Even the most ambitious pathways to zero emissions in the coming decades for a carbon budget associated with a reasonable (66%) chance of keeping 2°C above pre-industrial levels are extremely challenging. Countries have a long way to go to get to these levels of reductions.

Importantly, there are no penalties, except public shaming, for countries that do not meet their commitments to reduce emissions. To implement this deal the public, civil society organisations, opposition parties in politics and businesses will need to keep government policies in check. Essentially, it is the will of the people, most governments and enlightened businesses, pitted against the deep pockets of the fossil fuel industry.

One future fear is that when the “global stocktake” happens in 2023, some countries may see that others aren’t doing their bit, and may themselves then stop reducing emissions and the agreement will fall apart.

3. We’ll Have To Remove Carbon Dioxide From The Atmosphere

The warming we see from greenhouse gas emissions is dominated by the cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide. Given the emissions so far, limiting warming to “well below” 2°C, and anywhere near 1.5°C means reducing CO2 emissions to near zero extremely quickly.

Then society will need to continue further, to negative emissions. That is, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it somewhere else. There are various options here, from planting trees and keeping restored forest in perpetuity, enhancing uptake in soils, or using biomass energy in power plants then storing the carbon dioxide underground (so-called Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage). Expect to hear a lot more about this.

4. Expect Across-the-board Policy Changes

To get to zero emissions this century requires many policy changes. Fossil fuel companies must have their subsidies stripped. Investments in high-carbon emitting infrastructure must end, particularly World Bank loans and other regional multilateral bank support for countries. Zero emissions buildings will become the norm. Tropical forests will have to be protected to reduce and then eliminate deforestation.

Expect a greater push on the technological limitations on renewable energy, with big new investments, mostly improving how to store power, for when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Expect the cost of renewables to sink much further as these technologies are scaled up and implemented worldwide. Expect significant areas of the world to be given over to wind turbines and solar farms.

5. The World’s Most Vulnerable Countries Got Their Issue Centre Stage

Paris was a high-stakes game of geopolitical poker. Surprisingly, those countries with the poorest hand came out better than expected. The climate talks were subject to a series of shifting alliances going beyond the usual income-rich northern countries and income-poor global south countries. Central to this has been US-Chinese diplomacy, both agreeing to limit emissions, and more recently the new Climate Vulnerable Forum grouping of countries. From nowhere, the forum has forced keeping global temperatures to 1.5°C high on the political agenda.

We haven’t heard the last of this level of ambition – one of the decisions in the Paris agreement is to invite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce a special report on the impacts at 1.5°C, and emissions pathways consistent with this level of warming.

These countries didn’t get everything they wanted – the US would not accept liability in financial terms for states that may lose their territory to rising sea levels in the future. But they played their hand extremely smartly.

About The AuthorThe Conversation

lewis simonSimon Lewis, Reader in Global Change Science at University of Leeds and, UCL is a plant ecologist by training with a central focus on the tropics and global environmental change including climate change. His primary interest is in how humans are changing the Earth as a system. This is because one of the key issues facing humanity in the 21st century will be to address how a population of at least 8 billion can lead fulfilled lives without breaching environmental thresholds that may cause serious social, economic and environmental disruption, or even more severe outcomes.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related Book:

InnerSelf Market

Amazon

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…
White sea ice in blue water with the sun setting reflected in the water
Earth’s frozen areas are shrinking 33K square miles a year
by Texas A&M University
The Earth’s cryosphere is shrinking by 33,000 square miles (87,000 square kilometers) per year.
A row of male and female speakers at microphones
234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report
by Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global…
A brown weasel with a white belly leans on a rock and looks over its shoulder
Once common weasels are doing a vanishing act
by Laura Oleniacz - NC State
Three species of weasels, once common in North America, are likely in decline, including a species that’s considered…
Flood risk will rise as climate heat intensifies
by Tim Radford
A warmer world will be a wetter one. Ever more people will face a higher flood risk as rivers rise and city streets…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.