A promise from Paris: Hope for the earth

ariel nepomuceno_1THE historic and much-awaited climate accord executed in Paris is a very significant development in a very long struggle to fight for a planet that is continuously being threatened by the harmful effects of burning fossil fuel.

The events and drama behind the signing of the climate-change pact mirror the true priorities, agenda and ability of the nations, both rich and poor, to sacrifice purist political and economic goals to secure the long-term interest of saving the earth.

A tearful Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, hailed the agreement as a major breakthrough and one which everyone could be proud of after tough negotiations among global leaders
and stakeholders.

Agreement for the future

The pact, considered legally binding, essentially delivers the following commitments: Keep the rise in global temperatures well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial times, while working to limit them even more, to 1.5°C.  It is interesting to note that the planet has already warmed by about 1°C since pre-industrial times; a five-year cycle for reviewing vows  to reduce carbon emissions; embedding a system for  measuring and monitoring nations’ pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and preparing, maintaining and publishing their own greenhouse-gas reduction targets; funding by rich and developed countries of around $100 billion (£66 billion) a year in order to help the poor nations change from fossil fuel to green forms of energy by 2020.

Proof needed

While most of the world cheered this covenant, many climate change and environmental activists downplayed the event and complained that the countries which are large fossil-fuel dependents and users have not done enough and that what was achieved was a lackluster rich country template of appeasement. All fangs, no bite.

James Hansen, a climate-change professor, ridiculed the agreement and called it a fraud because “there is no action, just promises.”  He also dismissed the same by saying that the aim of reducing temperatures to 1.5°C is just an empty declaration. Without taxing greenhouse emissions, the provision has no leg to stand on. Others were more virulent in saying that the 1.5°C sounds good, but that the pact provides no definite timescales, thereby ambiguous at best.  Greenpeace members, on the other hand, complained that the agreement should be bold and outright to say that we need to quit oil, coal and gas by 2050 at the latest or some earlier date.  In fact, during the height of the talks, protesters in Paris also demanded that large emitters should be made answerable for their deeds by paying huge damages or their officers imprisoned for numerous losses and deaths caused by climate change-related natural calamities and disasters.

Keeping our hope alive

The journey toward fulfilling reduction in emissions would involve a massive hearts and minds change of how people acquire and use energy.  The natural tendency is to use fuel that is cheaper and never mind the consequences.   As such, big investments in education, training and research should be done to concretize the pledges made by the participants to this historic pact.

As we know, the agreement needs ratification by governments from at least 55 countries, which happens to represent approximately 55 percent of global emissions.  This is now the most critical hurdle to pass—how to harness the political will of the governments concerned to crystallize the key takeaways from the Paris summit.

Everyone is not a stranger to how China and the USA struggled to agree to the 1997 Kyoto protocol,  Copenhagen in 2009 and even in Paris.  Debates on the exact wordings of the stipulations, how to make the pact binding and how rules should be different on a country to country basis depending on economic, political and social strength were the sources of friction. But Paris produced this and it is something to begin with.  The targets are there, the vision is clear and concrete commitments have been laid out for countries to execute and implement if ratified.   It is a great and brave starting point and we should celebrate it and work together on both national and international levels to make the promise of Paris a reality for the planet, a here and now for all of us and the generations to come.







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