SPECIAL COP21 – “Ambitious and balanced” agreement finally reached in Paris

Negotiations closed today (Dec. 12th) at Le Bourget, Paris, with the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the new climate change deal called to put the world on track toward a global effort to reduce emissions and slow global warming.

The outcome, expected for yesterday, had been postponed to allow thorny issues to be finally agreed.

The achievement of a final agreement was announced this morning at 11:30 by COP21 President, Laurent Fabius along with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande.

In particular, announcing the new text Fabius, highlighted that it is a great deal, which builds upon the efforts of everyone in the last few years, especially of those that showed personal engagement to secure its success and are not here today. He admitted that it had not been possible to include every instance in the final text but it is an “ambitious and balanced agreement”, which contains “elements that we thought were impossible to achieve before”. Reminding his colleagues that the failure of climate negotiations in Copenhagen six years ago cannot be repeated, he called for a final cooperative effort pointing out that “None of us acting alone will be successful”.

Expressing gratitude to all the parties, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed that “solutions to climate change are on the table”, “let us have the courage to grasp them”. He encouraged parties to continue in the same “good spirit of compromise” of the past two weeks in order to celebrate today this historic agreement that will offer “new hope for safety and prosperity for all on a healthy planet”. Finally President Holland, said that this agreement is “ambitious and realistic”. “History is here”, there is no possibility to postpone this agreement. The decisive moment to take this opportunity is here and now. He also added to be proud that such an historical agreement will be launched from Paris, that was attacked only one month ago.

After almost six hours from the announcement, during which Parties had been given the time to read and analyze the document, the Paris Agreement was adopted, followed by a long applause from an excited and touched audience.

THE PARIS AGREEMENT

The 32-page document is composed of two parts: a draft decision, that set conditions to the adoption of the agreement and the Paris agreement itself.

Objectives

As anticipated by yesterday’s draft, the aim of the agreement is to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels” with aspirational “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C” … “recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. It also aims at “increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change” and increase “finance flows” to achieve these objectives.

Mitigation contributions and long term goals

Article 3, which in the previous version included most of the mitigation provisions, is now split in different articles. In particular, it now states that efforts from all countries will be under the same framework, composed of nationally determined contributions, that will set progressive ambitions, with a certain flexibility recognized to developing country parties.

In the long-term, the deal calls for a global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country”. The previous reference to carbon neutrality has been replaced by a “balance” between anthropogenic emissions and removals by sinks in the second half of the century.

Nationally determined contributions that countries “intend” to achieve shall be prepared, communicated and maintained by all parties, “reflecting the highest possible ambition”, but also “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”. Embracing the call for differentiation pushed by developing countries over the whole two weeks of negotiations, developed countries “should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets” whereas developing nations “continue enhancing their mitigation efforts” with the encouragement to move towards economy-wide emission reduction targets. Further flexibility is allowed to the least developed countries and small islands, that “may prepare and communicate strategies, plans and actions for low greenhouse gas emissions development reflecting their special circumstances”. Contributions will be communicated every five years and recorded in a public registry maintained by the UNFCCC. They shall aim at a progressive increase of the ambition.

Even though specific market and non-market mechanisms are not explicitly defined, the document include the possibility to embark on voluntary cooperative approaches that “involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards nationally determined contributions, promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency”.

Adaptation

Concerning adaptation, the agreement establishes “the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change”. It recognizes adaptation efforts of developing countries and asks parties to “engage in an adaptation planning process”, and says that countries should “submit and update periodically” adaptation communications.

Loss  & Damage

The importance of addressing and minimizing Loss & Damage managed to enter the text separate from adaptation in article 8. However, as strongly required by the US, the implementing decision clearly states that it “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”.

Finance

Developed countries will continue to “provide financial resources to assist developing countries”, with the aim of achieving a “balance between adaptation and mitigation”. Other Parties are encouraged to provide further support voluntarily. Even if not included in the agreement itself, the document states that “prior to 2025” the Conference of the Parties “shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of USD 100 billion per year”.

Review of contributions

As for the review process that also caused a lot of debate, middle ground was found in a “facilitative dialogue” to start in 2018 “to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal” and “to inform the preparation of nationally determined contributions”. Afterword, first global stocktake will take place in 2023 for all Parties to the Paris Agreement, and “every five years thereafter”, with the aim to inform Parties in updating and enhancing countries’, nationally determined, actions. The process will consider progress on both mitigation and adaptation as well as the means of implementation and support.

Entry into force

Lowering requirements included in the previous drafts, the agreement will enter into force after at least 55 parties, accounting for at least 55% of global emissions have ratified it, as it was for the Kyoto Protocol’s enforcement.

Soon after the adoption, satisfaction about the historical agreement reached in Paris was expressed by Parties as well as by the French President and UNFCCC Secretary Christian Figueres.

Overall, countries’ Ministers remarked the crucial leading role played by the COP Presidency in guiding the work, the cooperative atmosphere and constructive and transparent spirit as well as the fact that this agreement reflects a true compromise even though further efforts are needed to clarify some critical issues. In the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry, “the agreement is not perfect, it is exactly how it should be” to reflect compromise. The only country that stood out from the crowd was Nicaragua that complained for the lack of differentiation and coherence between the 1.5°C objective and the current proposed INDCs. As pointed out by most of the countries, however, the agreement represents a solid foundation to allow the national governments to cooperate in the future towards more ambitious commitments, but it is only a first step. The real challenge is implementation and starts tomorrow.

(Image: Laurence Tubiana, Christiana Figueres and Laurent Fabius welcoming the adoption of the agreement, December 12th, 2015, Paris. Photo credit:UNclimatechange/Flickr)