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COP 21: what the Paris Agreement means to experts?

 

Picture source: cop21.org

Bhubaneswar |

Last updated 14 Dec 2015 06:42:59 +0530

  COP 21, Climate Summit 2015, Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement, brought in the Climate Summit 2015, COP 21, though has marked a historic turning point in global action to combat climate change, seems to have fallen short on many aspects to match the expectations of vulnerable communities, experts observe.

 

The Paris climate summit, COP 21, has made history by bringing the agreement, called the Paris Agreement, to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future. At least 195 participant nations have pledged their commitment to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius this century and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Terming the agreement a resounding success for multilateralism, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says, “We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity.

For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action.”

The agreement, though has marked a historic turning point in global action to combat climate change, seems to have fallen short on many fronts to match the expectations of vulnerable communities, experts observe.

Author as well as Environmental analyst George Monbiot says in his The Guardian column, “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”

“Our governments talk of not burdening future generations with debt. But they have just agreed to burden our successors with a far more dangerous legacy: the carbon dioxide produced by the continued burning of fossil fuels, and the long-running impacts this will exert on the global climate,” Monbiot notes.

Apprehending that the 2 degree Celsius target would hardly help resolving the larger issues and saving the vulnerable communities, Monbiot says, “With 2C of warming, large parts of the world’s surface will become less habitable. The people of these regions are likely to face wilder extremes: worse droughts in some places, worse floods in others, greater storms and, potentially, grave impacts on food supply. Islands and coastal districts in many parts of the world are in danger of disappearing beneath the waves.”

 

Image source: World Resources Institute

“A combination of acidifying seas, coral death and Arctic melting means that entire marine food chains could collapse. On land, rainforests may retreat, rivers fail and deserts spread. Mass extinction is likely to be the hallmark of our era. This is what success, as defined by the cheering delegates, will look like,” he adds while drawing a picture of the success propagated by world leaders.

Terming the climate accord a healing step, if not a cure, Justin Gillis of The New York Times says, on basis of views of scientists who closely monitored the talks, “it was not the agreement that humanity really needed. By itself, it will not save the planet.”

“The great ice sheets remain imperiled, the oceans are still rising, forests and reefs are under stress, people are dying by tens of thousands in heat waves and floods, and the agriculture system that feeds seven billion human beings is still at risk,” adds Gillis while pointing that the agreement “explicitly recognizes that countries were not ambitious enough in the emissions cuts they pledged ahead of the Paris negotiations, pledges that were incorporated into the document. The agreement, in effect, criticizes itself for not doing enough.”

Despite the fact that the Paris Agreement lacks in many ways and is not the perfect one to strongly deal with the issue of climate change, it certainly has raised a fresh hope about saving the earth from the dangers posed by rising temperature.

Gillis even agrees that the deal begins to move the countries of the world in a shared direction that is potentially compatible with maintaining a livable planet over the long term.

But to ensure that the Paris Agreement delivers as expected, the commitment pledged by leaders of participant countries must be transformed into committed action.

The shift from commitment into action will be even harder and take even more determination,” observes Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO of US based World Resources Institute.

To inspire the leadership for committed action, what looks apt is the conclusion set by BBC’s environment correspondent Matt McGrath in his recent piece of analysis titled “Has history been made at COP21?

"I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb….I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."

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