After frenetic negotiations till the last hours, the Paris Climate Summit has culmited with a historic pact. Formally adopted by 196 countries, the intertiol community for the first time has a legally binding climate deal to stave off catastrophic effects of global warming. It has set a target of limiting the Earth’s warming to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius, compared with average temperatures of pre-industrial times. But the accord also aims for an even more ambitious goal of 1.5 degree Celsius. This will require emission of greenhouse gases to ‘peak as soon as possible and then decline rapidly’, the deal states. Ahead of the Paris talks, governments of various tions had put forth plans how they will cut carbon emissions by 2025-30. Now the deal will require substantial action if carbon emissions are reduced to the extent that they are removed through absorption by ‘sinks’ like forests, so that ‘zero net emissions’ becomes a reality by the end of this century.
The world will thus have to move fast towards a ‘decarbonised’ economy in which fossil fuels are not used for transport, along with fundamental changes in the patterns of land use, forestry, agriculture and industry. Solar, wind and other renewable energy forms will have to be harnessed commercially on a war footing. The deal also outlines a roadmap to raise 100 billion dollars annually towards a Green Fund to help developing tions adapt to climate change and obtain or develop suitable clean technologies. In fact, fince was a major sticking point with developing countries pushing for a legally binding provision requiring developed countries to provide at least 100 billion dollars to help mitigate the effects of climate change caused primarily by their rich lifestyles. Filly though, developing countries had to compromise by allowing the 100 billion dollars fund to be envisaged as a matter of intent in the accord’s preamble.
Will the Paris deal help turn the tide on global warming? Scientific studies have been warning that the world has already warmed up by almost 1 degree Celsius, which has triggered destructive storms, floods, droughts and rising sea levels. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon put it aptly when he said that the Paris talks represented the last hope of striking a deal to avert doomsday effects of a warming Earth — that there will be ‘no Plan B’ if no agreement materialised. After all, the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks had collapsed; while the Kyoto protocol, the only previous UN climate agreement, required a number of rich countries to cut emissions margilly but was rejected by the US. That the Paris talks ended successfully has been attributed to the US and Chi, the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, coming on board at last. This willingness to negotiate this time around must be seen in the backdrop of climate change already beginning to impact the planet. US President Barack Obama was realistic enough to welcome the Paris deal with the words: “No tion, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this challenge alone. And no country, no matter how small, can sit on the sidelines. All of us had to solve it together.” The Paris deal is being hailed because it applies to all countries, rich or poor; there will be no legal obligation for countries to cut emissions, but the intertiol community will review every five years the greenhouse gases level and assess each country’s contribution towards cutting emissions.
So the success of the Paris deal will depend on global monitoring and peer pressure, as well as the actions of future governments — rather than binding provisions or coercive mechanisms. As for India, it has welcomed the pact despite the commitment from rich tions being much below expectations. New Delhi’s insistence on ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ of every country towards environment protection has been largely addressed, prompting Prime Minister rendra Modi to hail the agreement as a victory for ‘climate justice’. Once the Paris deal is taken to the UN headquarters for signing by member tions from Earth Day on April 22 next year, the hope is that the world community will have secured the future of its coming generations.