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Post COP21: A world in transition

Published: 
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Laurence Tubiana, COP 21/CMP 11 Presidency; UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; COP 21/CMP 11 President Laurent Fabius, Foreign Minister, France; and President François Hollande, France, celebrate the adoption of the Paris Agreement. PHOTO: IISD Reporting Services

DIZZANNE BILLY

The current model we are operating in is crucially unsustainable for the long-term survival of the human race. Impacts of climate change such as droughts, intense storms, and sea level rise have accelerated extensively. However, we are in a transformational moment—The Paris moment. 
It presents an opportunity to create a different world, one where people’s lives could be significantly better through promoting cleaner and more efficient methods of powering growth. 

After conflicting opinions appended an extra day of negotiations to COP21 in Paris, 196 countries have produced a final agreement. This may bring us closer to putting the ghosts of the industrial revolution six feet under. Countries seem to be largely satisfied with the language of the text and agreed to work on the Paris document as a pathway to a green future.  

Will The Paris Agreement save us from climate change and provide a stable, healthy, and prosperous future for people around the world? These are the outcomes of the key focus areas.

Finance for adaptation and mitigation
Finance is of paramount importance to the agreement as all mitigation and adaptation measures are essentially dependent on availability and access to funds. The agreement refers to the provision of scaled-up financial resources with a floor of USD $100 billion—which now is extended to 2025—and balanced between adaptation and mitigation. 

However, the agreement refers to ensuring efficient access to financial resources (which so far has been a major hurdle) for many vulnerable countries. The adaptation gap remains an issue, as existing funds lag far behind actual adaptation needs. The good thing inside the agreement is the linking of mitigation and adaptation, saying that the more countries reduce emissions, the less other countries have to adapt. 

Loss and damage
In the lead-up to COP 21, developing countries stood their ground with regard to the adverse effects of climate change which are beyond adaptation. Formally called Loss and Damage, this issue is contentious because it brings into question liability and compensation for developed countries. 

It does, however, cater for support directed toward “minimising” and “averting” loss and damage such as early warning systems and emergency preparedness; it is also now stands separate from adaptation. 

Long-term goal on 1.5°C 
Although they recognise the significant gap between the mitigation pledges and what is needed to hold the decreased average global temperatures in the long run, countries have agreed to work toward a goal of 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” This is a major accomplishment for developing countries and environmental NGOs who put up a united fight for vulnerable countries. A 1.5°C target is necessary to drive the ongoing ambition needed for the survival of many vulnerable nations.

Five-year reviews
This ensures that commitments made by countries will be reviewed every five years so that there will not be any regressing. 

A regular five-year review cycle ensures ambition can be maintained, reviewed and scaled up. With a good ratchet mechanism, countries will have no choice but to have aspiring commitments over time. The first collective stocktake will be in 2018 and the first global stocktake under the agreement will be in 2023. 

Human rights 
In the words of Diana Liverman, director at Institute of Environment, University of Arizona: “This recognition of rights and particular groups is a modest win for many concerned with climate justice, but will now have to be translated into action so that mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance and technology transfer explicitly consider how these policies affect, and hopefully benefit, human rights, women and other groups.” 

Human rights is integral to the climate agreement because this means we can ensure that people impacted by climate change will be protected. Human rights is now only in the preamble section of the agreement. It’s not as strong as we hope it to be. 

However, Tony Braum, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, told the eager audience that “we have together grasped this once-in-a-generation opportunity to lay the foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and safe planet for our children.” He followed this up with a beautiful gesture, passing the microphone to an 18-year old girl from his country. 

Selina Leem stated that the agreement is for “those of us whose identity, whose culture, whose ancestors, whose whole being, is bound to their lands. I have only spoken about myself and my islands but the same story will play out everywhere in the world. If this is a story about our islands, it is a story for the whole world. Sometimes when you want to make a change, then it is necessary to turn the world upside down. 

Because it is not for the better, but it is simply for the best. This agreement should be the turning point in our story; a turning point for all of us.” It has been four years since hard work began on this agreement in South Africa. Now, it is time to move forward with this agreement, which most delegations deem to be the best possible balance. 

Climate tracker

Dizzanne Billy is president of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) in T&T, where she works in the areas of education and public awareness on environment and development issues. She is a climate tracker with Adopt-A-Negotiator and an advocate for climate change action. This is the third, final article she is writing for the T&T Guardian from the COP21 climate talks in Paris.