Leaders hail Paris pact, activists say 'inadequate'

Leaders hail Paris pact, activists say 'inadequate'

Accord only beginning of shift to green energy

Leaders hail Paris pact, activists say 'inadequate'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama hailed the historic Paris climate accord adopted by 195 countries even as green activists protested that the deal has let the rich nations off the hook too easily.

The agreement seeks to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low carbon economy. Its main aim is to keep a global temperature rise for this century well below 2 degree Celsius or even 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Modi and his ministers claimed “climate justice” was delivered to India. “The outcome of Paris agreement has no winners or losers. Climate justice has won and we are all working towards a greener future,” Modi tweeted.

“Climate change remains a challenge but Paris agreement demonstrates how every nation rose to the challenge, working towards a solution,” said Modi.

Obama, speaking at the White House hours after the deal was completed, hailed the pact as strong and historic even as he admitted that “no agreement is perfect, including this one”. He calling it “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got”.

“Today, the American people can be proud because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership. Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change,” Obama said.

Activists and a section of scientists are questioning the government’s proposition. “The agreement continues to be weak and unambitious, as it does not operationalise equity and the term carbon budget didn’t even find mention in the text. This will end up furthering climate apartheid,” says Sunita Narain, director general of the Centre for Science and Environment.

Developed countries have been able to remove the term “historical responsibility” from the text to sever the global warming link caused by them since the days of industrial revolution in the 18th century. Also, there is no emission reduction target for them and the promise of a $100 billion fund is mentioned only in the non-legally binding portion of the text.

“The draft Paris agreement continues to be weak and unambitious, as it does not include any meaningful targets for developed countries to reduce their emissions. References to carbon budgets is gone and so developed countries can continue to disproportionally appropriate carbon space in the future as they have done in the past,” Narain added.

China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, acknowledged that the deal was a huge step forward but said it fell short on funding for cleaner energy. Xie Zhenhua, Beijing’s senior climate change envoy, said “There are parts of it that need to be improved.”

Funding

“On funding, we aren't that satisfied, especially when it comes to pre-2020 funding which is relatively weak,” said Zou Ji, deputy director of China’s National Centre for Climate Change Strategy, a government think tank.

Experts are under no illusion that celebrations and high-flown rhetoric are enough when it comes to rolling back greenhouse-gas emissions.

If anything, they say, the divisions that beleaguered the nearly two-week haggle have underscored the political and economic obstacles that now lie ahead.

While the deal’s target is 2 degrees C, the bad news is that humanity may already have used up almost 1 degree C of that allocation, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization has warned.

Pledges

And the emissions-curbing pledges submitted by 185 countries to give the agreement substance, even if fully honoured, set the stage for a 3 degrees C warmer world.

The only hope lies in hard-fought provisions in the pact to encourage nations to ramp up their actions over time, and thus keep a 2C goal in focus.

“This is the key thing to ensure that the actions get stronger and stronger so that we get to two degrees and below,” WWF climate expert Tasneem Essop told AFP.

According to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a tool developed by four climate research institutes, most country pledges are “inadequate”.

The UN's climate science panel says greenhouse-gas emissions have to drop 40-70 percent between 2010 and 2050, and to zero by 2100.

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