COP21: Not ideal but best deal possible

The landmark climate agreement reached by 195 countries in Paris on Saturday is the first event in history whereby all countries together have decided to regulate their actions to ward off a common threat to their ways of life and wellbeing. It has come after years of arguments, setbacks and slow progress. When it finally came, it is not the most ideal and best deal to tackle the problem of the warming of the earth and climate change, but it may be the best possible in a milieu of differing and even conflicting interests of countries over the issue. The responses to the agreement have ranged from elation to reservation to even disappointment, but no one would dispute that it is a major step forward. Some scientists have claimed it would change the world for the better. But the best way to look at it is to consider it as a foundation on which more can be done later. 

The agreement charts a low-carbon future for the world and has adopted a goal of well below 2 degrees Centigrade for temperature rise, and set up a regime of financing of developing countries to make the transition from the fossil fuel age to an era of sustainable energy production and consumption. The agreement will go into effect from 2020 and it is based on the voluntary cuts of greenhouse gas emissions promised by individual countries. It also accepts the principle of common but differentiated responsibility which ensures equity by making developed nations foot a part of the bill to be paid by developing countries for the sacrifices they have to make by reducing their carbon footprint. The poorer countries have been promised finances and technological transfer for adaptation and mitigation. The promised financial and technological support will be inadequate, but the need for accommodation and consensus made the poor countries accept a minimal deal.

All developing countries, including India, have welcomed the agreement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that climate justice has got a boost and there are no winners or losers in Paris. If sincerely implemented by all countries, the agreement will achieve far larger cuts in emissions than piecemeal initiatives have done in the past. It has also set a more ambitious aim of further reducing the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Centigrade in future. The non-binding nature of the deal is a worry, but there is some hope in the common commitment. Even with the agreement the climate will get worse, but it may help the world to avert the worst climate catastrophes that can make the earth unlivable.

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