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Climate deal ‘puts world on course for nearly 3 degrees’

Tom Wall16/12/2015 - 13:48

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Climate change will led to more flooding
Climate change will led to more flooding

Scientists and development groups have complained that the historic climate agreement reached in Paris falls short of the soaring rhetoric.

Last Saturday 195 countries agreed to keep global average temperature ‘well below’ two degrees compared to pre-industrial levels as this is deemed to be the point when runaway climate change could threaten the conditions that make life possible on Earth.

US president Barack Obama claimed afterwards that the deal was ‘the best chance we have to save the one planet we have’.

French president Francois Hollande compared it to a revolution. ‘In Paris, there have been many revolutions over the centuries. Today it is the most beautiful and the most peaceful revolution that has just been accomplished - a revolution for climate change.’

However critics pointed out the emissions targets - or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) as they are known in UN jargon - would actually take the world closer to three degrees.

Analysis by the UN indicates that the INDCs would lead to 2.7 degrees of warming by 2100.

Christiana Figueres, executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: ‘The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs.’

The deal also fails to provide any new money to help the developing world grow their economies without fossil fuels or penalties for countries that miss their targets. There is little about climate reparations for the damage already done or binding commitments to keep fossil fuels in the ground.  

James Hansen, a former NASA scientist, who brought climate change to the attention of the US in 1988, said the talks were a ‘fraud’ and a ‘fake’ because they would not result in a carbon tax that would drive down fossil fuel use.

‘The economic cost of a business as usual approach to emissions is incalculable. It will become questionable whether global governance will break down,’ he said. ‘You’re talking about hundreds of millions of climate refugees from places such as Pakistan and China. We just can’t let that happen. Civilization was set up and developed with a stable, constant coastline.’

Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now, said it was outrageous that the deal was being spun as a success when it has almost ‘nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations’.

‘Critical issues such as binding emissions reductions, legal responsibilities for loss and damage, and the recognition of human rights are all conspicuously absent from the main body of the text,’ he said.

Oscar Reyes, a climate policy analyst, Institute for Policy Studies, said rich countries have pushed a bad deal that could help them avoid their responsibility to pay for the effects of climate change.

‘The Paris agreement is shaping up to shift ever more of the responsibility for addressing climate change onto some of the world’s poorest people, who did the least to cause climate change in the first place,’ he said.

Gary McFarlane, CIEH Northern Ireland director, said it was historic but NGOs were right to voice concerns.

‘The NGO world is probably right to take that stand because the pressure needs to be kept on and, there are still some worrying aspects. However, on the other hand I think it is fair to say that it goes much further than many believed possible,’ he said.

He added that the UK Government was ‘nowhere near the front’ in terms of leadership.

 ‘In fact this Government has effectively dismantled the incentives that existed in the UK for renewables, which is where the world needs to move towards to de-carbonise the economy,’ he said.  

‘What is critical now for the UK is what happens next. If narrow financial objectives are allowed to continue  to determine UK relevant policy in this area then the UK will remain world laggards rather than world leaders in the global goal towards sustainability and human health gain.’ 

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