Negotiations closed Saturday evening in Le Bourget at COP21 with countries adopting a new global climate accord. The Paris Agreement will serve as a foundation for all nations to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C, with an aspiration to reach 1.5 degrees C, and to adapt to climate change impacts. Although much work remains, with buy-in from nearly every country, this agreement represents the single most important collective action for addressing climate change ever agreed upon.
“The Paris Agreement is a transformative diplomatic victory. The hard work of delivery begins now. The security of nations and humanity depends upon the reduction of emissions and the protection of nature,” said Peter Seligmann Conservation International Chairman and CEO.
“With this agreement we start down a path to avoid devastating impacts from climate change but we will all need to do much more than what has been pledged here in Paris,” said Lina Barrera, Conservation International Senior Director of International Policy. “Conservation International stands ready to support countries in making the most of nature to meet their climate commitments.”
Several important elements of the agreement include:
- The new agreement explicitly recognizes that REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation)—keeping forests standing to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions—is part of the solution to climate change. This is a strong political signal to all governments to responsibly manage forests and scale up their REDD+ activities. Tropical forests alone represent at least 30% of the solution to limiting emissions.
- Countries have agreed on the fundamental importance of nature for ensuring sustainable development and the eradication of poverty, permanently enshrining the role of nature in addressing the dual challenges of adaptation and mitigation. This will encourage countries to maintain healthy ecosystems for the sake of the climate.
- The new agreement puts forth a global goal to enhance our ability to adapt to a changing climate, strengthening our resilience and reducing our vulnerability. It will help countries cooperate and share knowledge and will facilitate planning for the future to support climate-resilient development, particularly by explicitly recognizing the importance of ecosystems and ecological systems.
Though recognition of nature as a means of combatting climate change is a success, country commitments to act, as they stand, will limit warming only to 2.7 degrees C, far short of the collective aim of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C.The deal also falls short in securing the necessary funding to enable the transition to a low-carbon economy and address immediate as well as long-term adaptation measures needed to cope with the impacts of a changing climate.
Support for forests
During the first days of negotiations, Germany, Norway and the UK announced a commitment to provide up to US$ 5 billion to reduce deforestation through 2020. REDD+ remained an important topic throughout the talks, leading to formal recognition that countries should finance and implement REDD+ in the final Paris Agreement.
“Two significant features of this agreement are that all countries commit to reducing emissions and that these pledges will be revised and improved on a five year cycle. Coming up with an agreement that includes universal participation while respecting the different circumstances of countries was difficult and is a major accomplishment,” said Steve Panfil, Technical Advisor for REDD+ Initiatives at Conservation International. “The agreement leaves a number of details to be worked out between now and when it takes effect in 2020, but there are clear signs that nature, including forest protection and restoration, is going to be part of the solution for many countries.”
The new agreement includes a global goal on adaptation, indicating that countries now agree that adapting to climate impacts is as important as slowing emissions. This supports the need of developing countries faced with immense challenges as climate change impacts increase. For many of these countries, including Kiribati and other low-lying island nations, adaptation is not just a matter of building resilience, but of survival. It remains to be seen how this agreement will deliver concrete actions for them—not only in the long-term, but also to address their immediate needs.
“While we have an aspirational global goal for adaptation, mobilizing the resources to address countries’ individual, urgent needs is not going to be easy. We have much to do to ensure we can scale up adaptation and the finances needed to implement it,” Shyla Raghav, Director of Climate Policy at Conservation International. “However, given the enormity of the challenge and the high hopes for success, we are pleased with the outcome and ready to get to work.”
Developed countries agreed to continue to provide financial support for climate action in developing countries, recognizing the importance of increasing their support and also expanding the sources of funds for climate solutions. The agreement emphasizes the importance of immediate investments for both mitigation and adaptation, especially supporting developing countries and particularly those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The inclusion of these actions for financing climate solutions will provide increasing opportunities for using nature’s power to combat climate change.
“Today, countries laid the groundwork for financially supporting climate action; however, how this support is realized is essential and remains largely unresolved,” said Maggie Comstock, Senior Manager for Climate and Biodiversity Finance Policy at Conservation International. “In order to meet the goals of this historic agreement, an important next step is to build policy frameworks and create incentives for greater investment in addressing climate change.”
Many Parties also indicated that they intend to meet at least part of their national commitments to reduce emissions by cooperating with other countries through investment in mitigation activities abroad. The agreement fully endorses such transfers, which could help the world collectively limit warming more quickly, and provides basic rules to ensure that they are carried out openly and fairly. Such cooperation is also likely to drive investment in keeping forests standing as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Conservation International applauds the COP Presidency, held by France, for reaching an accord with the Paris Agreement, which will take effect in 2020. In the interim years, increased commitments from nations, communities, businesses and organizations will help provide the collective will and financial support to limit warming to safe levels.
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About Conservation International
Since 1987, Conservation International has been working to improve human well-being through the care of nature. With the guiding principle that nature doesn’t need people, but people need nature for food, water, health and livelihoods, CI works with more than 1,000 partners around the world to ensure a healthy, more prosperous planet that supports the well-being of people. Learn more about CIand the “Nature Is Speaking” campaign, and follow CI’s work on Facebook,Twitter and YouTube.
Blogs published by CI for COP21 - http://blog.conservation.org/tag/cop-21/
- A ‘Marshall Plan’ for the Pacific
- How climate change affects women differently — and what we can do about it
- A world away from Paris, erratic climate pushes a country to the edge
- Halfway through Paris climate talks, this is where things stand
- Expert warns of hidden impacts of climate change
- Eyeing coffee’s climate impact, new initiative seeks sustainability for entire crop
- Ready for REDD? 3 questions about forests and climate change for Steven Panfil
- To solve climate change, it’s time to get business on board
- How an accidental forest saved a village from a storm for the ages
- To fight deforestation, one country changed the equation
- How nature can help us adapt to a changing climate: 3 questions for David Hole
- Ahead of climate talks, a crucial voice is missing
- Roots from rubble: On Philippine coasts, rebuilding nature’s barriers to stormier seas
- What you need to know about the Paris climate talks: 3 questions for Shyla Raghav
- Climate action requires halting Europe’s unseen import: deforestation