By IMELDA V. ABANO
PARIS, France–The world has come together. After years of buildup and weeks of negotiations, 196 countries, including the United States, adopted on Saturday night (Paris time) the Paris Agreement that the Conference of Parties President Laurent Fabius described as “fair and legally binding” agreement.
The 31-page Paris Agreement would set an ambitious goal of reducing carbon emissions, that is setting a limit of global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and hopes to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
World leaders hailed the ‘historic’ agreement as a milestone in averting the catastrophic impacts of climate change to billions of people and to the environment.
During the COP21 plenary, delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were given the floor to deliver their messages of support and hopes for a long-term collaboration in order for the ‘historic’ package to be implemented effectively.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the Paris Agreement is “solid, ambitious, flexible and durable.”
“I could not leave without thanking all of you who are here,” Ban Ki-moon said as he acknowledge the leadership of countries under the UNFCCC. ”Climate change is a defining challenge of our time so I made it a top priority.”
The secretary general said that over the last 9 years, he went all over the world to witness the hardship of those affected by the changing climate—from Antarctic to Africa to the rest of the nations that are at the frontline of climate change.
Philippines welcomes the new climate deal
Philippine head of the delegation Emmanuel De Guzman said the Philippine government welcomes the adoption of this historic accord.
“ Indeed, for the Philippines, climate change means sorrowful catalogues of casualty and fatality; the countless voices of the homeless and the grieving — their very tears and screams carried to us by the winds and waves that blew their homes away. During moments of great violence and bereavement, “victim” is an inadequate word to capture the loss and damage visited upon us. Each body count has a name and an age — is workmate or lover, neighbor or friend, son or daughter, father or mother,” De Guzman said.
“It is in this light that the Philippines welcomes the adoption of this historic accord,” he said.
De Guzman stressed that “Paris is where the countries and peoples of the world, in communion and in solidarity with each other, took decisive action against climate change.”
“ The Philippine delegations applaud the French Presidency (of the COP21) as it really went well out of their way to listen to what everyone has to say. And that is really important,” said Philippine delegation to the UN climate talks spokesperson Antonio La Viña.
La Viña said that even the G77 and China bloc agreed on the adoption of the whole agreement, despite some reservations over different portions. He described the entire process of the climate negotiations in Paris as “transparent and fair”.
La Viña also commended the mention of human rights and climate justice in the accord. He, however said the Philippines is “still watching out for the language about loss and damage and adaptation finance.”
“But see that fight is not yet over. We can fight it in June, we can fight it in every COP,” he said. “Climate finance is a work in progress. It doesn’t stop at a single agreement.”
For the first time in 20 years that he had been working on climate change, La Viña said that “this is the first time that we’re turning a corner here at Paris.” “ The Paris Agreement is not the “best” agreement to have, but it is something countries could agree on,” he said.
The newly agreed climate change deal stated that it aims to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and the pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).”
The agreement also promises to protect the least developed nations, particularly island nations vulnerable to rising sea levels, and to preserve forests. It would also help oil-rich countries diversify their energy sources and seeks to acknowledge concerns about social justice issues impacted by climate change, including global health, human rights and poverty.
But climate activists said the Paris Agreement “is only one step on a long road” and that governments should do more and make progress in climate action.
“ Today the human race has joined in a common cause, but it’s what happens after this conference that really matters. The Paris Agreement is only one step on long a road, and there are parts of it that frustrate and disappoint me, but it is progress. This deal alone won’t dig us out the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep,” said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo.
Naidoo, who is among the leaders of massive demonstrations in Paris, “The deal sets out the objective of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, but the emissions targets on the table take us closer to 3 degrees.”
“ That’s a critical problem, but it’s one with a solution,” Naidoo said. “Renewable energy is already doing heavy-lifting across the globe, but now its moment must come. It’s the only technology mentioned in the Paris Agreement. There’s a yawning gap in this deal, but it can be bridged by clean technology. We’re in a race between the roll-out of renewables and rising temperatures, and the Paris Agreement could give renewables a vital boost. The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned.”
Yolanda Kakabadse, president of WWF-International, said the climate talks did more than produce an agreement – this moment has galvanized the global community toward large-scale collaborative action to deal with the climate problem.
“At the same time that a new climate deal was being agreed, more than 1,000 cities committed to 100 per cent renewable energy, an ambitious plan emerged from Africa to develop renewable energy sources by 2020, and India launched the International Solar Alliance, which includes more than 100 countries to simultaneously address energy access and climate change. These are exactly the kind of cooperative actions we need to quickly develop to complement the Paris agreement,” Kakabadse.