Paris climate talks: analysis of the final agreement

Craig Bennett

12 December 2015

So we have a climate deal: it’s historic, but  the agreement falls far short of the soaring rhetoric from world leaders less than 2 weeks ago.

An ambition to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees is a positive step forwards, but the Paris agreement falls far short of an adequate plan to make this a reality.

The Paris climate deal will require people-power to make politicians live up to their rhetoric, because we have not got the legally-binding science and justice-based agreement (pdf) that was needed.  

Paris climate agreement explained

This agreement leaves millions of people across the world under threat from climate-related floods, droughts and super-storms.

However, this is still a historic moment.

This summit clearly shows that fossil fuels have had their day – and that George Osborne’s outdated, backward energy policies must be reversed if he wants to be on the right side of history.

Energy efficiency and renewable power should form the backbone of Britain’s future energy policy, yet ministers have spent the past 7 months undermining investment in these crucial areas at every opportunity.

The Prime Minister must also end Britain’s scandalous support for fossil fuels, including fracking. This nation is the only G7 country to be actively expanding fossil fuel subsidies.

People power across the world has forced Governments to start taking this issue seriously – and people power will win the day.

About the Paris climate deal

Here is our analysis of COP21.

Temperature targets

We know we need to keep global temperature to well below 1.5 degrees to minimise the impacts of climate change.

But all the warm words from developed countries earlier this week have amounted to nothing: there is no obligation to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees; they have only agreed to “pursue efforts” to do so.

Emission reductions

We need to be cutting emissions rapidly and deeply, aiming for full decarbonisation by 2050.

Instead the new climate deal agrees to peak emissions “as soon as possible”, while allowing the door wide open for the use of offsetting instead of genuine emission cuts.

The deal also kicks this action well into the future by aiming for “the latter half of the century”.

On a more positive note, the text does at least recognise that developed countries need to peak their emissions before developing countries.

Future ambition

It’s obvious we need to up our ambition when it comes to tackling climate change: more emissions cuts and more finance to help developing countries adapt to, recover from and tackle climate change.

Unfortunately, this agreement provides no legally binding way to make this happen.

There is a review pencilled in for 2018, but there is no obligation to actually increase contributions.

From 2023 there will be a “global stock-take” which will start a 5-year review cycle.

Loss and damage

I’m going to be positive again: the text does include a mechanism to respond to the impacts of climate change that can no longer be avoided (called loss and damage).

But, crucially, the text is weakened by the US and EU text that explicitly precludes the concepts of liability and compensation.

Finance

In the years before 2025, the deal commits finance to help developing countries address climate change and its impacts.

However it doesn’t quite make it clear who is providing this finance.

Overall this is a much weaker agreement than the suggestions in the previous text from Thursday.

Next steps

So what next?

Let’s be clear: good politicians will use Paris to boost action at home, but Paris risks allowing bad politicians the space to go home, get some good publicity, and then do nothing.

Investors and businesses will be looking out for what politicians do next.

So Friends of the Earth’s job is to use Paris to keep up the pressure on politicians to honour their stated ambitions - and turn them into concrete action before it’s too late. 

Sign the climate pledge

Craig Bennett is Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth

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