Editorial: We must see Paris as the beginning and not the end

The president of France, Francois Hollande and the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius in discussion with former US vice president Al Gore. Photo credit: COP Paris via Flickr.

Right now in Paris, world leaders, negotiators and policy makers are trying to arrive at a global deal on climate change. We have been there before, many times, so many times that many have lost faith in the UN process to tackle climate change.

However, it is crucial to keep the UN process alive, so a deal must be signed. And we will have to acknowledge that a deal will probably not go as far as we would want this time. It is therefore important to understand that it is the beginning of a process and not the end. We will most definitely not, at this stage, get all 192 UN member countries to commit to limit global warming to the so crucial 2 degree target. This target world leaders have already agreed to in principle, but they have not as yet forged policies to back up their words.

While we most likely will not reach a climate deal this year that goes as far we would want it to, we must nevertheless acknowledge how far we have come in recent years. The targets we want to end up achieving and which we want any UN country to legally commit to, are getting closer each year. This is because the technologies improve and as a result, the targets are getting easier to achieve. The playing field is completely different today from that after the failed COP15 Copenhagen climate talks. After Copenhagen it was pretty hard to be optimistic about the world’s capacity to tackle climate change. Today that story is completely different.

The crucial climate deal between the world`s two largest CO2-emitters, China and the US, is a major breakthrough. On top of that, the two world leaders Tony Abbott (Australia) and Stephen Harper (Canada), who had proven the biggest obstacles to action on climate change, are now  gone. Their replacements, Malcolm Turnbull and Justin Trudeau, seem to have a more a ‘can do’ attitude to tackling climate change. Then there is the surge of renewable energy and the tumbling cost. This means that investing in renewables is increasingly becoming a pro-business and pro-security issue.

While acknowledging that in Paris we do not get a deal ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change, it is important that the Paris Accord sets out a timetable for routine renegotiations. The current writing on the wall suggests a timetable of five years. Some might argue that is not often enough, and they might have a point. But when we see how much the economics of clean energy and the hostility towards fossil fuels have changed in the six years since Copenhagen, we should be very hopeful. Perhaps in five years, we could be in a position to at least narrow the 2 degree target, if not to close the gap entirely.  So if it is decided that the Paris Accord should be renegotiated in 2020 at the latest, circumstances might then have improved so much that a deal of below 2 degrees might then be possible.

Related news: 

Hollande warns that failure to act on climate change could see millions seeking refuge in Europe

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Categories: Cop21, Editorial, Paris

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