Wednesday

21st Nov 2018

Opinion

Will Paris climate accord change the world?

Too often, we downplay or barely notice the most important moments in our lives, while inflating those that hardly matter.

It is far too early to say whether the Paris Agreement on climate change, which countries reached last Saturday (12 December), will change the world.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But certainly, we should not downplay this achievement, or its significance.

First, and most importantly, we must remember why 195 countries came to Paris, including more than 150 heads of state, in the largest such gathering in UN history.

The reason they came is that the climate is changing, in all four corners of the globe.

Some changes are only creeping, at first, barely noticeable. Who would notice, or perhaps care, that the vitality of beech trees had declined in northeast France?

But everyone in Europe is familiar with an important cause: an exceptional drought and heat wave in 2003, which caused 15,000 heat-related deaths in France alone.

Climate change is here, and increasing the risk of such extreme events, whose impacts can unravel suddenly and unpredictably around the globe.

We are all affected.

Scholars have drawn links between climate change and a record heat wave in Russia in 2010, and higher global food prices that year. Similarly, climate change is implicated in a warming trend in the eastern Mediterranean, record drought in Syria, and resulting unrest and civil war.

Yes, these pictures are fuzzy and unsure, but we ignore them at our peril.

To control these risks, and put them behind us, countries meeting for the last two weeks in Paris had to meet three objectives.

First, a new climate agreement had to lay a clear path to a future, zero-carbon society. They could achieve this by committing to a target to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions this century.

In Paris, they have agreed just that. In addition, they have agreed to offer more ambitious climate action over time. This continuing cycle of commitments, every five years, will stiffen their ambition, and make the longer term goal more credible.

How will this commitment change the real world?

Importantly, it has reduced the risks of unmanageable climate change. This affects us all. In developing countries, it dramatically increases the prospects for broader, deeper prosperity, which is impossible in an unstable climate.

This long-term goal also means that progressive, forward-thinking businesses and investors can now more clearly sense the way the wind is blowing.

They can invent new, cheaper ways to cut carbon emissions and save energy, knowing that there will be demand for these products. They will drive the world away from fossil fuels, towards a future powered by cleaner renewables, and cut the cost of this low-carbon transition.

Similarly, the Paris Agreement will guide spending decisions in cities around the world, towards lower carbon, more efficient technologies and systems, which create greener, healthier and safer spaces.

Second, to ensure that this agreement was more than a piece of paper, we needed transparency. Countries have, indeed, agree to monitor their emissions, report the climate action that they are taking, and review their progress towards those targets.

And third, we needed fairness.

Even the most ambitious outcome from Paris cannot avoid climate change altogether: far from it. Temperatures will continue to rise for several decades; regrettably, they are locked into our planet’s climate system.

But we can diminish the effects of these future heat waves and storms, by helping the poorest and most vulnerable countries prepare.

That is why these countries have quite rightly called for help, at this climate conference, and others, for a decade or more. The Paris Agreement has listened.

This Agreement has achieved strong and robust climate finance, which richer countries will continue to supply developing nations. Where large, more prosperous emerging economies can afford it, and want to, they can also step up and help.

With these achievements, this Paris Agreement is catching up with the real-world, where we have seen significant shifts in public opinion, investment choices, and business decisions in recent years - away from dirty energy and towards clean solutions.

This job is not done.

More action is needed to secure a stable climate that underpins prosperity.

If we leave climate action too late, then we will have to cut emissions too much, too fast, at too high a cost. That is why it is important that countries return, in four years’ time, to consider raising their existing ambition, which so far falls far short of the long-term goal they have set, to avoid dangerous climate change.

For further action, we are depending on the world’s innovators, entrepreneurs and engineers to deliver the new, cheaper, low-carbon technologies, where solar power and LED lighting have blazed such a trail in the past five years.

And we can be confident that business will respond, because they came in unprecedented numbers to Paris, to work alongside nations. The greatest ambition, arguably, came not from nations but from the cities, entrepreneurs and investors on the side lines of the conference.

Paris demonstrated, in this way, an unprecedented coalition between governments, cities, companies, and campaigners, to address a pressing global issue. It showed that multilateralism is working.

This collective, political moment when leaders came together in Paris can empower an economic revolution. They have reached an agreement which can sustain and accelerate an economic transformation.

Jennifer Morgan is global director of the World Resources Institute, a think tank in Washington

EU and 195 countries adopt Paris climate accord

Deal cements new bottom-up approach which involves pledges by every UN state to reduce greenhouse emissions, as well as a review mechanism to jack up ambition every five years.

EU rushing to ratify climate agreement

Environment ministers will try to agree this week to speed up the process to sign up to the Paris agreement. Otherwise it would not be present at the table of the signatories at a conference in November.

Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges

EU foreign ministers must choose between contaminating their civilian missions and operations with panic over security and migration, and reaffirming the EU's core values as a global actor for peace and development.

EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation

EU foreign ministers will discuss Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday. The EU has the opportunity to show that it is not a political dwarf in the Balkans, where not only economic, but also political reforms are necessary.

US steps in to clean up Cyprus

Cyprus has overlooked undertakings on bank probity made to the EU in the context of the 2013 bailout - but it might prove harder to get the US off its back.

News in Brief

  1. Interpol rejects Russian candidate after outcry
  2. Investors seek compensation for Danske Bank losses
  3. Analysis: one-in-four Europeans vote populist
  4. Italy moves to seize Aquarius for illegal waste disposal
  5. EU parliament approves Italian to check European banks
  6. EU agrees tightening rules on foreign strategic investment
  7. Soros' foundation demands apology from Facebook
  8. Hungary grants asylum to ex-Macedonia PM

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  9. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  10. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  11. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue

Latest News

  1. Deutsche Bank dragged into Danish bank scandal
  2. New EU human rights sanctions to focus on Africa
  3. Boycott threats mount on eve of Interpol election
  4. EU parliament to renege on transparency promises
  5. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  6. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  7. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  8. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  2. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us