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Post-COP21: Paris climate agreement a turning point for action

Post-COP21: Paris climate agreement a turning point for action

A month after the historic climate change meeting in Paris, world leaders warned that momentum from the universal agreement must mark as a turning point for international action to combat climate change.

With more than 195 nations pledged to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions, countries are asked to review their national action plans every five years from 2020 and to gradually stop using the most polluting fossil fuels in order to reach the rise in temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) or international climate change negotiations in Le Bourget, Paris brought together over 36,000 participants, nearly 23,100 government officials, 9,400 representatives from the United Nations and civil society groups, and 3,700 journalists.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and group of countries to go back home with their heads held high. Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort. Our responsibility to history is immense,” said Laurent Fabius, President of the COP 21 UN Climate change conference and French Foreign Minister.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity. For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “One planet, one chance to get it right and we did it in Paris. We have made history together. It is an agreement of conviction. It is an agreement of solidarity with the most vulnerable. It is an agreement of long-term vision, for we have to turn this agreement into an engine of safe growth.”


Philippines pledges more action


Philippine Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel De Guzman, on the other hand, said the Paris agreement marks a change in direction, and to encourage countries to keep taking action to protect poorer, low-lying countries that are more threatened by the impacts of climate change.

De Guzman, who also led the Philippine negotiations team in Paris, said the Philippine government must now revisit our existing laws and align our policies towards the goal of meeting the commitments that we made in our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).

“We must also evaluate our national climate action plan and determine whether we have to tweak it in time for the first submission of the actual Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which will be legally binding on us. The plan has to be submitted no later than when we submit our instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement,” De Guzman said.

“In terms of emission reductions, we have to remember that our current INDC states that we will reduce our emissions at business as usual to below 70% conditional on the support of developed countries,” De Guzman added. “So far, we have been receiving good signals from a lot of our friends from other countries and we have been discussing our plans with them, so I am quite confident that we can at the very least make a big dent in that 70 percent.”

He said the Philippines have “good laws and policies that are very much lauded by other countries” such as our National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) and the Renewable Energy Law.

De Guzman said one of the most notably achievement with regards to the new aspirational goal is the support from a broad coalition is the 1.5 degrees Celsius. In the Paris Agreement, however, it does not simply replace the target goal of 2 degrees Celsius set by the United Nations. Rather it said that the goal is to hold warming “to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

The first commitment period for the Paris Agreement will begin in 2020. This means that the policies should be in place by then in preparation for the first global stock that will take place in 2023.

Before that, countries have to sign and ratify the Paris Agreement. The high-level signing ceremony is to be held on April 22 in New York. Thereafter, De Guzman said, “we will seek the concurrence of the cabinet and send it to our Senate for ratification.”

“It is important that we move on with great optimism. Despite diversity and divergence, we have found common ground. And now as one family of nations – as sisters and brothers of one world – we can move forward with greater resolve and ambition, hopeful of winning the fight against climate change,” De Guzman stressed.

“We may be vulnerable but we are also capable when all countries, all peoples work together. The Agreement tells the world that human rights will be upheld, that the big and powerful have stood up for the small, poor and vulnerable, and that the world is determined to rise to this great challenge,” he added.

The Paris Agreement also acknowledges that $100 billion will need to be raised each year from 2020 to finance projects that help countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, droughts, flooding and fiercer typhoons.


Acceptable but countries must do more


Climate activists, however, denounced the unclear mitigation goal of “reaching greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in the second half of the century”.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C means nothing less than a drastic and systemic change in worldwide energy consumption and pollution. However, we are still on track for 3 or more degrees of warming, even if all national climate plans were actually implemented,” said Gerry Arances, coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

“We need to establish a global carbon budget which will fairly prescribe dates of when emissions must peak and stop for all countries. And we do not want greenhouse gas emissions neutrality if it is another euphemism for net-zero emissions, or for land-grabbing, offsetting and geo-engineering,” he added.

“Our survival is non-negotiable. But after all the hype about high ambition and the 1.5°C aspirational limit for global warming, the latest version of the climate agreement is sentencing us to even more deaths and destruction,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).

“The biggest fight is still about differentiation, or who does what. Unfortunately, developed countries like the US and European Union members not only continue to shirk from their responsibility in leading the fight against climate catastrophe, they are passing off more of the blame and the responsibility to developing countries,” Nacpil added.

Former Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said 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. 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,” Naidoo said. “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.”