“I hear no objection in the room, I declare the Paris Climate Agreement adopted!” These were the words of Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, who announced the outcome on the final day of negotiations at the Conference of the Parties on 12th December 2015.
The Paris Agreement is a 12-page document binding the member countries to reduce emissions as part of the method for reducing greenhouse gas. They agreed to shrink their carbon output as soon as possible and to do their best to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. This remarkable accord was reached at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties popularly referred to as COP21. It was the largest UN Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which brought together 196 countries to take a historic decision on curtailing global warming. Prior to the event, the largest gathering to sign an international agreement in a single day was in 1982 during the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This clearly signalled the urgency required by the global community to protect the earth from climate calamity.
Most importantly, this agreement was historic because the two largest emitters, China and United States finally committed to reduce greenhouse gas (ghg) emission. Governments agreed to come together every five years to set more precise goals as required by science. Member countries accepted to report how they implementing their targets while tracking progress towards the long-term goal, through a reliable transparency and accountability system.
Over the years, there has been increasing records of global warming which has caused some climate anomalies thereby impacting negatively on our environment. Cases of hurricanes, flood, ice melting, drought, heat waves and new disease like zika are now common occurrences all over the world. Various plant and animal species are going into extinction due to abrupt change in their ecosystem facilitated by climate change. The planet is experiencing record temperatures since October 2015 and 2016 has smashed all previous records as the month of April became the hottest on record globally. This simply means that we have recorded the seventh hottest months in a row, topping global temperature records. There is strong signal that more danger lays ahead.
Carbon dioxide is the major contributor to global warming. Carbon emissions are commonly introduced into the atmosphere through the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Energy is the largest source of global emissions at above 60% and it is expected to grow by 78% by 2050, if unchecked. Energy is required in manufacturing, transport, households, offices and for general activities. Greenhouse gases are very high in the atmosphere, driving warmer higher temperatures with possible devastating consequences. This increase can be attributed to universal energy mix which has not changed significantly after the Kyoto Protocol. Fossil fuels still contribute up 81% of world’s energy supply while renewable energy is gradually growing at 13.5%. Governments worldwide spend around $200billion a year to subsidize fossil fuel which is five times the amount spent supporting clean energy.
The reduction of carbon-energy mix will help keep global temperature around two degrees Celsius. This one major reason experts and activists want an end to coal mining and oil drilling. It is safer to keep them in the ground. According to Christiana, Figueres, the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC “More carbon in the atmosphere equals poverty. We cannot deliver sustainable development without tackling climate change, and we cannot tackle climate change without poverty, inequality and sustainable development patterns.”
Experts say that “If we do not succeed in maintaining the planet under two degrees Celsius rise, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to realize a sustainable environment.” This means that the earth will face more disasters like food shortage, natural disasters, diseases and short-life spans.
There is an urgent need to transition to renewable energy mix in order to curb global warming. Renewable energy is becoming more affordable. The cost of solar and wind panels have fallen dramatically in recent years and will continue if governments will show significant support as enshrined in the Paris Agreement. Breaking free from fossil fuel is a sacrifice worth making for generations yet unborn.
The major aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius with a further drive towards 1.5 degrees before the end of the century. The Climate Agreement was opened for signatures on 22 April 2016, while 171 countries ratified it in one day; it is expected to enter into force when it reaches the minimum 55% of member nations as required. With the adoption of COP21 agreement, the focus now will be to ensure compliance by all parties towards achieving the set goals within the timeline for attaining the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Governments, civil societies and organizations must play their part to avert the pending climate crises. The COP21 agreement is “a new covenant for the future”- a sustainable future we want.
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