COP21: Historic agreement signed in Paris

Negotiations ran — as was expected — beyond the deadline, but in the end nearly 200 countries have signed the Accord de Paris in what’s being called an historic, well-constructed and ambitious plan for tackling climate change.


Read all about COP21 and the fight to curb climate change in our new special edition of EcoAlert Magazine

Here’s how The Guardian newspaper summarized the agreement:

The guts of the agreement hang off the so-called “long-term goal” that commits almost 200 countries to hold the global average temperature to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

The long-term goal also states that “in accordance with best available science” that “in the second half of this century” the world should get to a point where the net emissions of greenhouse gases should be zero.

The deal also puts into the agreement the 186 pledges submitted to the United Nations to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels.

Those pledges on their own will miss the 1.5C target by a long way, but the agreement also includes a rule where nations must renew their pledges every five years. Each pledge “will represent a progression.

ILoisComeauParisn a special report in The National Observer, Lois Comeau, head of Climate Action Network Canada, said Canada played a positive role in the negotiations at COP21 (though she noted our country still shared in two Fossil of the Day Awards for not having greater ambition in addressing concerns about compensation for loss and damage).

“The combination of stronger temperature limit and the requirement to develop a low-emission plan means Canada now must strengthen its domestic targets for 2020, 2025 and 2030 within 90 days of Paris to put us on a renewable energy pathway for 2050,” said Comeau.

“There remains a lot of work to be done and Governments will try to weaken implementation of the Paris Agreement. But progress is unstoppable: 100% renewable is now 100% inevitable.”

Points of Final Deal

  • Nations have committed to keeping global temperature rise to below 1.5 C.  If global temperature rise hits 1.5 C, Greenland melts, island nations flood and disappear, and coral reefs die among other catastrophic events.  The underlying thrust of the Paris negotiations have been to fortify this commitment with concrete actions.
  • Signing nations will report on their emissions reductions and ratchet up their efforts after every five years as global emissions move towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • Nations have committed to reducing and minimizing the loss and damage of the coming extreme weather events

We’ll have more on the Paris agreement and other news from two weeks of action at COP21 on our blog this week.

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