Keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees over pre-industrial levels. The text will be taken up for consideration and adoption later this evening.

The agreement comes after unprecedented negotiations involving 196 member-parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and intense pressure from civil society organisations.

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Major features of the text outlined by French Foreign Minister and CoP21 president Laurent Fabius are:

>> It takes into account the differentiation and responsibility of developing countries, and their respective capacities in light of national circumstances

>> Confirms the key objective of containing mean global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and to endeavour to limit it to 1.5 degrees Draft Paris Agreement

>> There will be five-yearly national contributions on actions taken to address climate change

>> There is provision for adaptation to climate change. Cooperation on loss and damage suffered by countries on a long term basis to provide necessary means to all countries for durable development.

>> Provision of 100 billion per year as a floor by 2020 to help developing nations.

>> A new figure to be defined for the period between now and 2020.

>> Collective stocktaking every five years of national actions and consideration of steps if efforts are insufficient for the objective set.

The French Minister warned that failure to conclude the text would lead to irrevocable loss of the credibility of multilateral process and the commitment to respond to international challenges. With agreement, various countries would get help to pursue their major concerns — Pacific and Caribbean countries to avoid destructive sea level rise, Africa for technological development, Latin America to preserve its forests and countries depending on fossil fuel energy to achieve energy diversification.

Shortly before the text was released, the so-called High Ambition Coalition of about 100 countries including the United States, Norway, Mexico, Colombia — of which India is not part — announced that they had made a “final push”.

These countries have sought a 1.5 degree target, and strict norms for emerging economies on transparency, measurement, verification and reporting regimes.

The official document of the UN Climate Deal was released in the evening of 12 December.

However, many of us will benefit if we learn the many terms associated with the Paris Conference:

COP21: COP stands for the Conference of Parties. This refers to the countries which have signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The leaders of these countries meet annually to discuss ways to combat climate change. Because the Paris Conference was the 21st such meeting, it was nicknamed as COP21.

CBDR: This was the major hurdle that negotiators had to overcome in this year’s Conference. CBDR stands for ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibilities’. This is a principle preserved in the UNFCCC that recognizes that different countries have different obligations to combat climate change. This means that richer countries like the US have to cut down emissions to a greater extent than developing countries like India – due to obvious reasons. Richer countries wanted to do away with this principle before the start of the Paris Conference, and it has been the core factor which rendered the previous Conferences as failures.

Pre-2020 Ambition: Most actions taken by individual countries in accordance with the Paris Agreement won’t actually take effect until 2020. But the years 2016 – 2020 will be crucial to ensure the safety of our planet. As such, nations need to be committed to the clauses of the Agreement from today itself and not wait until 2020.

ADP: This stands for the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. It was a subsidiary body formed in Durban in 2011 (COP17). Its mandate was to develop a protocol and a global legal instrument which would be agreeable to all countries so that the same could be signed in 2015. The ADP was formed with focus on clinching an agreement during COP21.

Hope

The Paris Agreement on climate change marks a milestone in preserving the earth’s environment
and provides a floor on which to build ambition and action. It is the outcome of a long struggle by millions of citizens around the world, aided by the weight of scientific evidence linking severe, more frequent weather events such as cyclones and droughts to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The 195 country-parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — besides Palestine which joined in Paris — have acknowledged that global climate action can no longer be postponed. While their adoption of the Agreement has created history, the sum total of national pledges by 189 nations will be unable to stop climate change that is already happening. As the UNFCCC acknowledges, these pledges will not be able to keep temperature “well below 2 degrees C” compared to pre-industrial levels, leave alone the aspirational target of a 1.5° C limit . It is also important to remember that there is a long window before the promises on emissions cuts go into effect in 2020, a period during which developed nations would continue to emit large volumes of greenhouse gases. Given such a background and its responsibility as a legacy polluter, the richer half of the world, which secured the support of vulnerable and poor nations in Paris, must use the Agreement to liberally share its prosperity and technology. It would be perverse if the climate pact is viewed as a business opportunity to fuel a wave of growth for a few.
The signal from Paris is clearly for a shift away from polluting fossil fuels such as coal and oil to renewable energy, and the adoption of smart policies and innovative technology. Like all other countries, India
is now required to periodically report on its targets and performance under the Agreement, and update its Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020. This will need the active involvement of all States and wide consultations — more so for the 175 gigawatt renewables revolution, including 100 GW from solar, to meet the 2022 target. The Centre should consider enacting a strong climate change law that harmonises policies nationally, beginning with energy, buildings, transport, water, agriculture and urban development. The question of adaptation to climate change and addressing loss and damage looms large for India, given the regular cycles of crippling droughts, devastating flooding and lost livelihoods. There is not much to look forward to here in the Agreement, which speaks of raising finance with $100 billion a year base by 2020, an amount that is grossly inadequate for the scale of catastrophic events witnessed worldwide. The hope is that the Paris Agreement will, as a binding covenant, spur civil society to raise the pressure on leaders to improve upon it every year, adding clear commitments for the developed nations to cut their emissions in favour of the developing countries and raise financing significantly.

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