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COP21: A climate agreement in the interest of the vulnerable? 0

After two weeks of intense negotiations, the COP21 talks finally produced a landmark Paris Agreement among the close to 200 countries that participated to fight global warming. The 2015 climate change conference has been the most complicated and difficult negotiations, yet most important for humanity, observed UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. Report by Kofi Adu Domfeh.

“The solutions to climate change are on the table.  They are ours for the taking. Let us have the courage to grasp them,” remarked Ki-moon at the presentation of the final draft.

He wants the outcome to be celebrated because it offers “new hope for safety and prosperity for all on a healthy planet”.

The road to Paris Agreement

Ahead of the Paris meeting, thousands of companies and investors as well as regional governments announced their commitment to the essential economic and social transformation to low-carbon, sustainable growth and development.

Heads of state and government arrived in Paris early to give their public support to the climate change talks.

At the opening ceremony, UN Climate Change Chief, Christiana Figueres said that the eyes of millions of people around the world were on the governments meeting in Paris.

“You have the opportunity, in fact the responsibility, to finalize an agreement that enables the achievement of national climate change goals, that delivers the necessary support for the developing world and that catalyses continuously increasing ambition and action by all,” she said.

The optimism of French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, carried though the process of reaching an agreement, though with an additional day to reach consensus.

For him, there had never been a better momentum to get an ambitious, global climate deal and the responsibility was on national governments to make necessary compromises.

Historic Milestone midst sticky issues

Saturday afternoon was filled with hugs, cheers and tears at Le Bourget – the COP21 venue – as the agreement was adopted after decades of debate.

It has been acknowledged that this agreement alone will not meet the threat of climate change, but that the battle over the reality of climate change is over.

Climate finance for poor nations and differentiation proved to be most difficult. But in the end, the adopted text has generally been welcomed by parties and observers.

“For the first time in history, the whole world has made a public commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the impacts of climate change,” said Mohamed Adow, Senior Climate Advisor, Christian Aid. “Although different countries will move at different speeds, the transition to a low carbon world is now inevitable. Governments, investors and businesses must ride this wave or be swept away by it.”

Some leading climate activists and civil society organizations, however say governments across the world would have to play catch up in the collective fight against climate change.

“This deal offers a frayed life-line to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Only the vague promise of a new future climate funding target has been made, while the deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe. This will only ramp up adaptation costs further in the future,” said Helen Szoke, Executive Director, Oxfam. “We will be holding them to account with the millions of people who marched in cities all around the world so that dangerous warming is averted and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities get the support that they need.”

Vulnerable Africa with Common Position

Africa went into the negotiations with a common position, with climate finance and adaptation on top of agenda for the African Group of Negotiators.

But civil society umbrella body, the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), is not enthused with outcomes.

“The Paris agreement is weak and insufficient to address the impacts of climate change,” said Sam Ogallah, PACJA Program Manager. “The agreement shows clearly that developed countries have succeeded in weakening the Convention, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and got away with historical responsibilities thereby shifting the additional burden of addressing climate change to the developing countries”.

He is worried the Paris Agreement will not keep the world to the below 1.5 degrees, which will mean more losses and damages, floods, droughts, sea level rise and conflicts in Africa.

Ban Ki-moon is counting on “developed countries to provide financial resources for mitigation and adaptation, and to embark decisively on a low-emissions pathway. And I ask all developing nations to play an increasingly active role, according to their capacities”.

Mr. Ogallah however says finance for adaptation in the agreement is not satisfactory because there is no clear target. He said, for example, “reference to collective short-term quantified goals for post-2020 period is missing and there is only mandate to developed countries to biennially communicate indicative qualitative and quantitative information”.

Hope for an ambitious climate future

COP21 took off few weeks after a major terrorist attack in Paris which informed the cancellation of some citizen centered activities – especially the Peoples’ March – to demand climate justice.

However, several activities were staged to send clear messages to governments on the need to keep the planet safe.

Faith-based groups, for instance, presented 1.8 million signatures of people seeking a fair climate change agreement that would stop global warming and protect the poor to the French President Francois Hollande.

Global civil society groups mobilized a ‘sit-in action’ to build pressure in the last few hours to ensure that Parties deliver a fair and ambitious outcome for the people and the planet.

“Nature is sending urgent signals. People and countries are threatened as never before. We have to do as science dictates. We must protect the planet that sustains us,” said Ban Ki-moon.

By Kofi Adu Domfeh –

Kofi Domfeh is a Ghanaian journalist. His reporting interests are in green economy, agriculture, environment and science – covering assignments in parts of the world. He is the 2015 Winner of the African Press Organization (APO) Energy Media Awards. In 2014, he emerged Winner of the African Climate Change and Environment Reporting (ACCER) Awards. He was 3rd Best of the same Awards in 2013.

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