Draft Paris Agreement: 1.5 °C, Long-Term Goal and Loss & Damage

December 12, 2015 | 00:00
Draft Paris Agreement: 1.5 °C,  Long-Term Goal and  Loss & Damage
Draft Paris Agreement: 1.5 °C, Long-Term Goal and Loss & Damage
On Saturday COP21 President, Minister Laurent Fabius, spoke to the delegates gathered for the 6th meeting of the Comité de Paris before presenting the final version of the Draft Paris Outcome.

“We are almost at the end of the path and no doubt embarking upon another”, he said. He called upon the Parties to adopt the Agreement later in the day. Quoting Nelson Mandela he said: “'It always seems impossible. Until it's done'. None of us acting alone can be successful. The world is holding its breath. It counts on all of us.”

1.5 °C target

When Minister Fabius said the final draft Agreement includes the 1.5 °C target the delegates in the packed conference room broke out in applause. The Draft Paris Agreement reads:

Holding the increase in 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 above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

The wording is definitely not the strongest possible. Earlier versions of the draft included an option simply stating:

To hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Nevertheless, civil society representatives called it an important moral victory. "The collective commitment made by the countries here today sends a strong message that the global economy must be transformed away from fossil fuels", said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid during a press conference of the Climate Action Network. “The message to governments and businesses is clear. They will ride with this wave or they will be washed away.”

Liz Gallagher of E3G stated on Friday: “1.5 °C as it currently stands in the Agreement is not the legal obligation, the legal obligation is on 2 °C. But 1.5 °C is the fire underneath the Agreement. It helps spur and accelerate everything that we do. And that is really important because we know that 2 °C is going to be too much for communities and some of the poorest nations. So it is really about trying to accelerate action even further.”

Long-term goal

The long-term goal has been significantly weakened compared to previous draft versions of the text and it is anything but concrete.

In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

One previous option offered a far more concrete long-term goal specifying greenhouse gas reductions and the time scale on which this is to be accomplished.

Parties collectively aim to reach the global temperature goal referred to in Article 2 through [a peaking of global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking requires deeper cuts of emissions of developed countries and will be longer for developing countries; rapid reductions thereafter to [40 – 70 per cent][70 – 95 per cent] below 2010 levels by 2050; toward achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions [by the end][after the middle] of the century] informed by best available science, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

The long-term goal in the final text is too weak to attain the 1.5 °C target. “This is a contradiction”, said Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace during the same press conference. “The overall sense of the document is that where there are more aspirational, positive commitments it is as vague as possible. On the more negative side of the text, on the downside, the language is much more specific. Our response is that the struggle continues tomorrow. Now we have to return to our countries and push our governments to, first, start implementing the emission cuts they've set, and simultaneously they need to pick up the levels of ambition.

“Secondly, we have to reach out specifically to the investment community and the financial community, to make sure that they are taking note of one of the implications that comes out of this: that this is the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. We are not out of the hole yet. But we feel that there are enough hooks [in the Agreement] that can help us climb out of the hole that we are in.”


Loss and damage

The inclusion of Loss and Damage (L&D) under Article 8 in the Agreement is a huge victory for the Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries.

Parties recognize the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage.

It is the first time ever L&D is included in an international treaty, said Adow. "What we are celebrating is the inclusion of that article as a stand alone article and not as a part of [the Article on] Adaptation. We always wanted to distinguish L&D from adaptation and we've always argued: L&D is more about those adverse effects that you can no longer adapt to."

A section in the COP Decision does explicitly rule out compensation and liability on the basis of Article 8. A provision the EU and the United States fought hard for because they want to prevent developed countries and large polluters like fossil fuel companies running the risk of being sued for compensation.

52. The Conference of the Parties, agrees that Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation;

But this did not stop Adow from seeing the inclusion of L&D as a victory. The provision being part of the Decision rather than the Agreement means that Parties can revisit the issue every year which would not be possible had it been part of the Agreement. "And we'll be there to fight so we can ensure L&D provides the support the vulnerable countries require. ” Kumi Naidoo added: “The focus on L&D will also be a strong message for investors who are considering putting their money in fossil fuels”.

Adow ended with: "This is a message we are going to drive home in the national capitals so that it is heard loudly and clearly: because of our failure to mitigate enough and for our failure to provide adequate support for adaptation, we now have L&D as an integral part of the climate regime."

Image: French Foreign Minister and COP21 President, Laurent Fabius (centre), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) and French President Franois Hollande (left) at the 6th meeting of the Comité de Paris. Source: UN.
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