Historic climate deal reached; Caribbean grateful for some elements

COP21 agreement

French President Francois Hollande, right, French Foreign Minister and president of the COP21 meetings Laurent Fabius, second right, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, left, and UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon join hands after the final adoption of an agreement at the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change.(NPR)


PARIS, France, Monday December 14, 2015 – An historic agreement to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future was agreed by 195 nations in Paris over the weekend as the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21) came to an end.

The main aim of the climate deal – adopted by 195 nations – is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“The 1.5 degree Celsius limit is a significantly safer defence line against the worst impacts of a changing climate,” said a statement issued by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the end of the two-week conference.

Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability to deal with the impacts of climate change.

To reach these ambitious and important goals, appropriate financial flows will be put in place, thus making stronger action by developing countries and the most vulnerable possible, in line with their own national objectives.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and group of countries to go back home with their heads held high. Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort. Our responsibility to history is immense” said Laurent Fabius, president of the COP 21 and French Foreign Minister.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, commenting on the historic climate deal, pointed out that for the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action.

“We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity . . . This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”

Executive Secretary of UNFCCC Christiana Figueres hailed the “agreement of conviction . . . agreement of solidarity with the most vulnerable . . . agreement of long-term vision”.

“Successive generations will, I am sure, mark the 12 December 2015 as a date when cooperation, vision, responsibility, a shared humanity and a care for our world took centre stage,” she said.

The Paris Agreement and the outcomes of COP 21 cover all the crucial areas identified as essential for a landmark conclusion:

  • Mitigation – reducing emissions fast enough to achieve the temperature goal
  • A transparency system and global stock-take – accounting for climate action
  • Adaptation – strengthening ability of countries to deal with climate impacts
  • Loss and damage – strengthening ability to recover from climate impacts
  • Support – including finance, for nations to build clean, resilient futures

As well as setting a long-term direction, countries will peak their emissions as soon as possible and continue to submit national climate action plans that detail their future objectives to address climate change.

Chairman of the CARICOM Task Force on Climate Change, Dr. Jimmy Fletcher, said there were elements in the climate agreement for which Caribbean countries are grateful.

“The increased ambition of the Agreement, as reflected by the reference to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, is a significant achievement that has already started to resonate with positive vibrations throughout the Caribbean,” he said.

“The separate treatment of loss and damage in the agreement is also a most welcomed development. While I pulled these two elements out for special mention, we view this agreement not as a combination of separate articles, but as a total package that will provide us with the legal framework for protecting our ecosystems, our islands, our people, our cultures and our planet,” he added.

Addressing the final plenary of COP 21, Fletcher, who is St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, added: “I can return home to the citizens of my country and the Caribbean and reassure them that the world cares about them. I can tell the young people in our region who adopted ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ as their mantra that their future looks much brighter today than it did two weeks ago. I can say to the artists who have sung songs and written poetic verse on the need for urgent action on climate change that their voices have been heard.”

Fletcher applauded the process that culminated in the Paris Agreement.

“You employed an inclusive, transparent, party-driven mechanism that allowed every country, regardless of physical size or economic circumstance, to have its voice heard . . . I can confidently speak on behalf of my fellow Caribbean delegations when I say that for perhaps the first time in a long time, Caribbean and other SIDS [small island developing states] truly felt that our concerns were being heard at a COP.

“Our delegations witnessed a sincere interest to craft a fair, balanced and ambitious agreement that sought to address the needs of the most climate-vulnerable countries. From the visit of President Hollande to the Caribbean earlier this year to meet with Caribbean leaders, to the three informal ministerial meetings co-hosted in Paris by COP20 President Manuel Pulgar Vidal and yourself [COP 21 President Laurent Fabius], right through to COP21, there has been a genuine intention to engage, to listen, to discuss, and to find solutions,” he added.

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