Climate accord unveiled in Paris, seeks to cap warming ‘well below’ 2 C

PARIS: A landmark climate accord seeking to limit global warming to “well below” 2 C has been presented at the tail end of grueling talks in Paris and is expected to be adopted by nearly 200 countries on Saturday.


French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that a final draft of the pact submitted to 195 nations would be legally binding. He added that the “ambitious and balanced” agreement would mark a “historic turning point” for the world.

The official text of the accord will be made available later Saturday. But Fabius highlighted some key points of the treaty: a more ambitious goal limiting the rise in global temperatures to less than 2 C (3.6 F); a $100 billion a year floor for funding developing nations beyond 2020; and a five-year cycle for reviewing national pledges to take action on greenhouse gas emissions.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pressed the world’s envoys to approve the pact.

“The end is in sight. Let’s now finish the job. The world is watching. Billions of people are relying on your wisdom,” he said. U.S. secretary of state John Kerry said he believed things were ‘teed up’ for the accord to be adopted Saturday.

At the heart of any deal is cutting back or eliminating the use of coal, oil and gas for energy, which has largely powered nations’ paths towards prosperity since the Industrial Revolution began in the 1700s.

The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases, which cause the planet to warm and change Earth’s delicate climate system.

If climate change goes unabated, scientists warn of increasingly severe droughts, floods and storms, as well as rising seas that would engulf islands and populated coasts.

“Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet,” said the preface to an earlier version of the planned agreement.

Developing nations have insisted rich countries must shoulder the lion’s share of responsibility for tackling climate change as they have emitted most of the greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution.

But the United States and other rich nations say emerging giants must also do more.

They argue that developing countries now account for most of today’s emissions and thus will be largely responsible for future warming.

Rich countries promised six years ago in Copenhagen to muster $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year by 2020 to help developing nations make the energy shift and cope with the impacts of global warming.

But how the funds will be raised remained unclear going into the Paris talks, and developing nations demanded clarity in the new accord, which would take effect from 2020.

Developing countries also demanded a commitment to increase the amount after 2020 — a requirement that has seemingly been agreed to.

The United States had indicated it is willing to help mobilize the money, but has said it cannot accept proposals that the accord makes the financing obligations legally binding.

The proposed agreement was not available immediately after Fabius’s speech, but the French foreign minister indicated that it would be legally binding.

Ahead of the talks, most nations submitted voluntary plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions from 2020, a process widely hailed as an important platform for success.

But scientists say that, even if the pledges were fully honored, Earth would be on track for warming far above safe limits. Hopes for lowering the trajectory lie with a so-called ratchet mechanism by which future pledges will reduce emissions.

Nations most vulnerable to climate change have lobbied hard for wording in the Paris pact to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), warning otherwise rising sea levels would wipe out islands.

Big polluters, such as China, India and oil producing-giant Saudi Arabia, preferred a ceiling of 2C (3.6 F) which would allow them to burn fossil fuels for longer.

Fabius indicated the vulnerable nations would win the battle, saying the planned agreement would enshrine a target of “well” below 2C, but also aim for 1.5C.

But after viewing earlier drafts, scientists warned other key wordings in the text did not outline strong enough plans for how much to cut greenhouse gases and when, which would allow global warming to continue on a dangerous path.