The Paris Agreement
After long days and nights of negotiations, the Paris Treaty was finalised on the Saturday afternoon – just 24 hours after the official deadline! It’s the culmination of a huge diplomatic effort, but what is actually in the treaty?
Ambition: The treaty enshrines the 2°C warming limit that most people had hoped for, while “pursuing efforts” to keep the limit to 1.5°C, which is more than many expected. A new scientific report has been commissioned on the impacts of 1.5°C of warming, and designs for an emissions pathway to get there. The new treaty talks about global emissions needing to peak “as soon as possible”, but nothing more specific.
Emissions reduction: Countries are required to develop strategies outlining their future greenhouse gas emissions – many did so before the COP. However, all these together add up to dangerous warming of 2.7°C, so the agreement contains a global stocktake of emissions every five years, with countries encouraged to update their pledges to make them more ambitious.
Finance: There will be at least $100 billion a year available by 2020 for less developed countries to adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions, but it is not wholly clear where this will come from. There is an obligation for wealthy countries to support developing countries, with encouragement for voluntary support from other countries.
Loss and damage: Although the final agreement contains a separate article on loss and damage as a result of climate change, it explicitly rules out any liability or compensation to developing countries.
Adaptation: The agreement contains an article on adaptation to climate change, with the goal of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability”. This article also encourages local and national level adaptation planning.
The treaty is a huge diplomatic success, but much of the detail is not legally binding. Since all emissions targets are voluntary, civil society organisations have a huge role to play in advocating to their governments to implement the treaty, and to meet and exceed these targets they have made.
The IFRC responded to the treaty by highlighting how important it would be to put the needs of the most vulnerable to the centre when implementing this treaty, including investing in their resilience to extreme weather and natural disasters. The Red Cross and Red Crescent movement has a significant role to play in supporting resilience-building and adaptation planning at the local level, as well as advocating for constructive national and international policies to address the impacts of climate change.
To support this, the IFRC have launched a new initiative called the One Billion Coalition for Resilience. This aims through programmes and partnerships to enable a billion people around the world to take steps to strengthen their resilience. Central to this approach will be the development of partnerships and coalitions, drawing on a wide expertise to build resilience at the local level and advocate to governments.
This highlights the importance of networking projects such as the Austrian Red Cross-led Climate Forum East II project, which in its second phase is drawing on strong and diverse civil society networks to work on adaptation planning at the local level. The Paris Agreement is only the beginning – now we need to work with governments to implement it effectively and support the most vulnerable people against the impacts of climate change.