Updates on the Paris Climate Agreement (COP21)
Brief summary of presentation of information made
- Jeffery Brez, Chief, NGO Relations and Advocacy Section, UN Department of Public Information welcomed the meeting and introduced the panel. He said that a climate agreement had been reached and quoted the Secretary General saying it was a “monumental triumph for people and planet”
- Janos Pasztor, Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change called it a landmark decision. He said countries have decided to go for a low carbon and low emission future including a low emission economy. The agreement is to keep global temperature increases to under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to aim at 1.5 degrees. This includes provision for financing. He said that 188 countries had brought forward nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to climate action and that all future NDCs are committed to being more ambitious than current ones. He suggested these things represent a good chance at successful climate action. He said the presence and engagement of civil society was essential and that civil society must hold governments accountable to what they say. He said that this agreement will take us to where we want to go if we implement it.
- Nick Nuttal, Coordinator, Communications and Outreach, UN Framework convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) said that the support of NGOs has been critical for the last 20 years of climate discussion and gave recognition to the disappointment of some NGOs with the agreement. He emphasized the need for NGOs to be active in 2016 and introduced the Paris Pledge which UNFCCC has launched with the government of France to enable local authorities, universities, and other groups to sign up to the climate agreement. He asked how NGOs can put pressure on governments to ratify the agreement and take action now. He noted that the agreement doesn’t come into legal force until 2020 and that the money due to be given by Northern countries to Southern countries was due by 2020 although many NDCs start in 2016. In response to questions from the floor he said that the massive agreement of heads of state, CEOs, Mayors, Cities and Regions was a blow to climate change deniers. He said that it was important to work with businesses in order to implement better business, while recognizing the climate problems some businesses have caused.
- Francois Gave, Permanent Mission of France to the UN explained that the journey from the previous Copenhagen meeting to the Paris meeting had been one of rebuilding trust and ownership and said that the COP21 agreement had a huge bottom-up dimension. He recognized the pivotal role of Peru in the discussions and that development had been reconciled with climate action. He said that the agreement was possible because of the 142 counties who, on the first day, said they wanted an agreement and an ambitious one and because of effort to get details right. He also noted France’s effort to make the logistics of the conference as smooth as possible to enable amiable negotiations.
- Cassie Flynn, Climate Change and Sustainability Advisor, UNDP gave a quote from Nelson Mandela that had been used in the discussions “it seems impossible until it is done”. She said that a meeting of so many heads of state around one issue was an unprecedented global political commitment. She said that the NDCs represent a collective global effort but that the 150 submitted by the October deadline only get to 2.7 degrees. She said that the NSGs currently exist only on paper and the civil society needs to make sure the words turn into actions.
- Iain Keith, AVAAZ Campaign Director, said that Paris has been an historic agreement and a victory of hope over cynicism. He said that the 2 degree goal represents the level over which scientists predict particularly dangerous climate changes but that many NGOs considered a temperature target too “fuzzy”. He gave examples of other suggested targets including zero net emissions, 100% clean energy and a “decarbonisation of the global economy” He suggested that the Paris agreement can send a signal that the fossil fuel industry is over and said that Peabody Energy Corporation’s stocks had dropped 12% after the agreement. He said we need to rapidly transition to clean energy.
- Bridget Burns, Advocacy Director, Women’s Environment and Development organization (WEDD) said that “to be critical is not to be without hope” and said there was a need for systematic change. She said that the current agreement didn’t guarantee assurance of protection of rights, particularly for indigenous peoples, although such rights were mentioned. She said that businesses play an important roles but that any “false solutions” they suggest need to be challenged. She said that civil society needs an unsuppressed voice.
- Jeffery Brez having previously noted three key actions NGOs could take arising from the discussion (signing the planet pledge, learning about and supporting NDCs; Lobbying countries to ratify the agreement) asked the panel to comment on what they thought NGOs should be doing. Francois Gave said that we need constructive messages and that climate change should not be a divisive, politicised, left v right wing or Northern v Southern issue. Cassie Flynn said NGOs should read the NDCs and go into detail to hold governments accountable. Iain Keith said NGOs should call out government hypocrisy. Bridget Burns said NGOs should make sure that the goals are met and the solutions are just.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
- Civil Society (of which The Salvation Army is considered part) has played a pivotal role in the climate agreement.
- There is a Paris Pledge which organizations can sign to agree to the climate agreement.
- 188 governments have released plans for nationally determined contributions to climate action.
- Civil Society is seen as having a role in holding governments accountable to carry out their agreement and do so in a just way