Tue | Mar 28, 2017

Negotiator warns against complacency following Paris climate talks

Published:Monday | December 14, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

PARIS, France:

AFTER TWO weeks of wrangling, an international agreement on climate change has been reached - and with crucial elements lobbied for by the Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS). But there is no time for complacency.

This is according to Jamaican Dr Orville Grey, who coordinated negotiations on adaptation for the Alliance of Small Island States and was a member of the team that followed loss and damage at the talks, which had to go into overtime on Saturday.

"For SIDS, we will have to continue the lobby efforts to push developed countries to be more ambitious, because, if we become complacent, the adaptation cost to us will only continue to rise and the potential loss and damage related to climate change will become an even greater challenge," he told The Gleaner.

"With the trajectory we are on now, we will likely see a worsening of the situation, so we can't rest on what we have achieved here. We have to keep pushing," he added.

 

A FAIR DEAL

 

Still, Grey said that the deal brokered - and which still requires ratification from individual country parties - was fair.

"We were never going to get all that we wanted, but I think we got quite a bit. I think it is an agreement that represents a fairly good base for us to go forward and build on. It recognises some of the things that SIDS have been asking for over the past year ... and for over a decade," he said.

Those things include:

- having 1.58C at least referred to in relation to the global temperature goal;

- having loss and damage associated with climate change as a separate article under the agreement; and

- avoiding onerous reporting burdens concerning national climate-change efforts.

On finance, Grey said: "For developed countries, the agreement does ask them to take the lead in providing financial assistance using the 2009 commitment for the floor to be US$100 billion per year by 2020. But that is likely going to come from a variety of sources. There will be a significant role for public funds, but it is expected that the private sector will come on board to assist - maybe not now, but in the future."

International civil-society actors have themselves reflected Grey's assessment of the need to avoid complacency.

"This marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org.

 

FIGHT FOR LIVEABLE CLIMATE

 

"Our job now is to hold countries to their word and accelerate the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy. More than 10,000 of us took to the streets of Paris (Saturday) to demonstrate our commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice, while many more demonstrated around the world. Our message is simple: a liveable climate is a red line we're prepared to defend," she added.

Meanwhile, Grey said: "There are obviously nuances and caveats in the agreement that will require even closer examination and it is not necessarily the legally binding agreement on emissions reductions we wanted in that we are not going to be able to hold countries accountable."

Still, he noted, it holds promise, especially if the United States and China - two of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters - ratify the agreement.

"The agreement should enter into force once 55 countries have signed on and those 55 countries would have to account for at least 55 per cent of emissions," explained Grey, who is also the technical officer responsible for adaptation with the Climate Change Division.

"If I recall correctly, the US represents about 24 per cent of emissions and China about 16 per cent. So between the two of them, they should get us a far way down the road to achieving that, assuming that they both ratify the agreement," he added.

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