Tuesday 15 December 2015

Historic climate change deal agreed at COP21

Historic climate change deal may signal end of the fossil fuel era
Nearly 200 nations sign pact on climate change and vow to support renewable energy
By David Fogarty, Assistant Foreign Editor In Paris, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015

After more than two decades of fraught negotiations, delegates from nearly 200 countries have agreed to a historic deal to steer the world away from catastrophic climate change, signalling the end of the fossil fuel era.

The moment the world agreed to act on climate change. For our full story, visit: http://bbc.in/1I1iA47 #ParisAgreement #ClimateChange #COP21
Posted by BBC News on Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Paris deal on Saturday is a vote of support for renewable energy as well as for more efficient buildings and transport, and a decisive shift away from coal, oil and gas, which are driving climate change.

With this year set to be the hottest on record, a pact that commits all countries to curb carbon pollution has become urgent to try to limit escalating damage from weather extremes and rising seas.

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Posted by I fucking love science on Monday, December 14, 2015

World leaders hailed the agreement, saying it was the best chance to secure the planet's future.

"We don't have a perfect agreement, but we have a good and necessary agreement. This historic agreement sets us on a collective journey for climate safety," said Minister for Foreign Affairs and head of the Singapore delegation in Paris, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, who played a key role in guiding the negotiations.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change (IMCCC), said the pact was a showcase for international cooperation.

"The agreement shows how, with goodwill, commitment and willingness to look beyond individual concerns, cooperation among all countries is possible for the global larger, long-term good," he said in a statement. "We are honoured that Singapore has contributed to the success of the talks."

President Barack Obama said the United States should be proud of the agreement, but also warned that there was a long way to go in preventing warming that scientists say will fuel far more extreme droughts, floods, heatwaves and quickly rising seas. China and India, the world's No. 1 and No. 3 greenhouse gas polluters, also welcomed the Paris agreement.

Vulnerable small islands fought hard to ensure the deal was ambitious, with many islands in the Caribbean and Pacific and Indian oceans already battered by higher seas.

The deal aims to hold global warming to well below 2 deg C and for nations to pursue actions to limit the warming to 1.5 deg C.

The agreement does not immediately solve the threat from climate change. Temperatures and emissions are still rising and the climate action plans that nearly 190 nations submitted ahead of the talks put the world on a path to warm by nearly 3 deg C, a level that would trigger deadly climate change.

Instead, the pact covers all nations, rich or poor, and creates a long-term blueprint in which countries are committed to making progressively deeper emission cuts.

After Paris, all nations must now quickly enact their action plans and be transparent about them.

Underscoring the financial challenge, and opportunities, the targets outlined in the deal will need US$16.5 trillion (S$23.3 trillion) of spending in renewable energy and energy efficiency through to 2030, according to the International Energy Agency, Bloomberg reported.

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Posted by COP21 on Monday, December 14, 2015

Highlights of agreement
The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015


The agreement identifies climate change as "an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet". It notes "with concern" that countries' existing pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions would fail to meet targets for curbing planetary warming.


To hold global warming to "well below" 2 deg C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, and to strive for 1.5 deg C if possible.


The world will aim for greenhouse gas emissions to peak "as soon as possible", with "rapid reductions" thereafter. By the second half of this century, there must be a balance between the emissions from human activities such as farming, and the amount that can be captured by carbon-absorbing "sinks" such as forests.


Developed countries should take "the lead" by taking on absolute emission cuts. Developing nations which still need to burn coal and oil to power growing populations are encouraged to enhance their efforts and "move over time" to cuts.


In 2018, two years before the agreement enters into force, countries will take stock of the overall impact of their efforts and revisit their carbon-curbing plans in 2020. Once the pact takes effect, the countries' efforts will be reviewed at five-year intervals from 2023.


Developed countries "shall provide" funding to help developing countries make the costly shift to green energy and shore up their defences against climate change impact.

They pledged to give at least US$100 billion (S$141 billion) a year by 2020. The amount must be updated by 2025.


Low-lying island nations and poor countries most at risk from climate change-induced sea level rise and other kinds of impact have won recognition of the need for "averting, minimising and addressing" losses suffered.


Paris climate agreement: Singapore

Singapore hails climate change pact as crucial step to safer future
S'pore proud to be part of major global deal to limit pace of climate change, says Vivian
By David Fogarty, Assistant Foreign Editor In Paris, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015

Singapore hailed the adoption of the Paris climate agreement on Saturday, calling it historic and crucial for setting the world on a path to a safer future.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and head of the Singapore delegation, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, told the final plenary session of the conference that Singapore was proud to be part of a major global agreement in which all nations will play a part in limiting the pace of climate change.

"It is not often in the lives of politicians, diplomats or (members of) civil society to be present at the genesis of a major earth-changing moment, and we have been blessed to be here, in Paris on the 12th of December 2015," he told hundreds of delegates.

He acknowledged that the agreement, reached after two weeks of intense negotiations, was not perfect. But for the first time, the world has a climate pact in which all nations would participate in cutting planet- warming emissions, with their actions open to scrutiny and, crucially, to be strengthened over time.

"Singapore has always emphasised the need for a comprehensive, rules-based, legally binding agreement applicable to all. Without universal participation, we will fail the future generations," he said.

The UN climate change talks in Paris (the 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP 21) ended successfully yesterday. The...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, also hailed the deal.

"Happy that after several years of hard work and delicate negotiations, we have reached a historical deal in Paris. However, this is not the end, but the beginning of this global journey. This is a very important step towards mitigating climate change!" said Mr Masagos, who was in Paris assisting in the negotiations, in a Facebook post.

Singapore played an outsized role during the talks and in the months leading up to the meeting.

Dr Balakrishnan was a co-facilitator appointed by the French government, the host of the talks, to try to find resolutions on the issue of differentiation. This involves the different roles and responsibilities of rich and poor nations, which have proven to be a deeply divisive issue during years of United Nations climate negotiations.

Singapore also played a key role in guiding discussions on the transparency of national actions, with climate change ambassador Kwok Fook Seng refining the text for the article on transparency in the final agreement.

He said it was important to see what others have done and to look at scientific evidence on whether the world is on the right path to prevent catastrophic climate change.During a doorstop late on Saturday, Dr Balakrishnan said it was too early to say whether Singapore would need to be more ambitious about emission reductions. Singapore, which is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for its energy and has large petrochemical, shipping and aviation industries, has pledged to reduce its emission intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise its emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

Find out what’s next on the list of to-do’s for Singapore after the Paris agreement.
Posted by Climate Change SG on Thursday, January 28, 2016

Singapore 'on right track' in fighting climate change
Solar energy key pillar in making S'pore greener in long term: Experts
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 15 Dec 2015

The deal to steer the world away from catastrophic climate change has been struck and nations know it is now time to enact their action plans.

Singapore, with its existing suite of initiatives, is on the right track, experts here told The Straits Times. But there are other areas that could be looked into to make Singapore greener in the long term, they said.

"Singapore has already phased out coal and oil in its electric power sector and is thus on track for the next 10 to 15 years with its current measures," said Professor Armin Aberle, chief executive of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

But beyond 2050, Singapore needs to phase out natural gas - which now makes up 95.5 per cent of the fuel mix - and replace it with cleaner alternative energy.

Prof Aberle said: "The main pillar will be solar energy, whereby a significant part of these future solar power plants could be on offshore platforms."

Singapore is already moving in this direction. Last month, national water agency PUB announced that it is embarking on a feasibility study to assess the possibility of installing solar panels at its reservoirs and other facilities.

Under the Government's SolarNova programme, the Housing Board has also committed to a target of 220 megawatt-peak (MWp ) of power generated through solar panels at some 5,500 blocks.

So far, about 124 MWp worth of solar panels have been procured and committed for installation on HDB blocks. The electricity generated could be used for common services such as lifts, lighting in common areas and pumps.

Singapore has pledged that its greenhouse gas emissions will peak around 2030 at the equivalent of about 65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, even if the economy grows. It will also be greener economically, reducing by more than a third the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University, said the power-generation switch from fuel oil to natural gas, as well as increasing solar energy generation, "addresses more or less the only opportunities available to Singapore".

This, he noted, was because Singapore is a "renewable energy-disadvantaged nation", with limited access to other alternative energy options such as hydroelectric, wind or geothermal power.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had said that Singapore will strive to curb its emissions in other ways.

This includes promoting greater energy efficiency in the domestic and industrial sectors; pushing for more green buildings; aiming for the petrochemical industry to continually upgrade using the least pollutive and most efficient technologies available, as well as improving public transport.

All new HDB projects launched since January last year have eco-features, such as LED lighting with motion sensors in public areas, that minimise energy use. New estates are also designed to optimise wind flow and reduce heat gain, lowering the need for air-conditioning.

The push for green buildings is also in line with the Government's Smart Nation initiative, where resources are better managed by technology.

Mr Saulo Spaolanse, country president for energy management firm Singapore Schneider Electric, said the nation should continue to leverage smart technology both in homes and in the industry.

"If we are able to seize this initiative and ride on the momentum of the Paris agreement, Singapore will be well positioned to meet and exceed (its) emissions target," he said.

Research associate Melissa Low of the NUS Energy Studies Institute said: "More importantly, Singaporeans need to change their consumption behaviour - use less energy, buy less and waste less. Without a mindset shift, efforts by the Government may not yield optimal results."

Additional reporting by Janice Heng

Paris climate agreement: United States

Deal 'may be turning point for the world'
By Jeremy Au Yong, US Bureau Chief In Washington, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015

United States President Barack Obama led tributes for the climate change agreement reached in Paris, hailing the pact as a potential "turning point" for the world.

However, the radio silence thus far from all 13 Republican presidential candidates highlights the deep political divide on the matter.

Last Saturday, Mr Obama praised US leadership on the issue.

"Today, the American people can be proud - because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership. Over the past seven years, we've transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change," he said.

But he also acknowledged that the agreement did not mean the problem had been solved.

"Even if all the initial targets set in Paris are met, we'll only be part of the way there when it comes to reducing carbon from the atmosphere... But make no mistake, the Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis. It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way."

His remarks were echoed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Democratic congressional leaders and current 2016 presidential election Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.

"We cannot afford to be slowed by the climate sceptics or deterred by the defeatists who doubt America's ability to meet this challenge," Mrs Clinton said.

Meanwhile, her challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, said that while the agreement was a step forward, it did not go far enough. "We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that," he said.

Among experts in Washington, the agreement was similarly greeted with qualified optimism, with many citing the 2009 Copenhagen Accord as reason for caution. That agreement appeared to dissolve the moment the summit ended, with negotiators disavowing various elements of it.

In a sign of how difficult a task Mr Obama will have pushing an environmental agenda forward, the Republicans largely kept mum on the deal last Saturday, continuing a policy of saying little about the ongoing climate change talks.

Only one notable figure from the conservative party said anything about the deal. Senator Jim Inhofe, a known sceptic of the human role in climate change, stressed that the US is "not legally bound to any agreement setting emission targets or any financial commitment to it without approval of Congress".

Paris climate agreement: China

Delegation 'showed spirit of responsibility'
By Kor Kian Beng, China Bureau Chief In Beijing, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015

The Chinese government, state media and experts have hailed the country's contribution towards the climate change accord as a reflection of it being a responsible major power.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that Chinese President Xi Jinping, who attended the opening of the Paris conference, had provided important political guidance in his speech that outlined China's stance on deepening international cooperation against climate change.

"The Chinese delegation also participated in the negotiations with a spirit of responsibility, cooperation and a constructive mindset, which contributed significantly to the agreement being reached. This fully shows that China has fulfilled its responsibility as a big country on the climate change issue," Mr Hong said in a statement released on the ministry's website yesterday morning.

The triumphant rhetoric yesterday was in contrast to the defensive tone exhibited by China on Friday, in response to reports that it was the obstacle towards an agreement being reached that day. Such talk evoked memories of the 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen, where Chinese delegates were reportedly uncooperative, leading to a weak agreement being inked.

Chinese state media on Friday published lengthy reports outlining the country's contributions towards fighting climate change, such as Mr Xi's pledge to cut the country's carbon emissions and increase non-fossil fuel sources by 20 per cent, and peak its emissions - all by 2030.

China is one of the top three carbon emitters, along with the United States and India.

Observers say China has stepped up its fight against climate change in view of the rising impact on its economy and businesses.

Climate change experts Zhang Xiaochen and Chai Qimin, writing in a commentary for the China Daily on Saturday, said many companies in China are exposed to the risks of rising sea levels, floods and tropical storms.

They pointed out that natural disasters since 2000 have cost China 1 per cent of its gross domestic product, which is eight times higher than the global average.

Paris climate agreement: India

Country stands to benefit, say experts
By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Bureau Chief In New Delhi, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015

India, which has been criticised by rich countries for posing a significant hurdle to the climate pact, has welcomed the breakthrough in Paris, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling it a victory of "climate justice".

"Outcome of #ParisAgreement has no winners or losers. Climate justice has won & we are all working towards a greener future," the Indian Prime Minister tweeted yesterday.

Still, Mr Modi noted that climate change remained a "challenge" for the world.

India, one of the top three carbon polluters, is already seen to be feeling the impact of climate change, with Mr Modi early this month calling the recent floods in Chennai, in which 347 people lost their lives, a result of "climate change's fast-growing impact".

According to one estimate, the Chennai floods will cost the economy an estimated US$3 billion (S$4.2 billion) in losses.

In climate negotiations, India has maintained that rich countries need to take a larger role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and make deeper emission cuts, given their history 

The new climate agreement acknowledges this "common but differentiated approach", asking developed countries for "absolute" emission reductions and that developing countries continue "enhancing their mitigation efforts".

Experts said that India stands to benefit from the pact.

"It also, importantly for India, recognises that developed countries have to take the lead in mitigation and in providing finance. For a large developing country with high future needs for energy for development, this is an important outcome," said Professor Navroz K. Dubash, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.

Others said India could easily take the lead in implementation of the climate pact.

"There is no other country better placed than India to deliver the true spirit of this historic deal... in terms of implementing stringent and pragmatic policies," said Mr Krishnan Pallassana, India director of non-profit organisation The Climate Group.

He added that there was a "golden opportunity" for the private sector to "move towards a prosperous low-carbon future by demanding as well as investing in clean energy".

Paris climate agreement: France

Host nation praised for pulling off tough task
The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015

LE BOURGET (France) • A 195-nation wrangle that ended with a historic Paris pact to curb global warming had to be the anti-Copenhagen: as flawlessly organised as the 2009 summit was chaotic, as much a success as the other was a traumatising blow for climate diplomacy.

By nearly any measure and all accounts, France pulled it off.

From the gourmet tofu sandwiches to the subtle handling of negotiations compared by one analyst to a 12-dimensional Rubik's Cube, the French hosts of the United Nations climate conference have been showered with praise.

"It's the most skilful diplomacy I've seen in the more than two decades that I've been going to this kind of meetings," former United States vice-president Al Gore said.

"It's quite eerie, I must tell you," said World Wide Fund for Nature climate expert Tasneem Essop, a veteran of the often messy 21-year process, on how negotiating deadlines were being met. "It never happens."

After the Copenhagen fiasco - which ended with some 115 world leaders scrambling overnight to save face and cobble together a political accord - hosting the next critical climate conference was a big risk.

Getting virtually all of the world's nations to agree on transforming the energy system underlying the world economy was bound to be tricky.

The French did not have to push hard for the assignment. "We were chosen, but I must point out that we were the only candidate," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said more than once.

Two years ahead of the rendezvous, Mr Fabius started to prepare the stage. "I mobilised our diplomatic network, started organising international meetings and put together my team," he told Agence France- Presse in his office at the conference centre on the outskirts of Paris.

The 69-year-old former prime minister made 12 trips to China, and four each to India and Saudi Arabia, historically a spoiler in climate talks. Days before the conference opened, Mr Fabius made rapid-fire pit stops in India, Brazil and South Africa - all crucial for success.

Inviting heads of state to kick off the conference rather than to close it - as in Copenhagen - was a masterstroke, diplomats and analysts said. In the Danish capital, ministers negotiating the deal were afraid to take decisions knowing their leaders were about to hit town, they said.

Mr Fabius also got high marks for "transparency", diplomatic jargon for an open-book process devoid of secret, back-room deals.

Mr Camille Grand, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, said: "It's a success for Laurent Fabius, who really threw himself into it, and for (President) Francois Hollande, who mobilised the heads of state and government."


Paris climate deal alone won't save the planet: Scientists
But pact will achieve far larger emission cuts than any earlier accord if faithfully carried out
The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015

LE BOURGET (France) • After the stomping and cheering died down, a question hung in the air as the climate conference came to a close: What does the new deal really mean for the future of the earth?

Scientists who closely monitored the talks said it was not the agreement that humanity really needed. By itself, it will not save the planet.

The great ice sheets remain imperilled, the oceans are still rising, forests and reefs are under stress, people are dying by the tens of thousands in heatwaves and floods, and the agriculture system that feeds seven billion human beings is still at risk.

Yet 50 years after the first warning about global warming was put on the desk of a US president and quickly forgotten, the world political system is finally responding in a way that scientists see as commensurate with the scale of the threat.

"I think this Paris outcome is going to change the world," said Dr Christopher Field, a leading US climate scientist. "We didn't solve the problem but we laid the foundation."

The agreement reached last Saturday will, if faithfully carried out, achieve far larger cuts in emissions than any previous climate accord. It will reduce the risk that runaway climate change may render parts of the earth uninhabitable.

The deal, in short, begins to move the countries of the world in a shared direction that is potentially compatible with maintaining a liveable planet over the long term.

Perhaps the most important part of the deal is that it explicitly recognises that countries were not ambitious enough in the emission cuts that they pledged ahead of the Paris negotiations, pledges that were incorporated into the document. The agreement, in effect, criticises itself for not doing enough.

To compensate, the deal sets up a schedule of regular review that will encourage countries to raise their goals over time. It envisions a tighter system to monitor whether the nations are keeping their promises - though how tough that will really be was put off to future debates.

In interviews, scientists with long experience studying climate change said they were heartened by the cooperative tone in Paris.

But for the deal to mean anything, they said, the celebratory moment must give way immediately to an era in which intensive efforts are made to squeeze emissions out of the world economy.

That task will fall largely to businesses and investors, operating under emission-reduction policies that countries have pledged to put into effect by 2020.

Since a 2010 agreement in Cancun, Mexico, the official goal of international climate policy has been to limit the warming of the earth to 2 deg C above the level that prevailed before the Industrial Revolution.

The Paris deal sets a more ambitious target, declaring that the global average temperature ought be kept "well below" 2 deg C, and that countries should try to go further, limiting warming to 1.5 deg C.

Experts hope that, by highlighting the gulf between humanity's stated goals and its plans to achieve them, the Paris deal will launch a more intensive push to figure out how it might actually be done.

"We lost a lot of time that could have been used trying out innovative solutions. Now, we have a lot of experimentation still to do," Dr Field said.


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