Fri, Oct 07, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Paris climate treaty ratified in race against the clock

AFP, PARIS

The historic Paris climate pact dashed across the ratification finish line on Wednesday to diplomatic cheers.

“A turning point for the planet,” US President Barack Obama said.

“A defining moment for the global economy,” said Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever and chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

However, the cold, hard reality of what is needed to fulfill the agreement’s pledges will soon bite, experts warned.

Its accelerated entry into force was driven by many things, including the prospect of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — who has described global warming as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese — winning the White House.

The rapid, joint ratification by China and the US also set an example hard to ignore, but the main impetus for locking in the deal was clearly the growing sense of urgency about the looming threat of climate change.

“Time is absolutely of the essence,” Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said. “The question is not ‘whether,’ it is ‘how fast.’”

Almost daily, global warming red flags are popping up.

Every month so far this year has set a temperature record and this year is on track to supplant last year as the hottest ever registered.

Scientists have forecast that average global temperatures — already 1?C above the preindustrial benchmark — could sail past 1.5?C within a decade and 2?C by mid-century.

A maelstrom of superstorms fueled by rising seas, deadly floods and drought prompted the world’s nations to lower the threshold for dangerous warming in the Paris pact to “well below” 2?C.

Reaching that target will require a breakneck, wholesale shift across the globe away from fossil fuels.

Even that will not be enough: We will have to learn how to suck carbon out of the air, scientists say.

The Paris accord’s early validation comes just in time to take center stage at high-level UN talks in Marrakesh next month tasked with translating its planet-saving vision into policy.

It could also accelerate the process.

“This shifts the focus to implementation and strengthening the commitments under the agreement,” said Alden Meyer, a veteran climate analyst at the Washington-based Union for Concerned Scientists.

Nations have informally set a 2018 target for hammering out more than 100 concrete rules and procedures embedded in the climate pact — some of them highly contentious. Originally, the agreement left open a four-year window for that process.

“Many details need to be ironed out before implementation can begin,” said Harjeet Singh, head of climate change for ActionAid.

They include rules for reporting and verification of emissions cuts, how to disburse hundreds of billions of dollars to climate-vulnerable developing nations and the establishment of new market mechanisms.

Even more important, 2018 is shaping up to be a crucial “political moment” when nations will feel pressure to revise and deepen pledges to slash carbon emissions.

At their current level, these so-called “nationally determined contributions” — which do not begin until 2020 — fall woefully short of the target and would result in an unlivable 3?C warmer planet by the end of the century.

Bolstered by a special report from the UN’s climate science panel, to be completed by mid-2018, the world’s major greenhouse-gas emitters will also be expected to deliver detailed national plans, or “pathways,” for economic transformation through 2050.

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