Monday 14 Dec 2015
The Paris climate deal balances economic growth and getting carbon emissions under control, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.
Ms Bishop on Monday responded to critics within the coalition government that the deal reached at the United Nations summit would hurt the Australian economy and have no impact on global warming.
West Australian Liberal MP Dennis Jensen said the agreement was "essentially meaningless" and warned there was no reason to be "metaphorically burning our economy just to appear good on the global stage".
Another Liberal MP, Craig Kelly, joked on Facebook: "Hallelujah.
The world is saved ... The polar bears can sleep soundly tonight."
Labor leader Bill Shorten said the coalition's far right was preventing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from showing "real leadership" on climate.
But Ms Bishop said the Paris agreement struck the right balance.
"What was important about this agreement was that it balanced environmental concerns and ambitions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with economic growth and economic activity," she told ABC radio.
Five-yearly reviews would keep governments honest about meeting their commitments and give scope for bigger emissions cuts as technology improves.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said it was the most important environmental deal in history.
Mr Shorten told reporters in Sydney the coalition's direct action climate plan had been discredited at the summit.
"It is high time for Malcolm Turnbull to show some leadership, to scrap the deal he did with the extreme right of the Liberal and National parties in order to become prime minister, and take real action on climate change," he said.
The solution lay in an internationally-linked emissions trading scheme.
US President Barack Obama has hailed the landmark climate accord reached in Paris as strong and historic, calling it the best chance to save the planet from the effects of global climate change.
"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," Obama said.
He said the accord shows what is possible when the world stands as one.
"This agreement represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we've got."
Speaking at the White House hours after the deal was completed, Obama said that "no agreement is perfect, including this one", and that negotiations that involve nearly 200 nations are always challenging.
"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," Obama added.
Obama has made combating global climate change a top priority of his presidency but has encountered stiff resistance to his proposals from Republicans in Congress.
Representative Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, urged quick action by the Republican-led Congress to fund and support the Paris accord.
"Too many people have spent their careers pretending that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by shadowy environmental groups and Machiavellian research scientists," Grijalva said.
"The American public knows full well that's not the case."
Sunday 13 Dec 2015
After 13 days and nights of negotiations, 195 countries and the EU have agreed to a historic climate change deal to curb emissions and limit global warming.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has heralded the first global climate change agreement an extraordinary achievement but warns the hard work is still to come.
A historic climate change deal - agreed by 196 parties - was forged after negotiators endured 13 days of painstaking diplomacy, pushing well past the Friday deadline.
The legally binding deal requires the world to limit global warming to well below two degrees, with an aspirational goal of 1.5 which was demanded by vulnerable countries including the Pacific.
Ms Bishop, who chaired the negotiating block of non-European Union nations on behalf of Australia, said she had just witnessed a historic moment but warns the Paris deal is just the start.
Even though the work here is done, the hard work of implementation begins, she told reporters in Paris.
The deal requires countries to submit and review plans to slash emissions every five years.
Country pledges are only predicted to limit warming to around 2.7 degrees.
Ms Bishop admits boosting efforts is going to be difficult for Australia and warns the government won't be jeopardising the economy.
"Of course if we're being ambitious over time we will need to work even harder," she said.
"We have to get that balance right between environmental and economic outcomes."
It's the first global climate deal and the first legally binding climate agreement since the Kyoto Protocol, which only set firm targets for developed nations and wasn't ratified by all countries.
Countries submitted their individual plans to slash targets before arriving in Paris, which took them off the table during the two weeks of negotiations.
They aren't legally binding, but having one is.
The deal also builds in global stock-takes to determine how the world is tracking in restricting emissions.
The historical developed, developing country divide has been somewhat watered down. However, special circumstances of developing countries are considered throughout the text.
Rich countries are required to meet their $100 billion per year pledge by 2020 to help poorer countries to deal with climate change and to boost funding after that year to a yet-to-be-specified amount.
Developing countries are encouraged to voluntarily donate.
Countries like China have already committed large donations to poorer countries to help battle climate change.
Negotiators cheered and clapped as the deal was sealed.
Earlier they granted conference president and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius a standing ovation as he announced the text.
He's convinced the agreement is the best possible balance between the demands of nations.
"A balance which is powerful yet delicate," he said.
Ms Bishop conceded Australia didn't get everything it wanted, but refused to detail the compromises she made.
"There's no point in going into the details as to what wasn't achieved," she said.
China agreed the deal was not perfect but said that would not prevent the country from marching forward with historic steps.
"It is a reflection of balance of the world's interest," China's chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua said.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry labelled the deal "a tremendous victory, despite there being parts here and there that not everybody likes".
The Paris agreement boosts transparency, with countries required to publish a list of information about how they're tracking with emissions.
Ms Bishop said that let Australia see what its trading partners and competitors were up to.
"We'll be able to hold each other to account for our targets," she said.
The agreement is not punitive, meaning countries won't be penalised should they fail to meet their commitments.
The deal has been cautiously praised by environment groups, with Climate Institute deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson said he didn't believe a month ago that this type of agreement could be reached.
"Government officials have sweated blood, sweat and tears to get us today," he said.
How should we react to the likely outcome of the Paris climate conference?
Note: This analysis piece was written before the final deal was ratified on Sunday morning AEST.
How should we react to the likely outcome of the Paris climate conference? Unless something dramatic happens overnight it is very likely that the news media on Sunday morning will hail the Paris agreement as a breakthrough and a big victory for those pushing for strong action on carbon emissions.
Yet on Friday we heard from some of the best-informed scientists that the outcome will be a catastrophe.
So who is right? They both are. It depends on the question being asked.
One question is: “What could we reasonably hope would be achieved at the Paris conference?” In my assessment (that is, compared to my expectations about what was possible based on experience and the signs coming into the conference), the agreement is about as good as could be hoped for.
It finally acknowledges that warming should be kept below 1.5°C, there will be five-yearly reviews (with exceptions), climate financing has been ramped up, the crippling formal division between rich and poor countries has been broken down and various other provisions have been resolved towards the good end of expectations.
It’s become clear that what is being achieved in the negotiating rooms is being trumped by what is happening outside. In the last fortnight I have witnessed the quite amazing shift among investors and “non-state actors” that signals a sea-change in climate action that now seems unstoppable. (This comes from someone with a well-founded reputation as a doomsayer).
But there is another question that can be asked: “Will the Paris Agreement be based firmly on the science and commit the parties to actions that will limit global warming to less than 2°C and preferably 1.5°C?” The answer to that is undoubtedly no.
The country commitments brought to Paris are expected to limit warming to perhaps 3°C, which will be catastrophic if it occurs. Limiting warming to 1.5°C now seems impossible. As Steffen Kallbekken, Research Director at the Centre for International Climate and Energy Policy, put it at a conference briefing: by the time the current pledges enter into force in 2020, we will probably have exhausted the entire carbon budget for the 1.5°C degrees target.
So the Paris agreement arguably locks us into a warming trajectory that will be disastrous.
Worse than Copenhagen?
How are we to find our way through these conflicting stories?
Consider the statement on Friday by Kevin Anderson. He made the heart-stopping claim that the deal as it stands is worse than the Copenhagen Accord. The commitment to science has been stripped out in Paris, he said, and emissions from shipping and aviation, huge and growing sources of emissions, have now been “exempted”.
Anderson knows carbon budgets better than most; but if we stand back and look at the effect of the Copenhagen agreement on the world versus the likely effect of the Paris agreement on the world then his claim makes no sense.
When the media, and everyone else, declared that Copenhagen was a disaster the signal to the world, and especially to business, was that nations cannot agree and not much is going to happen.
Yet when the media, and almost everyone else, reports that Paris was a huge success the signal to the world, and especially business, is that nations have agreed on a firm direction, that the world is rapidly changing and that you are crazy if you do not get on board.
Two right answers
There is good reason to feel, like me, torn in two directions. For those who understand the situation, the polarity sets up a powerful tension. If it’s uncomfortable to be suspended between the poles, it’s dangerous to go all the way to one or the other.
If we allow ourselves to be drawn over to the everything-will-be-OK pole, we are ignoring the science and indulging in wishful thinking.
If we allow ourselves to be drawn over to the catastrophe pole, which is quite consistent with the science, then we become unable to recognise and encourage the positive steps that are being made. Three degrees is a big improvement on four, and 2.5°C is even better, even if it remains bad. But what matters most is momentum.
After writing the “good news” stories I mentioned, hearing the scientists again was like a bucket of cold water. But we have to live between the poles, because it is the tension that allows us to believe that the great step forward of Paris, while still a long way short of what is needed, could set the world on a path where much more becomes possible.
After four years of global negotiations, two weeks of intense talks and more than a few sleepless nights, climate officials from almost 200 nations meeting in Paris are on the cusp of a landmark accord to arrest climate change.
On Saturday, hosts France released the final text of a "Paris Outcome", this one devoid of the bracketed text that represented the sticking points yet to be resolved.
Written in the opaque legal language that has evolved from more than two decades of U.N. climate talks, the pact sets the world a roadmap for breaking away from the fossil fuels that have powered the global economy since the Industrial Revolution.
The new text is 31 pages, against 27 on Thursday and more than 50 at the start of the talks.
National delegations have broken up to review the text, with hopes high that they will return to a formal session to adopt it later on Saturday.
Following are details of the new draft:
Developed nations promised in 2009 to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 from both public and private sources to help developing nations limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to more floods, heat waves and rising sea levels.
Enshrining that figure in legal language was one of the biggest sticking points of the talks as delegates said the U.S. Congress could never ratify a commitment for developing nations to keep on increasing that figure from 2020.
In non-binding decisions that accompany the binding text, the agreement says governments shall set by 2025 "a new collective quantified goal from a floor of $100 billion per year, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries".
Long-term goal (degrees)
In 2010, the U.N. climate summit in Mexico adopted a goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, a level that scientists say could be a tipping point for the climate. Global average surface temperatures have already risen by about 1.0 Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit).
But many vulnerable, low-lying nations like the Marshall Islands say that a full 2 degrees Celsius rise would endanger their very existence as sea levels rise, and pushed hard for setting a goal to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
They found support from more than 100 nations, including the European Union and the United States, which formed a "high ambition coalition".
Saudi Arabia and other nations resisted, saying there was insufficient research to support a tougher target and that setting too ambitious a figure could endanger food security.
The final draft text sets an aim to hold the increase in the global average temperature to "well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels".
It also seeks to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
Long-term goal (emissions)
Negotiators have struggled with how to phrase an aspirational longer-term goal for halting emissions, a symbolic but still potent message about how they see the world's energy system transforming over the rest of this century.
Some of the most vulnerable nations and non-governmental organizations had campaigned for a clear, quantified goal for eliminating or reducing fossil fuel use by the middle of the century.
China and India, heavily dependent on coal, are among those reluctant to set clear dates for giving up fossil fuels they see as vital to lifting millions from poverty. Saudi Arabia, whose economy also depends on oil, is also a clear opponent.
The European Union, although keen to lead on climate had a problem with the word decarbonisation because of Poland, whose economy depends on coal.
As negotiations wore on, the options grew vaguer. By Thursday evening, the goal was greenhouse gas neutrality, a phrasing that confounded some climate experts, but avoided the word decarbonisation.
The final text said nations must "aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country parties".
It said that to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out by the deal, parties will aim to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.
Analysts at the talks interpreted the text as implying net zero emissions.
Loss and damage
Developing nations want a long-term mechanism to help them cope with loss and damage from disasters such as typhoons or the impacts of a creeping rise of sea level rise. All governments set up a loss and damage mechanism in 2013, but it has so far done little.
Earlier drafts recognized the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage, but offered divergent options, including one that left out the mechanism.
An existing international mechanism to deal with the unavoidable losses and damages caused by climate change, such as creeping deserts and rising seas, is anchored in the draft final deal.
A promise that it will not be used as a basis for "liability and compensation" -- a demand from the United States that proved divisive -- has been moved to a set of accompanying decisions in a compromise.
Well before the Paris talks began, it was clear that the promises made by 186 nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, the backbone of the Paris accord, were too weak to limit rising temperatures to the agreed 2 degrees Celsius level.
Negotiators knew going in there would have to be a system for "ratcheting up" national measures, but how and when to do that has been a sticking point throughout.
Frequent reviews have been a major demand from negotiating blocs such as the European Union, but China in particular said it cannot commit to more aggressive action quickly because Beijing has already set domestic goals out to 2030.
In line with a date mooted in the previous draft on Thursday, the new draft text schedules a "first global stocktake in 2023" and every five years thereafter unless otherwise decided.
The draft legal text contains no explicit mention of carbon markets, nor of the possibility of carbon penalties for aviation and shipping. It does, however, include a reference to the "use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes," which could allow nations on a voluntary basis to offset their own emissions by buying credits from other nations.
Developing nations say that rich nations, as defined in a 1992 Convention, should continue to take the lead in cutting emissions and providing finance. Developed nations argue that many of these countries, such as Singapore and South Korea, have since become wealthy and should do more.
The new text says developed countries shall provide financial resources to assist developing countries and "other parties are encouraged to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily".
Hosts France issued a 31-page draft text of a deal to combat climate change, hoping to secure adoption within hours from 195 nations and mark a turning point for the global economy away from fossil fuels.
Officials have been meeting the French capital since Nov. 29, seeking to craft the strongest deal yet to bind both rich and poor nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Saturday 12 Dec 2015
The years-long quest for a universal pact to avert catastrophic climate change has neared the finish line with a draft agreement completed in Paris.
After nearly two weeks of tough haggling between bureaucrats and ministers from around the world, French and UN officials have completed a line-by-line edit of an historic agreement that seeks to slow global warming and ease its impacts.
"We have a text to present," an official in the office of Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who presides over the 195-nation talks, said.
After translation into the UN's six official languages, the document will be handed to ministers including Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop later tonight (AEDT), nearly 16 hours after the crunch conference was originally scheduled to close.
It was hoped the text will be adopted at a special session on Saturday.
Fabius said Friday he was "sure" the project would succeed.
"Everything is in place to achieve a universal, ambitious accord," said the man in charge of delivering the first-ever pact to bind all nations to climate action.
"Never again will we have a more favourable momentum than in Paris."
World powers have led an overtime push for a deal as sleep-deprived envoys battled in Paris to unlock deep-seated disputes about who must do what to confront climate change.
Australia's foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said she is confident a deal will be struck by tomorrow as world leaders struggle to find consensus on key issues.
"People are very determined, very focussed," she told reporters in Paris. "There are some strongly held views, but there is a spirit of compromise."
She said not everyone would walk away from the talks happy, but that there is a common understanding among leaders of the importance of bigger picture.
"Not everyone will get what they want, but as long countries embrace the whole package then we will achieved a considerable breakthrough," she said.
Australia 'not yet welcome' in climate alliance
Australia has not yet been welcomed into a new "high ambition coalition" of 100 nations at major climate talks in Paris, despite claiming it had joined through the European Union.
Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum revealed the alliance of around 100 countries, including the United States, earlier this week at the United Nations summit.
Australia was not among them and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was seemingly unaware of the group when it was revealed on Wednesday.
Mr de Brum - who spearheaded the alliance - issued an open invitation to countries in Paris with the caveat "bring your credentials with you".
A spokeswoman for Ms Bishop on Friday confirmed Australia had now been formally invited by the European Union and had accepted the invitation.
However, it appears Australia hasn't yet been welcomed into the group, with the Marshall Islands hinting the country would have to prove its worth.
"We are delighted to learn of Australia's interest and look forward to hearing what more they may be able to do to join our coalition of high ambition here in Paris," a spokesman for Mr de Brum said in a statement.
Earlier on Friday, Mr de Brum read out a list of countries that had accepted his open invitation, with Australia notably absent.
The headline act was Brazil, which is one quarter of another alliance with large developing economies India, China and South Africa.
Canada which, like Australia, has been criticised for a lack of climate action in recent years, joined on Thursday. Both countries have recently installed new prime ministers.
Australia had held out on joining the coalition despite supporting its intentions, saying it was focusing attention elsewhere in Paris.
The group calls for a strong climate agreement and bridges the historical divide between rich and poor and large and small countries.
It involved 25 ministers who negotiated on behalf of 97 countries, the spokesman said.
"The list is constantly expanding as more ministers reach out directly to Minister de Brum and affirm their personal commitment to achieving the strongest possible deal here in Paris."
Mr de Brum told media he would be meeting with Ms Bishop.
The Marshall Islands said the alliance's four major demands were a "single package" and would not be traded off for one another.
In the latest iteration of the text many of their demands were met, including an aspirational goal to limit global warming below the previously agreed 2C.
Michael Jacobs, who was special advisor to former British prime minister Gordon Brown, believes the coalition could be a significant force in the negotiations.
Whether it was a game changer would be seen once a deal was signed, he told AAP. It's hoped the historic climate agreement will be forged over the weekend.
What they want
* Reference to limiting global warming to 1.5C (is in the text)
* Clear path towards a low carbon future (emissions neutrality by second half of century in text)
* Five yearly updates (is in the text)
* Strong package of financial support for developing nations ($100 billion per year plus scale up after 2020 is an option in the text - could be removed)