Germany and France back 1.5C global warming limit

Countries vulnerable to climate change impacts welcome show of support for tighter temperature goal at COP21 in Paris

School children in the Philippines contemplate the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 (Pic: Pio Arce/Genesis Photos)

School children in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 (Pic: Pio Arce/Genesis Photos)

By Megan Darby

Germany’s top environment spokesperson has declared support for a 1.5C temperature limit in the climate agreement being negotiated in Paris.

At a press conference on the sidelines of the COP21 summit, Jochen Flasbarth said the agreed 2C goal was too weak and 1.5C “must be mentioned” in a UN treaty. That was the official German position, he added.

It follows France president Francois Hollande’s assertion that global warming should be limited to 1.5C “if possible”, in his speech to world leaders on Monday.

That is a key demand of 43 countries acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels, drought, flooding and tropical storms as greenhouse gases overheat the planet.

Emmanuel de Guzman, head of the Philippines delegation, seized on the remarks. In a statement, he said: “This is historic. The call of the vulnerable has been answered by the presidency of the COP and the largest economy of the EU host region.

“The momentum for raising the level of ambition in Paris now opens the exciting possibility for a truly historic and transformational summit. We salute France and Germany and call for more countries to join in the call for 1.5C to protect human rights globally.”

Report: Climate vulnerable governments urge all countries to make tough CO2 cuts

At a separate event in central Paris, UN human rights and environment official John Knox also backed a tighter goal.

“An increase of even 2 degrees would have devastating effects on the human rights of the most vulnerable,” he said. “The Climate Vulnerable Forum countries’ proposed target of 1.5 degrees would better accord with human rights principles.”

Previously, a 1.5C goal found little support from major emitters already struggling to green their economies in line with 2C. Scientists say 1.5C is technically within reach, but only with deep carbon cuts and controversial negative emissions technologies.

The 184 national climate pledges submitted towards a UN deal are only projected to hold warming to 2.7C. Negotiators are discussing a framework to progressively ramp up ambition in future.

Emerging economies like India, which has big plans for coal power to expand energy access, are wary of tight restrictions that could inhibit their growth, however.

Read more on: 2C | COP21 | UN climate talks | World