COP21: NGOs react to UN Paris climate deal

Civil society groups welcome aim to limit warming to 1.5C but say more action is needed, plus greater support for the world’s poor

(credit: IISD/Kiara Worth)

Campaigners hold up a long ‘red line’ at Le Bourget conference centre to show their resistance to an unfair climate deal (credit: IISD/Kiara Worth)

By Megan Darby in Paris

Reaction to a Paris climate pact poured in from green groups and aid agencies.

They welcome its aim to limit temperature rise to 1.5C if possible, a tightening of the previous 2C threshold for dangerous global warming. It sends a clear message that fossil fuels are on the way out, they say – although more action is needed to make the goal a reality.

For the world’s poor, the agreement represents “a frayed lifeline”, said Oxfam. It doesn’t meet all their demands but provides an “important hook” for further support, said Action Aid.

Read the full reaction quotes below. More will be added as they come.

Mohamed Adow, Senior Climate Advisor, Christian Aid

“For the first time in history, the whole world has made a public commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the impacts of climate change. Although different countries will move at different speeds, the transition to a low carbon world is now inevitable. Governments, investors and businesses must ride this wave or be swept away by it.

“Negotiations were long and hard fought but the result is an agreement which will usher in a new dawn of climate-aware politics. The era of politicians burying their heads in the sand is over.”

Samantha Smith, Leader of the Global Climate and Energy Initiative, WWF 

“Governments have critically agreed to keep warming well below 2C and aim to limit temperature increase to 1.5C. Everything they do from now on must be measured against that goal. And most importantly, they still need to actually deliver on that goal going forward, which must include assistance for the poor and vulnerable who will suffer from the immediate impacts of climate change.

“Those impacts are only getting worse and our ambition and actions must urgently match the scale of this global threat and be in line with science. Our leaders must make their actions stronger and stronger over time, in terms of mitigation, adaptation and finance. This is vital.”

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International
The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned. This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history.”

Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club

“The Paris agreement is a turning point for humanity. For the first time in history, the global community agreed to action that sets the foundation to help prevent the worst consequences of the climate crisis while embracing the opportunity to exponentially grow our clean energy economy.

“Decisive leadership and action from President Obama and other world leaders, an increasingly powerful climate movement, and strong progress in the US and globally to move off coal cleared the way for every nation to come to the table.”

Alden Meyer, Director of Policy and Strategy, Union of Concerned Scientists

“The agreement’s temperature goal, net zero emissions objective, and processes to steadily increase the ambition of national emissions reduction commitments combine to send a clear message to the fossil fuel industry: after decades of deception and denial, your efforts to block action on climate change are no longer working.

“Growing public concern about climate impacts, and the availability of cost-effective efficiency and renewable energy solutions are giving leaders the political will to stand up to fossil fuel polluters and put us on a path to create the global clean energy economy needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Emma Ruby-Sachs, Acting Executive Director, Avaaz

“If agreed, this deal will represent a turning point in history, paving the way for the shift to 100% clean energy that the world wants and the planet needs. By marching in the streets, calling leaders and signing petitions, people everywhere created this moment, and now people everywhere will deliver on it to secure the future of humanity.”

Sven Harmeling, Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator, CARE International

“Climate change is already causing devastating impacts for poor people around the world. Developed countries politicised the issue of loss and damage in the Paris talks, trying to limit options for poor countries to deal with climate  threats.

“With the Paris Agreement, all countries promise not to leave the poor behind. Developed countries leave Paris with an even higher moral obligation to scale up support for the most vulnerable people and to cut their emissions more rapidly.”

Bill McKibben, Co-Founder, 

“Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry.”

Helen Szoke, Executive Director, Oxfam

“This deal offers a frayed life-line to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Only the vague promise of a new future climate funding target has been made, while the deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe. This will only ramp up adaptation costs further in the future.

“Governments across the world have now come together in the global fight against climate change but must play catch up. We will be holding them to account with the millions of people who marched in cities all around the world so that dangerous warming is averted and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities get the support that they need.”

Harjeet Singh, Global Lead on Climate Change, ActionAid 

“What we needed out of Paris was a deal which put the world’s poorest people first – those who are living with the constant threat of the next disaster. Yet what we have been presented with doesn’t go far enough to improve the fragile existence of millions around the world.

“Despite disappointment, the Paris agreement provides an important hook on which people can hang their demands. As climate change continues to worsen and affect millions more, people are beginning to demand more from their governments and ask for the transformative change to secure homes, jobs and futures. We already have the practical solutions to climate change, we now just need them to be scaled up with adequate support. Paris is only the beginning of the journey.”

Paul Cook, Advocacy Director, Tearfund
“We welcome the agreement brokered at these crucial climate talks. This is a good step forward, but let’s not be complacent. This doesn’t give us everything we need – nations will need to go further in reducing their emissions over the next few years to ensure the global temperature does not rise by more than 1.5 degrees to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“What has been exciting is to see the growing movement these talks have fostered – people from all walks of life, including the church, have raised their voices for climate action here in Paris. We will not stop this momentum, but continue to hold governments to account, to help people across the world who are seeing the devastating daily impact of climate change.”

Krishneil Narayan, Coordinator, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network

“Rapid action to address climate change is a matter of survival for my Pacific people and as such, how can we accept any compromises? That is why the Pacific region always puts forward the most ambitious proposals on the table at the negotiations.

“The Paris Agreement did not reflect all we asked for in the Suva Declaration on Climate Change, but Paris was never meant to be the last step. It was meant to be a progressive step in identifying new common grounds to address climate change together collectively through a new, universal agreement.

“The Pacific will continue be climate leaders post-COP21, and keep going strong to survive climate impacts and show leadership to the world. In the words of my Pacific community: ‘We shall overcome someday.’”

Happy Khambule, Coordinator, South African Climate Action Network

“This historic agreement has sent a strong signal that we need to move away from fossil fuels and that we have a global need to act on climate now. In South Africa, we will follow up this international agreement with actions here at home to take climate action even further. We will be working hard to push South Africa to transition to a low-carbon economy, and call on our leaders to reform fossil fuel subsidies and build more accessible renewable energy.”

David Tong, Coordinator, New Zealand Climate Action Network

“The Paris Agreement is an important step forward. Countries worldwide are acting on climate change. This agreement marks the end of the fossil fuel era and the dawn of the renewable energy era. The momentum towards 100% renewable energy future is unstoppable.

“Although more must be done in the coming years, the Paris negotiations show that the New Zealand government is out of step with the world. New Zealand has chosen to take the opposite side of the table from its Pacific neighbours, resisting their call for a 1.5ºC goal, blocking progress on loss and damage, and turning deaf ears to their calls for increased climate finance. And the New Zealand government has also proven that it is out of step with the people of New Zealand. As proven by the People’s Climate Marches worldwide, New Zealanders are leading the transition to a safe, just climate future. It’s time for New Zealand politicians to get with the program.”

Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia.

“The Paris agreement has clear signals to countries across the globe to now take deeper actions domestically to keep temperature rise to 1.5C. It also creates the momentum for countries like India to further scale up their already ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. Now the onus is on developed countries to fulfill their promises and scale up climate finance flows to support mitigation and adaptation efforts , especially for the most vulnerable countries.”

Tania Guillen, Coordinator, Climate Action Network Latin America 

“The Paris Agreement has made some steps forward in order to face the climate crisis, but we know that more action is needed and citizens have to be considered in deciding and taking actions. It is important to see that there were clear signals about limiting the increase of temperature to 1.5C compared with pre-industrial levels.

“In Latin America, and special in the Central America and Caribbean region, climate change is happening. For our region, climate change is not only about future, models or scenarios, it is about our reality. The current reality that farmers and ecosystems, for example, are living.

“We need to know that what is agreed here in Paris, will guide strong actions to prevent climate change, but also to improve the climate resilience and to prevent the climate-induced losses and damages of those most vulnerable communities. Paris has given us a momentum, but we are clear that is not the end.”

Wendel Trio, Director, Climate Action Network Europe

“All countries have agreed upon the pathway to phase out all fossil fuels, but failed to make headway towards this common goal. This is why the hard work needs to continue after the summit.

“The EU now needs to live up to the Paris agreement and recalibrate the climate targets for 2030 during the next European Council in March. It also needs to cut emissions much more drastically starting now. In particular, we expect the European Council to raise the 2030 emission reduction target well beyond 40%, to improve the renewables and energy efficiency targets and to tackle fossil fuel subsidies.”

David Turnbull, Campaigns Director, Oil Change International

“The Paris climate talks present a lowest common denominator of global politics, not the aspirations of the global community. It’s the people on the streets who provide the real hope for addressing the climate crisis. People fighting for climate justice around the world are the ones who will solve this problem and they’re already making headway day by day.

“This year, with wins over the Keystone XL pipeline and Arctic drilling, the climate movement has begun to show its  true strength. It is by continuing these fights day in and day out, year in and year out, through the voice of a growing global movement that cannot and will not be silenced, that change will happen.”

Tim Flannery, Chief Councillor, Climate Council.

“Today, all of the countries in the world have agreed to act together to address the threat posed to humanity from climate change. This agreement signals the end of the fossil fuel era as the world rapidly replaces coal, oil and gas with clean energy sources.

“All countries, big and small, rich and poor, have acknowledged they have to act, and almost all are already doing so. This is an important and deliberate signal to businesses worldwide that there is a enormous transition underway and there will be great opportunities for innovation.”

Jaden Harris, Australian Youth Climate Coalition

“This historic moment gives young people hope that a safe climate future is still within reach and the era of fossil fuels is ending. But we’re still on track for a 3-degree warmer world, which paints a bleak future for vulnerable communities.

“We now have a structure to increase ambition to stay below 1.5C, and young people will lead the call to use it. Our movement for climate justice is beginning to win because we’re right and we’ve worked hard. Young people at the forefront of this movement will now be scaling up our actions, ensuring nice words in Paris are matched with real progress around the world.”

Chee Yoke Ling, Third World Network

“Saving the principle of equity historical responsibility was the single biggest battle. Despite the intense political pressure which the United States put on the leaders of several developing countries, this was successfully defended. However, the devil is in the details and this agreement will not take us to climate justice yet.”

Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth International

“At the moment the draft Paris agreement still puts us on track for 3 degree world. The reviews are too weak and too late. The political number mentioned for finance has no bearing on the scale of need. It’s empty. The iceberg has struck, the ship is going down and the band is still playing to warm applause.”

Lidy Nacpil, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development

“The US is a cruel hypocrite. Obama spoke about embracing the US’s role of creating the problem and the need to take responsibility. This is all talk and no action. They created a clause that excludes compensation and liability for the losses and damages brought on by climate chaos. This is a deliberate plan to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

Victor Menotti, International Forum on Globalization

Kerry’s climate team in Paris has just inserted an escape clause to protect US polluters that would make Donald Trump cheer.  The Statue of Liberty’s inscription may need to be rewritten to say, “Let them drown, burn, and starve. And definitely don’t ask America for any money.”  The Polluters’ Great Escape is happening now in Paris.

Doreen Stabinsky, College of the Atlantic

“The price tag for climate damages this century will be in the trillions, with much of that damage in poor and vulnerable countries. The US is responsible for much of that toll, but they don’t care and they won’t pay. With arm twisting of developing countries, they have language now protecting the richest and heaping the devastating costs onto the poorest.”

Niclas Hallstrom, What Next Forum

“Close to 100% reductions are needed by developed countries already by 2030 for a reasonable chance of 2°, let alone 1,5° world. Paris had the opportunity to deliver radical pre-2020 action and did none of this. Developed countries refusal to commit to either cuts or necessary finance means we are sleepwalking into climate chaos.”

Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, Corporate Accountability International

“While it may earn pats on the back for US negotiators from the big polluters pulling the strings, this agreement fails the people who need urgent action and may be a death sentence for many. To deliver solutions that work for people and our planet, we must insulate this process from the corrosive influence of big polluting industries.”

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