Obama, Xi, Modi welcome Paris climate deal

COP21 WRAP: World leaders hail new agreement, as experts praise French hosts of talks for flawless diplomacy

Barack Obama addresses the COP21 talks (Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

Barack Obama addresses the COP21 talks (Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

By Ed King

Late on Saturday, A UN deal to slash greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century was been agreed by 195 countries after a fortnight of intense talks in Paris.

It marks the first time in history rich, poor and emerging economies have made a joint commitment to tackle climate change, aiming to limit warming to “well below 2C”.

World leaders were quick to welcome the deal – here’s a flavour, with further analysis below.

Barack Obama: “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.”

Narendra Modi: “Outcome of Paris agreement has no winners or losers. Climate justice has won and we are all working towards a greener future. Climate change remains a challenge but Paris agreement demonstrates how every nation rose to the challenge, working towards a solution.”

Xie Zhenhua: “The Paris Climate Conference is a crucial point in the global climate governance process. The outcome has a real bearing on human beings’ undertakings in climate change and our future of sustainable development.”

Amber Rudd (UK): “We don’t have all the answers for how we are going to deliver this” referring to meeting a net zero emissions goal in the second half of this century.

“It’s about more security. The danger and impact of climate change is something we are trying to address here – for the UK and for vulnerable counties. Boy are we thinking long term here.”

Listen to the UK secretary of state for energy and climate change’s final press conference – audio courtesy of Carbon Brief.

Frantic diplomacy

Talks came close to a major blowout in the final hour before a deal was reached. The argument was over one word: shall. The US said it had to go – others disagreed – we have the full story.

What does the deal mean?

The single biggest hurdle in progress at climate talks down the years has been agreeing how to share responsibility for tackling the problem between developed and developing countries. Under the 1992 climate convention, developed countries were listed in an Annex 1.

That has led to a binary division of responsibilities to tackle the climate change problem, between Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries. That has long rankled with developed countries, given that some “developing countries” such as South Korea and Saudi Arabia are now richer than them. The Paris Agreement has finally broken this impasse. There is no reference to “Annex 1”.

Read more from Gerard Wynn’s excellent analysis of the text here.

French masterclass

Just how well did the hosts do? Here’s Michael Jacobs, one-time climate advisor to UK prime minister Gordon Brown.

“There were exceptional individuals involved. [Laurent] Fabius is clearly a very talented diplomat. The way he handled the process in public and private… Laurence Tubiana who has run this is an extraordinary intellect, and also has enormous empathy, able to listen to what countries have been saying, and technically the process was brilliant”

Late night partying

Delegates hit the bars of Paris hard on Saturday night. Many headed to the ‘Players’ bar in the Montmartre – where they were joined by the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, EU delegation head Carole Dieschbourg and US chief envoy Todd Stern – who proved an unlikely hit on the dance floor.

Meet the champion of COP21

A genial 70-year old from the Marshall Islands because an unlikely hero for climate campaigners at the Paris talks, spearheading a ‘coalition for ambition’ that grew from a few small island states to a broad developed-developing group including the EU-28, US, Canada and Japan. His name: Tony de Brum.

Sceptic corner: Older, greyer, whiter

Climate sceptics made it to Paris, but their voice was barely heard. Alex Pashley popped into the Heartland Institute’s conference in the French capital. Not many turned up – around 35 – and the audience was “mostly greying, white, middle-aged men” reports Alex.

Read more on: COP21