Cli­mate deal of­fers chance to save world


Gulf News - - Front Page -

To rous­ing cheers and tears of re­lief, en­voys from 195 na­tions yes­ter­day ap­proved an ac­cord to stop global warm­ing, offering hope that hu­man­ity can avert cat­a­strophic cli­mate change and usher in an en­ergy revo­lu­tion.

French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius ended nearly a fort­night of gru­elling UN ne­go­ti­a­tions in Paris with the bang of a gavel, mark­ing con­sen­sus among the min­is­ters, who stood for sev­eral min­utes to clap and shout their joy.

“I see the room, I see the re­ac­tion is pos­i­tive, I hear no ob­jec­tion. The Paris cli­mate ac­cord is adopted,” Fabius de­clared.

Turn­ing to a lit­tle green ham­mer with which he for­mally gave life to the ar­du­ously crafted pact, he quipped: “It may be a small gavel but it can do big things.”

The deal, to take ef­fect from 2020, ends decades-long rows be­tween rich and poor na­tions over how to carry out what will be a multi-tril­lion-dol­lar ef­fort to cap global warm­ing and deal with con­se­quences oc­cur­ring.

With 2015 forecast to be the hottest year on record, world lead­ers and sci­en­tists had said the ac­cord was vi­tal for cap­ping ris­ing tem­per­a­tures and avert­ing the most calami­tous im­pacts from cli­mate change.

With­out ur­gent ac­tion, they warned of in­creas­ingly se­vere droughts, floods and storms, as well as ris­ing seas that would en­gulf is­lands and coastal ar­eas pop­u­lated by hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple.

The crux of the fight to limit global warm­ing re­quires cut­ting back or elim­i­nat­ing the use of coal, oil and gas for en­ergy, which has largely pow­ered pros­per­ity since the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion be­gan in the 1700s.

The burn­ing of those fos­sil fu­els re­leases invisible green­house gases, which cause the planet to warm and change Earth’s del­i­cate cli­mate sys­tem.

There’s a lot of money in cli­mate fi­nanc­ing. Six years ago, rich na­tions pledged that by 2020 they would pro­vide $100 bil­lion (Dh367.3 bil­lion) a year in aid, loans and pri­vate money to help poorer na­tions cope with cli­mate change and wean them­selves off fos­sil fu­els. This week in Paris, they’re pledg­ing even more, and discussing whether de­vel­op­ing na­tions like China need to pony up, too.

But what ex­actly are they pay­ing for? In the wild west of cli­mate fi­nance, the fund­ing in­cludes things like a “love movie fes­ti­val,” re­search on ele­phant sounds and even new coal plants.

When it comes to cli­mate money, ex­pert af­ter ex­pert says, don’t be­lieve most fig­ures.

No one is say­ing money is be­ing mis­spent, but they are say­ing it is be­ing mis­re­ported, making it sound big­ger than it really is.

“De­vel­oped coun­tries in­flate the fig­ure; they count ev­ery­thing they can find,” said Ro­main Weik­mans, a re­searcher at Brown Univer­sity’s Cli­mate and De­vel­op­ment Lab. “It’s really a process of ly­ing the more you can.”

Univer­sity of Zurich’s Axel Michaelowa, who stud­ies cli­mate aid grants, found “there was a huge mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Gov­ern­ments were ac­tu­ally really not able to re­port prop­erly” on aid that was sup­posed to help coun­tries re­duce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.

His study, con­ducted on spe­cific cli­mate grants four years ago, showed a list of “projects with­out any con­ceiv­able cli­mate change con­no­ta­tion.”

For their web­site Adap­ta­tion Watch, Weik­mans and Brown Univer­sity en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies pro­fes­sor Tim­mons Roberts stud­ied 5,201 projects men­tioned by de­vel­oped na­tions and found that 3,444 of them “did not ex­plic­itly link project ac­tiv­i­ties to ad­dress­ing cli­mate vul­ner­a­bil­ity,” Weik­mans said.

“Cli­mate fi­nance ac­count­ing is the wild west,” Roberts said.

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