Politicians hail COP21 success but ability to deliver questioned

World leaders have hailed an historic moment after 195 countries signed-up to the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change, but environmental campaigners have questioned whether the aims of the United Nation’s COP21 summit will be delivered in practice.

Negotiators agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions so that the average global temperature does not rise by more than 2C and aim to limit the rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Each nation’s progress will be monitored every five years, giving governments the chance to ramp-up their efforts if need be.

Developed nations also promised to pay developing countries $100 billion (£67bn) a year from 2020 to help the adapt their infrastructure to cope with the effects of climate change and so they can leap-frog the need to burn fossil fuels and instead invest in low-carbon sources, such as renewable energy.

Clear signal to investors

Business leaders and investors said the agreement sent clear signals to the private sector to mobilise investment in renewable energy projects, energy efficiency measures and other technology.

David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of environmental group WWF-UK, said: “This deal sends a clear signal to investors to support the inevitable transition to a low-carbon future in which people and nature thrive.”

But some campaigners said the agreement shone a harsh light on Britain’s record, particularly recent moves to end subsidies for onshore wind and solar.

Friends of the Earth’s Chief Executive Craig Bennett said: “Energy efficiency and renewable power should form the backbone of Britain’s future energy policy, yet ministers have spent the past seven months undermining investment in these crucial areas at every opportunity.”

Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive at trade body RenewableUK, added: “We hope that in the months to come we can see this accord translated into the necessary policies at home to achieve these goals, with ministers returning from the talks fired up to put their weight fully behind the development of the UK’s plentiful renewable energy resources, including wind, wave and tidal power, without the Government seeking to exclude successful and cost-effective technologies such as onshore wind from our energy mix.”

Questions over measurement

Experts questioned how easy it will be to hold governments to account for their promises in Paris.

Professor John Shepherd from the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton said: “Since the only mechanism remains voluntary national caps on emissions, without even any guidance on how stringent those caps would need to be, it is hard to be optimistic that these goals are likely to be achieved.”

FoE’s Bennett added: “This climate deal falls far short of the soaring rhetoric from world leaders less than two weeks ago. An ambition to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees is all very well, but we still don’t have an adequate global plan to make this a reality.”

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> Read our latest COP21 blog: Now COP21 is over, the real work begins