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Global climate deal agreed

Words: Laura Edgar

A new global climate agreement that sets out a long-term goal of net zero emissions by the end of the century has been struck at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris.

The deal saw for the first time 195 countries  –  including the largest emitters – commit to acting together to combat climate change and be equally accountable.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal showed what “unity, ambition and perseverance” could do.

“Britain is already leading the way in work to cut emissions and help less developed countries cut theirs - and this global deal now means that the whole world has signed up to play its part in halting climate change. It’s a moment to remember and a huge step forward in helping to secure the future of our planet.”

Energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd said the deal is “vital for our long-term economic and global security”.

Aiming for a sustainable and low carbon future, countries will now have to come together regularly to review their climate plans and collectively ensure that action is being taken. The deal attempts to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2°C.

There is a long-term goal of net zero emissions by the end of the century, and progress against this will be independently assessed in 2018 and every five years thereafter. As the costs of low-carbon technologies come down, said the government in a statement, countries would be able to step up their targets on reducing emissions. In 2020, countries would be expected to update their plans to cut emissions by 2030.

Countries are also to be legally obliged to make new post-2030 commitments to reduce emission every five years from 2025.

“Vital” step in combating climate change


Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the agreement must be welcomed as a “vital step in combating climate change”. 

However, the government must now “urgently” rethink the cuts to renewable energy.

"It is not good enough to go to Paris and sign up to ambitious targets whilst scrapping the schemes that will help tackle climate change back in the UK.”

A signal of certainty


Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Paris Climate Change Conference had achieved a “big step” forward in the international fight against climate change.

The agreement, said Sturgeon, “sends a signal of certainty about the global economy’s low-carbon future in the same way as we did for Scotland through our world-leading climate legislation in 2009. We want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change falling on the poor and vulnerable.”

With the talking over, Sturgeon said it is important to back up the rhetoric with meaningful action, “not least in the crucial area of energy policy, where we need the UK to assist Scotland’s drive to develop renewables and Carbon Capture and Storage, not stymie it as they have done this year”.

Deal allows for ambition action


Irish environment minister Alan Kelly said the agreement puts in place the necessary framework for all countries to take “ambitious action”, as well as providing for a transparency system that “ensures we can all have confidence in each other’s progress. It also puts in place the supports necessary – funding as well as technical assistance - for the most vulnerable countries”.

A result for everyone


Northern Ireland’s environment minister Mark H Durkan, said: “This global agreement is a result for everyone - our planet and our future generations.”

Durkan said the “momentum and ambition” of this deal needs to be built on to reduce emissions further.

“I met ministers from across the UK and Ireland, which provided the opportunity to exchange views on the impacts of climate change within our local areas and share our experiences in taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It was particularly useful getting an insight into the lessons learned in their use of climate change legislation,” he said.

Efforts appreciated


RenewableUK’s chief executive, Maria McCaffery, said the organisation “appreciate the effort” by Rudd and her team in helping to secure a deal that commits the UK on the world stage to continuing its trajectory towards a sustainable and carbon-free future.

“This landmark agreement puts the world firmly on course to limiting dangerous climate change and Britain has proved it is willing to play its part.”

McCaffrey added that she hoped this would be translated into the “necessary politics 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”.

Image credit | iStock