Global warming: Politicians set lofty goals for Paris climate deal — can the negotiators deliver?

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Climate negotiators in Paris are racing against time, as the Earth gets warmer and warmer.

Goals to de-carbonize energy production are at the fore

Staff Report

The world’s political leaders voiced nearly unanimous support for a climate-change agreement during the opening days of the COP21 talks in Paris — what remains to be seen is whether negotiators can deliver on the nitty gritty details needed to seal the deal.

So far, heads of state have presented new renewable energy and financial commitments to boost climate adaptation and resilience. Major initiatives include an African solar energy commitment; an international solar alliance launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande; a major private partnership for renewable energy development; and a public initiative launched by 20 countries to double their current existing funding for renewable research and development.

Also, a group of 43 developing countries that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts issued a strong call for a long-term goal of total global decarbonization and 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

According to the international Climate Action Network, the declarations, announcements, and initiatives show a high-level commitment to signing a successful, comprehensive, and universal climate deal at the end of these next two weeks in Paris. It remains to be seen how these speeches will affect the spin-off groups and text-based negotiations currently taking place, where gaps remain on key issues.

“Developing countries won the day, and it was refreshing to hear again a concrete call for ambitious action,” said Liz Gallagher, of E3G. “Despite all the positive energy and announcements on things like finance for least developed countries, however, there weren’t enough concrete offers and breakthroughs on key components. The rhetoric is set. The question now is whether the negotiators and ministers will deliver,” Gallagher said.

“While two degrees will protect most people, most countries, and most ecosystems, it will not protect them all,” said Saleemul Huq, of ICCCAD. “If we want to protect everyone, we need to set the target at 1.5 degrees. If we set the target at 2 degrees, roughly 100 million people will fall through that crack … most, but not all, in developing countries. Globally, there is sufficient technology and sufficient money, but there is insufficient political will. We have 13 days to develop the political will.”

“Renewables are here in Paris in a big way –  vulnerable countries want the Paris Agreement to deliver a global 100 percent renewable energy goal.” said Li Shuo, of Greenpeace China. “India launched a solar alliance to boost the technology in poor countries and Africa committed to 300GW of clean power by 2030.” Li Shuo said. “If you’d asked anyone in Beijing a couple of years ago whether coal consumption would fall within the next ten years, no-one would have believed it possible.  But it fell last year by 2.9 percent and is falling even more, with an accelerated take-up in renewables. That shows just how fast change can happen.”

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