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Postcards from Paris: A diary from the UN climate talks (Days 12 & 13)


I’m in Paris for the UN climate talks, which run from 30 November to 11 December 2015. I’ll be regularly tweeting and blogging. If you find this blog interesting please feel to share it.


DAYS 12 & 13 (Friday 11 December & Saturday 12 December 2015)

The UN climate negotiations may have run over and everyone might have been exhausted but when the president finally brought down his gavel on Saturday evening, clapping and cheering erupted in the sprawling venue that has been my work-place for the past two weeks.

In my own team, there were hugs and even some tears.

The gavel comes down on the COP21 talks (UNFCC)The gavel comes down on the COP21 talks (UNFCC)

Sure, we did not achieve all that we had wanted from the Paris agreement for people and nature most threatened by climate change. But I finally knew that we could all now return home with what we need to enable us to press our respective national governments on delivering on the promises they did make, as well as strengthening the national actions triggered by the deal.

As with anything requiring the approval of almost 200 countries, there was some behind-the-scenes drama toward the end, all to do with the use of the word “shall” instead of “should” in one sentence of one article within the 32-page document. Half an hour later, and probably after some telephone calls between the capitals of several nations, the word was eventually changed.

This was then followed by further delays caused by errors resulting from translating the text into multiple languages, and then back again.

However, eventually French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who was chairing the talks, moved to adopt the agreement. Seeing no objections from any countries, the deal was then passed.

The COP21 talks end. (UNFCC)The COP21 talks end. (UNFCC)

As a result, we now have an agreement that includes a target that commits governments to keeping global temperature rises “well below” 2C and further commits them to strive to curb increases to 1.5C.

It also includes a five-year review system to allow for increased ambition on cutting carbon emissions, differentiation between nations as to their responsibilities for action, and finance for poor countries to help them deal with rising temperatures.

In addition to the agreement itself, it should be remembered that the Paris moment also created several firsts, including the securing of pledges from more than 180 nations to limit their climate-change emissions, plus the announcement of transformative plans to massively scale up renewables across India, African nations, and many other countries.

To me it is clear from the agreement that the transition to a fully renewable future is unstoppable, with the fossil fuel industry living on borrowed time. If governments are to stay true to keeping global temperature rises well below 2C, then greater amounts of fossil fuels will now need to remain in the ground and unburned.

Me along with some of the WWF team at COP21 (WWF)Me along with some of the WWF team at COP21 (WWF)

Hundreds of thousands mobilised across the world on the opening weekend of the talks, including tens of thousands across the UK, to show they want our leaders at home and internationally to take meaningful action on climate change. The ambition shown by people, communities and businesses working towards positive solutions is already massive, and now governments must match that and harness the environmental, social and economic benefits of tackling climate change.

I’m proud to have been able to have been part of this moment of history. However, now that the talks are over, it’s time for the real action to step up a gear.

For all the latest new on climate and other issues, be sure to follow @LangBanks on Twitter.

You can also read previous ‘Postcards form Paris here:  DAY 0DAYS 1&2DAYS 3&4DAYS 5&6DAYS 7&8DAY 9DAY 10, DAY 11.

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