UNITED NATIONS (APP) – Following the adoption of the new Paris Agreement on climate change on Saturday night, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said representatives of nearly 200 countries have made history.
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“The Paris Agreement is a monumental triumph for people and our planet,” the secretary-general said in a tweet. “It sets the stage for progress in ending poverty, strengthening peace and ensuring a life of dignity and opportunity for all.”
The agreement reached at a United Nations conference, the culmination of years of difficult negotiations, will mark a “historic turning point,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said when a final draft was unveiled earlier in the day.
Negotiators had been struggling to overcome deep divisions on key issues, including the pact’s long-term goals, how to address the costs of dealing with climate change, how to define the responsibilities of countries in different stages of development and how to ensure that nations fulfill their commitments.
The text adopted Saturday aims to limit the average global temperature rise since pre-industrial times to well below 2 degrees Celsius this century, while endeavoring to achieve a 1.5-degree target.
That is a more ambitious goal than organizers had set at the outset of the conference and represents a win for countries already suffering the damaging effects of global warming, including rising sea levels, prolonged droughts and extreme storms.
To achieve these objectives, however, the agreement relies on countries to set their own targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposals currently on the table fall short of the 2-degree goal the threshold at which scientists believe the most catastrophic effects of climate change could be avoided.
The Paris Agreement is a monumental triumph for people and our planet,” the secretary-general said in a tweet. “It sets the stage for progress in ending poverty, strengthening peace and ensuring a life of dignity and opportunity for all.”
Earlier today, the Secretary-General told delegates that the world has been presented a “historic” document which promises to set it on a new path to a low-emissions, climate-resilient future.
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend the commitment, engagement and leadership of all the Heads of State, Government ministers and negotiators who have brought us so far in this very difficult negotiation,” Ban said as all COP21 stakeholders prepared to receive the final draft outcome.
At this morning’s plenary meeting of the Committee of Paris, the body which is overseeing the negotiations at COP21, the UN chief spoke alongside the President of France, Hollande and the President of COP21 and French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius.
“The end is in sight. Let us now finish the job. The whole world is watching. Billions of people are relying on your wisdom,” the Secretary-General declared.
At the opening session of the conference on the last day of November, the UN chief had told 150 world leaders “an unprecedented number to have shown up for such an occasion” that “a political moment like this may not come again.” Today, he said leaders have listened.
“They want a flexible, robust, meaningful, universal agreement that will help us rise as one to the climate challenge. The issues are many and complex. But we must not let the quest for perfection become the enemy of the public good,” he warned.
“The solutions to climate change are on the table. They are ours for the taking. Let us have the courage to grasp them,” he said ending his remarks, adding that he looks forward to joining delegates later today to celebrate the new agreement.
Opening the floor in an emotional address during which he held back tears, Foreign Minister Fabius said if the world doesn’t adopt the agreement, it is the “credibility of multilateralism” that would be in play.
“The agreement will serve meaningful causes, food safety and security, public health, the fight against poverty and for essential rights, and therefore peace,” he insisted. “People worldwide, our citizens, our children, wouldn’t understand if we didn’t adopt it and wouldn’t forgive us.”
He announced that the document presented today as the final draft is “differentiated, just, dynamic, balanced and legally binding.” It calls for global temperature rise to be limited to “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” and “endeavored to reach 1.5 degrees.” It also provides for a transparency framework, monitoring progress every five years.
“It is rare to be given the opportunity to change the world,” said President Hollande, wrapping up the meeting. You have the opportunity to do that.