Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming

CCTV News

France Climate Countdown The slogan “CLIMATE SIGN” is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Nearly 200 nations adopted the first global pact to fight climate change on Saturday, calling on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution but imposing no sanctions on countries that don’t.

CCTV’s Kate Parkinson reports from Paris:

Climate agreement reached at Paris conference

Climate agreement reached at Paris conference

Nearly 200 nations adopted the first global pact to fight climate change on Saturday, calling on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution but imposing no sanctions on countries that don't. CCTV’s Kate Parkinson reports from Paris.

The “Paris agreement” aims to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) between now and 2100, a key demand of poor countries ravaged by rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.

Loud applause erupted in the conference hall after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gaveled the agreement. Some delegates wept and others embraced.

“It’s a victory for all of the planet and for future generations,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, adding that the pact will “prevent the worst most devastating consequences of climate change from ever happening.”

U.S. President Barack Obama on climate accord

U.S. President Barack Obama on climate accord

Obama delivered remarks rom the White House Saturday evening on the signing of the climate change accord in Paris. Watch here:

U.S. President Barack Obama praised the outcome of the climate summit in Paris. Many said he wanted an agreement, that was not legally binding, so that it wouldn’t require Congressional approval, and that’s what he got.

CCTV America’s Roee Ruttenberg reports from Washington:

World reacts to Paris climate accord

World reacts to Paris climate accord

U.S. President Barack Obama praised the outcome of the climate summit in Paris. Many said he wanted an agreement, that was not legally binding, so that it wouldn't require Congressional approval, and that's what he got. CCTV America's Roee Ruttenberg reports from Washington.

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira added: “Today, we’ve proven that it’s possible for every country to come together, hand in hand, to do its part to fight climate change.”

More Climate Change stories on CCTV America

Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua also said: “The agreement is not perfect, and there are areas that need improvement, but that should not stop everyone from taking an historic march forward.”

In the pact, the countries pledge to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.

French foreign minister and President of the COP21 Laurent Fabius, center, applauds while United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, and French President Francois Hiollande applaud after the final conference of the COP21, the United Nations conference on climate change, in Le Bourget, north of Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

French foreign minister and President of the COP21 Laurent Fabius, center, applauds while United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, and French President Francois Hiollande applaud after the final conference of the COP21, the United Nations conference on climate change, in Le Bourget, north of Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

In practical terms, achieving that goal means the world would have to stop emitting greenhouse gases — most of which come from the burning of oil, coal and gas for energy — altogether in the next half-century, scientists said. That’s because the less we pollute, the less pollution nature absorbs.

Achieving such a reduction in emissions would involve a complete transformation of how people get energy, and many activists worry that despite the pledges, countries are not ready to make such profound and costly changes.

The deal now needs to be ratified by individual governments — at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions — before taking effect. It is the first pact to ask all countries to join the fight against global warming, representing a sea change in U.N. talks that previously required only wealthy nations to reduce their emissions.

“History will remember this day,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said. “The Paris agreement on climate change is a monumental success for the planet and its people.”

The deal commits countries to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and says they will “endeavor to limit” them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The world has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times.

Ben Strauss, a sea level researcher at Climate Central, said limiting warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees could potentially cut in half the projected 280 million people whose houses will eventually be submerged by rising seas.

More than 180 countries have ready presented plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions— a breakthrough in itself after years of stalemate. But those pledges are not enough to achieve the goals in the accord, meaning countries will need to cut much more to meet the goal.

Activists gather near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015 during the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Activists gather near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015 during the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

“We’ve agreed to what we ought to be doing, but no one yet has agreed to go do it,” said Dennis Clare, a negotiator for the Federated States of Micronesia. “It’s a whole lot of pomp, given the circumstances.”

The agreement sets a goal of getting global greenhouse gas emissions to start falling “as soon as possible”; they have been generally rising since the industrial revolution.

It says wealthy nations should continue to provide financial support for poor nations to cope with climate change and encourages other countries to pitch in on a voluntary basis. That reflects Western attempts to expand the donor base to include advanced developing countries such as China.

In a victory for small island nations, the agreement includes a section highlighting the losses they expect to incur from climate-related disasters that it’s too late to adapt to. However, a footnote specifies that it “does not involve or provide any basis for any liability or compensation” — a key U.S. demand because it would let the Obama administration sign on to the deal without going through the Republican-led Senate.

The adoption of the agreement was held up for nearly two hours as the United States tried — successfully, in the end — to change the wording on emissions targets. The draft agreement had said developed countries “shall” commit to reducing emissions; in adopting the pact organizers changed the language to say those countries “should” make that commitment.

Experts said the final wording means the deal probably won’t need congressional approval.

Nicaragua said it would not support the pact. Its envoy to the talks, Paul Oquist, said the agreement does not go far enough to cut global warming and help poor countries affected by it.

The slogan "DECARBONIZE" is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

The slogan “DECARBONIZE” is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Nicaragua is one of eight participating countries that haven’t submitted emissions targets, after Venezuelan envoy Claudia Salerno said her country — which had been holding out — liked the agreement and had submitted its pledge.

Thousands of protesters demonstrated across Paris, saying the accord is too weak to save the planet. People held hands beneath the Eiffel Tower and stretched a two-kilometer-long (1.2-mile-long) banner from the Arc de Triomphe to the business district La Defense. Police authorized the protest despite a state of emergency declared after the deadly Nov. 13 attacks.

Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace said the accord is a good start but isn’t enough.

“Today the human race has joined in a common cause, but it’s what happens after this conference that really matters,” he said. “This deal alone won’t dig us out the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep.”

The accord does represent a breakthrough in climate negotiations. The U.N. has been working for more than two decades to persuade governments to work together to reduce the man-made emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

The previous emissions treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, included only rich countries and the U.S. never signed on. The last climate summit, in Copenhagen in 2009, ended in failure when countries couldn’t agree on a binding emissions pact.

Story by the Associated Press and CCTV America.


Protesters at the White House say Obama not doing enough for environment

climate protest 9

 

Despite the cheers, environmental groups say the landmark climate accord reached in Paris on Saturday doesn’t go far enough. The environmental group Friends of the Earth held a demonstration in front of the White House to highlight what more needs to be done.

CCTV America’s John Metherell reports from Washington.

Protesters at the White House say Obama not doing enough for environment

Protesters at the White House say Obama not doing enough for environment

Despite the cheers, environmental groups say the landmark climate accord reached in Paris on Saturday doesn't go far enough. The environmental group Friends of the Earth held a demonstration in front of the White House to highlight what more needs to be done. CCTV America's John Metherell reports from Washington.

“President Obama has to encourage the world to strike a deal that is fair and scientifically sound. His climate legacy is sinking, and I think he needs a climate rescue,” Marissa Knodel of Friends of the Earth said.

climate protest 7

 

They are part of a group of international environmental organizations that have states that many countries, and the United States in particular, need to do much more to control climate change.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Barack Obama have received praise for their joint efforts to rein in carbon emissions. But environmentalists said these efforts are not enough.

“President Obama has been saying a lot of the right things on climate change, but it’s not backed up by action. His action is insufficient and he doesn’t get the title of climate leader,” said Luisa Abbott Galvao of Friends of the Earth.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries struggled for two weeks to come up with a formula acceptable to all nations.

climate protest 2

 

“What’s going on in Paris is definitely an historic moment. But our leaders are effectively kicking the can down the road. They’ve delivered a deal that isn’t scientifically sound or fair,” Galvao said.

Obama has committed the U.S. to reducing carbon emissions by about 27 percent over the next 10 years. But environmentalists say it should be more than two times that. Despite the international agreement, environmentalists warned the tipping point is nearing and the hard part is still to come.


Environmental consultant Paul Bledsoe discusses climate change accord

bledsoe

 

For more on the climate accord just signed in Paris, CCTV’s Susan Roberts interviewed Paul Bledsoe, president of strategic public policy firm Bledsoe & Associates and a former Clinton White House advisor.

Environmental consultant Paul Bledsoe discusses climate change accord

Environmental consultant Paul Bledsoe discusses climate change accord

For more on the upcoming climate change talks in Paris, CCTV's Susan Roberts interviewed Paul Bledsoe, president of strategic public policy firm Bledsoe & Associates and a former Clinton White House advisor.