The result of the Paris World Climate Summit was a triumph for reason and an achievement for French diplomacy. This was the overwhelming view amongst the representatives of the 195 participating states as they listened to a moving speech by 69 year-old French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announcing a successful conclusion to this diplomatic marathon. For more than two years French diplomats had travelled the world in an effort to convince the 195 governments to work from the very beginning of the conference towards a positive outcome. Paris was to be a counterpoint to the failed Copenhagen Summit.
France wanted this Agreement
When, on 13 November 2015, Paris was the victim of insane terrorist attacks that left it a grieving ghost city, all this appeared to be called into question. But the French President declared a state of emergency, and a few days later, France, refusing to yield to terror, gave a dignified welcome to the 195 delegations plus thousands of other participants.
This World Climate Agreement has its strengths and weaknesses. What is surely historic is the fact that the international community has agreed for the first time ever to take a common approach to combating global warming. It remains to be seen whether this Agreement will live up to its promises, because it leaves a number of essential questions unanswered. What it does do, however, is to give countries some room for manoeuvre in the definition of their climate objectives and make provision for financial aid to the tune of $100 billion each year for the period 2020 to 2025, as well for a compensation mechanism.
Perhaps the key to the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement will lie in the fact that, unlike the Copenhagen Agreement, it does not make its drastic reductions of greenhouse gases legally binding or propose to punish non-compliance with sanctions. What sets it apart from Copenhagen is that it leaves individual states free to decide whether to comply with the climate objectives or indeed to go even further.
Currently, however, there is still a gap between ambitions and reality. There can be no doubt that the Agreement will lead to a drastic reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases over a few decades. But whether this will be enough to keep global warming below the 2-degree limit remains to be seen.
Hartmut Bühl, Editor-in-chief