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Paris climate deal not perfect, just a start: Barack Obama

Leaders from almost 200 countries signed a agreement to drastically cut and them eliminate harmful pollution, aiming to stop global temperatures rising more than 2F before 2100.

Mail Today Bureau | December 14, 2015 | Updated 10:07 IST
US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama (Photo: Mail Today)

US President Barack Obama has on Sunday hailed the Paris agreement on climate change saying it marks "a turning point for the world" due in part to "strong, principled American leadership".

Sunday afternoon leaders from almost 200 countries signed a agreement to drastically cut and them eliminate harmful pollution, aiming to stop global temperatures rising more than 2F before 2100. Following years of scuppered talks and failed summits, Obama said world leaders had finally "met the moment" by coming together and agreeing to a deal that represents "the best chance we have to save the one planet we've got".

The accord aims to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial times, with an additional pledge to get it closer to 1.5C.

The report

The report states: "[Countries will hold] the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and [pursue] efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C." It also includes a five-year review system to increase ambition on cutting emissions as well as finance for developing countries to deal with rising temperatures. While the deal was widely hailed by environmental campaigners and diplomats alike today, critics such as former NASA scientist James Hansen have called the agreement "a fraud".

Addressing those critics, Obama said: "No agreement is perfect, even this one, negotiations involving nearly 200 countries are always challenging. Even if all the initial targets set in Paris are met, we will only be part of the way there when it comes to removing carbon from the atmosphere, so we cannot be complacent because of today's agreement. 'The problem is not solved because of this accord. But make no mistake, the Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis.'

No objection

The President spoke after Paris delegates finally agreed to the world's first comprehensive climate agreement after two weeks of negotiations earlier on Sunday. The Paris Agreement was passed with no objections by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, bringing to an end four years' of discussion and debate. Nearly 200 nations adopted the global pact, calling on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution.

To a reception of whoops and cheers, and a standing ovation, Laurent Fabius told the hall: "I now invite the conference to adopt the decision. I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted." Harking back to his first inaugural address in front of tens of thousands of people on Capitol Hill, Obama recalled his initial pledge to make America's economy greener. On Sunday he hailed the US as "the global leader in fighting climate change", saying that a commitment to a low-carbon future had helped to protect the environment, while also creating jobs. He said: "In 2009, we helped to salvage a chaotic Copenhagen summit and established the principle that all countries have a role to play in combating climate change."

One issue that Obama did not address is the lack of binding agreement on emissions targets, that was taken out of the agreement at the request of US negotiators. Even with some 200 nations on board, the agreement took several hours to complete because the US held out over one word in the emissions clause. Instead of saying countries "shall" reduce their emissions, American diplomats insisted the wording be changed to "should" - meaning the agreement is no longer binding. That is because any binding agreement would have to get past Congress, which is controlled by Republicans who would almost certainly have rejected it.

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