Fabius: The world is in a race against time for climate change

Laurent Fabius said the world is in a race against time as regards climate change as the deterioration is worse and faster than what could have been imagined. At the same time he said 2017 was the warmest on record.

The former Prime Minister of France was addressing the opening of the International Conference on Climate Change in the Mediterranean and the Middle East: Challenges and Solutions that is underway in Nicosia, with the participation of world scientists from 35 countries.

The Conference is organized by the Cyprus Institute (CyI) and is under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, with support from the Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus.

Fabius played a central role in the December 2015 Paris climate summit, guiding talks to a successful conclusion with the deal to curb global warming agreed by 195 countries.

In his speech as to where we stand today in terms of climate action, Fabius noted that he would speak bluntly as the situation is worrisome.

Fabius said that despite the success of the Paris Agreement, the overall situation today is critical and, in some aspects, worse. The year 2017 was the warmest on record and one of the three warmest years. The average global temperature has already been through a 1 C increase in 2015, in comparison to pre-industrial levels, and 1. 5 C could be reached in the 2030s and maybe even before. Two degrees could be passed by 2050, that is 50 years before our intended target.

In addition, he said last year’s emissions have been on the rise after having stayed stable for a while.

In spite of the efforts of the international community, current state pledges cover no more than the third of the emission with temperatures rising by two degrees.

Weather extremes are becoming more intense, he said, leading to more expenses, damage, loss of human lives, in short, the deterioration is worse and faster than what we could have imagined. The figures regarding oceans, forests and pollution and in more general the environment, are critical and the red alert is on.

Fabius further said the current state of the world energy needs is worse. In spite of the fact that renewable energies are developing fast, unfortunately about 80% of the entire world energy needs still relies on the burning of fossil fuels. In terms of technology and finance, renewable energy resources are much more easily accessible and much cheaper than before, he remarked.

The French official said that the world has suffered, I must be blunt, a major setback when the new American president announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, noting that given the gravity of the situation, this is dangerous nonsense. Not only that it excludes the second biggest polluter from the Paris Agreementit also gives a very bad example to some other countries that might have some doubts to keep engaged or not.

Fabius said that in spite of the remarkable pledge from many US cities, universities, companies President Trump’s decision might not destroy the world-wide movement towards climate action, but it is a very serious blow.

In addition, there are some questions about the attitude of various countries. If some countries of South Asia go ahead with their decisions to launch the construction of new coal-fired powered plants the goal of a 2 C rise in the temperature will become very, very difficult and almost unachievable.

The same goes for oil producing countries, he said, noting that they need to shift to renewable energies. He said none of these choices are easy but their decision will be critical in the achievement of the global climate movement. This observation is true particularly for this region as they rely largely on fossil fuels.

The evolution of energy mix and especially the level of investment in renewable energy, will be a crucial issue for the years to come.

He also said the progress on the carbon pricing will be decisive.

Fabius also said that another major difficulty lies in the very implementation of the Paris Agreement itself which now needs more concrete implementation. The so-called Paris work programme is now being discussed and should be formally approved next December. Up to now, discussions are very difficult, he said, noting Important decisions have to be made on key issues like transparency, monitoring and financing. Wealthier nations, he added, have pledged their solidarity towards the more vulnerable by spending by 2020 at least 100 million dollars in the public and private sectors in these countries.

In short, the coming period 2018-2020, represents undoubtedly the decisive three-year period. The environment in general and the climate in particular will face the moment of truth.

We are in a race against time adding that climate change is a cross cutting issue. Climate destruction has some august consequences on biodiversity, ecosystems, driving many systems to extinct. Also has direct and severe consequences on health, food, security, migration and on peace and security.

He referred to the challenge in the Middle East and North Africa with differences within the region. Massive pollution movements, increasing the frequency of dust, causing respiratory illnesses and the climate change enhances the spread of airborne diseases.

Fabius called for the adoption of the Global Pact for the environment initiative, noting he believes an international treaty is needed to gather in a realistic way the fundamental principles of the environmental. These principles have been enshrined in declarations with no legal value.

The new initiative to prepare, introduce, and eventually adopt the Global Pact for the Environment is being chaired by Fabius.

Turning to the Paris Agreement in December 2015 he said in itself it was a very successful step and a turning point, as 195 countries decided to adopt the first universal climate pact in history, Fabius said it was a robust agreement which is simultaneously, universal, ambitious, fair and as legally binding as possible.

The Agreement, he added, sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2C, about preindustrial levels and by pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to only 1.5 C.

Furthermore, he said it includes as well the aim of carbon neutrality by the second half of the century and a mechanism for a five-year review commitment planned with no backsliding, adding that this success was achieved.

Referring to an alignment of the planets that led to the agreement, he said the first one was a science planet as ICC experts were really decisive by establishing the reality of global warming, its human origins and its exacerbation.

The second planet he said, was the social planet which contributed largely to the Paris success and the awareness of the need for an agreement from NGOs, cities, regions, financial stakeholders, religious and spiritual authorities, as well as citizens all around the world.

Third, the political planet was in a favourable position, said Fabius. Beyond the favourable position of the EU and various partners, the president of China and former President of the US Barack Obama was absolutely decisive and a requisite for success, noted the the two largest greenhouse gas emitters were onboard.

In his speech, President of the Cyprus Institute, Costas Papanicolas welcomed the 300 participants from 25 countries and said the very presence of Laurent Fabius who steered the efforts towards the success of the Paris Agreement, which is one of the major achievements of the 21st century in facing this global challenge, is indicative of the reach of this.

He said the data analysis and modelling results that the CyI engage to produce are detailed and concern the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East Region.

In the optimistic migration scenario, roughly along the guidelines of the Paris Agreement, temperatures will rise by more than 2 C in most of the region, droughts and heat extremes will become more frequent and aggravate further some of the daunting problems facing the region.

The climate projections are so bleak, he remarked with severe migration and obviously tremendous security issues arising in this troubled region.

CNA is media sponsor of the event.

Source: Cyprus News Agency