MEPs offer a cautious welcome to 'historic' COP21 deal

Parliament praises 'historic' COP21 deal but insists much work remains to be done.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

14 Dec 2015

UN climate summit COP21 has concluded with what many have hailed as a 'historic' deal. 195 countries signed up to a legally binding agreement to limit the global temperature rise to two degrees (with a 1.5 degree benchmark), to phase out greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of this century and to an increased commitment to climate finance.

MEPs were quick to praise the Paris protocol, with EPP group Vice-Chair Françoise Grossetête calling it, "a very important milestone in alleviating the negative consequences of climate change. There has been excellent mobilisation around the world for a common cause and we have finally acted together."

However, she added that, "the work doesn't stop here. This agreement has to be followed up by concrete measures and we have to see to it that they are applied. I recall that Europe already has high standards for its industries, so we have to be careful on the question of carbon leakage and keep in mind that common standards have to be applied everywhere."


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S&D group environment spokesperson Matthias Groote was more cautious in his reaction, commenting that; "The more ambitious the target, the better. In the EU, we have the necessary tools for this ambition. But what is most important is to provide the tools and the finances to make this goal achievable."

"We also need action to limit the emissions of international aviation and shipping, which are not covered by the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). We cannot afford to give a free ride to these sectors."

Liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt was ecstatic, saying the deal, "should be warmly welcomed. Our focus must now be on implementation; the clock is ticking to keep global warming below two degrees. We should all be proud of the important role played by the EU and its institutions. This agreement shows what European countries can deliver when they unite and speak with one voice."

The Greens were also pleased. Yannick Jadot, the group's climate change spokesperson, believed that it would, "begin a new international regime of cooperation on climate change and point the direction for the transformation of economies around the world."

"The commitment to limit the increase in global temperature to well below two degrees and pursue a 1.5 degree limit is a breakthrough; it de facto implies the end of the fossil fuel based economy."

Nevertheless, he warned that: "The tools in the agreement are not sufficient to guarantee the achievement of this temperature goal; we remain on track for an increase of three degrees. However, the commitment to regularly and scientifically review countries' efforts provides an opportunity to close this gap."

"Civil society, local authorities and climate-friendly business will have a major role to play in forcing national governments to significantly increase their level of ambition and make the new Paris regime truly binding."

Unfortunately, not everyone viewed the deal as a climate victory. GUE/NGL group deputy Anne-Marie Mineur argued that; "The measures that have been agreed upon leave too much scope for interpretation and back-stalling. In particular, the mention of the long-term 'net zero emissions’ goal leaves room for a 'business as usual' scenario, where the dirty energy industry still has the possibility to keep using fossil fuels, just as the European Commission wanted."

"What we fear most are the options open to big business to keep on going as before. They are not obliged to stop polluting, they simply have to compensate. If not regulated properly, this can lead to more human rights abuses," she warned.

Climate change campaigners also had mixed reactions to the agreement. Greenpeace international executive director Kumi Naidoo said; "The human race has joined in a common cause, but it's what happens after this conference that really matters."

"The Paris agreement is only one stop on a long road and there are parts of it that frustrate and disappoint me. However, it is progress. This deal alone won't dig us out of the hole we're in, but it makes the sides less steep."

Naidoo also emphasised; "This is not a moment for triumphalism, given the lives that have been lost already as a result of climate impacts and the lives that are on the precipice as temperatures rise. This is a time for urgent action. The climate clock is ticking and the window of opportunity is closing fast."

Meanwhile, Sonja Meister, climate justice and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, was even less impressed. She said: "The list is long why the Paris deal falls short of what is needed to effectively combat climate change and protect vulnerable and poor people across the world. It is a deal in favour of polluters, which lets rich countries escape their responsibility. The agreement leaves us on track for three degrees of warming and a planetary emergency."

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