As the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) reached its final hours, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates today that the world has been presented a “historic” document which promises to set it on a new path to a low-emissions, climate-resilient future.
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend the commitment, engagement and leadership of all the Heads of State, Government ministers and negotiators who have brought us so far in this very difficult negotiation,” Mr. Ban said as all COP21 stakeholders prepared to receive the final draft outcome, the version which will be proposed for adoption.
For the new universal climate change agreement to come into effect, the 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will need to adopt the outcome document.
At this morning’s plenary meeting of the Committee of Paris [Comité de Paris]—the body which is overseeing the negotiations at COP21—the UN chief spoke alongside the President of France, François Hollande and the President of COP21 and French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius.
— Christiana Figueres (@CFigueres) December 12, 2015
“The end is in sight. Let us now finish the job. The whole world is watching. Billions of people are relying on your wisdom,” the Secretary-General declared.
At the opening session of the conference on the last day of November, the UN chief had told 150 world leaders—an unprecedented number to have shown up for such an occasion—that “a political moment like this may not come again.” Today, he said leaders have listened.
“They want a flexible, robust, meaningful, universal agreement that will help us rise as one to the climate challenge. The issues are many and complex. But we must not let the quest for perfection become the enemy of the public good,” he warned.
“The solutions to climate change are on the table. They are ours for the taking. Let us have the courage to grasp them,” he said ending his remarks, adding that he looks forward to joining delegates later today to celebrate the new agreement.
Opening the floor in an emotional address during which he held back tears, Foreign Minister Fabius said, “The agreement will serve meaningful causes, food safety and security, public health, the fight against poverty and for essential rights, and therefore peace. People worldwide, our citizens, our children, wouldn’t understand if we didn’t adopt it and wouldn’t forgive us.”
He announced that the document presented today as the final draft is “differentiated, just, dynamic, balanced and legally binding.” It calls for global temperature rise to be limited to “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” and “endeavored to reach 1.5 degrees.” It also provides for a transparency framework, monitoring progress every five years.
Fabius then asked if there was any opposition to the deal – there was none – and, thus, closed the final plenary session with a revolutionary consensus between 195 nations to move away from carbon-based fuels and commit to the goals in the fight against climate change that took two decades to establish and negotiate.
“It is rare to be given the opportunity to change the world,” said President François Hollande, wrapping up the meeting. “You have the opportunity to do that.”
Summarizing the importance of today’s breakthrough, the New York Times wrote, “The agreement could be an inflection point in human history: the moment at which, because of a huge shift in global economic policy, the inexorable rise in planet-warming carbon emissions that started during the Industrial Revolution began to level out and eventually decline.”