Ed Davey writes…Nous sommes Paris

Wow! How did that happen? The United Nations has just agreed the first ever universal climate deal – and it’s better for the global environment than anyone had dared hope for.

For once, believe hyperbole: this is the most significant international agreement since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945.

Here’s just 5 things from Paris that make this so good:

In the run up to Paris, more than 180 countries made commitments to cut emissions significantly;

  1. They agreed a surprisingly strong 5 year review or “ratchet” mechanism for bolder future commitments to cut emissions further;
  2. They backed a new long term goal to make sure global warming stays “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, heading to greenhouse gas neutrality in the second half of this century – meaning the effective ending of fossil fuels;
  3. Increased support for poorer countries to help them – whether in the low carbon transition or in adapting to climate change impacts already with us;
  4. Huge progress on the “rules” for how we decarbonise the world, including key technical stuff on audit and accounting and crucially, strong transparency rules, so we know what countries are actually doing.
  5. And if you don’t believe me, listen to the majority of NGOs: from Greenpeace to Christian Aid, there’s been a huge welcome. And those businesses and financial institutions who take climate seriously are predicting a massive rise in investment in clean green technology.

That means we will go green more quickly and more cheaply.

Of course, it’s not perfect: I would have liked larger commitments to cut emissions, and to cut them earlier; I would have liked the first mandatory review to happen earlier; and so on.

But to quibble today, is to miss the big picture. So if it’s a climate change denier trying to dismiss this, or even a green NGOs carping about this or that, don’t be fooled: this is genuinely historic.

So I confess I partied last night here in Paris. And whether it was Christiana Figueres, the amazing woman who’s led the UN Secretariat on Climate Change to this point, or Todd Stern, the wise and experienced US lead climate negotiator, or a range of grassroots activists, the mood was euphoric.

Some at the party had spent over 20 years’ working for this day!

Of course, Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for this day for over 20 years too.

So let’s enjoy it. And let’s be proud of our green record – whether in councils across the country, or when we’ve been in Government in Scotland, Wales or Westminster, or when we’ve had fab MEPs like Chris Davies, Fiona Hall or Catherine Bearder, leading the cause in the European Parliament.

There’s lots more to do – here in the UK and across the world: and I’m planning to write about that next week. But for now, for so many reasons, let’s just say “nous sommes Paris”.

* Ed Davey is the MP for Kingston & Surbiton and Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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16 Comments

  • Did the use of condoms and global policy trends to encourage smaller families materialize into the discussion on climate change? Population rising from 7 to 9 billion is the elephant in the room no-one wishes to discus. And yet it is *the* issue which if not tackled, negates any benefits that might have accrued from these climate proposals.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Dec '15 - 4:17pm

    Climate change scares me and so does adapting to it. I struggle to feel the celebratory mood because a lot of these measures won’t be cheap.

    I want a hard-headed analysis of the situation. I see too many who seem partly motivated by a desire to bash business and expand the national or European government. Although this doesn’t apply to Ed Davey.

    Congratulations on the deal, but this is a problem that I would rather we didn’t have to deal with. But we do.

  • Seeing will be believing. Actions not words that can be cheap.

  • The Professor 13th Dec '15 - 6:36pm

    Is this deal dependent on the U.S. Congress agreeing to it?

  • Richard Underhill 13th Dec '15 - 7:08pm

    Ed Davey | Sun 13th December 2015 – 2:05 pm
    1) Former businessman Bill Gates has a sharp eye for technically sound practical solutions. Was he there? If so, what did he say?
    2) Is it true that there is in Australia plant life that can help? If so, on what scale?

  • Well that is the climate change conference done and dusted . Not as much as we might have hoped for, but far more than we could ever have expected.
    But who do we have to implement the new climate change protocols ?
    None other than Amber Rudd, a woman Ed Davey knows only too well and not in a good way, as they say. This is the woman who failed to declare among her members’ interests that her brother is founder and CEO of Finsbury, a lobbying and PR company whose major clients are in the oil and gas industry.
    She is about the most ungreen person you could have as Energy Secretary.
    Sorry to spoil the party Ed

    Sorry to spoil the party Ed.

  • John Roffey 14th Dec '15 - 4:03am

    Anne 13th Dec ’15 – 5:27pm
    “Seeing will be believing. Actions not words that can be cheap.”

    It is good to have a base to build from – however:

    Mere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former Nasa scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan. But when he talks about the gathering of nearly 200 nations, his demeanour changes.

    “It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

    Also:

    There is a positive note to end on, however. Global emissions have somewhat stalled and Hansen believes China, the world’s largest emitter, will now step up to provide the leadership lacking from the US. A submerged Fifth Avenue and deadly heatwaves aren’t an inevitability.

    “I think we will get there because China is rational,” Hansen says.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/12/james-hansen-climate-change-paris-talks-fraud

  • I think like others here we should applaud the Paris agreement, as yet another slow step down the road, but should not think the road will be easy. The changes, that Eddie alludes to are vast and in the immediate future basically mean in the UK saying goodbye to mass inward migration, 3m new houses etc. etc.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Dec '15 - 11:52am

    President Obama is right.
    Making the agreement enforceable means putting it to Congress, who are unlikely to pass it.
    This shines a light, again, on the state of democracy in the USA. The influence of money, the lack of a Boundary Commission for the House of Representatives, the first-past-the-post election system and the consequential low rate of electoral rights by those who have taken the trouble to get on the voluntary electoral rolls.
    Another weakness is the lack of effective gun control and the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association with its membership of dealerships of guns and ammunition, varying regionally, even allowing concealed weapons.

  • Denis Loretto 14th Dec '15 - 12:07pm

    In a broad sense you are quite right, Ed, to laud this agreement as unquestionable important progress for our threatened world but what about the local situation here in the UK? None better than you to lead an energetic (in all senses) campaign against a government which is cynically demolishing much of what you were able to insist upon in the coalition years.

  • It seems now that the ordinary consumer will bear the brunt and cost. The poor mainly. Now switching your washing machine on at night for example is such a good idea. When my neighbour did that at midnight it woke us all up, the walls seemed to shake on the spins. The people who thought that one up obviously live in large detached houses with separate well insulated utility rooms. Most of us live in wafer thin walled properties. Not only will we keep neighbours awake but advocating keeping the whole family awake with work/school the next morning? However if you forgive the pun, it is all spin. How clever they think they are putting the cost on the consumer and still raking in large profits. Plus ca change.

  • John Roffey 14th Dec '15 - 3:24pm

    Anne 14th Dec ’15 – 1:10pm

    “It seems now that the ordinary consumer will bear the brunt and cost. ”

    In truth the agreement provides the Party [and Labour, SNP & the Greens] with an extraordinary dilemma. Objectively, saving the planet for future generations and wide array of other species is by far the most important issue of our time. With the Tories in power for four and a half more years and with every likelihood of being returned to power – what can the opposition parties do to square the circle?

    If they insist that global warming/climate change must be the priority – under the Tories it will have to be at the expense of the least able to afford the sacrifices necessary. Apart from abandoning most of its precious policies the Party will have to come up with some ingenious policies that do achieve the necessary reductions in fossil fuel use – but at the same time improve the lot of the most vulnerable in our society. For if this cannot be offered – the votes of the least well off, which are needed to hold on to the seats held at the moment and/or improve the share of the vote – will not be forthcoming.

    The alternative is to insist that the necessary measures to keep global temperatures at 2% or less than pre-industrial levels be abandoned in the UK.

  • @Anne
    “It seems now that the ordinary consumer will bear the brunt and cost. The poor mainly.”
    Not sure exactly what point you are trying to make here. The ordinary consumer has been bearing the brunt of the government’s investment in solar panels, wind farms etc., this adding circa £200 pa to the typical consumer’s bill.

    “Now switching your washing machine on at night for example is such a good idea.”
    Well back in the 1980’s with an Economy7 tariff that actually saved you money, that was exactly what I did.
    In recent years, from the handful of homes I’ve done energy assessments on, an Economy7 tariff works out more expensive, so turn the washing machine on whenever it fits with your routine. If however you have solar panels then run the washing machine and tumble dryer during the day to save on our energy bills.

    The agreement, presents a dilemma in that we know that some countries. such as the US, will have difficulty in ratifying this agreement, hence there will still be voices that call for progress to be slow in case we ‘lose out’. However, there is a real risk that we will lose out on the green market and hence opportunity to export our skills and technology. Because whilst the US government may be slow in agreeing to change, this isn’t going to stop US companies (and others) from doing R&D and bringing products to market.

  • nigel hunter 14th Dec '15 - 11:53pm

    As Howard says about Rudds relation, she is in the same vain. As long as fossil fuels are the cheapest the environment will not matter. Those with vested interests will want to keep the status quo and do nothing. If the Conservatives wish to steel a march on this issue, to score points, Rudd must go. I agree that the party should reach for vote inducing ideas but at the same time look at the existing ideas that have been mentioned , eg. the green deal. Again we must , as is mentioned join the race for R&D products.

  • Good article from the Guardian in which Bill McKibben compares hitting the 1.5 degree rise in temperatures to running a marathon:

    Climate deal: the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running?

    “There can be no complacency after the Paris talks. Hitting even the 1.5C target will need drastic, rapid action

    With the climate talks in Paris now over, the world has set itself a serious goal: limit temperature rise to 1.5C. Or failing that, 2C. Hitting those targets is absolutely necessary: even the one-degree rise that we’ve already seen is wreaking havoc on everything from ice caps to ocean chemistry. But meeting it won’t be easy, given that we’re currently on track for between 4C and 5C. Our only hope is to decisively pick up the pace.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/13/paris-climate-talks-15c-marathon-negotiating-physics

    and one from the BBC:

    Call for fracking to get started in UK

    “The UK needs to start fracking to establish the economic impact of shale gas, an industry-funded body has said.
    The Shale Gas Task Force says only after fracking has begun will it be possible to determine how much gas can be recovered.” !!!

  • Peter Andrews 15th Dec '15 - 7:01pm

    Shame the Tory Government is about to needlessly slash the support for renewables which has built up a renewables sector in the UK over the last 5 years. I have no idea how the Tories think they will meet the commitments they made in Paris whilst keeping the lights on in the UK given we are facing closing coal fired power stations and a load of the UK’s nuclear power stations are coming to the end of their lives.

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