About 200 nations agree to limit warming to two degrees

UNFCCC: Long before the climate summit in Paris last week, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay expected the meeting of almost 200 nations to set ambitious targets that are legally binding.

Yesterday, after leaders in Paris adopted a “historic” deal to limit warming below two degrees Celsius and strive to keep temperatures at 1.5 degree, the Prime Minister said he is very happy that leaders of the world have acknowledged the dangers of climate change and have committed to address it collectively to limiting global temperature to a maximum of two degrees.

“That is very important for Bhutan because we are both a landlocked and a mountainous country. As a landlocked country, we are exposed to green house gases that are emitted from our neighbouring countries and as a mountainous county, increase in more than two degrees would be too much for us,” he said. “Our glaciers would melt too rapidly and cause tremendous disasters not just to Bhutan but the Himalayan region that it feeds.”

After more than two decades of fraught meetings, delegates from nearly 200 countries agreed on Saturday to not only step up efforts to fight climate change but also signalled an end to the fossil fuel era by committing to cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid dangerous effects of climate change.

“The agreement appears timely and good for the entire world,” Lyonchoen said. “We in Bhutan should draw tremendous amount of pride at the leadership that our beloved Kings have exercised in terms of protecting out environment. This is something that our Kings have done more than four decades ago and that it’s only now that the world has come to acknowledge it.”

Lyonchoen said that what Bhutan wanted had been achieved. “Bhutan should be proud because the voice of small countries, especially Bhutan’s seem to have been heard in the international stage, and that has given much needed impetus to reach an agreement,” he said.

The agreement sets a new goal to reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century, which could hasten the change away from fossil fuel to clean energy economy. The deal was delayed by about 24 hours but when the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius brought down the special leaf-shaped gavel to adopt the Paris Agreement, the hall erupted in applause and cheers, it was reported.

In an exclusive interview with Kuensel in November, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay wanted to see four concrete outcomes- legally binding agreement that would limit warming to a maximum of two degrees, all countries to partake ambitious and legally binding commitments to reduce green house gases, a mechanism to support the least developed and vulnerable countries and a review mechanism to ensure that countries stay true to their commitments.

The agreement is a tribute to the wisdom of our Kings who have been successfully protecting our environment for more than four decades, said Lyonchoen. “We are carbon negative and at the COP 21, our success has been recognized as a role model and as an inspiration to the world.”

Lyonchoen however said that Bhutan must do more and must continue to protect and nurture its pristine forests, which is a valuable carbon sink. “All energy we generate is already renewable and we are working hard to generate even more clean renewable energy, both for domestic use and for export,” he said. “We must work harder to reduce consumption of possible fuel and firewood.”

The United States, one of the top polluters, hailed the agreement and said it would unleash the genius of the financial markets in driving climate change investments. “This agreement represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got,” US President Barack Obama said, but added that the deal “was not perfect. The problem’s not solved because of this accord.”

The two biggest polluters in the world and close-door neighbours, India and China also backed the agreement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the landmark climate accord in Paris, saying it pointed the world towards a greener future. “Outcome of Paris agreement has no winners or losers. Climate justice has won & we are all working towards a greener future,” PM Modi twitted.

The Paris Agreement for the first time commits rich countries, rising economies and some of the poorest countries to work together to curb emissions. Wealthier nations agreed to raise USD 100B a year by 2020 to help poor countries transform their economies. The overall agreement is legally binding, but pledges to curb emissions by individual countries and the climate finances are not.

All countries agreed on demands from the US and European Union for five-year reviews of their emission reductions – an exercise that had been resisted by China, which is struggling to deal with smog pollution even as the climate summit was going on in Paris.

Sonam Pelden