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Mixed feelings over COP21 agreement

French President Francois Hollande (right) shakes hands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the final session of the COP21 climate change conference in Le Bourget, near Paris, on Saturday.
French President Francois Hollande (right) shakes hands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the final session of the COP21 climate change conference in Le Bourget, near Paris, on Saturday. AFP

Mixed feelings over COP21 agreement

The Kingdom’s delegates are returning with mixed feelings about the agreement to try and save the planet from catastrophic climate change that was adopted on Saturday at the UN Climate Talks in Paris, known as COP21.

In an email sent just before the treaty was adopted, government delegate Sum Thy wrote that “we can see that some key national positions Cambodia have proposed have been included”, naming the much sought-after loss and damage funds and $100 billion in annual climate financing by 2020 with preferential access for poorer countries.

However, Thy also noted “there is no commitment in terms of amount of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions cut in the Paris agreement . . . and no commitment or decision related to pre 2020 GHG emissions cut”.

Reacting in an email yesterday, the Kingdom’s civil society delegate, Nop Polin, characterised the treaty as “generally good in term[s] of global solidarity”, although some parts are lacking the stronger language that was hoped for. For example, Polin pointed to the use of the word “should” over “shall”, such as in Article 4.4 of the agreement.

He said that this use of softer language left the door open to non-compliance with the agreement.

Polin also wrote that without immediate, accountable and transparent implementation, the “agreement is just a piece of paper”.

In fact, the treaty has been widely criticised for being not entirely legally binding, with many components being voluntary.

Another serious concern is in Article 2, which sets a target of limiting temperature increase from pre-industrial levels to “well below” 2 degrees Celcius with a long term goal of 1.5 degrees Celcius, but according to Polin, “the ‘how’ and ‘when’ is still a big question”.

Having 1.5 degrees Celcius as the upper limit, a limit recommended by a consensus among scientists, to avert dangerous climate change has been a major position for civil society throughout the negotiations.

Christian Aid, the international civil society organisation whose delegation Polin was a part of, on Friday published a press release signed by the NGO Forum as well as several partners calling for the 1.5-degree limit as well as recognition in the treaty of “the acute vulnerability of Southeast Asia and Central America”.

Meanwhile the Asian Development Bank said in a December 7 statement that “economic losses from the impacts of climate change in Southeast Asia could be 60 [per cent] higher than previously estimated”.

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