The world is lagging when it comes to the implementation of the Paris Climate Accord (also known as the Paris Agreement), French Ambassador to South Africa Aurélien Lechavallier warned on Tuesday. He was participating in a joint briefing in Pretoria marking the fifth anniversary of the accord (which was signed in December 2015) and heralding the COP26 climate summit to be held in Glasgow in the UK next year.
In terms of the Paris Accord, the countries of the world agreed to take measures to limit the warming of the Earth’s climate by a global average of less than 2 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. But, currently, he highlighted, the global climate was on course to warm by 4 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. And, as that was a global average figure, some countries would experience greater warming than others; indeed, some territories might experience an increase of 8 ˚C. “That’s why we have to stay committed,” he affirmed.
He pointed out that South Africa was one of the countries that potentially would be one of those most affected by climate change. He also noted that the country had played a major role in the negotiation of the Paris Agreement in 2015, where it had headed the presentation and promotion of the African position on the issue.
The ambassador recalled that the negotiation of the agreement had been tough. “We really didn’t know if we could reach the agreement,” he said. “We’d been trying to negotiate such a universal climate agreement for 20 years. With 195 countries, you have to reach consensus.”
However, the various governments were under increasing pressure from both scientists and public opinion. And a text was reached – “a universal text” Lechavallier called it. The process of concluding the accord was called the ‘Spirit of Paris’ at the time. “The Spirit of Paris – the moment you overcome your national interest to seek the global interest,” he explained.
The Paris Agreement was rapidly ratified and came into force in 2016. It has three pillars – mitigation, adaptation and financing. Mitigation refers to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to preparing countries to handle the effects of climate change, and financing covers how this is to be paid for – in particular, helping fund climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives in developing countries.
The methodology developed to get global agreement at Paris over climate change has since been used at more and more international conferences, on other issues (such as health), he noted.