COP21: US and China agree to ‘take action’ on climate change

There was widespread optimism for a global deal to tackle climate change for the first time, as China and the US rowed in behind a binding agreement in a change to their attitude shown just six years ago in Copenhagen, Denmark.

COP21: US and China agree to ‘take action’ on climate change

Taoiseach Enda Kenny struck a slightly different note when, while supporting a comprehensive deal, he sought support to allow Ireland to miss its targets in agriculture in 2020.

The reality of what the world is facing was graphically spelt out by the prime minister of the Bahamas, Perry Christie, when he said his collection of islands is already suffering from a 1C rise in global temperatures. What would be a normal tropical storm last month developed into category-5 Hurricane Joaquin in 36 hours, causing $100m (€94.6m) worth of damage, equivalent to 10% of the country’s national budget.

Other leaders of small islands doomed to disappear if the climate rise reaches 1.5C over pre-industrial levels appealed to national and industry leaders to be more ambitious, reduce fossil fuel use, and develop new mechanisms to allow growth and development for the poorer countries.

Many national leaders talked about future generations and how they would not understand if the hard decisions were not taken now.

Mr Kenny, one of 150 prime ministers and presidents addressing the first day of the 11-day conference, said: “Let us not deprive our successors and our children of a real future before they are born.”

UK prime minister David Cameron said they could not argue cost, since the coming generations would compare the required $100bn (€94.6bn) climate fund to the $5tn (€4.73tn) under management in the City of London.

US president Barack Obama, fully acknowledging that the US was the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, said that “we embrace our responsibility to do something about it”.

The mood music from Xi Jinping, the president of China, now the world’s leading carbon emitter, was also more positive, driven by pressure from his own people, suffering the effects of pollution in its major cities.

He and Mr Obama gave a joint press conference where the latter said they were both in agreement “that it is our responsibility to take action”.

Some countries, led by India, are not so positive, as they say they were not the historical creators of climate change and so, developing countries should not have to take action that would limit their economic growth.

There will be announcements from businesses, and the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pledging to invest in developing technologies to help fight climate change.

News: 4

World: 10

Editorial: 12

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