Global warming affects us all

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak - The Philippine Star

A couple of weeks back as COP21 was just beginning, I wrote a column about how I hoped we could all take the pertinent steps to finally address global warming and climate change. I had taken a look back at how the nations of the world had been trying for years to come up with an agreement that everyone could sign on and had, for the most part, been stuck in a stalemate that threatened to destroy us all.

It’s not hard to see why so many countries around the world could not come to an agreement in the years gone by. After all, as much of a global nation as we are, the leadership of each and every country is still coming to the table looking after their own interests first and foremost. In the past that’s how it’s always been done, but now, I think we can all agree that it’s time things change.

Coming into the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties, I think that most countries knew that there was no more time to waste. Alongside the deadline they themselves set (an agreement needed to be reached by 2015), there was the added pressure of how the world has changed in the past five years alone. A decade ago, governments were aware of climate change and global warming, but were not seated in the front row to witness the devastating effects that rising temperatures could have on the world. Fast-forward to today and everyone sees just how bad it can be.

After all, do we want to live in a world where typhoons like Yolanda and Katrina are the norm? Where earthquakes are par for the course and droughts last for months and months (even years)? What once sounded like doomsday prophecies are coming true on a regular basis and this alone could have served as the painful wake up call that we all needed to realize that if we don’t do something meaningful soon we may wake up one day and it’ll be too late.

Peaceful protests and demonstrations occurred through the COP21 pressuring governments the world over to come to an agreement and begin the long-delayed battle against rising temperatures. People were afraid that once again no agreement would be made. This year truly did feel different though. This year it felt critical. It felt like it would be a nail in the coffin if a deal wasn’t made.

So of course, it was very happy news indeed when we heard that at long last the participants of the COP21 had made a deal and that 195 nations have come to an agreement on a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the global average temperature to rise “well below” 2C (3.6G) compared to pre-industrial levels – a level of warming deemed to be the point when dangerous climate change could threaten real life on Earth.

While the intricacies of the deal still have to be analyzed further, the main focus is that all of the countries in the deal have made a binding agreement to take steps towards change. And this is a very big deal because they all came into the talks from different places and all definitely had to make compromises and concessions to see the deal push through. In fact, many say that the Paris Agreement could not have been possible if countries had not come in realizing that they would not win them all. There had to be a level of win some, lose some, and compromise at the table for an agreement to be made. At the end of the day, no country or group had any outright victory and, in the end, they all had something to be pleased about.

We all knew that the basic obstacle the agreement faced was that not all countries are equal. How could we all possibly take the same steps when we are not all at the same level technologically and financially? Developing countries wanted developed ones to take a greater responsibility (after all, they must also accept a larger portion of the blame). Developing countries wanted provisions for the agreement to reflect the “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

Basically, the CBDR would give developing countries a little more time and a little more help to get to the level of their more developed counterparts. Through this differentiation, concessions can be made for developing countries that do not currently have the resources and infrastructure to completely transfer to sustainable and renewable energy sources. These differentiations can be seen several times throughout the agreement and it helps make the steps more believable and attainable for developing nations, like us.

In addition, and a very important addition too, developed countries have to provide technological and financial resources to help developing countries deal with climate change and most especially to help them implement adaptation measures. In most instances, developing nations would love to upgrade and switch to renewable forms of energy, but they lack the financial means to do so. The implication in the deal is that developed countries will provide $100 billion every year from 2020 to help aid the world in going clean and green. After 2025, this amount could even increase.

While the implications of the Paris Agreement are yet to be felt, we can already gauge that changes are going to have to be made on a global level. Politicians are going to have to include this in their forecasting, in their plans, and even more importantly in their budgets.

There are still hurdles to overcome, of course, but what this deal brings more than anything else is hope. Hope that for once, we can all work together for a common cause and make some real and positive change. The Pope hit the nail on the head when he said that climate change is one of the most important topics in the world today. We should heed his advice and give it the importance it deserves. After all, what does it matter which politician slaps who if the world we live in is crumbling under our feet.

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