#COP21: Nations agree on historic global climate pact

(UPDATED) Negotiators from 195 parties formally adopt a global climate pact that aims to curb global warming and avert a planet-wide disaster

KD Suarez

6:28:2pm December 12, 2015

11:49:9pm December 12, 2015

DEAL DONE. Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (C), raises hands with Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (2-L) and France's President Francois Hollande (R) after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. Francois Guillot/AFP

DEAL DONE. Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (C), raises hands with Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (2-L) and France's President Francois Hollande (R) after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. Francois Guillot/AFP

LE BOURGET, France (5th UPDATE) – The deal is sealed.

Negotiators from all of the world's nations have formally adopted a global climate pact that aims to keep a global temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees Celsius and help avert a planet-wide disaster.

It is to take effect in 2020.

Ministers and delegates representing 195 groups (194 countries and the European Union acting as one party) unanimously agreed on the 31-page document, the first-ever global agreement on climate change that will have all countries on board. (READ: Full text of the Paris agreement)

"The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels," said a statement from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

"The 1.5 degree Celsius limit is a significantly safer defense line against the worst impacts of a changing climate," it added.

At exactly 7:30 pm Central European time (2:30 am Sunday, December 13 Philippine time), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, acting as the chair of the 2015 United Nations (UN) climate change conference, banged the gavel during a plenary session at the Le Bourget conference center, signaling the adoption of the document.

"I see the room, I see the reaction is positive, I hear no objection. The Paris climate accord is adopted," Fabius declared.

Cheers emanated from the people packing the La Seine plenary hall, composed of ministers, diplomats, and other officials who have worked with nearly no sleep for the past three nights in the outskirts of the French capital Paris.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and group of countries to go back home with their heads held high. Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort. Our responsibility to history is immense” said Fabius.

French President Francois Hollande told the assembled delegates: “You’ve done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud to stand before your children and grandchildren.”

The Philippine delegation called it a "sigificant stride" in addressing issues that matter the most to the Philippines. (READ: PH on Paris climate pact: Monumental feat for humanity)

Various civil society groups praised the deal, but they also stressed that what comes next is equally important.

The pact is the culmination of more than two decades of negotiations and debates between countries, particularly between the rich and the poor nations, on how to best deal with global warming.

The aim is to limit global warming to below 2ºC (3.6ºF), with the aim of containing it below 1.5ºC (2.7ºF), above pre-Industrial Revolution levels, by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"To reach these ambitious and important goals, appropriate financial flows will be put in place, thus making stronger action by developing countries and the most vulnerable possible, in line with their own national objectives," according to the UNFCC.

More than half of the delegations earlier signified their intention to adopt the draft agreement, most notably the G77+China bloc – a group of 134 nations mostly from the developing world, and includes China, India, and most of the oil-producing Gulf nations that are seen as the biggest possible stumbling blocks to a deal.

"The Paris Agreement on climate change is a monumental triumph for people and planet," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the assembled group.

"Here in Paris, we have heeded their voices – as was our duty," he said.

"When historians look back on this day, they will say that global cooperation to secure a future safe from climate change took a dramatic new turn here in Paris," he added.

"We have an agreement. It is a good agreement. You should all be proud," Ban added.

Financing issues

Developing nations had insisted rich countries must shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for tackling climate change as they emitted most of the greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution.

The United States and other rich nations countered that emerging giants must also do more, arguing developing countries now account for most of current emissions and thus will be largely responsible for future warming.

On the crucial financing issue, developed countries agreed to muster at least $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year from 2020 to help developing nations.

However, following US objections, it was not included in the legally- binding section of the deal

Ahead of the talks, most nations submitted voluntary plans to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from 2020, a process billed as an important platform for success.

But scientists say that, even if the pledges were fully honoured, Earth will still be on track for warming far above safe limits.

In an effort to get countries to scale up their commitments, the agreement will have five-yearly reviews of their pledges starting from 2023.

Nations most vulnerable to climate change lobbied hard for wording to limit warming to 1.5C.

Big polluters, such as China, India and oil producing-giant Saudi Arabia, preferred a ceiling of 2C, which would have enabled them to burn fossil fuels for longer.

China's chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua said the pact was not perfect.

"However, this does not prevent us from marching historical steps forward," he said.

"This indeed is a marvelous act that belongs to our generation and all of us."

What's next?

The agreement will be kept at the UN in New York and be opened for one year for signature on 22 April 2016, Mother Earth Day, the UNFCC said.

"The agreement will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification," it added.

The agreement also includes the following details, according to UNFCC:

All countries will submit adaptation communications, in which they may detail their adaptation priorities, support needs and plans. Developing countries will receive increased support for adaptation actions and the adequacy of this support will be assessed.

The existing Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage will be significantly strengthened.

The agreement includes a robust transparency framework for both action and support. The framework will provide clarity on countries’ mitigation and adaptation actions, as well as the provision of support. At the same time, it recognizes that Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States have special circumstances. 

The agreement includes a global stocktake starting in 2023 to assess the collective progress towards the goals of the agreement. The stocktake will be done every five years.

The agreement includes a compliance mechanism, overseen by a committee of experts that operates in a non-punitive way.

Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist for the World Bank who has become a prominent global advocate of climate action, also hailed the deal.

"This is a historic moment, not just for us and our world today, but for our children, our grandchildren and future generations," Stern said.

French scientist Jean Jouzel, who contributes to the UN's Nobel-winning climate panel, was cautious.

He told Agence France-Presse the 1.5 C goal was legitimate for climate-vulnerable countries but in reality, it was "a dream, and certainly too ambitious to reach."

"My disappointment is about action before 2020," which would help avert future warming, Jouzel said. "There is really no ambition there at all." – With reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com