COP21: For all the hype around the climate change summit in Paris, will it actually prove to be a turning point?

Will COP21 actually prove to be a turning point? (Source: Getty)

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, says Yes

The Paris summit has already proved to be a turning point because more than 180 countries have submitted national pledges to limit or reduce their annual emissions of greenhouse gases over the next 15 years.

These plans show that the world is moving away from dirty economies powered by fossil fuels, towards cleaner and more efficient growth and development. Businesses and governments can see that economic growth and action on climate change can be achieved together.

The Paris agreement will create a process through which emissions cuts will be ramped-up afterwards, as countries accelerate along the low-carbon path. More will follow the example set by the UK, which has reduced its emissions by 36 per cent since 1990 while increasing its GDP by 60 per cent.

The speeches in Paris from the biggest-ever gathering of world leaders demonstrated that the false claims of those who try to cast doubt on the need to cut greenhouse gas pollution are neither credible nor relevant.

Benny Peiser, the director of the Global Warming Policy Forum, says No

The Paris climate agreement is likely to have the opposite effect of its intended purpose. The new accord will abandon legally binding CO2 caps that determined the Kyoto Protocol.

A deal with no binding CO2 limits, however, will be toothless. In fact, a woolly agreement is likely to result in slowing rather than accelerating decarbonisation. The EU’s own Paris pledge, cutting CO2 emissions by 40 per cent below the 1990 level by 2030, is conditional on submitted pledges being legally binding for all countries.

If the summit fails to make CO2 caps legally binding, the EU will be unable to make its own pledge legally binding either. As a result, Britain’s unilateral carbon budgets for the next 10 to 15 years will become politically unsustainable.

After Paris, expect policy makers in Brussels and London to consider a significant slowdown and roll-back of unilateral decarbonisation policies.

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