Over the past two weeks, leaders and delegates from 195 countries worked to hammer out a climate deal which they finally reached, releasing the final draft over the weekend.
Canadian Environment Minister Katherine McKenna says she’s thrilled that Canada was able to play an active part of the agreement.
“We have an ambitious and balanced agreement that ‘s going to hold temperatures to less than two degrees, aiming, striving to one point five degrees. We have countries that have all provided targets. And they have committed to increasing their ambition, increasing the reductions they make to greenhouse gas emissions every five years.”
Time to be optimistic
Shane Foxman spoke with Dr. John Smol, a biologist at Queen’s University. He says it’s a stronger deal than many of us hoped was possible.
“Like many people, I’m always worried in five years are we going to be actually on target. But it is a historic deal, there’s a lot of things that are quite remarkable about this.”
Not least of which, he says, is that 195 countries got together and all signed off, agreeing it’s a big problem and they must come together to deal with it.
Smol says the document is hard to read due to legalese, but his understanding is that there are far more ways of verifying, one of which is that countries have to meet again in five years to show what they’ve done and where they stand.
“This one is a little different than the others. It includes the developing countries, you know the Kyoto did not, for example. The United States is signing, China is signing, India is signing.”
He says there are many positive things in the agreement.
“I can always think of reasons why we should be far more worried but there are many positive things there. The fact that you’ve got 195 people signing is a real step from sleep waking to disaster, which is what I think we’ve been doing, to a sort of a final wake up that we actually have to do something about it.”
Smol also says in regards to economic issues, there’s money to be made in climate change.
“I think this is also an acknowledgement that we have to deal with it, and by dealing with it we’re going to start looking at…issues of the economic side of this.”
What is so important about limiting temperature rise to below 2 degrees celsius?
“Two degrees is generally considered to be one of the thresholds…but i’s probably closer to one point five, where we start losing control of some of the things. We call them tipping points…where after a certain point, some greenhouse gases will start being released even more, without us even releasing them, from natural places, like peatlands.”
Smol says a two degree rise is when we’ll see significant changes to our systems including more flooding, and more extreme weather events.
“It’s a target we really have to aim for. It’s doesn’t sound like much, but it’s actually ecologically very important.”
Is it feasible?
“What it requires is a concerted effort to basically decrease greenhouse gases going up, and to have better ways of capturing [them].”
He says there are biological ways we can capture greenhouse gases, such as regenerating forest and not cutting down rainforests that will naturally take in CO2. Along with using far less fossil fuels and switching to sustainable types of energy.
“It is feasible. No one’s saying that it’s going to be extremely easy. No one’s saying it’s going to be at the same cost, but there are costs associated with greenhouse gas warming.”
Smol says we should have been doing this for twenty years and what it comes down to is that we now have a tangible, real agreement.
“I’m really hopeful that this is actually a major game-changing kind of moment. The alternative is so terrible to think, I’m surprised people aren’t running in the streets screaming and demonstrating.”