‘Thank God we got it’: Green’s May on global climate deal

By Michael D. Reid

December 13, 2015

Publication source: Times Colonist

The 195 nations that reached a climate agreement on Saturday in Paris have moved the world closer to a solution to global warming, say local politicians and activists.

“It’s not a perfect agreement, but thank God we got it,” said federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, speaking in an online video.

The agreement, the first to include all nations instead of just the rich ones, calls for countries to limit the increase in global temperature by the year 2100 to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels. However, they agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5 C.

It sets a framework that will contain periodic reviews and assessments to ensure that countries meet their commitments to reduce carbon emissions. As technology advances, targets can be updated. The agreement also calls for supporting the most vulnerable nations as they pursue cleaner economic growth.

The deal must be ratified by 55 countries representing at least 55 per cent of global emissions.

Sierra Club B.C. climate campaigner Jens Wieting described the landmark agreement as “a great outcome,” saying it was an important milestone, if only because nearly 200 nations agreed to roll back global warming.

“I’m still astonished it took 20 years ago to get to this point, though” said Wieting, who has been following climate summits since 1995’s Berlin Mandate.

“I was nervous there could be more problems like there were six years ago in Copenhagen, but I’m optimistic because governments are slowly realizing it’s the end of the fossil-fuel era.”

Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and leader of the B.C. Green Party, said the big plus is that “it’s a deal that includes everyone, and there are legally binding provisions.”

The downside, he said, is that the reductions are voluntary targets. “The problem with voluntary targets is there needs to be some way to ensure that people follow through,” Weaver said.

Still, he applauded “the fact that everybody got together on this, which is a positive step forward. No longer do we have rogue nations trying to undermine what’s being done.”

Jay T. Cullen, professor with University of Victoria’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said it was a “good starting point” and seeing China, India and Saudi Arabia agree to the text was a positive aspect.

“Co-operation at the level of global governments is a necessary first step, and hopefully the agreement will be improved upon in the future,” he said.

“Canadians and Victorians will need to be willing to look for ways to reduce our carbon emissions. It is a relief to see our new government addressing the issue of climate change, the participation of our provincial governments and our scientists discussing their work with the public.”

Wieting said the Sierra Club’s focus now is to push for a halt to investment in fossil-fuel products, and for a climate test to determine the effects of the provincial government’s proposed liquefied natural gas industry or coal projects.

“Sierra Club B.C. is completely concerned that the B.C. government is holding onto the LNG vision, and not realizing the world is moving into clean and renewable energy,” he said.

The provincial government has said its carbon tax and plans for LNG make it a world leader in fighting climate change. Government officials could not be reached for comment on the agreement on Saturday.

– With files from CP and AP