Experts React to Historic Paris Climate Agreement

Quotes for attribution are below:


NATIONAL SECURITY LEADERS

Jon Powers, Iraq War Veteran, served as the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer and Special Advisor on Energy to the US Army in the Obama Administration

“The agreement coming out of these negotiations is a significant step toward increasing our national security by addressing the causes, consequences, and risks associated with climate change. This deal shows that when the United States leads by example we can tackle global security challenges.”

Major General (ret) A M N Muniruzzaman, Chairman of Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC) Bangladesh

“Military leaders, assembled under GMACCC, realizing the fragility of the situation call upon leaders for urgent action to implement the Paris agreement, to save mankind from the catastrophic consequences of climate change. The Paris agreement must be more than paperwork. Its success depends on a verifiable, implementable, transparent and fair agreement, which is made accountable. The military has a new, definitive, more humanitarian role, to deal with millions of people on the move, and this will only grow over time as climate impacts bite.”


FAITH LEADERS

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith

“We are one earth and one human family, and this is a step forward in responding to the climate crisis. We must build on this foundation and be as ambitious as humanly possible to protect the vulnerable and our common home.”


SCIENTISTS

Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University & Working Group II Lead Author, Chapter 18, UN IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

“These negotiations have made enormous progress, not only because of the ice breaking leadership of the U.S. and China, but also and perhaps ultimately more important participation and engagement of developing country Parties. A real sense of trust and understanding seems to have emerged – an essential anchor for progress moving beyond Paris.”

Chris Field, Founding Director, Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology

“The world truly reached a turning point with the historic Paris agreement, but this is not a time for self-congratulations.  This is our moment to unleash ambition with new levels of innovation, building the clean energy system of the 21st century, developing sustainably, and comprehensively protecting people and the planet.”

Myles Allen, University of Oxford:

“Achieving a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century will require net carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced, in effect, to zero. It seems governments understand this, even if they couldn’t quite bring themselves to say so. To have a good chance of staying below 2 degrees, we need to aim for 1.5 degrees anyway, and it is sensible to acknowledge that 2 degrees itself is hardly “safe”. So, all told, a great outcome. Chapeau to French diplomacy.”

Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre:

“This agreement is a turning point for a  world transformation within a 1.5-2°C safe operating space on Earth. Paris is a global starting point. Now we need action consistent with science to reach decarbonization by 2050 and sustainable development.”

Steffen Kallbekken, Research Director, CICERO:

“The greatest achievement of this process is that more than 180 countries have submitted national climate policy goals. Nevertheless, this is an historic agreement  that sends a clear signal to policy makers, businesses and investors to start the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society.”

Chris Field, Founding Director, Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology:

“The world truly reached a turning point with the historic Paris agreement, but this is not a time for self-congratulations. This is our moment to unleash ambition  with new levels of innovation, building the clean energy system of the 21st century, developing sustainably, and comprehensively  protecting people and the planet.”

Joeri Rogelj, IIASA, UNEP Emissions Gap Report Lead Author:

“The new Article 4 text is clearer in scientific terms than what we had before. Importantly, the benchmarks in terms of global peaking and global emissions reductions are consistent with the 1.5°C and 2°C temperature targets. Much remains to be done and it is encouraging to see that this agreement puts into place a process that could deliver this ambition.”

Diana Liverman, Director, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona:

“The Paris agreement preamble recognizes obligations for countries to respect, promote and consider human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity. This recognition of rights and particular groups is a modest win for many concerned with climate justice, but will now have to be translated into action so that mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance and technology transfer explicitly consider how these policies affect, and hopefully benefit, human rights, women and other groups.”

John Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

“If agreed and implemented, this means bringing down greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero within a few decades. It is in line with the scientific evidence we presented of what would have to be done to limit climate risks such as weather extremes and sea-level rise. To stabilize our climate, CO2 emissions have to peak well before 2030 and should be eliminated as soon as possible after 2050. Technologies such as bio-energy and carbon capture and storage as well as afforestation can play a role to compensate for residual emissions, but cutting CO2 is key. Governments can indeed write history today, so future generations will remember the Paris summit for centuries to come.”

Prof. Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics and Co-Director of Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment at Imperial College London:

“The inclusion of a 1.5 degree option in the draft agreement is remarkable, as is the ambitious proposed mitigation pathway of 70-95% cuts by 2050 leading to zero carbon emissions by the latter half of the century. Showing the seriousness of this intention is the proposed request for the IPCC to produce a special report by 2018 on the potential climate impacts of a 1.5 degree world. Perhaps some of these more ambitious options will not reach the final document but the fact that these targets are being seriously discussed is hugely positive.”

Prof. Chris Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at University College London:

“The inclusion in the draft text of options to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees, or even to below 1.5 degrees, reveals a fundamental shift in the tone and content of the negotiations.  Now that nations have declared their voluntary emissions reductions commitments, the focus has turned to ramping up ambition. This is an historic change, and may at last herald the beginning of ‘the Greatest Collective Action in History’!”

Prof. Myles Allen, University of Oxford:

“Even if they don’t feature in the final text, the fact that they have made it so far suggests many governments understand that 2 degrees already takes us into uncharted territory, and that the only way to stabilise temperatures, without resorting to the smoke and mirrors of geo-engineering, is to reduce CO2 emissions to zero.”

Prof. Simon Lewis, Chair in Global Change Science at University College London:

“Any robust agreement from Paris starts with the goal. Whether it is limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees, three key ingredients are needed. First, the emissions cuts in the agreement must be scientifically credible. For 2 degrees that means immediate rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to zero emissions by the middle of the century (and then negative emissions). Second, the current pledges by countries are well above the requirements of 2 degrees, so a mechanism to transparently review progress and increase commitments is needed. Third, substantial and predictable funding will be required so all countries, including the world’s poorest, can pay their part in reducing emissions to near zero over the coming decades.”

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science:

“In 2012 I was a co-author on a paper published in the journal ‘Climatic Change’ which assessed pathways for global annual emissions of greenhouse gases that might limit the rise in global mean surface temperature to no more than 1.5DegC. It showed that it would be extremely difficult for the world to move to a pathway that would offer a 50 per cent chance of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5DegC. However, the paper concluded that, with strong emissions reductions, it might be possible to limit global warming so that it does not exceed a temperature that is more than 1.5DegC above pre-industrial levels for more than 50 years, and so potentially avoid some of the impacts that would cause the most damage. This prospect becomes stronger if technology, such as the use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, becomes available later in the century which allows carbon dioxide effectively to be removed from the atmosphere, sometimes referred to as ‘negative emissions’. This research is consistent with the current draft of the Paris Agreement which includes an objective to “[h]old the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2DegC above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5DegC, recognizing that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change. There may be other researchers who are cynical about the prospects of countries meeting this objective but they need to distinguish clearly between their own personal views and the scientific evidence. Scientists can be a gloomy bunch but they must recognise that their pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would be ironic if the innate miserableness of some researchers put at risk attempts to reach a new international agreement to avoid dangerous climate change.”


POLICY EXPERTS

Michael Jacobs, Senior Adviser for the New Climate Economy project, and former advisor to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown

“This is a historic moment. The world’s governments have finally understood what the science has long been telling them – we have to act now if the earth’s climate is to remain safe. Today they have committed to act  – and to act together. Historians will see this as the turning point: the moment when the world started shifting decisively away from fossil fuels and towards clean and safe energy systems. Remarkably this effectively signals the end of the fossil fuel era. This is unquestionably a great success. But the work really starts now. These commitments now need to turn into policy, and policy into investment. They can congratulate themselves for 24 hours – now they need to act.”

Jennifer Morgan, World Resources Institute

“This agreement would mark a true turning point in the global effort to address climate change. The text reflects both the push for high ambition and the voices of the most vulnerable. It accelerates the energy transformation that is well underway, pointing us to a safer and stronger future.”


CLIMATE JUSTICE LEADERS

Heather Coleman, Climate Change Policy Manager, Oxfam

“Poor people suffering from the devastating impacts of climate change have no time left. This agreement represents an important step towards avoiding 3 degrees of temperature change or worse, but more ambition is clearly needed. The Paris agreement is a launching point for further actions that address the needs of those who have done the least to cause this crisis but who are suffering the most.”

Monica Araya, member of the Climate Vulnerable expert group

“This agreement marks the beginning of a new era where we find good examples of climate action from all, developed and developing countries, because it is in everyone’s best interests to do so. It is no longer about who is acting and who is not, but how strong the world can act together.”

Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Senior Policy Advisor in Poverty Reduction at Islamic Relief Worldwide, an international humanitarian organization, and the former CEO of Nigeria’s leading national environmental NGO:

“Muslims living in some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries can be hopeful that this climate deal provides a foundation for positive change. In August, Muslim leaders laid out in a declaration, grounded in the Qur’anic teachings, their vision of the low-carbon future necessary for the peace and prosperity of the planet: while COP21 reaffirmed that this vision is necessary and feasible with strong political willpower, the various positive announcements of the last two weeks (and last six years) prove that it is already on its way to becoming a reality. There is still much work to be done: the Muslim community, in continued solidarity with those from other faiths and humanity at large, must now encourage those in Paris and beyond to live out their pledges and take responsibility as stewards of the Earth.”


BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC EXPERTS

Nigel Topping, We Mean Business (WMB)

“This is a remarkable diplomatic settlement and a historic economic catalyst. The world’s governments have sent a decisive signal to businesses and investors that will accelerate the shift towards a thriving, clean global economy. The Paris Agreement for net zero emissions will turn the billions of investment we’ve seen so far into the trillions the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all. The diplomatic process that included businesses, investors, cities, states, regions and civil society created a powerful alliance, which has clearly raised the level of ambition in the negotiations. Businesses and investors look forward to playing a continued role in turning this agreement into on the ground reality.”

Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft

“Microsoft stands with the many voices within the private and public sectors urging the negotiators in Paris to come to a final agreement on climate change. Reaching agreement on a long-term goal framework for cutting carbon emissions and achieving GHG neutrality is critical to address climate change. It will also provide the certainty required for corporations around the world to accelerate their low-carbon investments and foster the creation of a true low-carbon global economy.”

Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

“We believe climate change is an urgent and pressing challenge, and it is clear that we must all do our part to reduce, avoid and mitigate the impact of rising greenhouse gas (GHG) levels. That’s why we support the UN’s call for the U.S. corporate sector to commit to science-based targets to reduce emissions.  In addition, we have already successfully decoupled our growth from emissions, and recently announced that we exceeded our goal to reduce 20 MMT of GHG emissions from our supply chain.”

Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Incorporated

“Back in October, we joined with the rest of the food and drink industry calling on global leaders to embrace the opportunity presented in Paris. Now really is the time for talk to become action and to meaningfully address the reality of climate change.  Global policy makers should think big. Because big thinking leads to big results. Having a long-term science based target will drive ideas and innovation, ultimately making what may have seemed impossible – possible. We are on the cusp of a deal that can change the world. And as a business we are committed to tackling the climate challenges that face us. We hope that global leaders will do the same.”

Anthony Hobley, the Carbon Tracker Initiative

“A 1.5 degrees Carbon Budget means the fossil fuel era is well and truly over. There is absolutely no room for error. Fossil fuel companies must accept that they are an ex growth stock and urgently re-assess their business plans. New energy technologies have leapt down the cost curve in recent years. The effect of the momentum created in Paris means this is only going to accelerate. The need for the financial markets to fund the clean energy transition creates unparalleled opportunity for growth on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution.”

Christoph Bals, Political Director at Germanwatch

“Our experience in Germany has shown that renewable energy can be scaled up rapidly with significant economic benefit. The decarbonisation signal from the Paris Agreement will increase and accelerate these benefits, but Germany still needs to up its game. Chancellor Merkel needs to commit to a plan to phase out the use of coal within the next two decades. The Paris outcome requires developed countries to come back next year with a credible plan for reaching their 2020 targets – that just is not going to be possible without a coal phase-out.”


HEALTH AND MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

Professor Peng Gong, Co-Chair, Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, Tsinghua University, Beijing

“Beijing’s first-ever ‘red alert’ this week, called due to dangerous levels of air pollution in the city, is a clear symbol of the crucial importance of a strong climate deal here in Paris. Concerted action on climate change, particularly through a transition to clean energy, has immense potential to protect respiratory and cardiovascular health and to improve quality of life. In China, it is estimated that over 4000 people die every day as a result of air pollution, much of which comes from burning coal, and worldwide, air pollution is responsible for 7 million deaths every year: A shocking one in eight of all deaths. By accelerating the transition to healthy renewable energy sources and continuing to scale up climate ambition over the coming years, we can protect millions of people from air pollution as well as the serious health impacts of climate change.”

Dr. Xavier Deau, Former-President of the World Medical Association

“We the physicians have the ethical duty to stand for the health of the population, so do all the politicians here in France today. We leave Paris with a strong public health agreement and are encouraged to see elements crucial to the protection of health central to the final agreement. Millions of physicians around the world have their eyes on Paris and are now looking forward and calling on their governments to get to work protecting the health of their populations.”

Mr. José Luis Castro, Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease

“The Paris Climate Agreement cements a decisive call for concerted action to reduce emissions which are toxic to human and planetary health. It is now the duty of the health community to work with others to ensure that these emissions are dramatically reduced – to reduce exposure to leading NCD risk factors, limit global warming, and promote health for all.”

Ms. Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Heart Federation

“The adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement and its embedded references to health mean that NCDs and other health issues can no longer be side-lined in the global response to climate change. The NCD Alliance and its Federations are dedicated to ensuring a comprehensive response to create sustainable environments in which we can live, work and prosper.”

Ms. Katie Dain, Executive Director, NCD Alliance

“The adoption of the Paris agreement is an unprecedented victory for people and planet, and a catalyst for the next phase of action. Now, all of government and all of society must come together in a coordinated response to mitigate the impacts of global warming, NCDs and ill-health.”

Professor Hugh Montgomery, Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change

“The impact of climate change on everything from food production to heat stress and water scarcity means it poses the single biggest threat to global health. This agreement is incredibly important for beginning to ease that health burden, ultimately saving lives. It will also set us on a path to a cleaner, less polluted world which in turn reduces costs for our healthcare systems.”

Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Climate Change Lead, World Health Organization

“Every tonne of carbon that we put into the atmosphere turns up the planet’s thermostat, and increases risks to health. The actions that we need to take to reduce climate change would also help clean up our air and our water, and save lives. To take a medical analogy: We already have good treatments available for climate change, but we are late in starting the course. The Paris Agreement helps us take this forward and is a crucial step in protecting our climate and our health.”

Dr. Bettina Menne, Climate Lead, WHO Europe

“As doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, it is our duty to safeguard the health of our families and communities. The Paris Agreement takes us one step closer to securing a future, which protects the public from the impacts of climate change – the defining health issue of this century. Today, we are leaving France with a deal that bolsters community resilience, strengthens our health systems, and helps to tackle inequalities.”


LOCAL ELECTED LEADERS

Kevin de León, California Senate President pro Tem

“To fight climate change and clean the air we breathe we need strong political will and diverse coalitions to confront powerful interests that want to keep the status quo. It gives me tremendous hope to see governments from around the world unite and build a cleaner and sustainable future for our children together. This durable agreement will provide certainty in the market and unleash clean energy businesses that will reshape our economy. I was proud to be part of the California delegation in Paris and share our vision for the new economy of tomorrow with the world.”

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