Brincat says ‘historic’ climate change deal presents real chance to curb emissions

Environment minister Leo Brincat praises Malta’s important role in historic Paris pact but says limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will be major challenge

Environment minister Leo Brincat has hailed the landmark climate deal reached in Paris on Saturday, calling it a pivotal moment in history and a real chance to curb emissions.

“An agreement of this magnitude is of historic proportions and the first agreement of its type for the past 20 years. It is also a positive surprise as up to a few days ago, delegates were still scrambling to agree on salient points and an agreement looked to be beyond reach,” the environment minister told MaltaToday.  

In what has been termed the world’s greatest diplomatic success, Saturday’s historic climate change agreement brought two weeks of fraught negotiations to an end. Diplomats and ministers from 196 countries let out a sigh of relief and exploded into cheers after French foreign minister Laurent Fabius announced that a Paris agreement had been signed.

Last-minute compromises had been resolved and four years since similar talks in Denmark had hit a brick wall and degenerated into chaos and recriminations, it was Paris, the city which just a month ago was hit by terrorist attacks that left 130 dead, which stood tall as it played host to the historic deal.

“The presence of world leaders and ministers was symbolic as it showed the international community’s resolve to save the planet and an act of defiance against the terrorist attacks,” he said.

“Looking back, Malta played an important role as the accord agreed that countries limit warming 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and it was only during the CHOGM in Malta that Commonwealth leaders agreed to hold the increase below that threshold,” Brincat told MaltaToday.

Indeed, in what seemed unthinkable a few months ago, world leaders agreed to limit warming to 1.5C. The goal marks the point where there is real danger of serious “tipping points” in the world’s climate, but way below the 2C that nearly 200 countries agreed as a limit six years ago in Copenhagen.

Albeit historic and ambitious, the pledge to limit emissions from fossil-fuel burning would be useless if the necessary measures are not implemented. Scientific advice have warned that the world has already hit 1C while recent data shows no sign of a major fall in the global emissions driving the warming, effectively bringing the world one step close to consequences such as extreme weather, droughts, floods and sea-level rises.

Fully aware of the disastrous consequences that global warming may have on the world’s climate and the fate of islands and low-lying countries, the environment minister insisted that world leaders must look beyond short-term measures and embark on a series of measures that would tackle climate change.

“Limiting the global warming to 1.5C is a major challenge which goes beyond the target that the EU had initially set out. The ball is now in the court of the leaders and decisions makers. In order for the UN’s aspiration to be meaningful, a collective effort is required by all stakeholders,” Brincat insisted.

Welcoming the rare show of an accord between poor and rich nations from across the geographical spectrum, the environment minister pledged that Malta – notwithstanding its size – will play its part too.

“The government, together with all stakeholders and the civil society must work on a regional, local, and international level. All decision makers, be it those involved in investment or in energy, must embark on a collective effort to ensure that Malta delivers on its targets,” the minister said.

Amongst other measures, Brincat also welcomed the issue of “loss and damage” – a mechanism for addressing the financial losses vulnerable countries suffer due to the adverse of effects of climate change, such as extreme weather.

The historic accord also creates a system to encourage to encourage nations to step up voluntary domestic efforts to curb emissions, and provides billions more to help poor nations cope with the transition to a greener economy powered by renewable energy.

And amid worries that countries’ pledges will are not enough to keep warming below 2C, beyond which climate change is expected to have catastrophic impacts, countries agreed to carry out additional reviews every five years to encourage even deeper pollution cuts. A major goal, officials said, is to spur governments and private industry to rapidly develop new technologies to help solve the climate challenge.