Historic climate agreement: “The spirits of Paris have defeated the ghosts of Copenhagen"

12/14/2015 - 195 states worldwide adopted a breakthrough climate agreement at the UN climate summit in Paris, COP21. Leading scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research actively participated in the historic meeting that put the world on the path to limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and bring down greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero within a few decades. While implementing the treaty will be an enormous challenge, for the first time ever climate stabilization and hence limiting climate risks including weather extremes and sea-level rise comes into reach. It is the beginning, not the end, of a process that now requires rapid implementation strong policy instruments that live up to the aspirations of the agreement.
Historic climate agreement: “The spirits of Paris have defeated the ghosts of Copenhagen"

"The spirits of Paris have defeated the ghosts of Copenhagen,” says PIK director John Schellnhuber, referring to the failure of the climate conference in the Danish capital in 2009. “Reason and moral combined at the COP21 to deliver a historical climate agreement that finally transcends national egotisms. The target of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees and aiming at 1.5 degrees is more ambitious than expected, yet fully in line with the scientific risk assessment. If sincerely operationalized, the Paris agreement will induce the decarbonization of the world economy by the middle of this century. The current emissions reduction pledges of most countries, the so-called INDCs, however, are insufficient and have to be adapted to the new level of ambition in the next few years. Still, this is a turning point in the human enterprise where the great transformation towards sustainability begins."

Schellnhuber met with the French President Francois Hollande at the Élysée Palace during the summit and along with leading French scientists handed over a climate statement by more than 70 Nobel Laureates. He is an advisor of the German government and the Vatican and has attended about 15 of the 21 “Conferences of the Parties”, the COPs. Numerous informal meetings as well as side-events, for instance with EU science commissioner Carlos Moedas and the German Advisory Board on Global Change (WBGU) marked his Paris trajectory. Schellnhuber also participated in a science press conference that raised great interest at a criticial moment of the negotiations, highlighting what is at stake. He is one of the initiators of The Earth Statement, an appeal to decision makers by eminent scientists united in the Earth League.

"The Paris Agreement is a breakthrough. Earth's fate now depends on how fast and how strong we implement policy instruments to actually reach the great target of strictly limiting global temperature increase and the resulting climate risks,” says PIK’s chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer. “The Paris agreement explicitly acknowledges that the current emission reduction pledges, the so-called INDCs, will lead to increasing global emissions by 2030. Nevertheless, the aspirational goal of staying below 2°C of the Paris Agreement is not consistent with the pledges unless deep emission cuts at rates of about 6 percent per year between 2030 and 2050 are pursued. We need short-term entry points for climate policies that allow emissions to peak well before 2030. However, the institutional mechanisms in the Paris Agreement for emission reduction rates are vague: The monitoring and review process has to be clearly defined.”

He adds: “The Paris Agreement mentions some short-term entry points: carbon pricing and carbon markets. The G20 should elaborate next steps to implement carbon prices. Financing and transfers provide the means to harmonize these carbon prices. Whoever is building more coal power plants, however, is shutting the door to reaching the two-degree target. We now more than ever need to avoid a global renaissance of coal - so we can transform the treaty into reality, and ultimately a better future for all.” Edenhofer, like Schellnhuber, was a member of the German delegation in Paris. He participated, for instance, in a briefing for German members of parliament and spoke at side events including one  with Stanford University on the future of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and at many high-ranking discussions about carbon pricing, for instance with the OECD members.

Scientists from PIK in Paris included Anders Levermann, Malte Meinshausen, Ricarda Winkelmann, Elmar Kriegler, Louise Jeffery, Detlef Sprinz, and others. Media worldwide repored extensively about what the scientists said already during COP21, and afterwards about its outcome. The New York Times as well as Süddeutsche Zeitung had John Schellnhuber on their respective front pages, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as well as People’s Daily from China run interviews with him. TV coverage stretched from ZDF heute to Chinese State Television CCTV. Similarly, Ottmar Edenhofer got quoted in media from German Handelsblatt to major international newswire Bloomberg. Anders Levermann appeared for instance in Russian TV and in Japan’s major economic newspaper Nikkei. On the day after COP21 alone, PIK scientists featured in more than 5000 media worldwide.


Weblink to the UNFCCC climate agreement: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/finale-cop21/

Weblink to Nobel Laureates' declaration : https://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/in-short/nobel-laureates-together-with-schellnhuber-meet-french-president

Weblink to the Earth Statement: http://earthstatement.org/