Purpose:  Assist Rotarians in implementing service projects, building awareness, and inspiring action toward environmental sustainability -- particularly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the global warming humanitarian crisis.
It was a significant moment in world history Saturday 12th December, when the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed. 195 countries were united in addressing what many believe is the greatest moral challenge of our time. If it turns out to be a catalyst for transformation, then it will be recognized as a critical moment indeed.

The Agreement is an inclusive, ambitious commitment to tackle climate change and parts are legally binding:
  • aims to limit the earth’s warming to only 1.5degC,
  • bring fossil fuel emissions down to zero; target is 2100, and
  • regular 5-year reviews of national commitments to achieve these targets.
It addresses the need for a financial package of at least $100 billion from developed countries, for developing countries. This will aid both mitigation and adaptation and assist the vulnerable communities around the world most threatened by climate change, such as Pacific Island nations.

The Agreement is seen as a breakthrough and catalyst for new climate action. It imposes on many nations the need to increase their own specific climate commitments (up to 2030) as soon as possible, so they are sufficient for the world to at least meet the 2degC target. It encourages all countries to adopt tougher emission cuts over time in light of their differing national circumstances - there will be another stock take on how the world is doing in 2019.

Many countries came to Paris two weeks before with strategies and pledges that were estimated to limit warming to 3degC. However, with great leadership from the French and after night-long negotiations, the Agreement was signed saying that a limit of 1.5degC in world temperature increases was the needed target. This is ambitious and a huge step for the world community to take.

The reduction in emissions to zero by 2100 is less ambitious compared to the date of 2050 (desired by many). But it is still a significantly better outcome than was expected.

Overall, the Agreement signals a great start, into an era where the science of Climate Change is now acknowledged, and action - with the help of new science - is seen as essential. And the different perspectives between developed and developing countries, between the large continental states and small threatened islands, are all now more keenly recognized.

The impact on all of us will be changes to the way we source and use energy – especially with a new long-term goal for full decarbonisation. There will certainly be more carbon-pricing mechanisms, more opportunities for renewables, and there needs to be much  less land clearing and deforestation.

Meanwhile, we will have more severe weather patterns, more glaciers melting and communities that are devastated by the changes already underway in the world’s weather.

However, the world has come together – uniquely – with a clear commitment to tackle the problem. Optimism reigns for the moment; now attention turns to HOW best to meet these targets.  ESRAG is gearing up to lend the power of Rotary to this challenge.  Stay tuned and in the meantime, please ask friends and family to join ESRAG at our 'placeholder' website, www.esrag.org.  Thank you.

Jeremy Wright
Communications and Marketing Committee Chair, ESRAG