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EDITORIAL: The Paris Climate Accord

Last week, representatives of 175 countries gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York to sign the long awaited Paris Accord on Climate Change. This development marked the initial step towards ensuring the agreement enters into force within 30 days after 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of global emissions deposit their instruments of ratification. The gathering is an acknowledgement that global climate action can no longer be postponed.

We welcome this landmark accord, especially given its significance towards combating global climate change. The agreement, reached in December in Paris, calls for limiting global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. It also allows countries to set their own targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, with a requirement to update them every five years.

The significance of that accord was captured by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-moon, when he exhorted that the Paris Climate Accord should be the starting point for nations fighting global warming, not the finish line. This is why we are calling on all countries to move beyond promises of the accord and undertake steps to reduce pollution and slow warming linked to rising seas, heat waves and droughts.

Such effort will require titanic shifts in how societies generate electricity, fuel vehicles and run factories, in large part by forsaking coal, oil and natural gas for renewable energy. Fortunately, the rich countries are promising billions in aid to poorer countries to help them move away from dirtier fuels. In addition, there is promise to help developing countries build new kinds of infrastructure, that will protect them from rising sea levels, increased storm intensity and other effects that scientists link to climate change.

Sad, is that even if every nation hits its target, scientists still predict temperatures will continue to rise over the next several decades as the momentum of global warming tapers off. According to findings, advancing temperatures are likely to melt ice caps and shift weather patterns, leading to increased flooding, droughts and violent storms. Even at that, the accord brings a jolt of hope and energy to the effort. It is therefore no small achievement in this fractured global environment to bring rich and poor countries across the ideological divide toward a common goal. The rush also injects a sense of immediacy to the expensive, complex task of changing energy, land planning and other policies before the impacts of warming get worse. However, whether the agreement will work fast enough to stave off the most damaging impacts of climate change is far from certain, especially as the world has already warmed 0.9 degree Celsius since the late 19th century.

For Nigeria, the question of adaptation to climate change and addressing loss and damage looms large, given the regular cycles of droughts, flooding and lost livelihoods.

Given such scenario, it is the responsibility of the rich countries and biggest polluters to use the Agreement to liberally share its prosperity and technology. It would be a betrayal, especially for poorer countries, if the climate pact were being viewed as a business opportunity to fuel a wave of growth for a rich few.

We therefore hope the Paris Agreement will, as a binding covenant, spur civil society to put pressure on the developed nations to cut their emissions in favour of the developing countries and raise financing significantly.

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