By Bruce Horton ( & Bob Earll (

With more contributions from Rob Lawson Richard Pagett  and Sue Wells

So, time to reflect on a momentous and historic agreement….

First, there’s the facts – an ambitious, binding and international agreement to limit the global mean temperature rise to 2 degrees, with an aspiration to achieve 1.5 degrees. Emissions reductions will be enshrined in law in nearly 200 countries, there is financial support for developing countries to reduce emissions and adapt, a compensation mechanism whereby developed countries pay for financial losses from impacts, and regular monitoring with the potential to ramp up action every five years (starting in 2018). See here for the full, 32-page agreement.

Of course, it’s not perfect. National targets are not yet bold enough to achieve the global aim, the promised funds are unlikely to be enough to protect and support those impacted, there’s no clear timetable for phasing out fossil fuels and not all the agreement is legally binding, potentially allowing future governments to backtrack on commitments made.

If you haven’t had enough, here are some of the most useful links and commentaries. These are initial reactions – please let us know if you come across other useful material.


The graph he presented echoes the message from Kevin Anderson (Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research), which highlighted the enormous challenge of moving from our current BAU emissions to levels that will limit temp rise to 2 degrees.  Basically we seem to be relying on several feedback loops falling in ‘our’ favour and CCS-type solutions saving the day.

And his post-agreement summary encapsulates the challenge:

I think this is summed up by an almost Churchillian tweet from Bill McKibben ( “This agreement won’t save the planet. It may have saved the chance to save the planet (if we all fight like hell in the years ahead)” 



  • Highlighting the role of water, the Paris Pact on water and climate change adaptation
  • Heating hot water in the home – more to follow
  • CIWEM’s new Policy Position Statement on adaptation


Sue Wells: the ISRS statement is here:

Business & investment

  • Support for the Agreement from the CBI, and a call for domestic action and a stable environment to support the ambition
  • A report from the Economist and Aviva showing that US$4.2trn of manageable assets at risk from climate change
  • Analysis from the Carbon Trust showing the steps that businesses can take and tools they can use to be carbon free (supply chain sustainability, internal carbon pricing, 100% renewable energy commitments and science based targets)
  • The Breakthrough Energy Coalition (Bill Gates & Co) and the Mission Innovation to promote clean energy


  • A call to match rhetoric and reality from climate movement
  • A useful summary from the New Economics Foundation of a very busy 2015 climate and energy-wise
  • The Greenpeace view, “this deal won’t dig us out the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep”
  • Passionate support from global web movement Avaaz
  • Rob Hopkins – Transition – Paris blog   


  • A video showing the effect of ocean acidification on marine wildlife and ecosystems
  • A NASA video on getting the climate change message across to the public (in quite a basic way)

Our summary…..

This is clearly a huge political achievement, with enormous goodwill and support far greater than any previous meeting (no leaks or oil company spoiling – like the UEA scandal that preceded Copenhagen). But will domestic action match up to the global commitment? All eyes will be on the government announcement, expected this week, on future support for renewables. Nevertheless, the editors will be raising an extra glass this Christmas to the 3 wise men (UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, COP21 President Laurent Fabius, and French President Francois Hollande), French diplomats, climate activists and all those who made this happen. But we’ll also be making a New Year resolution to redouble efforts to ensure that we contribute to progress at every turn. It’s now up to us all to make the environmental, social and economic case for mitigation and adaptation in all our work.

Happy Holidays!

PS These are initial reactions – please let us know if you come across other useful material. 

Comment – Richard Pagett 

Let me tell you a short story: Five frogs were sitting on a log, four decide to jump, how many are left? …….five, because there is a big difference between deciding to do something, and actually doing that thing.

Firstly, let’s look at the ubiquitous 2 degrees. It was first evoked in 2009 at the Copenhagen COP. After toting up the INDCs the amount of reduction currently is equivalent to 2.7 degrees. Well above 2 degrees ~ so nothing new there.

Secondly, what about the 1.5 degrees, again first evoked at Copenhagen. It is merely an “ambition”. Well, the Paris Agreement mentions “ambition” or its derivatives sixteen times, so there is no shortage of ambition. The road to success is not paved with ambition, this particular road requires achievement. Historically, we have not been good at that. Check out ~ Cancun, Durban, Doha, Warsaw and Peru ~ all nuanced as “success” yet over time inched, if at all, glacially towards what we have now, and it is still woefully inadequate.

Ambition doesn’t maketh the planet (with apologies to William Horman).

In summary, we can’t get to 2 degrees even now. Although there is a facility for ramping up the reductions over time that is never going to work with the foreseeable emission trajectories particularly of India and China. Yet the Paris Agreement aspires for “well below” 2 degrees. So, the aim is no longer 1.5 degrees but “well below” 2 degrees. Well, that can only be 1.9, 1.8, 1.75 degrees. Anything less would be “close to” 1.5 degrees. This political rhetoric is unacceptable.

Yet, it is a simple sum to identify what the percentage reduction would be needed for each of the big emitters in order to bring the projection from 2.7 to 1.75 or further. That is what the COP should have done. Of course it could not because India and China (at least) want to maintain business as usual.

What was never in doubt was that there would be some political agreement. There always is. It has always gone down to the wire. Remember Durban? There it was two representatives (one from EU and one from India) literally facing each off until one blinked. There was a resounding cheer when there was agreement. Fast forward to Paris as an agreement is announced. More cheers. Undoubtedly, the French worked very hard but there is a big difference between political agreement on rhetoric, and something which make the numbers look better, and Paris Agreement it ain’t.

It is too easy to say something is not perfect and pat ourselves on the back for at least achieving that. I find that embarrassing and, actually, unacceptable. The current reduction targets are NOT good enough, the funds currently available ARE pitiful, fossil fuel WILL BE used whilst it is cheaper to do so, and what good is an “agreement” if it is NOT binding….history will not judge this well.

Dr Richard Pagett   17.12.2015


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