Paris Agreement and the People's Climate March

Where to from here?

The IEU was part of the historic People’s Climate March in Sydney on Sunday 29 November when more than 35,000 people marched in support of world leaders taking action on climate change.

A range of community groups, including unions, faith based organisations, Indigenous assemblies and climate groups gathered at The Domain, Sydney before proceeding down Macquarie Street, waving banners.

Across the globe, more than 785,000 people in 175 countries showed their support for action at more than 2,300 organised events in late November.

The show of strength certainly had an effect because on 12 December 2015, Laurent Fabius, France’s Foreign Minister and head of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change declared that the Paris Agreement had been adopted by consensus of the parties at the conference. It will come into effect in 2020.

The aim of the agreement is to ensure that the increase in the global average temperature is held to well below two degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels. This would “significantly reduce the risks and impacts of change” (UNFCCC 2015).

In addition, the agreement seeks to increase the ability of countries to adapt to climate change, but in a way that does not mean there will be a loss of food production.

Finally, the agreement also seeks to change the flow of global finances in order to create pathways towards low greenhouse gas emissions.

Fabius described the agreement as an historic turning point as well as being ambitious and balanced.

Federal Foreign Minister Julie Bishop agreed on the historic nature of the agreement but reportedly said it would be difficult for Australia to ramp up its climate efforts and “we have to get that balance right between environmental and economic outcomes”. (SMH 2015).

Deputy Secretary of the IEU and chair of the IEU’s Environmental Committee Gloria Taylor said: “The IEU Environment Committee welcomes the international commitment to reduce emissions and contain temperature growth. What now needs to be done is to assess Australia’s contribution”.

Already climate change scientists have started doing exactly that. Australia is currently committed to reducing emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. If other countries were to adopt similar reductions, this would lead to a warming of between three and four degrees Celsius.

In order to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, Australia would have to adopt a more ambitious target of 65-85% reduction. However, even the 26-28 % reduction level is in doubt. The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor said that in order to meet these levels Australia should look to retire old brown coal fired power stations, improve the Emissions Reduction Fund, reduce the level of funding for infrastructure associated with new coal mines, and quickly reassure investors in clean technology. Furthermore, Taylor cautions against using the accounting ‘tricks’ that the Australian Government has previously used to claim that Australia has already met and beaten its previous pledged. Most governments are voluntarily cancelling such credits.


“FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1” UNFCCC secretariat.Retrieved 12 December 2015.

Keith Heggart