Binding deal on 1.5 degree target unlikely to gain political support, says Kelly

Minister says he is hopeful for a 1.5 degree target but politically it will be hard to achieve

In Montreuil in eastern Paris a large alternative to COP21 is taking place. There activists hold little hope for the outcomes of the summit. Harry McGee reports.


Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly says expectations of a deal at the UN climate change conference must be “realistic”, suggesting that a more ambitious target sought be activists will struggle to gain political support.

Speaking during a break in negotiations in Le Bourget in Paris, Mr Kelly said the outcome of the talks would probably result in a commitment to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees above preindustrial levels, or well below 2 degrees, with a likelihood of a non-binding reference to 1.5 degrees in the document.

Mr Kelly said that he would like a more ambitious target but said the 1.5 degree target would be very difficult to achieve politically.

“I am saying: Let us walk before we run. Let us not end up in a Copenhagen situation. Let us set out what we can achieve. Let us have something that we can sign up to that is going to be realistic.”

Those calling for commitment to a lower temperature increase have argued that unless it is achieved, the impact on global climate could be catastrophic.

The Minister was speaking to the media during the first day of the high-level negotiations on the draft agreement. He said he was optimistic about a successful agreement.

He also said that the issue of agriculture was not one that would be discussed in Paris but would be a debate for another day. Taoiseach Enda Kenny caused controversy last week when he said that emissions targets for Irish agriculture were “unrealistic”.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon reminded ministers of the pledges made by over 150 world leaders last week that they would give full support for a robust agreement.

“Never before have so many heads of state and government gathered in one place at one time with one common purpose,” he said.

“Leaders have assured me they will work to remove any roadblocks,” he told the opening of the first high-level session.

UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres said: “The challenge we face now is to crystalize the call [FOR ACTION]into a cohesive legal framework that brings the world together in action and implementation.”

Leading environmentalists told a media conference at COP21 that the world now faced a distinct choice between a deal that could keep climate change in check and one that would result in climate chaos.

Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid, speaking for The Climate Action Network, said the time for ministers to flirt with each other was over and they needed to “seal the deal”.

Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace said the Paris conference needed to send a signal that the era of fossil fuels was coming to an end so that businesses could plan for a carbon-free future.

He added the world could not wait for the first review, or “stock-take”, of the Paris agreement to take place in 2024 or 2025.

“That will set in stone the current pledges. And we know that they are nowhere near tough enough to deliver 2 degrees, let alone the 1.5 degrees which the most vulnerable countries want. That’s why the first stock-take, and ratchet up, has to happen by 2018.”