From 30 November to 12 December 2015, the European Union and 195 nation states held the 21st annual session of United Nations Climate Change Convention (COP21).
The participating 196 parties found final consensus in the form of the Paris Agreement. With the members agreeing to limit the causes of anthropogenic climate change, the key aim became keeping global warming to 2 degrees below pre-industrial levels. This goal was to be attained through certain actions:
- reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible
- recognize that peaking will take longer for developing countries
- help developing countries meet a new requirement
- monitor, verify and report greenhouse gas emissions every five years
- spend at least $100 billion a year in climate-related financing
Participants claimed that the ambitious plan was a historic turning point in reducing global warming. However, the agreement also received some criticism.
This is mostly because the pact will not become binding until the parties ratify it, and there is doubt whether some countries will agree on doing so.
Furthermore, the agreement lacked in enforcement mechanisms. Although plan called to revisit national goals for updates and enhancement every 5 years beginning from 2023, no detailed timetable or country-specific goals for emissions were incorporated into the Paris Agreement (as opposed to the previous Kyoto protocol).
German media was very positive about the outcome of the Paris Climate Conference, often quoting the conclusion as a “historic day”. Although it was admitted that the treaty was not perfect, it was still seen as a great success of diplomacy.
„When you see as an observer of the UN Conferences – and especially the Climate Conferences – over and over again how the states insisted on short-term interests against all logic and scientific proof, you cannot value this evening in Paris-Le Bourget enough. In a complicated interest tangle, a solution was found that all states and cultures could agree on […].“
Source: “The time was ripe” (Tagesschau)
Spiegel was a bit more skeptical about the implementation of the agreement. It pointed at Republicans in the US blocking other steps made by the government and also brought attention to the “Darth Vader” of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, promising to tear up the contract.
Süddeutsche saw the main success of Paris Summit in the occasion marking the first time that there was not only a common aim of climate protection, but also a sharing of instruments.
In coverage of topics surrounding climate policy and the Paris Climate Conference, American media largely focused on the leadership of President Obama and the White House. The extending narrative portrayed the U.S. president as having gone from being an uninvited guest in the Copenhagen summit to personally leading negotiations of historic proportions in Paris.
In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, who has led the charge against Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda, said, “Before his international partners pop the champagne, they should remember that this is an unattainable deal based on a domestic energy plan that is likely illegal, that half the states have sued to halt, and that Congress has already voted to reject.”
Source: ”Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris” (New York Times)
Although coverage of the events was framed against mounting domestic opposition, some mention was made of the developing nations expressing consternation and pushing for legally binding provision of at least $100 billion. More recent articles expressed domestic concerns in the affected coal, oil and gas industries, as well as challenges from the body of Congress and Republican candidates vowing to unravel efforts aimed at curbing global warming.
“The White House’s overall domestic strategy of making energy more expensive and less abundant to satisfy international constituencies, many of whom compete against the United States, should worry the business community,” said Stephen Eule, vice president for climate and technology at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest U.S. business lobby.”
Source: ”Obama Faces Political Fight at Home Over Climate Deal” (Wall Street Journal)
Lithuanian media regularly reported on negotiations in Paris and portrayed the agreement in a generally positive light. But outlets also noted that, at least on paper, the agreement was praiseworthy, but could mean little if the countries would not take action.
“Nevertheless, the agreement reached in Paris is just one step towards the goal. Today it is becoming more important to recognize what kind of commitments the countries will make and how much they will want to invest in a safer future”
France was very often portrayed as the leading force in negotiations. The hosting country was praised for the immaculately organized conference and diplomatic excellence, as well as diplomatic virtuosity in comparison to the chaotic negotiations in Copenhagen.
Media sources also spoke about the implications of the agreement on Lithuania, especially the Lithuanian energy sector. It was concluded that the agreement was beneficial for Lithuania, as the country was not a big polluter and remained a dynamic, compact and growing economy capable of easily adapting to the most recent technological innovations.
The Paris Summit was not very extensively covered in alternative news sources. However, Russian official media portrayed the agreement in a generally positive manner. Vesti.ru even refered to it as an ambitious and historic pact.
“In case the states really follow the pact, the world may achieve significant results. Therefore this historic agreement may appear to be a turning point in the climate crisis.”
Source: “In Paris the UN climate summit ended” (Vesti)
Despite this sentiment, there was also a dose of skepticism present. First, the media pointed to probable economic losses in the leading oil countries, as well as in Russia. Secondly, the agreement was not seen as sufficiently protecting the world from the approaching climate crisis.
Estonian media unanimously acknowledged the political and diplomatic success of the Paris Climate Summit. Most of the articles described impacts that the world already faced due to climate change. However, the real result of the Paris Agreement and the willingness to act upon the promises was heavily questioned.
“On one hand the agreement is obviously good news, but on the other hand, there are several significant points missing.”
Source: “Hope was born, but what next?” (Delfi)
Several articles in Postimees and Delfi brought attention to the point that Estonia’s oil shale economy will be in danger. However, this fear was partially accompanied by criticism of the agreement not yet forcing any changes on Estonia. The EU has continued to follow the green path for decades, with Estonia almost in line with its policies. According to some opinion leaders, however, this was far from being enough, leading to the shaming of Estonia for not caring about sustainability and climate.
Another op-ed criticized the climate talks for mishandling scientific facts. More specifically the article claimed that promising the reduction of climate warming to under two degrees was misleading, because CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was not the only factor.