The 2015 Paris Climate Conference, also known as COP21 held in December was hailed the “world’s greatest diplomatic success”. Negotiators, ministers and heads of state gathered in Paris and worked through the night to finalise the framework through which the world will seek to reduce carbon pollution and tackle climate change after 2020. The world’s leading scientists have warned that global warming of 2°C or more above pre-industrial levels will result in irreversible and catastrophic consequences. This includes consequences for sea turtles in the Mediterranean.
Momentum was the key word and it really heated up. The year 2015 saw greater agreement on acting on climate change – the US-China announcement for action on climate change, oil and gas companies asking for consistent climate policy, the G7 calling for decarbonisation and the Pope’s Encyclical. The diversity of voices had never been greater. A global agreement was expected, but what it would look like was the question. Over 40 low lying nations across the Indian and Pacific oceans formed an Alliance to put forward a strong case for a target that would not see their homes underwater. This helped raise global ambitions and the end result saw agreement that greenhouse gas emissions should peak as soon as possible. With an agreement that global temperatures should be kept “well below” 2°C, with an aspiration of 1.5°C that would save some island nations from going under.
Ahead of Paris, all countries had been asked to outline their initial scope of action after 2020. Including pollution reduction targets that showed how countries were undertaking actions consistent with avoiding 2°C of warming. These post-2020 targets are countries’ initial offers and while positive, even if fully implemented, the world is still on course for 2.7°C warming. As the Paris agreement will not come into force until 2020, and so between now and 2020 these targets will be reviewed and scrutinised globally. This includes a ‘ratchet’ mechanism to routinely improve the strength of targets over time. The European Union is well-placed having already achieved above their 2020 target and an agreement for a 2030 target of “at least” 40% gas reductions compared to 1990 levels. However countries such as Australia need to lift their ambition.
The ‘argy-bargy’ of negotiations centered on: national pledges; an agreed long-term goal; how to hold countries to account; ways to increase ambition over time and; climate finance. Each country is now obliged to report its emissions and its progress in cutting them, every five years. The issue for developing countries is money as they will suffer the brunt of damage to the climate. As well as having restrictions on the economic growth off the back of burning fossil fuels that developed countries have enjoyed. Developed countries agreed in Paris to pay $US100 billion each year to help poorer countries grow without increasing emissions.
What do we need for the Mediterranean Sea?
Stretching for 46,000 kilometres, the white sandy beaches and sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea only make up 1% of world oceans. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in diversity – the Mediterranean counts over 10% of all known species, has the second highest percentage of endemic species in the world and is home to several endangered marine species like the green sea turtle (Fache and Sadik, 2015).
“Global change is happening, and it is happening fast. The only certainty we have is that marine ecosystems will be different, but we still do not know to what extent.” said Richard Sempéré, CNRS researcher and director the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanology (MIO) and presenter at the Our Common Future Under Climate Change conference.
We can help to protect sea turtles, but we’ll lose this opportunity if we don’t tackle climate change
Sea turtles already face significant threats to the viability of their populations such as commercial fishing, encroachment on nesting areas, boats, litter, pollution, illegal harvesting of eggs. Climate change places sea turtles under greater threat as it affects the climate under which all ecosystems exist.
While climate change is unlikely to directly cause extinction of marine species, the changes to distribution, nesting beaches and ocean acid levels will put more pressure on sea turtle populations. More and more research studies are finding bias towards female sea turtle populations as well as inundation of nesting beaches.
The outcomes of Paris give hope towards slowing the warming and impacts of climate change, however only if countries keep to targets and continue to increase ambition over time. It’s up to citizens of every country to keep up the pressure to keep policy makers accountable for a safe climate.
What can you do?
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Fauche, A and Sadik, J. (2015). In the Mediterranean the only certainity is change. Available online:http://www.commonfuture-paris2015.org/Blog/Zoom-blog.htm?Zoom=2814dcea50e0c7d7cb6e1537f151c188&SType
Gosden, E. (2015). Paris climate change conference: Everything you need to know about the UN summit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/paris-climate-change-conference/11991964/Paris-climate-change-conference-Everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-UN-summit.html
Harvey, F. (2015). UN publishes draft of slimmed-down Paris climate change deal http://gu.com/p/4d2gg/stw
The Climate Institute (2015). Global Climate Leadership Review 2015. http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/verve/_resources/Global_Climate_Leadership_Review_2015_-_WEB.pdf?mc_cid=59aa560ee3&mc_eid=565a37755d