Epic change & upheaval - Looking back: Events that shaped the year

9. World takes big step in climate change battle

Three environmentalists wear polar bear costumes in a demonstration in Paris, France, during the World Climate Change Conference on Dec 12, 2015.
Three environmentalists wear polar bear costumes in a demonstration in Paris, France, during the World Climate Change Conference on Dec 12, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

2015 was a year of tragedies, disasters and terror. Some, like the quake in Nepal, were over almost instantly while others, like the European migrant crisis and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, were dramas that unfolded daily. But there were also uplifting moments, such as the Myanmar general election and the Paris climate deal.

This year started with big hopes - in 2015, the world would finally unite in a fight against climate change. It needed to.

The weather was getting more extreme and the planet was becoming hotter, with 2014 the hottest year in recorded history. Storms, floods and droughts were all growing in strength and millions of people were being affected.

Failed United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 had set back efforts.

After years of diplomacy, a major UN meeting in Paris from Nov 30 to Dec 11 this year was meant to finally seal a deal in which all nations would cut greenhouse gas emissions to slow the pace of global warming.

The French government was determined a deal would be done. President Francois Hollande marshalled an army of diplomats, led by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, to travel the globe during the year to overcome deep divisions and mistrust that had held back a universal climate deal for more than two decades.

On Dec 12, their efforts, and those of the UN, prevailed. After intensive negotiations involving delegates from nearly 200 nations, the Paris talks concluded with a global deal.

All nations will cut emissions through national action plans that are regularly reviewed and boosted over time. The pact commits all nations to hold warming to well below 2 deg C and pursue efforts to aim for a 1.5 deg C rise over pre-industrial levels.

To achieve this, fossil fuel pollution will have to be slashed, and quickly, while renewable energy and energy efficiency investments need to be greatly expanded.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline '9. World takes big step in climate change battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe