Paris Agreement

Facts:

  • The Paris Agreement was adopted by 185 nations in December 2015. 
  • India had signed the agreement in New York in April 2016.
  • So far, 191 countries have signed the agreement.
  • It officially entered into force after 55 parties to the convention accounting for at least 55% of total GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions ratified it
  • India was 62nd country to ratify it.
Paris Agreement gives thrust to the global actions to address climate change and pertains to post-2020 climate actions. In the pre-2020 period, developed countries are to act as per Kyoto Protocol and some developing countries have taken voluntary pledges.
 
What are the outcomes of Paris Climate talks?
Paris climate talks resulted in the following broad outcomes:
  1. Commitment to reduce emissions to limit rise of temperature well beyond 2 degree and trying for 1.5 degree
  2. Five year review mechanism to check progress on nationally declared goals (INDCs)
  3. Funding to the tunes of additional 1 million USD per year in GCF up till 2020, further establishing a mechanism.
  4. The agreement also includes a provision requiring developed countries to send $100 billion annually to their developing counterparts beginning in 2020. This figure is expected to increase with time.
  1. The agreement gives countries considerable leeway in determining how to cut their emissions but mandates that they report transparently on those efforts. Every five years nations will be required to assess their progress towards meeting their climate commitments and submit new plans to strengthen them. Some elements in the agreement are binding-like reporting requirements.
 
Salient Features:
  • The Paris Agreement acknowledges the development imperatives of developing countries. The Agreement recognizes the developing countries’ right to development and their efforts to harmonize development with environment, while protecting the interests of the most vulnerable.
  • The Paris Agreement recognizes the importance of sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption with developed countries taking the lead, and notes the importance of ‘climate justice’ in its preamble
  • The objective of the Agreement further ensures that it is not mitigation-centric and includes other important elements such as adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology, capacity building and transparency of action and support
 
What’s good about this agreement?
  • Shared responsibilities: Unlike previous agreements which put all the responsibility for reducing emissions on rich countries, in the Paris Agreement, all 196 signatories agreed that every country must take action, while acknowledging that richer countries should start immediately and cut emissions more steeply, while poorer countries’ contributions will depend on their individual situations.
  • A “ratchet mechanism”: This is the technical term for the agreement to submit new pledges by 2020. It’s the most important victory within the agreement, as many large developing nations, like India and Indonesia, were reluctant to agree to a system that would pressure them to up their ambition within the next decade. The ratchet mechanism requires countries to return to the table in 2020 and spell out their plans for 2025 to 2030. This creates the opportunity for the world to potentially put itself on a course to stay below 2 C.
  • Ambitious abstract goals: The Paris Agreement includes the goal of keeping warming below 2 degrees C. But at the behest of the most vulnerable countries, such as the small island states, it also goes further, calling for efforts to stay below 1.5 C. It even requests that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produce a report on how we could stay below 1.5 C.
 
 
Are they enough ?
Various studies show that even if all INDC targets were achieved, the world would still be heading towards eventual warming of some 2.7-3.4°C above pre-industrial levels. It would be premature to say that whether they are enough or not, but there are certain pros and cons.
 
Positive things:
  1. Finally an agreement , after flop shows in Cancun and Copenhagen earlier
  2. Since, countries came out with their own national plan, more accountability could be fixed.
  3. Principle of CBDR has been preserved in the spirit of agreement,.
 
Negative aspects:
  1. No binding targets as of Kyoto protocol.
  2. There are doubts regarding the funding and technology support by developed countries
  3. Also, SIDS nations say that 2 degree is not good enough, and it should be less than 1.5 degree for their survival.
 
When the agreement will come in force?
  • The Paris treaty on Climate Change will come into force when 55 countries contributing to 55 % of total global emission ratify the agreement.
  • So far, 61 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification, approval or acceptance accounting in total for 47.79% of the total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • With the gathering momentum and willingness expressed by several other countries it is expected that the Agreement will enter into force soon.
 
 
Has developed nations shun their responsibility?
Common but differentiated responsibility has been an constant component of all the negotiations on climate change as their historical role in climate change could not be ignored. But, many developed nations refused to comply with binding targets as in Kyoto protocol and were insisting on more bottom-up approach. Also, they were keen to include emerging nations like China and India in climate change mitigation efforts. After tough negotiations, India and China managed to keep themselves out of compulsory commitments on emission reduction and funding. So, we can say that, though CBDR has diluted in Paris agreement, still it is present more in spirit than in binding covenants.
 
 
What is needed to make this agreement a success?
  1. The developed countries whose emissions have peaked and their per capita emissions are way beyond other nations. They need to fulfil their pledge of giving $100 billion to developing nations for mitigation of climate change. Though funds have been promised but no commitment has been made for time bound transfer. A tough balancing act is required to reduce emission and also satisfy environmental justice.
  2. Developing nations like India and China who contribute 35% of the global emissions and their growing energy, infrastructure needs which further add to their emissions. Their INDC’s and how they plan their urban future play important role.
  3. How MNC’s and their influence on overall policies of countries effect the transition from non-renewable to renewable source of energy.
  4. Naming and shaming as legally binding KYOTO did not work well as is evident from examples of Russia, Canada, Japan, etc. So an active civil society which is also international in its outlook is a must.
  5. The next INDCs must be more ambitious.
  6. Role of small island nations to continually keep pressure mounted in others to work for achieving targets and also seek loss and damage compensation due to asymmetry of the effects.
 
What are the challenges before this agreement?
  1. There is a risk that  U.S. Congress may reject agreement that the U.S. administration has signed, like it did with Kyoto Protocol. Other countries may withhold ratification since the U.S. is the second largest emitter of GHGs after China will not happen.
  2. Several major concepts and provisions were deliberately left ambiguous and open to differing interpretations in order to reach consensus. Further negotiations are necessary to reach a common understanding to enable implementation
  1. The Paris Agreement provides for a five-yearly “stocktake” which would enable an estimation of how much progress is being made in the implementation of the various contributions pledged by Parties in respect not only of mitigation but also adaptation, finance, technology transfer and capacity building. How each of these contributions will be measured and evaluated still needs to be worked out. This will be both a political and technical challenge
  2. On technology transfer, there is already an offensive by the U.S. corporate sector to ensure that in the post-Paris negotiations there is no concession on intellectual property (IP) issues
 
What can be majors concerns for India?
  1. Fixing concrete targets for afforestation also open up uncomfortable questions for the government such as the availability of land for greening
  2. The government has suggested that the participation of the private sector will green degraded forests. However, the private sector has only shown a propensity for deforestation
 
 
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