This article is written by Sushant Agrawal, currently pursuing B.A.LLB (Hons) from the Department of Law, Aligarh Muslim University. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the Paris Agreement and Environment problems.
A world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and freer, said Barack Obama. The United States, along with nearly 185 other countries, committed to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty that aimed to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases which is responsible for global warming. The objective is to make a universal binding agreement designed to limit the use of greenhouse gases to a level that would not further contribute to the increase of global temperature.
The Paris Agreement
For the first time, all nations came together for a common climatic cause. On 21st December 2015, in Paris, nearly every nation has adopted a landmark accord with climate change and its negative impact. The aim is to limit the emission of greenhouse gases and keep the global temperature rise this century less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level and make an attempt to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In 1992, many countries concluded an International treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to increase cooperation on climate change by limiting global temperature rise.
In 1995, countries launched negotiations to increase global response on climate change, and two years later, adopted the Kyoto Protocol. It binds all the developed countries’ parties to meet emission-reducing targets. The first commitment of the Protocol was from 2008 to 2012, and the second started in 2013 and will end in 2020.
The Paris Agreement adopted on 12 December 2015 marks the latest step in the regime of climate change. This agreement displayed a new chart to combat climate change.
A 32-page document wrote down the framework for global climate change, followings are the major provisions of this document:
Reducing the emission of greenhouse gases to limit global temperature rise
The Paris Agreement directed the countries to reduce global greenhouse gases emission and become carbon neutral by the second half of this century. It was asked from around 185 countries that are responsible for more than 90 percent of global emission to submit their carbon reduction targets before the Paris conference, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
Once the countries formally agreed, they became Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The agreement did not specify how the countries should reduce the emissions, that is why the national plans differ significantly in ambition, primarily reflecting each country’s capabilities and their contributions over time.
For example, China, the biggest carbon emitter, targeted to reduce emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 60 to 65 percent by 2030. India sets its eyes on cutting emissions by 30 to 33 percent and meets 40 percent of its electricity requirement by generating it with the help of non- fossil fuel sources by 2030. The United States, second biggest carbon emitter, committed to cut overall greenhouse gases emission by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.
Provide a framework for transparency, accountability, and achievement of more ambitious goals
The agreement suggested many mandatory measures to track the progress of the countries towards their emission reduction targets. These rules were applied to all countries equally, and a support system was provided for the countries that were unable to meet the targets.
Other requirements include, countries must report their greenhouse gas reduction progress to the outside experts to evaluate their success. Countries should also revisit their pledges after every five years and make new targets. Meanwhile, developed countries should provide financial assistance to the developing countries for the expense incurring in reducing emissions.
These transparency and accountability provisions were similar to that of many other International agreements but included no financial penalties because the agreement aimed to progress each nation according to their capabilities and without the global peer interference.
Support of developing nations in combating the climate change
Many developing countries and small islands, who have contributed least to climate change, suffered most from its consequences. The Paris agreement builds a financial committee on lines of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, which will provide financial assistance to the developing nations to $100 billion a year by 2020. The agreement established higher expectations from the developed nations to increase the fund goal by 2025.
While developed countries are not legally bound to contribute any specific amount for the finance committee, but were encouraged to do the same and give reports of how much funds and assistance they provided.
It is improbable to expect that there could be consensus among all the nations on the same issue. However, with the Paris Agreement, leaders around the world realized the harmful effects of climate change and global action that is needed to stop it. It also made provision to make emission-reducing targets for all countries and improve actions with time. Here are some reasons why this agreement is so important:
Global warming caused by human-generated emissions
Carbon-dioxide, Nitrous oxide, and Methane are gases that are responsible for global warming. These gases collect in the atmosphere and prevent heat from radiating from the earth’s surface into space. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the concentration of these gases and deforestation are mainly responsible for the rise in global temperature and carbon emissions.
Climate system affected by Global warming
Global warming alters the global weather patterns both on land and at sea. Those change patterns introduced droughts, heatwaves, floods, and storms. They are also responsible for melting the ice caps and glaciers. Many regions equate with longer growing seasons and higher production, while areas already suffering from water scarcity are expected to become drier soon.
Human health was endangered
- Extreme heat is directly responsible for cardiovascular deaths and respiratory diseases.
- Changing weather patterns impact sources of freshwater. While drought creates water scarcity and floods contaminates drinking water supplies, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases.
- Rising sea levels destroyed many houses, infrastructures, and entire ways of life- forcing people to migrate. The low lying developing nations were affected the most with the increase in the sea level as they lack resources to adapt to changes.
The Paris Agreement addressed basic methods to combat climate change. Some of the significant aspects are as follows:
The Long- term temperature goal
The Paris Agreement aimed to limit the emission of greenhouse gases and keep the global temperature rise this century less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level and make an attempt to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In order to achieve this goal, the agreement seeks commitments from all the parties in the form of Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which has the country’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. Parties should reform their targets and communicate their progress every five years for clarity, improvement, and transparency. Developed countries should have broad reduction targets, whereas developing countries should enhance their mitigation targets.
Finance, technology, and capacity
The Paris Agreement restates the obligations of the developed countries to finance and support developing country parties in achieving their reduction goals. Technology framework was established under this agreement, and climate change education, training, and public awareness, participation, and access to information were also enhanced.
Voluntary Cooperation and Adaptation
The Paris Agreement recognized the potential of the countries to work together to achieve higher goals. Cooperation among the countries provides sustainable development and achieving the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets effectively and efficiently. It also aims to strengthen adaptation efforts which include their needs, plans, and actions through international cooperation.
It will take place in 2023 and every five years, after that to assess collective progress in the achievements of their reduction targets in a comprehensive and eased manner. It will be evaluated by the best available science and long term targets. The results will help the countries to check their progress and enhance their actions.
As of February 2020, 188 states and the EU, responsible for more than 85 percent of the greenhouse gas emission have signed the agreement. The eight countries which have not ratified the agreement yet are- Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Angola, Eritrea, Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen.
The effectiveness of the Paris Agreement largely depends upon NDCs. The reports of IPCC, 2018 on global warming showed that meeting the target 1.5-degrees celsius would require deep emission reductions and unprecedented changes in society. It was also stated that carbon emission must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and further to net-zero by 2050. That means immediate alternatives must be made in critical sectors such as energy, agriculture, construction, and all other sectors that are responsible for global temperature rise.
For this to achieve, cooperation is the key, but leading emitters such as the USA, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are not supporting. The director of the US National Economic Council stated that the reports are very vague and the authors overestimated the environmental disasters. In an interview, President Trump said that climate change is not human-made, the change will continue to take place, and the authors have a significant political agenda behind it. Lack of global cooperation is acting as a hurdle in the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.
While nearly all the countries have ratified the Paris Agreement to cut down the greenhouse gas emissions but fall short in achieving the targets. Nearly two-thirds of the parties are insufficient to meet emission-reducing targets.
President Trump has formally begun the process of withdrawing the United States from the agreement, and even the target set by the US to cut down greenhouse gases emission by 26 to 28 percent by 2025 was not bold enough to combat climate change.
Emitters responsible for more than half of the greenhouse gas emission are China, India, the USA and the EU. Among them, only the EU is on track to reduce emissions, whereas China and India are continuously increasing their emissions, which will alter the intended result.
Most countries were dependent upon international financial and technical support, which was hurdled by the Trump administration by an announcement in 2017, to stop funding the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which assists the developing countries.
Around 11,000 scientists said in a report that the countries are not acting with urgency to combat the climate crisis. Instead of reducing, the emission is continuously increasing and giving damaging effects to the Earth.
The authors pointed out human activities such as population growth, unnecessary travel, and many more, directly involved in the greenhouse gas emission and rising sea levels and temperature.
There was much misinformation spread out about the cost of the Paris Agreement, including that it will have drastic effects on the US economy. That unfounded claims were given by Trump, while addressing the public about the accord that this will cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion by 2040 and $2.7 million jobs by 2025, making it lag behind China and India.
A recent study suggested that the US did not meet its Paris climate goals, which will cost the economy a loss of around $6 trillion. A Worldwide failure to meet out the targets will reduce global GDP by more than 25 percent by century’s end. While another study suggests that investments in both clean energy and energy efficiency will have a significant global reward – to the tune of some $19 trillion.
In terms of employment, about half a million new jobs are expected to be created by the Clean Power Plan by 2030.
Apart from these benefits, President Trump decided to withdraw the US from the agreement. China and India have agreed to implement domestic measures for meeting out their emission-reducing targets.
It is important to remember that the Paris Agreement is not the end. It is drafted to boost the efforts of the countries over time, meaning that the current commitments are the start to combat climate change. The ambition of reducing the emission by 2025 or 2030 needed to be achieved first, and this accord has provided a tool to ensure success. We must also reduce our global warming contributions at individual and local levels to ensure a safer and cleaner world for our future generations.
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