Insights into Editorial: Paris Triumph – Climate Deal + MINDMAPS on Current Issues
17 December 2015
The Paris Agreement on climate change marks a milestone in preserving the earth’s environment and provides a floor on which to build ambition and action. It is the outcome of a long struggle by millions of citizens around the world, aided by the weight of scientific evidence linking severe, more frequent weather events such as cyclones and droughts to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
- The 195 country-parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have acknowledged that global climate action can no longer be postponed.
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon characterised the Paris Agreement as a “monumental triumph”.
- This agreement strikes a remarkably delicate balance between the collective ambition of global efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions, differentiation between developed and developing countries, and mobilisation of the financial resources needed for support.
Significance of the Paris agreement:
- The Paris Agreement is ambitious in several respects. It resolves to hold global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts towards a 1.5 degrees C temperature limit. This was a crucial demand of the small island states and least developed countries — for them, a higher temperature increase poses an existential threat.
- The world is not currently on a pathway to 1.5 degrees C and such a pathway would dramatically shrink the remaining carbon space with troubling implications for countries like India. Nevertheless, the aspirational 1.5 degrees C sets an ambitious direction for the climate regime.
- This ambitious goal is complemented by a binding obligation to submit mitigation contributions every five years and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them. For every five-year cycle, states must put forward contributions more ambitious than their last.
- To ensure delivery, the agreement puts in place a robust transparency framework. States will provide information on the implementation of their contributions, which is then subject to a technical expert review process. In addition, the agreement envisages a “global stocktake” every five years to assess collective progress towards long-term goals.
- Significantly, the global stocktake will also take into account “equity” — thus paving the way for conversation on burden-sharing between nations.
- The agreement puts in place strong top-down elements that are expected to discipline self-determination and enhance ambition. The agreement also recognises the fact that the global temperature goal must be achieved in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
Targets set under the agreement emphasize the greater the need for differentiation in efforts between developed and developing countries as well as for financial resources to support ambitious efforts.
- But, developed countries, scarred by the Kyoto Protocol that obliged only them to take on absolute emissions reduction targets, have always been fiercely resistant to another differentiated climate agreement. Even, developed countries, with faltering economies, are reluctant to pay for global efforts to combat climate change.
- Developing countries are fundamentally opposed both to giving up the differential treatment that had benefited them thus far and to assuming a share of the financial burden for lowering emissions.
- However, the Paris agreement presses countries as far as they could on differentiation and finance. The agreement 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.
India and the Paris agreement:
India had much to lose and gain from this negotiation, as did the world. Like all other countries, India is now required to periodically report on its targets and performance under the Agreement, and update its Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020.
- This will need the active involvement of all States and wide consultations — more so for the 175 gigawatt renewables revolution, including 100 GW from solar, to meet the 2022 target.
- The Centre should now consider enacting a strong climate change law that harmonises policies nationally, beginning with energy, buildings, transport, water, agriculture and urban development.
- The question of adaptation to climate change and addressing loss and damage looms large for India, given the regular cycles of crippling droughts, devastating flooding and lost livelihoods.
More than a milestone, Paris represents a landmark in the UN climate negotiations. In striking a fine balance between ambition, differentiation and finance, it sets us on track to secure our climatic future, the best way we know how — based on our common but differentiated responsibilities, respective capabilities and different national circumstances. The Agreement ensures that the road to climate ambition will be paved with equity. Agreement is not a done deal, but countries responsible for 75% of the world’s carbon emissions have now set targets for cuts in carbon emissions. Paris Agreement is not THE solution to climate change. But it might lead to one. It is a framework for progress, the first step in what has been a long and torturous road. In that sense, the Paris agreement is a bet on the willingness of nations to act in the future — and on the world’s citizens to keep the heat on them.
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