The planet is under threat from human emissions, and the Paris climate deal is, at best, a first step towards fixing the problem. It’s very early to forecast its grand success until it comes down on the ground of implementation.
Paris conference on Climate Change was accorded as a combined attempt to save the earth. Nearly 200 countries agreed on the deal to address the climate change. The last conference which held in Copenhagen, Denmark was a failure in 2009. This time leaders were overwhelmed by the emotion. It looks more striking because the world was flatly divided on the Syrian crisis. Most of the world leaders expressed their emotions. The planet is under threat from human emissions, and the Paris climate deal is, at best, a first step towards fixing the problem. Ice sheets have started to melt, coastlines are flooding from rising seas, and some types of extreme weather are growing worse. Yet some of the consequences of an overheated planet might be avoided. The Chennai floods are a grim reminder for Bharat, how the climate change is gripping and challenging the human existence. At least, by requiring regular reviews, the deal lays a foundation for stronger action in the future.
“You have done it,” French President François Hollande told delegates at the close of the conference. Everyone in the hall would at some point be asked, “What was the meaning of our lives, what did we achieve?” Hollande went on. “One thing will come up time and again: you will be able to say that on the twelfth of December you were in Paris for the agreement on the climate. And you will be able to be proud to stand before your children and your grandchildren.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the climate change agreement as the victory of ‘climate justice’ and said there are no winners or losers. Climate justice has won and we are all working towards a greener future, Modi tweeted. “Climate change remains a challenge but Paris Agreement demonstrates how every nation rose to the challenge, working towards a solution,” he added. Bharat, however, had some concerns over the deal, much like Turkey, Nicaragua and other countries including small island nations. “We share the concern of several friends that this agreement does not put us on the path to prevent temperature rise below 2oC and that the actions of developed countries are far below their historical responsibilities and fair shares”.
To reach these ambitious and important goals, appropriate financial flows will be put in place, thus making stronger action by developing countries and the most vulnerable possible, in line with their own national objectives. The American President Obama said, “Today the American people can be proud because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership. Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change. This agreement represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Today the world is united in the fight against climate change. Today the world gets a lifeline, a last chance to hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies. This robust agreement will steer the world towards a global clean energy transition.” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said, “We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity. For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”
What does the Paris accord mean for Bharat?
That means Bharat and other developing nations might find it more difficult to muster international financing for coal-fired power plants. For Bharat and other fast-growing countries banking on coal-powered development, this could pose a problem. While Bharat is pledging to burn less coal than it would have without the agreement, it will still significantly increase its coal consumption. Chandra Bhushan, a climate expert at the New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment, said the finance clause in the climate deal could be used by multilateral institutions, like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, to limit the flow of funds to developing countries to expand thermal power production. But why is Bharat in the crosshairs and not, for example, the US, which has one-quarter of the South Asian nation’s population, but more than twice the level of harmful carbon emissions? And why not China, a slightly more populous country than Bharat, which accounts for about 28 per cent of annual global emissions, vs. India’s 6 per cent?
The answer lies in the construction of a deeply flawed narrative that risks repositioning Bharat and other emerging countries in global climate politics. The idea that the past is irrelevant to a future climate regime is a long-standing hope of a small group of industrialised countries. It does not matter, for example, if citizens of one country (Bharat) consume 1,000 units of electricity a year and of another (the US) consume 13,000 units. Also, it does not matter how much responsibility each country has for causing the problem in the first place. That Bharat accounts for 3 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions since the industrial revolution, compared with 27 per cent for the US, is irrelevant by this logic.
Major Factors of the Agreement
The Paris accord, as agreed upon by member countries, sets the architecture for carbon emission reduction after 2020. This principle squarely puts the major responsibility on developed nations to drastically cut their carbon emissions and provide the necessary finance, technology and capacity building for developing economies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.The agreement will come into effect once at least 55 countries, amounting to 55 per cent of global greenhouse gases, ratify or accept the Paris agreement.
Carbon mitigation targets
The Paris accord builds upon the bottom up approach of voluntary commitments. The accord urges parties to enhance their pre-2020 emission cuts and acknowledges the significant gap between current pledges and what is needed to be consistent with holding temperature rise to 1.5oC.
Developed nations agreed to raise $100 billion annually by 2020, with a commitment to enhanced financing thereafter. The nature of finance, its source, accounting and distribution remains unresolved and deeply contentious. Bharat sought $2.5 trillion in finance for achieving its INDC by 2030, so a global commitment of $100 billion. The coming few years will consequently witness a greater push for materialising this finance through a variety and public and private channels.
There was another success in Paris that many adversaries stand together on platform of this conference. Strange bedfellows emerged during the Paris negotiations, with industrial powerhouses such as the European Union joining with Pacific island nations, and former adversaries like China and the United States swapping brinksmanship for bonds to cut fossil fuel emissions. That shows the seriousness and commitment. It is very early to forecast its grand success until it comes down on the ground of implementation.
Dr Satish Kumar (The writer is Head Centre for International
Relations, CUJ Ranchi)