Paris Climate Deal: Expectations and the Reality

By Manoshi Goswami

The consensus achieved in Paris, on 12th of December, 2015 is definitely one needed urgently, considering the debacle of climate change. Termed as “ambitious” and “historic” by many of the top class world leaders, Paris climate deal signifies, if not more, a clear cut agreement on the fact that climate change is happening and the world needs some, serious efforts to curb the menace. After the stranded culmination of Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, international discussions on climate change mitigation options were quite at stake, thus making Paris climate deal even more relevant for the safety of the planet.

In Paris, amidst all the speculations and expectations, voices from across the globe, what considered pivotal was the need to arrive at an combined opinion; an opinion that clarifies the maximum limit of temperature that can be allowed to rise, the extent of carbon emission that will not risk our existence any more as well as an opinion on the operating procedures to achieve the both. Apparently, the task was completed as it was decided to keep the global rise of temperature well below the limit of 20C with the benchmark of 1.50 C, as desired by the small island nations. The pact also includes provisions of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) reporting at a gap of five years by every signatory country, with progressive reduction of the same.

India, right from the beginning of Paris Climate Summit exercise was considered as potential hindrances to achieve zero coal limits by the developed nations. In fact, India, quite clearly stated that, the right of development cannot be taken away from the developing nations by pressurizing them to directly jump in to no coal technology. A strong message was also delivered from Indian delegation on the summit that is climate justice has to prevail, the remaining “carbon space” in the global carbon budget must be made available for the developing and least developed nations.

A critical analysis of the Paris accord reveals the fact that, although jargons like ‘climate justice’, “common but differentiated responsibility” were included in the accord text, these terms were used without any legal meaning. Simultaneously, the clauses of “historic responsibility” as well as “carbon budget” which signifies the contributions made by the developed nations towards global warming during the post-industrial period, has also been removed cleverly from the pact. Thus, in a way this facilitates the developed countries to move away from their responsibility and to continue with their carbon emission. Absence of any legal obligations to stick to the limit of INDCs as well as lack of penalty for non-compliance also makes the deal a weaker one.

The deal, agreed on Paris also lacks any specific target of emission reduction, both in terms of time scale and amount. Although suggestions have been made to reduce carbon emission ‘as soon as possible’, no time limit has been specified in the deal. Also, INDCs pledged are not legally binding; thus leaving the targets quite voluntary and hardly achievable.

Another aspect of the deal claiming praise across the first world nations, is the option of “climate finance”, which in texts force developed nations to pull their funds to a minimum level of 100 Billion US$ beyond 2020 for investing in cleaner energy technologies and climate change mitigation options for least developed and developing nations. However, many of the nations, who are at the receiving end of the climate change implications, have hardly found anything to be joyous of in this regard, because if its inclusion in the ‘decision’ part of the deal as well as because of the time scale provided.

Probably, the strongest point of the Paris Climate Agreement is the declaration that sustainable patterns of production and consumption and sustainable life styles are the requirements of the globe, which is under the severe threat from global warming and changing climate regime. These were the concepts that have been emphasized by India in the global platform of climate change negotiations. Yet another positive angle of the pact is the opportunities that it has opened up for all the countries to discuss on the issue and arrive at a common conclusion; although with some political and ideological reservations. Thus, it also exerts sufficient pressure on the global community to drive itself towards a common, yet most important goal of achieving a climate secured future for the planet. Thus, the onus of saving the planet is now lying on the shoulders of all the parties to the deal, which will be open for ratification from April, 2016 and what the globe needs is their honesty commitment in fulfilling the same.

Manoshi Goswami is Project Scientist, Assam Science Technology & Environment Council, Guwahati