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The Paris Agreement in perspective (or ten or more reasons why elation must be kept on hold, and a serious reality check be done)

Posted on 18 December 2015

IBON International Updates #14

Climate Justice 

(Paris, December 13 th, 2015) – The 21 st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded its meeting on December 12 th, a day behind the original schedule of finalizing an agreement on global efforts to respond to the growing impacts of climate change.

The Panel of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), the body responsible for coming up with a proposal for a new "protocol, agreement or legal instrument" to replace the Kyoto Protocol, has done its job, amid great jubilation and self-congratulations from almost every state, with the moment described as "a turning point for humanity and a message of light". But what does having an agreement among states mean? Will it really solve the problem of climate change? How will it affect people, especially those in the frontlines already facing the most severe impacts of global warming?

To answer these questions, there is a need to look at the Paris Agreement in close perspective.

First, the Paris Agreement contains no binding effect on States. US President Barack Obama’s statement at the COP opening session was eventually reflected in the outcome, i.e.  "the objectives of (climate action) must be established by each country, taking into account differences that face every nation", which is a first clear sign of negating the historical responsibility especially of rich industrialized countries that have led to this crisis. Under the Paris Agreement, countries’ level of greenhouse gas emissions reductions is subject to national contributions (INDC) and although they should be regularly updated, these will not be mandatory.

Second, there is lack of ambition in terms of a clear and sufficient long-term goal. Despite the disputes to establish consonance on a 1.5°C increase in global mean temperature, the actions proposed by countries would in reality lead to a temperature increase about 3.2°C to 3.7°C. This is catastrophic, especially for those countries, communities as well as flora and fauna in low-lying areas.

Third, there is no new or additional financing. Finance was still the big struggle between the countries, with the rich countries saying less developed economies must foot the bill for climate action on an equal basis. The much-ballyhooed USD100 billion annually until 2020 in pledged (not committed and actually disbursed) climate financing still remains, and emerging economies would contribute to this on a voluntary basis. The Paris Agreement also does not provide any commitments for funding after 2020.

Fourth, mitigation commitments by rich countries are inadequate, and will not add up to what is needed to keep the world safe. The world’s largest and historical emitters have achieved their agenda of minimizing their differentiated responsibility (fair share). The principle of “differentiation” between developed and developing nations was substantially diluted. The phrase 'historical responsibility' has been erased from the Agreement and this weakens the obligations of developed countries to take actions for their past emissions. The developed countries were understandably happy with the correction, but developing nations had lost one big battle.

Fifth, there was not an established effective

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