Global leaders, businesses and several others have gone to town over the ‘unprecedented’ achievements during the global negotiations in Paris to curb global warming. Yet, not much besides big headlines seems to have been achieved
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And there was no lack of good intentions in the declaration that marked the ‘historic’ agreement on combatting global warming, reached at the end of the Paris Climate Change Summit on December 12. Leaders of over 150 nations and hundreds of business leaders and civil society forums who cheered and patted themselves on the backs for the ‘revolutionary and unprecedented’ outcomes at the end of the CoP21 would do well to remember that good intentions alone are never enough.
They may also like to remember another ‘revolutionary’ declaration signed on by the global leaders in September 2000 during the ‘Millennium Summit’, which ended with similarly high-flaunting goals for eradicating poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy after 15 years. Last year, after a humbling report on the actual implementation of the plans, which were only partially successful, the UN was forced to set another target in the distant future under ‘Sustainable Development Goals’!
No Limits on Good Intentions
The Paris Agreement reads more like an oath that Boy Scouts could take rather than pledges from serious statesmen and leaders who were meeting to decide a future course of action that could either push the world beyond redemption or indeed save it from the impending climatic catastrophe that seems to be getting closer with each passing year. It is full of adjectives and goals, without any kind of commitment or even a clear path as to how those goals would or could be achieved and what happens if some are not met. In short the nations agreed to:
- To peak greenhouse gas emissions ‘as soon as possible’ and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the ‘second half of this century’
- To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C
- To review progress every five years
- $100bn a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.
There is little more than promises and aspirations in the agreement, which was still presented by all the governments as a major change and something that exceeded all expectations!
INDCs : Not worth the paper
One of the first and most parametres for testing the outcome of the Paris Summit are the targets that each nation was to set for itself to ensure that the total global emissions of greenhouse gases start to decline in a meaningful manner from 2020 itself. Most of the countries had submitted their plans under Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to the UNFCCC for cutting emissions post-2020. The name INDC itself was a giveaway on the real objective of Cop 21. What is needed is legally binding commitment from the countries, especially the large emitters and that too in proportion to their current and forecast emissions. Instead, COP21 has seen countries setting voluntary targets which are not even enforceable.
Also, the INDCs do not even reflect the same parameters. For instance, some nations have pledged to curtail their absolute carbon emission targets, while others have offered to cut the carbon emissions intensity, that is carbon emission per unit of the Gross Domestic Product of the country as is India’s case, which has promised to try to cut its carbon intensity by upto 30 pc by 2030.
The total cuts proposed by various nations in the lead up to the Paris meet were alarmingly insufficient. According to a study by the London School of Economics, the total global pledges received before Cop21 would lead to annual global carbon emissions of about 57 bn tonnes, instead of the redline of 36 bn tonnes drawn by the UN for the world to have a reasonable chance of keeping the global warming by 2100 to less than 2° C.
According to a report by Friends of the Earth, an environmental NGO, in 2014, the total carbon emissions around the world had grown by over 50 pc from the 1990 level, instead of being at least 5 pc lower. This is one of the biggest takeaways for the negotiators at COP 21 and adds, very worryingly, that the global temperatures are set to rise by anywhere between 4-7.8 pc by the year 2100, which is catastrophe personified.
Read more in our India&You (Jan-Feb 2016) Issue