PARIS DEALHistoric Hope

Although parties, including Nepal,which attended COP 21 in Paris, termed the Paris Agreement as a Historic Deal,how it will be translated into bringing real changes to benefit the poor and vulnerable population is best left for a guess

Jan. 2, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol:09, No 11, December 11, 2015 (Mangsir 25, 2071

After lengthy negotiations, the world leaders finally came to forge an historic agreement on climate change in Paris in December seeking to reduce global emissions and help the world adapt to climate change.

As the final agreement on global climate action was signed, there was jubilation all over in hopes of saving the planet from deteriorating further due to human misadventures. The science is clear: global warming is real. But despite many countries’ best efforts, currently proposed actions are nowhere near enough to limit it to a manageable level.

Attending the conference under the leadership of Minister for Science Technology and Environment (now Minister for Environment and Population) BishwendraPaswan, Nepal’s delegation also welcomed the historic agreement.

“The Paris Deal was historic as it endorsed temperature close to the demand made by Nepal and LDCs,” said Dr. Krishna Chandra Paudel, secretary at the Ministry, who is now transferred to Ministry  of Animal Development.  “The time now is for its implementation.”

However, just a week after taking part in the conference which produced the historic deal, the government transferred secretary Dr. Paudel to the other ministry questioning Nepal’s own commitment.

Passing through a series of prolonged political instability, Nepal’s commitment to the international deal has often been in question. Although the UNFCCC process is itself a political process and it is dealt by foreign affairs ministry in other parts of the world, Nepal has always been represented by Ministry of Environment.

Like in the past, US president Barak Obama, the British Prime Minister, the Chinese president, the Indian Prime Minister and the Russian President and other heads of state and government took part in the conference. However, Nepal participated under the leadership of Ministry of Science and Technology.

Although climate change is an issue of science, the negotiations that take place at the global level are political. However, in the case of Nepal, Ministry of Environment has completely ignored Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nepalese delegation went to Paris without any members from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As the secretary was transferred and there was no representation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepalese state will be without any memory of the negotiations of climate deal when the time comes for its implementation.

Just before the delegation was leaving, Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Shankar Bairagi told this scribe of the need to ensure representation from his ministry. However, the Nepalese team left for Paris without anybody from the Ministry. It is reported that secretary Dr. Paudel snubbed the Ministry’s request and left with his own team.

 Paris Deal

Although the text is as robust and ambitious as possible, keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius seems out of reach. The idea is for countries to reconvene every five years, take stock of what has been achieved and commit to further actions.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who presided over the talks, hailed the pact as a “historical turning point” that could spare the planet’s 7.3 billion people from the most disruptive effects of global warming in decades to come. Before the vote, he urged delegates not to shirk from taking steps that could avert an environmental disaster.

“The citizens of the world – our own citizens – and our children would not understand it. Nor, I believe, would they forgive us,” Fabius said.

 

The agreement, adopted after 13 days of intense bargaining in a Paris suburb, puts the world’s nations on a course that could fundamentally change the way energy is produced and consumed, gradually reducing reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner forms of energy.

“History will remember this day,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the pact was hailed through a thunderous applause. “The Paris agreement on climate change is a monumental success for the planet and its people.”

The agreement, signed by 195 countries, states the “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible”. Nations will cut their emissions “rapidly” and “in accordance with best available science” to reach a “balance” between manmade emissions and carbon removals from the atmosphere after 2050, the text says.

As well as being an opportunity to increase ambitions, climate experts see this as a way to monitor potential problems and make it harder for countries to backslide on commitments.

For developing countries and LDCs, the mechanism could be a challenge, as the need to lift citizens out of poverty can clash with climate goals. But there is hope that mitigation costs will gradually fall as the cost of clean technology decreases over time. This would make it easier for all countries, but particularly poorer ones, to abandon fossil fuels.  

However, to work, the system must be backed by a robust global financial mechanism, with developing and least developed countries contributing what they can afford towards the high upfront costs of transition to a low-carbon world.

In a departure from previous climate deals, the Paris agreement says all countries should aim to curb the global average temperature increase to “well below two degrees Celsius” above pre-industrial levels, and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius”.

What a difference a half-degree makes

Although not an official target, the reference to a 1.5 degree Celsius limit is a clear nod to the “high ambition coalition”, a group of over 100 countries that had pushed for stringent targets. This informal group includes some of the states most vulnerable to climate change, such as small island nations and arid African countries, as well as the European Union, the United States and other developed nations.

Many see there is still a “gap between science and politics. On the one hand, the text recognizes that the 1.5 degrees target is “a necessary guard rail" to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change. On the other hand the political action reflected in the text “falls some way short of that scientific benchmark”.

Last hope in Paris for UN climate deal

The deal tasks the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce a scientific report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius. While some observers see this request as a stalling exercise, others are more optimistic.

“It is another tool to show that, ultimately, 1.5 degrees is the target the world should shoot for,” say experts.

Under the Paris agreement, governments must review their pledges to combat climate change, called intended nationally determined contributions, every five years. The IPCC report will give activists “a chance to take those findings and put pressure on countries to say "here’s the benchmark, here’s what’s at stake."

In 2023, and every five years after that, governments will also take part in a “global stock-take” exercise to assess collective progress, “in the light of equity and the best available science”, the deal says.

The final agreement states that developing countries should be helped to build up their innovation systems through “collaborative approaches to research and development” and easing access to technology “in particular for early stages of the technology cycle”.

One of the important parts of the Paris deal is to build up a fund.The agreement, among others, sets a goal for developed countries to build up a fund that would pay out at least US$100 billion per year by 2020 “to further provide appropriate technology and capacity-building support” to poorer nations – a figure that is set to increase in future reviews.

The other side

The world will now have a new and comprehensive regime in place to shape how its diverse nations go about the urgent task of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why climate activists are ecstatic the world over right now. It’s a big deal.

The more ambiguous news, however, is that this document, by its very nature, depends on key sectors of society to respond to help make sure its goals are realized.

What’s more, even if everyone plays by the rules, the standards and goals set out by the Paris agreement may not be enough to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change. New science suggests that forces already set in motion — the melting of glaciers, the release of carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost — could unleash considerable impacts that this new deal is unable to prevent.

In the last decade, most important  development is seen in the energy sector. Even before Paris deal a sharp growth in renewable energy installments was there around the world.

To make the deal a success, the private sector is crucial, because despite all the powerful language of the Paris agreement itself, it does not immediately oblige countries to do anything more than what is contained in their already released climate pledges, or “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.”

The document requires countries whose current pledges go out to 2025 to update them (and up their ambition) in 2020, and countries whose pledges go out to 2030 to do the same. So a lot of progress needs to happen between now and 2020, in the form of rapid installations of wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy around the world.

One key measure of the success of Paris is how much it changes this dynamic in energy transition. And early signs suggest that it could.

Scientists have said that the aspirational temperature goal contained in the text, namely that “parties should pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels,” likely won’t be possible unless there have a large-scale way of removing carbon dioxide from the air.

The deal was struck in a rare show of near-universal accord, as poor and wealthy nations from across the political and geographic spectrum expressed support for measures that require all to take steps to battle climate change. The agreement binds together pledges by individual nations to cut or limit emissions from fossil-fuel burning, within a framework of rules that provide for monitoring and verification as well as financial and technical assistance for developing countries.

The accord is the first to call on all nations—rich and poor—to take action to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with additional reviews required every five years to encourage even deeper pollution cuts. A major goal, officials said, is to spur governments and private industry to rapidly develop new technologies to help solve the climate challenge

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