The Paris Agreement Paving Low Carbon Pathways

The Paris COP has finally delivered a balanced outcome- an agreement a legally binding document to take forward climate actions in terms of setting the long term temperature targets; taking up mitigation targets and or low carbon strategies, conservi

Jan. 2, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol:09, No-12, January 01,2016 (Poush 17, 2072)

With the hue and cry as to whether the 21stConference of Parties COP in Paris would deliver an agreement/protocol or a legally binding document. The confusions have finally come to an end. Thumbs up to the French Government, the COP Presidency and the UNFCCC secretariat and its bodies which had a huge role to make the Paris COP to address climate change a big success.

The Paris COP has finally delivered a balanced outcome- an agreement a legally binding document to take forward climate actions in terms of setting the long term temperature targets; taking up mitigation targets and or low carbon strategies, conserving forests, helping adapt to climate change;addressing loss and damage and providing access to technology and finance and building capacities as needed.

Turning back the historical pages of the Conference of Parties (COP) Meetings; after the 15th COP in Copenhagen, there was a cloud of mistrust among parties as to how the negotiations would progress further to address climate change. The 16th COP in Cancun played a key role in building the trust; and brought parties togetherback to the table to further negotiate through the Cancun framework. The 17th COP in Durban then  established a platform- Ad-hoc working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) where the basic idea was to look into mitigation actions pre-2020 under Work stream 2 and post-2020 under Work stream 1 to bring all parties together to formulate and follow and one agreement, protocol or legally binding document post 2020. But as the discourse took place under the ADP, the components of the ADP took into account all the components of the Bali action Plan into discussions.

Looking at the Mitigation Component ofdiscussionsunder the ADP; parties had to submit an INDC- Intended Nationally Determined Contrition prior to the 21st COP in Paris- a document that took into account what a country was ready to contribute in terms of adaptation and mitigation and what it needed support for in terms of adaptation and mitigation. The document submission however was optional for least developed countries. Based on the INDCs submitted, as of 7th December 2015, an analysis done by Climate Action Tracker,  158 submissions, reflecting 185 countries (including the European Union member states), and covering around 94% of global emissions in 2010 (excluding LULUCF) and 97% of global population. A further 3% of global emissions are coming from international aviation and maritime transport. Almost 1% of global emissions are covered by countries that are not Parties to the UNFCCC. ( Furthermore, as analyzed by CAT (Climate Action Tracker), 32 INDCs reflecting 59 countries, cover 81.3% of global emissions in 2010.

With the dealeventually being agreed to by all 195 states on 12th of December 2015, remaining parties who have not submitted their INDCs must now submit their INDC in a year’s time prior to the 22nd COP to be held in Morocco. Nepal too must submit its INDC accordingly. The pre-2020 INDC will complement the Kyoto Protocol with much of the responsibility on the developed country parties and also brining in countries like the US- an observer to the Kyoto Protocol to take action. But since the major role of the Kyoto Protocol is to functionalize a market based mechanism, given the low demand and high supply of carbon credits, the low pricing has demotivated the developments of projects that can offsets carbon.

Now with the Paris Agreement, there is a light in the tunnel where opportunities could bring back the carbon markets to life gain which in turn can promote sustainable development.

Another issue under mitigation is the peaking time of GHG gases for parties. Peaking will have to be achieved as soon as possible but with a little flexibility for developing country parties so as to have a balance of GHG gases in the second half of the century.  If peaking is not achieved as soon as possible, the life spell on the GHG gases will pushed further giving more space for climate change to occur faster and no timeline has been spelled out for peaking of the GHG for  both developed and developing countries.  However with the INDCs to be as ambitious as possible, a review process has been established where in each country need to submit their revised NDC every 5 years with the global stock take to initiate in 2023. To promote mitigation and adaptation both market and non-market mechanisms have been acknowledged under the Paris Agreement. Share of proceeds from market mechanisms will also contribute to both administrative and adaptation costs whereas the non-market approaches will look into adaptation. Holistically both the market and non-market approached will contribute to sustainable development.

With the mitigation actions, the role of the forestry sector under REDD+ so as to address drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and curb emissions from the forestry sector.

The mitigation theme provides a balanced outcome, but still the ambition is not high enough to limit temperatures to below 2 C or limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre industrial levels, but the mechanism and review process will help to shape the level of ambition in the days to come. Because if this time the world is late to take action to curb the anthropogenic emissions of GHG gases it will be late to forever to deal with climate change.

Manandhar is a Deputy Director-Climate Change, Energy and Freshwater Program, WWF Nepal




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