The Paris Climate Agreement is set to enter into force, but without the support needed to implement it

  • The European Union’s ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement has nudged it beyond the required threshold — ratification by more than 55 Parties to the Convention accounting for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This will ensure that the Agreement will enter into force, or become part of international law, on November 4, 2016. Many leaders have praised the speed at which the ratification process moved forward. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that she viewed this accelerated process as an expression of the importance that countries attach to climate change.
  • The Paris Agreement, in contrast with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, makes all countries responsible for reducing GHGs instead of just the rich or Annex-1 countries, which are responsible for the bulk of the total GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. Individual countries are now responsible for implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), goals that each country developed and submitted to the UNFCCC before the Paris Conference of Parties (COP) last December. Most of the pledges, including India’s, are partly or entirely conditional on financial support for their implementation.

Support Needed for Implementation:

  • The thorny question that remains is, what are the implications for an agreement that enters into force without the support needed to implement it? Rich countries are supposed to make available $100 billion annually by 2020 for climate-related projects in poor countries. There is little sign of any significant progress towards this goal.
  • We are therefore at a point where support for building capacity to achieve the NDC goals requires the same level of international pressure and enthusiasm that was demonstrated in ratifying the Paris Agreement.

Cause of Concerns:

  • The earth’s atmosphere has exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2).CO2 concentrations have been steadily going upward since humans began removing fuel from below the ground and using it to fire up the industrial revolution. There are small annual fluctuations in these concentrations, which are usually at their lowest after the summer as vegetation in the Northern hemisphere absorbs the atmospheric gas. In autumn, as leaves fall, the CO2 levels begin to increase.
  • Over the past few years, several places in the world have recorded concentrations above 400 ppm, but this September, when concentrations should generally be lowest for the year, the values have remained above 400 ppm; the world as we know it has changed indefinitely. The scientific community has generally regarded a GHG concentration of 350-400 ppm as the maximum level needed for a safe climate.

What is needed/Way Forward:

  • Significant shift in human behaviour and economic systems, which are closely tied with atmospheric systems and the future of our planet.
  • A transformational change, a system-wide modification in social, economic and technological institutions will be necessary.
  • Currently, about 82 per cent of the world’s energy comes from burning fossil fuels. This is used in different sectors and entails the upstream production of electricity, petrol, diesel and other forms of usable energy. Improving efficiencies of energy production and use, and increasing the contribution from renewables are major improvements, but the world will have to go to “net zero” emissions over the next few decades in order to avoid exceeding a 2ºC rise by mid-century or soon thereafter. These changes will need to take place while the lives of the poor in developing nations continue to improve, the world population increases, and we also adapt to living in a warmer world.
  • In the last three years, global emissions, which were rising at around 4 per cent per year, have slowed to under 1 per cent growth, but it is both a scientific and social challenge to expect global emissions to peak very soon and go down to zero and remain there.
  • Further, a global agreement was reached to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used mainly as refrigerants and are powerful GHGs.
  • According to estimates, this agreement could help avoid about 0.4ºC warming until 2100. But HFCs are a small proportion of GHGs and broad change of the scale that is required severely tests our imagination.
  • It is only possible if social movements, civil society organisations, legal systems and political leaders work together.
  • Such single-minded purpose across nations rich and poor, weak and strong, is only possible if there is a sense of oneness, of global solidarity, to address climate change. 

Source: The Hindu

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