The recently concluded 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) and its outcome agreement have evoked mixed responses across the world.
- India is happy about the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words such as ‘equity’, ‘climate justice’, ‘sustainable lifestyle’ and ‘reducing consumption’ have been kept intact in the agreement. However, it must be noted that these are not in the operational part of the agreement and are included in the text as good concepts to combat climate change. What matters is how much they are adopted by developed countries.
- Few people, who are not happy with the outcome, say there is nothing exciting or useful from many poor nations’ point of view in the Paris deal and think it is greatly tilted in favour of rich nations.
What were the main issues before COP21?
- Providing $100 billion yearly from 2020 onwards to poor nations by the rich.
- Providing clean technology at low cost to poor nations by the rich.
- Differentiating between poor countries and rich countries for reduction in emissions after taking into account the latter’s historical emissions.
- Compensating small island nations and Africa for the loss and damage they suffered due to climate change.
- Devising a transparent monitoring mechanism for climate pledges submitted by nations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Has the COP21 addressed these issues?
- Funding and transfer of tech:
With regard to $100 billion funding and providing clean technology, there is no clarity in the agreement and these issues have been left to future negotiations during the next five years. Many developing and poor nations are upset with this fact. This would, in turn, hamper the entire process of adaptation and mitigation effort.
- Historical emissions of rich countries:
With the omission of the words ‘historical agreements’ of rich nations in the agreement it appears that the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibility of rich and poor nations has been diluted.
- This absolves rich countries of their responsibility for reducing their emissions drastically, which is required to save the planet from disastrous consequences of climate change.
- This, in turn, puts greater pressure on developing countries, in particular India and China, to reduce their emissions much more than they have pledged.
- Monitoring mechanism:
The methodology of monitoring of implementation of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) remains unresolved in Paris and is still to be negotiated in the coming years.
- India and China have maintained that developed and developing countries should have different systems of monitoring and reporting, which were devised at Cancun in 2010. These are called as International Assessment and Review (IAR) for the developed and International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) for developing countries.
- Why different systems? This difference is due to the fact that developing countries do not have the necessary capability to undertake stringent reporting and thus they wanted the Paris Agreement must operationalise and implement differential obligations of developed and developing countries.
Other outcomes of the conference:
- The Paris Agreement has incorporated a new threshold limit of average global temperature rise of 1.5-degree Celsius by 2100 instead of the current limit of 2-degree Celsius. This requires all countries (rich nations in particular) to embark upon huge enhancement of emission cuts urgently.
- Economies in tech-innovative places such as the US and Japan are likely to do well, as renewable energy work takes off in poor countries having abundant ‘sunshine’ and ‘wind’. This will expand market share for companies involved in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Also, innovators and venture capitalists are likely to make a beeline for energy industry.
According to a study, by 2100, the global temperature may rise even by 7.9-degree Celsius if the current trends are continued. Added to this is the fact that only meagre emission cuts have been announced by rich nations and the situation appears to be out of control. Thus, it is time for rich nations to take suo motu action to enhance their emission cuts to the extent it is required for keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5-degree Celsius. This need be done right now without waiting for a review after five years.