Does Paris Agreement makes sense?

Mohammad Arju

13th December, 2015 04:25:26 printer

Does Paris Agreement makes sense?

Did the Paris Summit- which is officially the 21st Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, or #COP21, for the convenience of hash-tagging, has just failed and ended as a high-profile series of two-week long dinner parties? If I think that what constitutes a 'successful' international initiative to fight global warming is ought to be a legally binding treaty or protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then the Paris Agreement is a major failure. It will not save our planet Ocean.


It is nothing like the Kyoto Protocol with legal obligation where industrially developed nations agreed on deal to cut their annual carbon emissions by the period 2008-2012. If you have a look over the Paris Agreement, you'll find that it is a long and boring document. Why it's needs to be so? Reporter for Business Standard Mr. Nitin Sethi arguably unveils the reason, he says ‘behind all the content, the reality: each country/group needs a piece in the text to say he or she got it inserted’. And it is written in the almost indecipherable pseudo-diplomatic linguistic style, I guess even the most cunning lawyer on this planet will not be able to interpret the text for enforcement.  Because it is not meant for this.


Well, as they say, there are other ways to measure success beside the legal obligation standard. In international domain, as the history suggests, ‘politically binding’ voluntary pledge-and-accountability process often works enough if not better, the government delegations and development-crazy academia claim. For instance, nations of the world worked on Millennium Development Goals without having a legally binding agreement and Bangladesh too did well.


At Paris Summit, nations came together, made voluntary commitments by submitting their own Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), negotiated as a common goal making exercise, and ended with an agreement which has no legal obligation attached. But as a political entity upon which the sovereignty of the citizens is bestowed, the nation states has their political obligation to deliver their pledges. The citizens, citizen groups aka civil society and the other countries will hold the governments accountable under this pledge-and-accountability process. It’s the power of public pressure or shaming which will do the rest.


The irony is, the public and civil society groups were demanding a legally binding treaty from the start. Is it credible that the public shaming and pressure will have some impacts to hold accountable the government about the voluntary commitments, while it has failed in the first place to press for a binding treaty?


The agreed text of Paris Agreement says, it is intended ‘in enhancing the implementation’ of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In fact, it is. It is merely some sort of voluntary promise to enhance efforts for fighting climate change by deploying fishy and unclear financial mechanism, and even the liability for poor and vulnerable countries is explicitly excluded. The ‘Loss and damage’ section don’t have a ‘compensation’ provision and there is a explicitly worded ‘exclusion of liability’ provisions in a separate ‘decision document’ which was also signed by the parties. The Business Standard reports, it was forced by the US government.


Though it has set up a voluntary floor for ‘holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial level’ but there is a ‘significant gap’ between this commonly declared floor and the separate country targets set in INDCs. ‘Significant gap’ acknowledge at the preamble of the agreement is really significant. Country specific floors set out by the respective governments in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) shows that, they are in-fact promising a global temperature rise of 3.5 degrees. For the INDC of Bangladesh see here; PDF file.


The importance is on totally climate finance, which is $100 billion per year by 2020 from the developed countries. Though there is no clear indication that where that kind of money would come from and in what form. There is no specific time-line to phase-out fossil fuels, and language on 'monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV)' of countries' emission reductions is cunningly and diplomatically week.


Overall, the world’s carbon barons have finally succeed to led the COP21 negotiations to a conclusions which totally disregard the environmental integrity of the planet Ocean and try to convince the world that regardless of ongoing emissions, Ocean acidification, and environmental destruction, only some sort of 'climate finance' for 'adaptation, capacity-building and mitigation' is the way forward. Due to orchestrated efforts to draw importance on only financial mechanisms, the negotiations was fraught from the beginning, and ended as such.


---Mohammad Arju, journalist and marine conservationist based in Chittagong.