COP21 Paris agreement: a non legally-binding climate pact won’t stop effectively global warming while EU’s Cañete throws hardest part to next Commission

Paris COP21 Agreement UN 12 DecemberLast Saturday the COP21 Paris agreement was unanimously signed by 195 countries in Le Bourget, France. Everyone voted in favor of the new attempt to reverse the downhill of our planet regarding temperature rise and agreed to take all the necessary actions to cut all fossil fuels subsidies by the end of this century. This is seen by many scientists and mainly politicians as the forerunner to deal with climate change and leading to a cleaner environment.

If one takes a good look at this agreement though, she will realise that it is not legally binding for the nations involved. The latter basically means that a country is not subject to sanctions in case it will not meet the climate targets set to address the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). This was obviously the only way to persuade some of the biggest economies of the world such as U.S., China, India and others to sign the climate change pact. It has to be noted also that this is the final draft version which must be ratified by at least 55 nations that represent 55% of the global warming emissions.

Paris Agreement’s goals

The major concern of the world’s community regarding climate change is to limit global warming. This goal is addressed at this agreement and the target is to manage global temperature increase to well below the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius and reduce it even more up to 1,5 degrees. However, this long-term goal seems quite unrealistic if one takes into account that the global temperature has risen almost 1 degree so far. What is more, analysts have calculated that the global temperature will rise 2,7 degrees with the current emission cuts pledges made till now; something that will cause devastating consequences not only to our planet but to humankind as well forcing numerous populations to migrate. PwC’s consultants underscored the gap between current policies and the 2 degrees goal. Countries must double their carbon-cutting efforts from 3 to 6.3% per year in order to reach it according to that study.

Another noteworthy target that is written inside the 31-page Paris agreement is that countries must reevaluate their pledges before 2020 and continue doing so every five years thereafter. This is a constructive way to produce better intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) every five years, adding to the improvement of the emissions cuts. More specifically, each country’s pledge must “represent a progression” on their previous one “and reflect its highest possible ambition”.

The long-lasting issue that involves the climate funding of the poorer developing countries is also taken into account during the negotiations of this agreement. The amount of $100 billion will be invested every year until 2025 in order to help nations that are under-developed to reduce their GHG and to promote “greener” technologies. The financial aid is supposed to be increased in the years to come post 2025. Nonetheless, it needs to be mentioned that developing countries had insisted on making this a legally-binding commitment but unfortunately it was not accepted due to the disagreement of economies like the U.S.

EU green targets

Europe has been one of the leading powers in the climate change fight. So far it has almost reached its 2020 pledges which are to reduce its GHG by 20% compared to 1990 levels. The next optimistic target is to cut emissions by at least 40% by 2030, a target that is quite ambitious but towards the right path to put a permanent stop to fossil fuels by 2100.

However, the climate and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Canete mentioned two days ago at a Brussels press conference that the EU is not going to promote any more grandiose plans before 2020. More in detail, Mr Canete stated: “In 2020 we can come along with more ambition but it will be for the next commission”.  Emissions are expected to fall from 22-27% by 2020 but there is still room for improvement while Adidas, Puma, Aldi and 27 other German businesses urged Brussels last Monday to adopt tougher targets by changing its target from 27 to 40%.

Is the Paris Agreement just about promises?

Professor James Hansen, also known as the “father of climate change awareness” characterised the climate change pact signed in Paris as “fraud” and that there is “no action, just promises”. The climate specialist added also that “we’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years. It’s just worthless words. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned”.

If one considers that this agreement comes after the failure in Copenhagen in 2009, then this is a great success. But does it have a practical impact on climate? Possibly Mr Hansen is right when he said that it is just promises because when a country is voluntarily setting its climate goals and can disobey at any time, then it is not enough to win this fierce race.

All in all, there is still a dear need for initiatives addressed to businesses and people to support climate following techniques that will reduce emissions and global warming effectively.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CAnyfantis

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