CAN THE PARIS AGREEMENT HELP CURTAIL GLOBAL WARMING?25 January 2022
CAN THE PARIS AGREEMENT HELP CURTAIL GLOBAL WARMING?
Climate change poses a significant threat to Earth and its inhabitants and has become a predominant concern for the world over the past few years. It also threatens the sustainable development taking place in the world. The Paris Agreement is a part of the UNFCCC (United Nations Convention on Climate Change); it was proposed during the 21st conference of parties that was held in Paris and adopted globally on December 12, 2015. One of the three core objectives of this accord was achieving environmental sustainability because global warming—caused by the extensive use of fossil fuels, deforestation, and the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere—poses a big threat. Therefore, the governments all over the world agreed to adopt the 2030 sustainable development goals and the Paris climate agreement as a framework for combining economic objectives with social justice, given the urgency to achieve environmental sustainability. In this essay, I will look at the aspects of the Paris agreement and other possible developments.
The world entered the age of sustainable development on September 25, 2015. Inspired by Pope Francis’ speech on this day at the United Nations headquarters about the moral needs of our age, all 193 governments of the United Nations unanimously adopted the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the 17 goals of sustainable development. The 13th goal of sustainable development is ‘Climate Change’.
Why was it brought about?
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was held in 1992. It is known to be the largest meeting of world leaders, with around 178 nations having attended the summit. Countries originally signed the international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the aim to prevent worldwide carbon emissions. Following this, the Kyoto protocol was introduced in 1997 to reduce emissions and follow sustainable growth to prevent global warming. However, China and the USA—the world’s top carbon emitters—did not participate in this protocol. Most of the progress carried out by European countries was ruined due to the production of greenhouse gases by China and the USA. It led to an increased global emission by around 40% in the years 1990 and 2009. The Doha Amendment added new targets for the participating nations. However, it was short-lived and replaced by the Paris agreement. The agenda was introduced in the United Nations general assembly in New York, where Pope Francis talked about various subjects, including a sustainable environment. This set a prelude to the Paris conference that took place later in the year 2015. The main goal of this agreement was to change our sources of energy and other technologies to achieve climate safety, counteract global warming, and improve the Kyoto protocol’s goals to prevent the rise of greenhouse gas emissions.
What were the aims of the accord?
The Paris accord’s main aim was to improve the global response towards climate change by keeping the global temperature below 2-degree Celcius and equally limit any further increase in the temperatures. Moreover, it aimed to strengthen the countries’ abilities to face climate change impacts and maintain low greenhouse gas emissions. It offers the developed nations a means to support emerging nations, and it establishes a consistent mechanism for tracking and commenting on countries’ climate targets. The aims of this agreement will be achieved by preparing a sum amount of US$100 billion annually by the end of 2020 to meet the needs of developed countries, both for climate change adaptation and investments in low-carbon growth. With the establishment of sustainable development goals, strengthening the education on this issue will help raise awareness and provide knowledge to adapt and understand any early warnings of climate change. It will also set the base to discover new technologies to build sustainable cities, responsible consumption and production, and other sustainable development goals.
Which countries took part in this accord?
A total of 175 countries participated – some of them being HICs, MICs or LICs. The prominent ones are mentioned in the following table:
Under the Trump presidency, the USA left the Paris agreement. Other countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Yemen and Eritrea have not yet ratified the agreement. The withdrawal of the United States of America from the Paris accord will be discussed later in detail in the essay.
What were the challenges faced?
The Paris agreement aims to mitigate climate change by the year 2030. Many policies have been introduced to help the participating nations reduce carbon emissions, and these agreements need to be perceived fairly by other countries. The major concern for the developing countries was receiving financial support from the developed countries. The funding portion of the Paris agreement is considered weak by the developing countries because it does not contain the scaling up of finance dedicated for the climate and consequent negotiations. According to an article on climate change news written by Loren Legarda (board member for the Asia Pacific of the Green Climate Fund), the funds granted for the approved projects, Green Climate Fund (GCF) board meetings and other activities to support programs would result in the loss of the funds; the reserves would be severely depleted unless proper actions are taken. In 2018, the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morison, stopped funding the Green Climate Fund (after giving around $187 million since 2015). Before the news became official, Scott Morison mentioned that Australia would not be giving away the money for the global climate fund. Many developing countries criticised Australia for their action, as these funds were the key to implementing the plans that would support the Paris Agreement’s goals.
If the United States, European Union (E.U.), China, and India were able to halve their emissions starting from 2020 till 2050 following the global carbon law that is meant to reduce the global carbon emissions each year, achieving this goal might debilitate the challenge for the other countries. The economic growth taking place in developing countries makes it challenging to protect the environment. Therefore, the Paris agreement’s global warming mitigation poses a major challenge for developing countries. According to the journal mentioned, carbon emissions would have to drop down to zero per-cent by 2030 in order to reach the goal of reducing the global temperatures to 1.5-degrees Celcius from the pre-industrial era. As per the journal’s authors, it is not feasible for countries to reach this goal. According to Glen Peters (Research Director, Center for International Climate Research, Norway):
‘It’s very easy to talk about the global average [like reducing emissions 50% by 2030]. But as soon as you peel back one layer of the onion, at the country level, these global rules don’t apply anymore.’ 
This quote by Glen Peter that is mentioned above shows that the countries have already done significant damage with high carbon emissions, and in order to meet the global carbon targets, the rest of the nations have to curb economic growth and production. The only solution is that countries like the USA and China—the two major carbon emitters of the world—have to reduce the emissions to prevent the halt on developing countries’ economic growth.
Why did the USA leave the Paris Accord?
The United States of America’s former President, Donald Trump, announced on June 1, 2017, that the USA would be parting ways with the Paris agreement and ceasing the funds implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Trump was already sceptical about climate change when he was running the presidential campaign for the 2016 elections. Moreover, one of the primary reasons for leaving the accord was that Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were associated with the petrochemical industries (Kock Industries); it would have benefitted the fossil fuel industry by reversing the climate regulations. The political leader denied the science behind climate change and that humans are causing it. Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, had similar beliefs and even sued the clean power plan proposed by the Obama administration. He promised to move the rule limiting the greenhouse gas emissions and said:
‘Tomorrow, in Washington, D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to withdraw the so-called Clean Power Plan of the past administration and thus begin the effort to withdraw that rule.’
This statement given by the EPA administrator and the other republicans (dominated by conservatives) proved that Trump’s administration had no faith in climate change, the proposed regulations to reduce emissions or in the Paris agreement.
Under the Obama Presidency, it was believed that the Paris agreement would improve climate security, introduce a change in the economy by promoting a low carbon economy, and increase employment, which would help the USA maintain an edge over the competition. On the other hand, Trump believed that being a part of the Paris accord would make the USA lose the industrial power competition against China and restrict development. An alternative provided by the republican President was that the USA would only enter the agreement if the negotiations made were fair and achievable for the USA. In conclusion, Donald Trump played a similar role as the ex-president George Bush, who claimed that the USA was not interested in climate mitigation, and as a result, the USA did not ratify the Kyoto protocol; shorty after the USA, other countries such as Canada, Russia and Japan also chose to leave the protocol during its second phase.
What is the process?
The Paris Agreement’s signatories must go through a social and economic change to follow sustainable development goals. There is a five-year cycle in which measures are monitored and verified; by 2020, the participating nations submit the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). All the countries in the agreement provide a list of actions that will be implemented to reduce global carbon emissions and how they will adapt if the temperatures would rise. Long-term strategies are known as long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LT-LEDs); these strategies provide a vision for future development. The Paris agreement focuses on developing technology, raising funds to help the countries worldwide to achieve the goals, and help the least developed countries or the countries that cannot face climate change.
Wherever we use energy, whether the boiler and furnaces or the internal combustion engines under the hood of the cars, burning fossil fuels releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby warming the planet. The electricity itself that powers our cities should be clean and green (renewable energy). For a city that mostly runs on electricity, our transmission systems and infrastructure generally have to be innovative and use information technology (I.T.). To achieve this, the Paris agreement provides a vision to realise the use of technology that will reduce carbon emissions (stated in article 10 of the Paris agreement).
Not all countries are economically powerful to support themselves in developing technology and in other areas to face and mitigate climate change. Therefore, developed countries that are also high-income countries must provide and assist vulnerable countries (stated in article 9 of the Paris agreement). The developed countries will be mobilising funds from various sources to support and fulfil the developing countries’ needs.
Countries may face various challenges while developing the technology. Changes in climatic conditions and weather variability may, directly and indirectly affect a country. Therefore, the development and transfer of technology socially and environmentally are some challenges faced by different countries. According to the Paris agreement, measures are taken to enhance the developing countries’ capabilities to take effective actions against climate change (stated in article 11 of the Paris agreement).
The Present Scenario
The Paris accord came into effect on November 4, 2016. The participating countries went through the procedures to ratify the accord. Subsequently, in January 2021, 190 participating countries endorsed the Paris agreement. With the new President’s leadership, Joe Biden (elected as the 46th President of the United States of America in the 2020 elections) brought the USA on the track of sustainable development by rejoining the Paris agreement. There is a mixed approach towards the emission targets, which are to be achieved by the end of 2020. In 2018, the European Union reported that with the exceptions of Sweden, Portugal and France, other members have fallen behind in reaching the targets; Sweden reached 77%, Portugal 66% and France 65% (2020 targets). According to 2018 analytics of the Rhodium Group, carbon emissions in the USA increased by 3.4%. Despite the actions taken by the individual states and cities to regulate carbon emissions, the increase is due to the change in climate goals under the Trump presidency.
China’s emissions approximately rose by 2.3% in 2018 due to a rise in the use of fossil fuels. International organisations like the Global Carbon Project reported that global carbon emissions are projected to grow 2% or more because of coal-powered plants (China and India being the largest coal consuming countries). Furthermore, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo (CICERO) said that more work needs to be done to reduce excess emissions.
New incentives have been introduced, which focus on providing more areas to develop renewable energy. From the earlier developments of renewable energy, the air has been cleaner since pollution levels have decreased. Thermal capacity has declined from 70% to 68%, as renewable energy sources have increased by 11%. India’s carbon emissions are growing at a slow pace as the growth of coal-based power is decreasing at a steady rate. However, if we look at the Indian cities individually, Delhi (the capital of India) is one of the most polluted cities globally, and including Delhi, the other six polluted cities in the world are located in India.
China is the world leader in renewable energy, followed by the United States of America. China invested a total of $44 billion U.S. dollars, and the driving force behind these developments is the Paris accord. 42 pilot low-carbon cities in China focus on reducing carbon emissions and optimising the country’s energy mix. Furthermore, China had planned to increase this number to 100 by the end of 2016, which was going to help make an effort to halt or reduce the effects of climate change. China implemented policies to restrict the use of coal and address climate change. However, China lifted the ban on the construction of a new coal power plant and reduced the investments for solar energy projects in 2018 , and according to Climate Action Tracker (CAT), China is rated ‘highly insufficient’.
In the European Union, greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 22% in 27 years (1990-2017), and in 2018 the E.U. set new laws to reduce emissions, as committed in the Paris agreement. To achieve the targets by 2020, the E.U. Emissions Trading System (ETS) provided incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by covering large scale facilities in various sectors such as aviation, power and industry (accounts for approximately 40%). With the help of ETS, areas which were part of it resulted in a decrease of around 29%, which is more than the goal set for reducing emissions in 2020.
In 2019, Germany generated more electricity through renewable energy source than the use of coal-powered plants; furthermore, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), when its economy was smaller in 1950, Germany already had a decline in emissions. Similarly, in the U.K., carbon emissions declined by 160 million tonnes (5%) due to the power generating sector’s measures.
Trump administration took a weak initiative to replace the Clean Power Plant. The USA overtook Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest crude oil producer, and it is also the largest producer of natural gas, leading to increased LNG export in 2018 by 53%. Due to political circumstances, the Green New Deal (GND) was introduced, thereby bringing the U.S. on the track of sustainable development. The USA lies in the “insufficient” category on the scale set by Climate Action Tracker (CAT). There has been a decrease in carbon emissions as the USA shifted its energy mix, shifting from coal power plants.
The countries mentioned above are some of the participating nations of the Paris agreement. Each of them is progressing towards reducing carbon emissions, except the USA (due to political reasons). Some countries are getting closer to the targets; some are still behind and not contributing enough.
Projections with the current trajectory
To bring about the projected changes in baseline emissions, the current policies that are in place around the world would result in a ~ 2.9-degree centigrade warming above pre-industrial levels. Global temperatures would limit to ~ 2.6-degree centigrade above pre-industrial levels after the world governments’ pledges and target set, limiting the warming below ~ 2.8-degree centigrade.
With the new model introduced by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), global temperatures could decrease to ~ 2.1-degree centigrade if the nations follow the net-zero pledge that was announced in November 2020. This model includes China’s target to reach carbon neutrality before the year 2060, and with the new plans to control carbon emissions under president Biden (46th president of the USA), the temperatures are expected to reduce by ~ 0.1-degree centigrade. The majority of responsible countries, which contribute to approximately 63% of emissions, are considering the approach towards the net-zero target.
A survey conducted by Climate Action Tracker (CAT) concluded that temperature estimates have been falling for the targets set and the world emission projections for the end of the century. Since the development of coal power plants has decelerated and the use of renewable energy has increased; for example, China has taken measures to reduce the dependence on coal by introducing new projects like the ‘Gansu Wind Farm’, which on completion, will become the world’s largest single generator. The wind farm’s projected expense is ~ US$17.5 billion and will provide 20000MW (approximately) by 2020. Another project is the Three Gorges Dam which became functional on July 4 2012, at the maximum capacity of the Dam, it can reduce coal consumption by 31 million tones per year and help China avoid ~ 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (Andy Schindler 2018, 295).
The 2020 estimates for the 2030 emissions suggest that emissions are lower than the 2019 estimates. With technological investments, Australia’s emission could be ~ 29% below 2005 levels by 2030. The abatement task of meeting the targets by 2030 is projected to be around 26%–28%. Emissions will decline by 22% between 2005 and 2030. The primary reasons for these projections are due to the Australian government’s investments (over $5.3 billion).
Canada has pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. Recently, the Canadian government declared that it would establish a strategy to bring the nation back on track to create a stable net-zero carbon future by 2050. The Canadian government recently declared that it would establish a strategy to bring the nation on track to create a stable net-zero carbon future by 2050.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Vision 2021 strives for a balanced climate and technology to be accomplished by 2021. The UAE has formed Key Performace Indicators (KPIs) to track its progress against its goals, strategies and proposals to achieve them. The UAE National Climate Change Plan 2017–2050 serves as a blueprint to improve climate reduction efforts across the region. Under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) programs, the United Arab Emirates has undertaken the implementation of 14 new projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the countries’ progress, the current projections show a positive change under the Paris accord targets. However, there are difficulties that some countries face with the current trajectory.
The Paris Agreement resulted in shifting the climate diplomacy model. It introduced a bottom-up framework for pollution targets (nationally defined contributions), with top-down requirements for solid global emission goals and core transparency provisions, including monitoring and evaluation. It modified the distinction model to ensure that developing countries’ growth and development goals will be respected. If no climate policies were adopted, expected future emissions would result in annual warming of 4.1-degree centigrade to 4.8-degree centigrade by 2100-degree centigrade.
After the 2020 election, Australia recommitted itself anew to set new targets to prevent an increase in emissions since the new President of the USA is Joe Biden, and one of his main goals in the presidential elections was to make the USA a part of the Paris Agreement again. However, under the demand to reconsider its paltry greenhouse gas reduction plans for 2030 and commit to achieving net-zero by 2050, Australia ranked among the worst of the G20 nations on climate change.
It would be difficult to avoid the consequences of warming over 2-degree centigrade unless countries include temperature considerations when addressing these questions. Since economic development is a long-term phase, long-term strategies become a crucial policy instrument for achieving it. The long-term strategy’s vision would transcend election cycles and bring communities together, rather than relying on groups and individuals’ desires.
In conclusion, with the above project and facts related to the Paris Agreement, our inference is that this accord can help curb global warming – if appropriately implemented. We strongly feel that all participating countries require to contribute sustained and earnest efforts. A more significant role needs to be played by the developed nations as they can trigger a positive Pareto effect on the control of harmful emissions, which is the primary cause of global warming. The developed nations should understand that if catastrophes of greater magnitudes strike the planet, those will equally have negative ramifications for them and their population. Hence, it is better to be a part of the solution than the cause of the problem. The United Kingdom and the European Union are already nearly achieving their targets for the Paris Agreement. They are taking several robust initiatives such as investments in clean energy (North Sea Wind Farm Power Projects) and reduction in the use of fossil fuels, especially in automobiles (some countries targeting to switch to electric vehicles completely). With the USA back on the right side of things and the powerful influence on the world community (Australia also back on track), we are hopeful that this would help drive this initiative and achieve the targets set out by the Paris Agreement. The world needs to take lessons from the catastrophes that have happened in the past, apart from the hazards looming large, threatening our planet and population’s survival and existence. We need to come out of the paradigm of just surviving for the day and instead implement proper planning and an action plan for a better tomorrow. We need to strike a balance between development and sustenance. With the Paris agreement’s help, several eco-friendly initiatives such as recycling, reducing the carbon footprint by lesser dependency on fossils fuels, and steadily shifting towards renewable energy sources have been encouraged for all the participating nations. The latter needs to be supported by international financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank to raise awareness and help control the spread of global warming. As a part of the risks that this initiative faces, we should look at the example of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, where issues and challenges related to the political establishment, stability and survival of the population occupy such a high mind share that global warming hardly matters to its inhabitants (Shellenberger 2020, 18-19).
The project could have been extended to look into more details by adding mathematical figures and graphs to support points mentioned in the dissertation; for example, the part where we mention the current trajectory, use of quantitative methods would provide a better understanding and could have provided in-depth research about the political issues of the USA which affect the Paris accord. Efforts were made to gather data from primary sources, thereby giving a more accurate description of each country’s progress; however, enough information was not available. One of the problems we faced was sticking to the stipulated word limit. The project has helped me explore interesting subjects—Earth Science and Environmental Geography—and widen the knowledge about them. Through my research, I was able to apply my knowledge to real-world problems and also gain further information on the online course I did on sustainability.
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