The
multi-national agreement dubbed “The Paris Agreement” was negotiated by
representatives of 196 nations part of the UNFCC (United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change) in December 2015 to respond to the global climate
change threat by restricting temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above
pre-industrial levels, and also pursue further efforts to limit the increase to
1.5 degree Celsius by the end of the century. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) warned of impacts of rising temperatures, giving the
world a peak into the inconvenient truth of anthropogenic caused global warming.
The meeting was a call to secure a multi-national agreement to tackle climate
change, and a pledge to long term goals to transition into a clean and low
carbon society.

The most
prominent and dominant reason for global warming can be blamed on carbon
dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, which has skyrocketed since the 1950s
(Friedrich & Damassa, 2014). In order to reach
this ambitious goal, more than 146 countries
submitted Intended Nationally Determined
Contributions (INDC), detailing their steps to reduce emissions. While
the Paris agreements’ direction to reduce carbon emissions is tactile at best,
it lacks the fundamental aspects to reach and maintain the goal efficiently and
in a timely manner, before it may be too late for the environment.

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Key Aspects

Since the
sign of the Paris Agreement, climate change has rocketed to the top of the list
of global issues. It shows that most nations have agreed on an indisputable
importance of slowing down climate change. The agreement is a turning point in
signaling societies into a low carbon economy, pushing them to innovate in new
technology, energy and conservation industries. Using past failures such as the
Kyoto deal as a guide, helped create a “bottoms up” approach using Nationally
Determined Contributions in which countries set their own pace. Binding aspects
of the agreement include requiring reporting progress towards lowering
emissions which are renewed every five years for most nations.  

NDCs are the
heart of the Paris Agreement, and implemented as a ways to keep nations moving
forward towards their goals.  The United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate summarized NDCs as “the heart of the Paris Agreement and the achievement
of these long-term goals. NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce
national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change” (UNFCC 2015).
Countries are to formulate and communicate their long term low greenhouse gas emission
strategies and update every 5 years, and each successive submission has to be
stronger than the current. This means countries have to submit new pledges for
2030, at minimum 9 months before the next COP meeting.

Parties involved in the agreement recognized that it will take longer
for developing countries emissions to peak, putting pressure on developed
countries to accelerate their emission reductions to achieve a global peaking
as soon as possible. A balance between emissions and removals plan to be
achieved by the second half of the century, offering some clarity to allocate
mitigation efforts but offers no legal obligation to implement NDCs.

Nationally Determined Contributions

Nationally determined contributions are voluntary pledges that nations
reported ahead of the Paris agreement. Even if all current NDCs are implemented,
global emissions in 2030 would still be 12 Gigatons higher than what is needed
and would rise temperatures from 2.7 Celsius to 3 Celsius by 2100 (Climate
Action Tracker, 2015).

Canada

Canada has
one of the cleanest electricity systems among G-7 and G-20 nations and one of
the cleanest in the world, with almost 80% of our electricity supply already
emitting no greenhouse gases. Since 2011, Canada’s per capita greenhouse gas
emissions have been at their lowest levels since tracking began in 1990 while
the economy has continued to grow (Wiseman, 2015).
Contrary to this information, in a study done by Climate Action Tracker, it
rated Canada’s NDC as “inadequate and that under its policies the nation
will miss both its 2020 pledge and its 2030 NDC targets by a wide margin
(Climate Action Tracker, 2016).

European Union

The EU and its Member States
have already reduced their emissions by around 19% on 1990 levels while gross
domestic product (GDP) has grown by more than 44% over the same period (Harris
& Roach, 2017). The EU has been an ambitious entity in clean energy,
although shifts of nationalism across European countries has made in difficult
to find new common ground to de-carbonize the countries.

China

China declared it will adopt a
cap and trade system by 2017. Also they plan on reducing its carbon intensity of
the economy by 60-65% compared with 2005 by 2030 and reach peak emissions by
2030 the latest (Tianjie, 2015). They are no specifics as to which level
emission peaks should be by 2030, and the country’s INDC neither details
accounting assumptions or methodologies that will be used for evaluation of its
pledge (Damassa et al., 2015).

India

 

The country has
communicated that it would reduce the emission intensity of its GDP by 33 to
35% by 2030 from 2005 levels.  This is
indeed a remarkable initiative for a developing country that has to look after
the developmental needs of a huge population most of them are struggling with
social and economic problems of poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy and
unemployment. In addition to this, the country has promised to create an
additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent
through additional forest and tree cover by 2023 (Lakshmanan et al., 2017). A
survey has also concluded that as of January 2016, out of 7685 projects
registered until the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UNFCCC, India has
already registered 1593 of those projects making them it the highest number of
projects registered under CDM (Government of India, 2016).

 

No Firm Lines

Paris Agreement gives firm justice to recognizing a need to control
anthropogenic factors that are causing climate change; yet it fails to strictly
implement methods to meet the goals in a timely manner. The agreement’s outline
likened to many nations however loosely giving nations the voluntary desire to
follow through with their NDC strategies. With no binding agreement in place,
it is not clear how successful the Paris deal will be.

NDCs are not legally binding and therefore a country is not held
accountable if what they pledged is not followed through. Each submitted NDC
will go through review and be expected to be better than the one before. There
will be no sanctions or punishes made if a country decides not to do as they
voluntary agreed on during the Paris Agreement, making it even more
unpredictable if the goal to keep temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius or even
1.5 degree Celsius below pre-industrial levels can be attained.

The agreement also does not define an emissions peak year and
no concrete plan to phase out fossil fuel subsidies or stop construction of
coal-fired plants either. Although there is no emissions peak year stated, it
asks that nations reach their peak year as soon as possible which can be a
difference of decades when paralleled between a first and third world country. It is time sensitive and critical to create medium
term emission reductions to avoid warming before tackling climate change
becomes more costly.

Emissions

Discrepancies between the agreement and emissions reports are intimidating,
and there implications that the goals of The Paris Agreement may not be reached
appropriately. It is evident that greenhouse gas emissions and temperature increase
are closely related, yet the agreement lacks any constrictions to nations on
emissions. The “bottom up” approach let’s nations decide how they will attempt
to limit their Co2 emissions on their own accord because of differences in
economies, social structures and industry.

The
emissions gap between pledges by nations and data projections show a huge gap
in commitments made and what is actually needed to keep temperatures from
rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Annual global greenhouse gas emissions related to years
showing current projectile trajectories in red, current commitments in green.
The blue represents projectile GHG related to years needed for 2 degrees
Celsius target, 1.5 degrees Celsius target. The Gap is the difference between
current proposed pledges and what is needed to meet the temperature targets.
(The Brakes Project, 2017)

According to the IPCC’s 5th Assessment, the world can emit an
additional 1,000 billion tons (Gigatons) of carbon dioxide until 2100 if it
wants to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius increase target (IPCC, 2014). In 2014
alone, the anthropocentric carbon emissions equaled to 52.7 Gigatons, and at
current rates the 1,000 billion ton allowance will used shortly after 2030
(Althor, 2016).

The
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in its Emissions Gap Report
projects that global emissions should not exceed 42 GtCO2e in 2030 if
2°C is the target and be not more than 39 GtCO2e for a 1.5°C landing
(UNEP, 2014). The probability of 66% that this would keep increases under the benchmarks,
keeping in mind uncertainties of projections. UNEP also projects that a 50%
chance of the target 1.5 degrees Celsius if GHG falls from 56 Gigatons of
carbon dioxide in 2020 to 8 Gigatons by 2050, and below zero by 2060 (Clemencon,
2016).

Even if all voluntary
pledged NDCs are fully implanted, global GHG emissions in 2030 would be 12
Gigatons above its allowance for avoiding warming more than 2 degrees Celsius,
making 3 degrees Celsius a likely chance by 2100. Singling out the number one
producer of carbon emitters such as coal plants would be an obvious step, but
other potent emitters of the gas need to be tackled. Emissions from methane
primarily related to meat production and fracking for natural gas would be
effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Global livestock production
accounts for approximately 15% of greenhouse gases (Food and Agriculture
Organization, 2013).

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