Paris Agreement is the sine qua non of global climate action. Adopted in December 2015, entered into force even before the next UN climate conference in 2016 in Marrakech and being ratified by 147 countries in a record time, the Agreement aims to “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible,” and “to undertake rapid reductions thereafter… to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century” (Article 4.1, Paris Agreement). More specifically, it meant “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.” However, on June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States will no longer participate in the 2015 Paris Agreement, threatening efficacy of the Agreement, which makes it pertinent to assess the future of the Agreement.
The threat of climate change is not a ‘hoax.’ According to NASA, the US space agency, the degree of sea ice in the Arctic and nearby Antarctica has hit record lows. Moreover, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization confirmed that 2016 was the warmest year on record- 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. 2016 also included severe droughts that inflicted food insecurity in southern and eastern Africa and Central America. Hurricane Matthew instigated extensive suffering in Haiti and wreaked significant economic losses in the U.S.
Furthermore, NATO warned of the intimidations of instability in the Middle East and Africa if climate change is not tackled. Similarly, the Pope with other religious leaders has also reconfirmed the moral responsibility to act on climate change. Resultantly, nearly 300 global investors with $17 trillion in assets have urged nations to stick to their Paris commitments. The question, in this sense, is whether the trillions of dollars that is being financed every year can be greened in time.
There is now a growing penetration of clean energy globally. In its latest annual assessment of renewable energy the Frankfurt School and Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed that ‘in 2016 138.5 gigawatts of new renewable power capacity were installed world-wide, up 8 percent from 127.5 gigawatts in 2015.’ The amount of global electricity provided by renewables ‘rose from 10.3% in 2015 to 11.3% in 2016, up from almost nothing only a few years ago, resulting in the stayed greenhouse gas emissions for three years. In April this year the Green Climate Fund, the financial mechanism for the Paris Agreement, backed 8 projects in developing countries. ‘The Fund has now spent over $2.2 billion on over 40 projects attracting a further $5.1 billion in co-financing.’ In 2016, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the number of people employed in renewable energy world-wide was close to 10 million and rising continuously.
A report by OECD titled, ‘Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth,’ in a similar tone, argues that “bringing together the growth and climate agendas could add one percent to average economic output in the G20 countries by 2021 and lift 2050 output by up to 2.8 percent.” The need of the hour, in this regard, is the strengthening of climate mitigation policies, including carbon pricing, fossil fuel subsidy reform, private sector investments, support from local government, and management of forests and agricultural systems.
Therefore, there is still much to do under the Paris Agreement. Fortunately, world leaders are united in their determination to achieve commitments under the Paris Agreement and move forward as one because it is in everyone’s national interest. Paris Agreement is also a very flexible framework; nevertheless, for sure there will be bumps along the road, but the future of planet Earth lies in collective action against climate change.
Article originally published in The Nation, June 17, 2017.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.