As we celebrate World Environment Day, it’s time to look into one of the most talked about global initiative to counter climate change – Paris Agreement.
In 2016, the Paris Agreement marked a turning point in the battle against climate change. World leaders from across the globe united for the first time in history to legally ratify action against pollution through the United Nations Framework Convention.
According to Climate experts even an increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius could bring about irreversible consequences, including unpredictable superstorms and crippling heat waves.
The Paris Agreement seeks to strengthen the global response to climate change by creating an international network of government bodies, all dedicated to lowering emissions. Those who did pledged to work towards a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, ideally aiming to limit the increase to 1.5°C. This level of temperature change may sound insignificant, but would, in fact, put massive strain on food production, clean water sources and energy production.
A significant element of reduced emission policies was the focus on climate taxes on companies. Simply put, the world's worst polluters would be financially accountable for their chemical contribution to climate change. The greater the polluter, the higher the cost - the typical rate set at $150 per tonne of CO2.
The international framework of the Paris Agreement ensures the public has insight into the actions being taken against climate change. Meetings every five years to adjust plans according to new science and technologies are part of the framework. Governing bodies in attendance can also relay any issues to one another, and the public is given the opportunity to engage in this dialogue. This process ensured accountability. The framework also gives countries with stronger GDPs the chance to help structure the plans of other countries at different stages of development.
Nicaragua and Syria are the two countries that have not joined Paris Agreement, though for reasons remote from each other. Nicaragua, which 2017 Global Climate Risk Index suggests is the fourth most vulnerable nation in the world due to changing climates — behind only Honduras, Burma and Haiti, made its dissent clear over the voluntary pledges of the agreement and sought for higher financial liability for worst polluters of environment.
Syria, on the other hand, was effectively an international pariah when the Paris accord was first signed. The subsequent meetings of the agreement also stretched through some of the heaviest fighting of Syria’s seven years of civil conflict.
The biggest worry to the successful achievement of the goal of Paris Agreement is the pull out of US on the pretext of the agreement being detrimental to its Clean Coal Policy. The rate of $150 per tonne of CO2, designed to improve the quality of air whilst simultaneously creating a new source of revenue, also contradict Trump's focus on industrial expansion.
Trump announced that the United States would be withdrawing its support from the Accord, but would begin negotiations to re-enter the Paris Agreement or an “entirely new transaction” that would be more “fair” to the US economy.
Trump openly criticised Obama's Clean Power Plans (CPP) throughout his presidential campaign, and promised to retract the sway of the green movement in the United States. CPP was designed to cut the power industry's carbon emissions by 32 per cent by 2030, a vital step towards the Paris Agreement's goals.
However, Trump has found opposing views from his several prominent US firms, including Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook.
Elon Musk, cofounder of Tesla and SpaceX, announced leaving Trump's economic and manufacturing advisory councils due to the decision. Apple CEO Tim Cook also reportedly made a call to the White House on May 31 to try to convince Trump to remain in the Paris Agreement, but to no avail.
Ironically, India met with a stark remark from the US President Donald Trump who said India had made its participation in the Paris accord contingent on billions and billions of foreign aid.
However, India’s efforts for pushing its clean energy goal have been, independent of any financial aid so far. Five years ago India had an economy largely driven by coal. It has now made significant steps towards adopting solar energy and recently scrapped 13.7 GW of planned coal power projects. These shifts towards renewable energy can be seen in stark contrast to the United States' current position.
As per its promised action under the Paris agreement, India is committed to install 175gw of solar, wind and biomass electricity by 2022, reduce its emission intensity (emission per unit of GDP) by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 through additional forest and tree cover and produce 40% of electricity from non-fossil fuel resources by 2030.
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