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Paris Climate Agreement: 5 years of achievement or endurance, Where do we stand now?

Today, we have all written history together” Barbara Hendricks, the then Environment Minister of Germany exclaimed at the COP21 venue in Paris on the evening of 12 December 2015.

The Paris Agreement is indeed Historic in all terms.

It was the first time, 191 countries under United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) consented(and 195 signed) to limit global warming to well below 2 degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels and insist on to achieve 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Few ways how Paris Climate Agreement changed the way negotiations across the World are made:

  1. NDCs(Nationally Determined Contributions)– These are the heart and soul of Agreement. It represents efforts by individual countries to combat Global warming through limiting emissions.
  2. $100 billion assistance from developed countries to developing ones to help surpass the impacts of Climate change as there is incongruity in the countries emitting higher and the ones facing the brunt of Natural disasters. It allows the consistent flow of finance for low-emission and climate-resilient Infrastructure.
  3. COP26 served as a platform for contenders of all fields, involving business and subnational leaders. These collaborated over Climate cause, demanded action and even filled up shoes where National action was lacking as in case of US under Trump or Brazil.
  4. Net-zero as a revival of Commitments: According to Paris Agreement, the aim is “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks … in the second half of the century”. Hence as a result, most emitters have plans to declare themselves Carbon neutral by 2060(China), 2050(EU), 2050(US) etc.
  5. Institutional and Behavioral change: Although Paris Agreement has no binding mechanism, yet many decentralized entities like district authorities and financial regulators have resorted to adoption of Agreement’s core principles. Even more than 400 public development banks, including from less-privileged Asian Nations have committed to align their activities with the Paris deal and even negate their respective footprint on Environment.
  6. Global Goal on Adaptation aims to reach another level on adaptation by framing it as a “global challenge” with associated “international dimensions”.

According to Antonio Guterres: As we look to the challenges we face – from climate change to migration to terrorism to the downsides of Globalization – there is no doubt in my mind that global challenges require global solutions… No country can do it alone. We need multilateralism more than ever.”

Ironically, Paris Agreement has consistently been in news; not just for its constant driving force but due to constant inaction and negligence by signatories.

Recent report made claims that although Covid-19 could limit the global Carbon emissions, yet these toxins in the air continue to rise at alarming levels. Its concentration in the atmosphere has been increasing from around 277 parts per million (ppm) in 1750, at the beginning of the Industrial Era, to around 408 ppm now.

Industrial activity has the largest carbon footprint, followed by forestry, transportation, agriculture and construction, according to “Emissions gap report” by UNEP.

Unless these emissions fall by 7.6% every year, the world will fail to meet the agreement’s target of 1.5º C temperature rise and this has become increasingly difficult with growing Nation’s inward cultures, Neoliberal exponents and reducing Multilateralism.

Although 2020 was La Nina year, still it was set to be 1.2C warmer than pre-industrial levels ranking amongst the three hottest years on record. Unprecedented Heat waves, global temperatures rise, ever-increasing sea levels and breaking Ice from glaciers are all pessimistic attempts by Nature.

Notwithstanding, the rising threat of Pandemics across the world, hitting the most weak, vulnerable and marginalized citizens, pushing them deep into poverty and hopelessness.

India and its NDCs: a lynchpin in the Paris Deal

It’s emissions are in line with both the 2020 and 2030 intensity pledges, However, the achievement of India’s targets depends on actual economic growth levels.

There is a room for green recovery focusing on opportunities in energy, transport, and urban planning and hopes to use it as an opportunity to address structural changes and reforms needed in the systems.

Although, India’s population is projected to cross over China’s reaching 1.5 billion by 2030 but India’s expected per capita emissions would still be far below the world average in 2013(United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Population Division, 2019).

We have to thereby acknowledge that maybe implementation of commitments, has not been done in entirety, yet the Paris Deal has made everyone aware about approaching Disaster and that we can do a lot about it.

Indeed, these are difficult times. Nations hit hard by repeated waves of Infections, vaccine shortages, security threats, Economic slowdowns with staggered wage rates, have to deal with socio-cultural problems as well. Can one expect these countries to shift their focus to Environmental problems too?

There is a clear solution to all these questions within. Lest we understand without manufactured distractions.

Despite the successful culmination of COP21 to the adoption of the Paris Agreement, subsequent COP sessions like Marrakech, Bonn, Katowice and Madrid proved lesser in regards and caused public frustrations.

Different COPs and their motives following Paris Deal

But as the Five-year Anniversary of Paris Agreement approached and now with upcoming COP26, tagging along a few remnant unfulfilled tasks at hand, there is still a sense of renewed hope in multilateralism. It may need introspection and a leap of faith to abridge the gap between Aspiration and sustained Action.

 

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