Paris Agreement And Environment Problems
This Blog is written by Pranjali Pandya from Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Andhra Pradesh. Edited by Lisa Coutinho.
INTRODUCTION TO THE PARIS AGREEMENT
The Paris agreement, also known as the Conference of Paris (COP21) protocol on combating climate change, is one of the first detailed regimes on dealing with the climate change issue within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1994).
NEED OF THE AGREEMENT – DUE TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS
The world we know now was not the same as 200 years ago. Everything then used to go according to the law of nature – monsoon, summer and winter season were in coordination. The cycle of weather was also the same for millions of years. But now the issue here is as to what went wrong.
In the year 1800, the Industrial Revolution took place – wherein the factories and the production unit demanded the innovation of new things, due to which they had to burn out the fuel and natural resources, and hence, this process resulted in massive Carbon dioxide emission. It was then stated that the Industrial Revolution is between the years 1780 to 1840, but the current Carbon dioxide emission proves that it never stopped in just two hundred years. Many of the natural laws were malfunctioned, the system which was running fluently for millions of years got into trouble in just two hundred years.
When we look out today, we face each of the seasons at its extremity; be it summer, winter, or monsoon. This uncontrolled behavior of weather has created many issues and challenges in our day to day life, including floods, earthquakes, and scorching heat during the summer, due to which thousands of lives have already been taken away. Not only this, but also, global sea levels are rising, and the world`s land ice is disappearing. Sea levels have risen 6 to 8 inches in the past hundred years. This rising sea levels influence the entire planet; they pose the greatest threat to the islands currently residing at sea levels.
In recognition of these issues, 185 countries and European Union spent around two weeks in Paris, hammering out the final wording of an agreement to keep global temperature increase well below two degrees Celsius and if at all possible, to keep below 1.5 degree Celsius. The reduction in temperature can only be achieved through a significant reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases. This meeting was one of the largest gatherings of the world leader ever seen.
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES – IMPACTING INDIA
India today is already experiencing a warming climate. Some are as follows:-
1• Unusual and unprecedented spell of hot weather is expected to occur far more frequently, and cover much larger areas.
2• Under four-degree Celsius warming, the west coast, and southern India are projected to shift to new, high-temperature climatic regimes, with significant impacts on the agricultural sector.
3• At four-degree Celsius warming, an extremely wet monsoon, that currently has a chance of occurring only once in a hundred years, is projected to occur every ten years by the end of the century.
4• An abrupt change in the monsoon could precipitate a major crisis, triggering more frequent droughts, as well as greater flooding in large parts of India.
5• Dry years are expected to be drier and wet years, wetter.
HOW CAN THE PARIS AGREEMENT HELP?
The primary aim of the Paris Agreement is to reduce the amount of emissions. A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels was made. Participating nations submitted comprehensive national climate action plans. The European Union and other developed countries shall continue to support climate action to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts in developing countries.
ISSUES WITH RELATION TO THE PARIS AGREEMENT
What does the agreement mean by stating Two Degree Celsius?
This temperature represents the average temperature of the entire Earth. But, the two-degree Celsius does not sound much. It is pertinent to note down the history before we understand this. Since we have started collecting the temperature date on earth, we observe that in the year 1890, the temperature was minus 0.37 degrees Celsius. Whereas, in the year 1940, it reached minus .03 degrees Celsius. In the next 40 years, it got to 2.27 degrees Celsius. In the year 2008, it was .42 degrees Celsius. And in the year 2016, it was 0.99 degrees Celsius. Sixteen of the Seventeenth warmest years in the last thirty-six records all have occurred since 2001. The year 2016, was ranked as the warmest year on record.
Hence, right now we are at almost one degree Celsius which is warmest till now. The Paris Agreement is trying to keep the temperature below two degrees Celsius or possibly below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Two degree Celsius – why targeting this number?
In such a scenario, if each country decides to put a lot of effort, we will somehow be able to stop it below two degree Celsius. But without any such proper guidelines and efforts, this will not be possible, and the effects of it will be much worst. And that is the reason why the agreement is targeting this particular number of two degree Celsius. To achieve this target, everyone who had attended the Paris Agreement meeting made emission cutting pledges. For example – the United States of America pledged to cut the United States climate pollution by 26% – 28% from 2005 levels. China had targeted to lower the carbon intensity of GDP by 60% to 65% by the year 2030 compared to what they had in the year 2005. The Europeans Unions plan to cut emission by 40% by 2030 compared to what they had in the year 1990.
It is pertinent to note when we talk about carbon dioxide emission, that the top countries which are contributing to this situation the most are the number one carbon dioxide emitting country that is China, which image 30% of the total emission.
Then comes the United States with 15%. After that comes the European Union with 10% emission. Followed by India and Russia with emissions of 7 % and 5% respectively. These countries emit almost 70% of the total carbon dioxide emissions in the world, and the rest of the world emits just 30%.
PROCESS OF PARIS AGREEMENT
Each party has to go back to their respective domestic governments in order to gain domestic approval, or in some cases have it passed by domestic law. The country China, for instance, voted to add out the proposal of the Paris Agreement at the closing meeting of the National People`s Congress Standing Committee. The United States used a presidential executive agreement once their domestic laws have approved then the parties will submit acceptance to the United Nations to prove that they are ready to join. The countries should be reported every five years and are to be registered by the United Nations Secretariat. The countries have no such binding as a matter of International Law. There is no such mechanism to force a country to set a target by a specific date and no enforcement if a set target is not met.
The issue here arises is – then how do these countries perform well?
Suppose one of the countries does not perform and does not meet the target, there is no such law which can be forced upon them. But, the amount of guilt and shame which these countries have to face simply because of the reason for them being a low performing party who is directly affecting climate change and global warming is much more. As well, it will be disrespectful to all other teammates who are putting effort. On the other hand, the country which performs well will get appreciation and admiration in the entire world. And this will no doubt work better than any law in force.
The Paris Conference in the year 2017 also decided that the developed countries will give a hundred billion dollars a year as climate finance until the year 2025. This fund of a hundred billion will be given as an aid to the developing countries for action on climate change adaption and mitigation.
The reason for the developed countries paying to developing countries is because of the foundation of each developed country in the Industrial revolution. The amount of money and power they have is because of the Industrial Revolution, which is directly the factor of climate change. The developing countries back then were not industrialized, even now they are dependent on the developed countries for industrial needs. So, all together the developed countries are somehow responsible for such a massive climate change, and they must pay those countries who are facing climate disasters. But these finances will specifically be used to fight against climate change. These funds will only be given to parties most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including the least developed countries and small island developing states.
INDIA`S INTENDED NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTIONS (INDC)
1) India has committed to reducing the Emissions Intensity of its GDP by 33 % to 35 % by the year 2030 from 2005 level.
2) India`s INDC pledge is estimated at a cost of around $2.5 trillion.
The INDC proposals are based on the following points:-
a) To maintain a sustainable lifestyle
b) Cleaner economic development
c) Reduce Emission intensity of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
d) Increase the share of non – fossil fuel-based electricity.
e) Enhancing Carbon Sink (Forests).
g) Mobilizing Finance
h) Technology transfer and capacity building.
It is pertinent to remember that the Paris Agreement is not the end. It had been drafted to boost up the efforts of the countries to combat climate change. The goal of reducing the emission by the year 2025 or 2030 must be achieved first. We must reduce our global warming contributions at the individual and local levels to make a place for a safer and cleaner world to live in.
 World Bank Report – The effects of climate change on India.
 https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/climate-change/paris-agreement-and-india-s-climate-change-challenges-57000, (Last visited on 16th June, 2020).
 Teske Sven; et al. (2019), “Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals”.
 https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/climate-and-environment/2015-paris-climate-conference-cop21/cop21-the-paris-agreement-in-four-key-points/, (Last visited on 17th June, 2020).