Climate action after the COP21 and Paris agreement : a dynamics for global warming mitigation
|janvier 18, 2016||Posté par Pierre Papon sous Articles||
After two weeks of intense negotiations at Le Bourget, near Paris, the Convention of parties to the UN Convention on climate change (COP 21 with 195 signatory countries and the EU) on climate change, has reached an agreement which was adopted by consensus on 12 December. This success owes much to the leadership of the Presidency of the Cop 21 and its President, the French foreign affairs Minister, Laurent Fabius, who in his words, stressed that this agreement can be considered as « the best … universal, equitable, differentiated, sustainable dynamic, legally binding …” one. It contains a series of preliminary decisions and 29 Articles preceded by a Preamble. It will be signed on April 22, 2016 at the UN in New York and, for the first time, it binds by a legal instrument industrialized and developing countries (this is not the case with the Kyoto agreement ) by a unified regime (Article 2) to gradually reduce their emissions of greenhouse gas « to limit the rise in average temperature well below 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels and continued action in order to limit the increase to 1.5 ° C. This Article 2 also states that the agreement will be applied « in accordance with the principle of equity and with common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities » and that its signatories will increase their capacity to adapt and to promote development with low emissions of greenhouse gases. The Parties commit to communicate their goals to achieve ambitious efforts to reduce their greenhouse gases emissions through contributions set at national level (they are not indicated in the Paris Agreement but registered by the UN Convention Secretariat) in order to reach an emission peak in the « best possible delay » (it is assumed that they will be longer for developing countries). No overall schedule is specified, however, Article 4 states that emission reductions will help to « achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and removals by sinks during the second half of this century « . These objectives will be updated every five years and shall be revised upwards (a legally binding provision), developing countries are encouraged to get involved in this movement by receiving financial support from developed countries. All countries shall take steps to strengthen carbon sinks, such as forests. Financing of aid to developing countries (the Green Fund) to support their global warming mitigation effort (and therefore their energy transition) was an important point of negotiation. A compromise was found, it is thus written, in Article 9, that « developed countries must continue to lead the way by providing financial resources to assist developing countries for both their mitigation and adaptation efforts, aiming to achieve a balance between these two aspects « and that » other Parties (that is to say, emerging countries) are invited to provide or continue to provide such support on a voluntary basis ». There is no explicit reference to a floor funding of $ 100 billion (probably as a result of US opposition) but this figure appears in the decisions taken (No. 54), stating that this amount should be achieved « by 2025 ». The Conference of Parties (COP) which will act as the meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement (referred to as CMA) will conduct every five years, starting in 2023, a global review of the agreement implementation to assess collective progress achieved in updating and strengthening the measures taken within the framework of the Paris agreement, with the help of a committee of experts. Finally, countries will account for the efforts they have made, it is an important point. This agreement has its strengths and weaknesses, but it is the best possible compromise on the climate issue which could be expected in 2015. Note also that it is a success of UN multilateralism and of French diplomacy, as it lays the foundations of a broad international cooperation to try to limit global warming and reflects a marked increase in awareness of the importance of the climate challenge. This was noticeable in the speeches of heads of state and government at the inaugural session of the Cop 21. Several commentators of the Agreement have meanwhile expressed their disappointment but this was not always realistic: how could the international community impose, presently, binding objectives to many states? That being said, the Paris Agreement has several weaknesses. The most important one is probably the fact that it does fix: – neither a collective numerical goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mostly CO2, requiring an energy « decarbonization » (eg. 40 to 70% CO2 emissions reduction by 2050 as advocated by the IPCC scenarios and the IEA ones) – nor a date for an emission peak. In fact, greenhouse gas emission reduction objectives, reported by states before the Cop 21 opening, put the planet on a temperature atmosphere trajectory leading to an increase close to 3 ° C by the end of the century (increase since 1880 is already approaching 1 ° C), and it is very unlikely that we can limit it to 1.5 ° C (IPCC will prepare a report on the impact of such warming for 2018). Furthermore, the agreement does not set a global carbon price, a second important weakness, which is a necessary tool for carrying out the energy transition. However reference is made to a carbon price, in the section « Non-Governmental Actors » regarding decisions, with the recognition of the importance of putting in place incentives to activities that reduce emissions such as carbon pricing. Finally the agreement does not refer clearly to the need to promote renewable energy, except in the one of the adopted decisions that « recognizes the need to promote universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries, particularly in Africa, through increased deployment of renewable energy » , which is positive. It is clear that the Paris Agreement implementation will take time and that we will succeed in mitigating global warming, only at a price of proactive policies to implement an energy transition. This implies lifestyles and modes of economic development changes, taking into account both national specificities and the need for many countries of the world to ensure their people a decent standard of living. This is a task for many decades. In this perspective, the energy issue is central (see the report of the IEA Energy and climate change www.iea.org ). Let us recall that several themes are included in the energy policy road map. The first one is the package of practical measures and R & D work that must be implemented to increase energy efficiency in all countries, from new power plants to generate electricity to combustion engines for transport vehicles (significant progress is possible in this area, see F.Creutzig et al.. « Transport: a roadblock to climate change mitigation? , Science, Vol 350, No. 6263, 20 November 2015, www.sciencemag.org ). The energy situation of India who plans to double its coal production by 2020 illustrates the importance of this issue (see P.Papon, Futuribles, No 410, p.106, www.futuribles.com ). A second major theme concerns the non-carbon energy sources “galaxy” (renewable and nuclear). Technical obstacles still remain in many areas, the need to find techniques for electricity storage which should be competitive and sustainable being not the easiest. A serious review of the objectives of the research effort is probably necessary in many countries (including France), certain sectors are likely dead ends (hydrogen for example). Internationally, the implementation of the Agreement requires a proactive policy for technology transfer from industrialized countries to developing one’s to facilitate their energy transition effort. This issue is the subject of several decisions taken by the Cop 21 and its importance is emphasized in Article 10 of the Agreement but it obviously remains to apply them. Renewable energies development (a priority for India and Morocco for solar electricity) is certainly a major issue which requires the mobilization of substantial funds (for rural electrification, for example). More generally, finance investments necessary for the energy transition will be a major issue in coming years at a time when the economic crisis undermines the budgets of many countries. Let us add in conclusion that the raw materials prices fall, including that of oil and coal, is not good news because it does not motivate developing techniques to improve energy efficiency (it could have a negative impact on the promotion of electric vehicles) and it dries revenues of producing countries. The Paris agreement is undoubtedly a milestone in the fight against global warming because it engages countries in a dynamics. It also represents a success of international cooperation and multilateralism (at the end of a year that was particularly disturbed). It also invites to devise and implement active policies.