Friday, December 18, 2015

The Paris "Agreement"

All the excitement, the back-slappings, the hubbub is over, and the 40 000 have jetted back home. COP21 has come and gone. We have now had time to assess all 32 pages of the Paris Agreement.

In spite of the claims about saving the planet, there is little for your carbon comfort. Much of the Agreement has to do with noble intentions: ”Each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.” (Article 4.2) Legally binding? No! And wasn't there something about the path to Hell being paved with good intentions?

Much of the Agreement has to do with accounting: “Parties shall account for their nationally determined contributions. In accounting for anthropogenic emissions and removals corresponding to their nationally determined contributions, Parties shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting - -.” (Article 4.13) It will be nice to be able to tell how rapidly we are committing carbon suicide (if indeed we are), but it is difficult to see how this is going to save the world.

An issue largely left unresolved is what to do about the big emitters who have emerged since 1992, when the Convention on Climate Change came into being. It is all very well for the Agreement to say “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention. “ (Article 9.1), but there is no clarity of who is ‘Developed’ and who ‘Developing’. Which category does China fit into? Or South Africa, for that matter?

On the money, the Agreement is gloriously vague: “strongly urges developed country Parties to scale up their level of financial support, with a concrete roadmap to achieve the goal of jointly providing USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation.” (Para IV, 54) In other words, for all the pious promises, S100 billion a year will not be available soon.

You will understand that I am seriously underwhelmed by the Paris Agreement. The fact that it is little more than hand-waving is made clear by Article 28: “1. At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification - -. 2. Any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt - - of the notification of withdrawal, - -” An agreement from which you can opt out any time you feel so inclined? That’s no agreement!

As the Romans would have put it, “The mountains have been in labour, and given birth to a little mouse.” (Horace)

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