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Paris Climate Change Conference 2015

Climate Change Conference

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, was held in Paris, France, from 30th November to 12th December 2015. It was 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as Meeting of Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (CMP), hence it was also referred as COP 21 or CMP 11. This conference was attended by 196 nations, out of which 187 countries submitted their national plan (INDC), with regard to reducing GHG (green house gases) emissions, one aspect of which implies to limit temperature rise, on their own to between 2.7 degree Celsius and 3 degree Celsius.

At last, several years of toilsome negotiations culminated into a document which was well received by all the negotiators of the world. It brought both the developed and developing nations on a common ground with regard to the capabilities and responsibilities in combating the climatic crisis. This ambitious legal agreement was signed on Saturday night at Le Bourget Centre in France. It proved to be a landmark agreement in the history of the world for several reasons.

Adoption of CBDR –

Right from the start of debates and discussions, the principle of ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibilities’ (CBDR) was imbibed as the basis of the agreement. It divided the world into two parts – the countries that had ‘historical responsibility’ (i.e. developed countries) and those that did not (i.e. developing countries). More importantly, differentiation of developed and developing countries is mentioned across all the components of the agreement, ranging from mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, capacity building and transparency.

Reducing GHG emissions –

The agreement set a high bar to limit the warming below 2o Celsius from pre-industrial levels, while chasing a more ambitious target of 1.5o Celsius. In order to contribute to this goal, more than 90 parties made conditional and unconditional pledges to reduce emissions by 2020.

Mitigation Support –

The agreement ensured the mitigation support for developing countries, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. The agreement manifested that the developed countries should take ‘economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets’, while developing countries should continue to ‘enhance their mitigation efforts’.

Finance/ Technology Support –

As per this agreement, developed countries would raise money and provide technology for developing countries to pursue the path of cleaner economic growth. Also, for the first time, developing countries were also “encouraged” to provide money on a voluntary basis to less well-off nations to combat climate change. For instance, China pledged $3 billion to other developing countries to fight climate change under South-South cooperation.

Adaptation Support –

The agreement referred to the changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages and to avail optimum benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. It mentioned the requirement of significant financial resources to allow countries to adapt to the adverse effects and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Views of the world leaders –

India’s Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, expressed his contentment towards the agreement as all concerns of India were taken on board, while regarding differentiation principle to be of prime importance. Though, he also mentioned that the actions of developed countries were still far below their historical emissions.

The US president, Barack Obama, hailed the agreement as a tribute to strong, principled American leadership and a vital step in ensuring the future of the planet.

South Africa’s Environment Minister, Edna Molewa, recognised that the agreement was by no means perfect, but it was a good start.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, acknowledged it as a good and necessary agreement.

Loopholes in the agreement

Though the Paris Agreement marked a paradigm shift from the Kyoto Protocol, since it was the first legally binding treaty, but it stood weak on certain aspects.

  • Unlike Kyoto, the agreement reached on Saturday depended on political will, with countries setting their own climate action plans.
  • The agreement lacked the defining ground required to mark a nation under the set categories of developed or developing nation.
  • The figure of $100 billion, which developed countries committed to the Green Climate Fund till 2020, had no mention in the agreement. Also, there had been no real assurance as to how, when and how much of climate finance would be provided to the developing nations.
  • Though the need of the hour was a deal to save the world’s poorest first – those who are living with the constant threat of the next disaster. Yet what was presented doesn’t go far enough to improve the fragile existence of millions around the world.

Clearly this deal needs certain significant amendments, but it has been one of the most successful climate summits in terms of its massive political support. It has definitely encouraged nations to follow a stricter path to reduce their carbon footprint.

About the author

Rashmi Sacher

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