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The Consequence of Trapped The Paris Climate Agreement

A rescue operation for the trapped Paris Agreement would be near impossible.

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Paris Agreement
Can the trapped Paris Climate Agreement be rescued? Flickr
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Two months ago, all 12 boys and the coach of a Thai football team were rescued after being trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for 18 days. Many termed their rescue against heavy odds a miracle.

Sadly, the six-day United Nations Special Climate Conference that concluded on September 9 was not able to rescue the trapped Paris Climate Agreement in the well-lit conference centre in southern Thailand.Many of the delegates wondered if it was about pronouncing the promises only to dodge them.

The Paris Climate Agreement has been hanging from a cliff right from the day US President Donald Trump, a year back, announced his official plan to withdraw from it. Though hundreds of American mayors and thousands of businesses — and even its allies like France — have been seeking to defy the consequences of Trump’s withdrawal, the agreement is getting dangerously close to its fatal consequence.

Paris Agreement
The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference Paris brought together leaders with the goal of creating a universal climate agreement that would keep global warming down. Flickr

The good news is that the Paris Climate Agreement has entered into force on November 4, 2016, in less than a year from its consensus adoption on December 12, 2015, in Paris. However, it is yet to be operationalised because its modalities, procedures and guidelines are yet to be agreed upon by its 180 Parties (countries that ratified the Paris Climate Agreement). Indeed, the Paris Agreement in its present form is just an agreement of intent.

These “rules”, as per the time-table agreed in Paris, have to be ready no later than 2018. The Bangkok Climate Conference was a late addition to the schedule after dismal progress was made at the annual meeting of the subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCCC) in Bonn in May 2018. The Bangkok Climate Conference was the last major negotiating meeting before the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24) in Poland in December, when finally the Paris Agreement will be in mission mode.

The exercise in Bangkok turned out to be progress in planning but a stalemate in its objective of operationalising. The Paris Climate Agreement remains trapped in a complex maze of the caves of finance for mitigation and adaptation for the developing countries, deployment of market mechanisms, periodicity of stocktaking and transparency, flexibility for developing countries in reporting.

Paris Climate Agreement
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech as he attends Heads of States’ Statements ceremony of the COP21 World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Le Bourget, north of Paris, France, 30 November 2015. The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) is held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December aimed at reaching an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions and curtail climate change.

Formulating the rules on the cyclic and iterative nature by enhancing the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), earlier considered an innovation in international agreements, is now proving to be formidable.

It all boils down to the fact that world is now setting the new norms of not keeping the promises made on global cooperation. Not walking the talk and smartly gyrating the agreed goals is now the global attire of the diplomacy. And each of these new patterns are being justified, sometimes diplomatically and, many times with international arrogance.

Take, for example, financing for mitigation and adaptation for the developing countries. The “polluter to pay” norm has been the anchor in the multilateral environment agreements right from the 1992 Rio Agreement but is now being openly flouted. The promise of providing “additional” finance through the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was first proposed by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then President Barack Obama in Copenhagen in 2009, is supposed to become fully operational in 2020, i.e. developed countries would provide — starting with $10 billion per year in 2012 to reach $100 billion per year from 2020 onwards — to help developing countries pay for climate adaptation and mitigation.

What has happened to that promise? As of today, GCF has pledges of $10.4 billion whereas the actually committed is only $3.5 billion. The GCF as institution itself is in chaotic state. The GCF head, an Australian, abruptly resigned in July 2018 after just two years in the job because of “personal reasons”. The deputy head from Nicaragua did not even attend the July meeting of GCF, where no projects were approved. “GCF is melting down faster than Antarctica,” one of the delegates in Bangkok said.

Paris Climate Agreement
The good news is that the Paris Agreement has entered into force on November 4, 2016, in less than a year from its consensus adoption on December 12, Flickr

In Bangkok, the developed countries smartly proposed to count all the finances provided by the private sector, philanthropy, FDI and regular international development aid of 0.7 per cent of the GDP as part of the promised $100 billion. They also proposed dilution of the financial reporting rules, thereby flouting the agreement on “additional climate financing”.

Not walking the full talk by the star performers on climate change has also resulted in the angry reaction from civil society, and supported by countries, on such climate-hypocrisy.

An example is the Global Climate Action Summit convened from September 12 to 14, 2018, in San Francisco, under the leadership of California Governor Jerry Brown. The summit’s theme is “Take Ambition to the Next Level”. It will be a star-studded international event to showcase climate action at all levels and to inspire enhanced commitments and god-speed action from countries to realise the goals of the Paris Agreement. Indeed, California, the richest US state, has done more in policy setting and its implementation in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency than any other country in the world. Its firebrand governor can be termed as climate’s game-changer.

Paris Agreement
Developed countries urged to honour Paris Agreement. Flickr

In Bangkok, Brown was booed by civil society representatives for his soft approach towards oil producers in California by allowing them to drill for oil. “How can we expect a leader to take climate ambitions to the next level when he himself, from the back-door, takes it to a lower level,” queried one demonstrator in Bangkok.

Also Read: Climate Change Can Combat Unemployment By Creating 14 Mn Jobs

When state leaders arrive in Poland in December, they would have to muddle through the mess of the draft “rule book” mired in diminishing trust. By that time, the GHGs concentration, already higher by 42 percent as compared to 1992 levels, would have risen to the “next level”.

A rescue operation for the trapped Paris Climate Agreement would be near impossible. (IANS)

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Pakistan Reacts Sharply To U.S. Religious Freedom Charges

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused

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Pakistan
A Pakistani nun holds a candle during a vigil for victims of a deadly suicide bombing in a park, March 28, 2016, in Lahore. VOA

Pakistan is denouncing a U.S. decision to place it on a list of countries Washington says are the worst offenders of religious freedom.

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities… there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise,” the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a strongly-worded statement.

The reaction comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his designation of “countries of particular concern” that allegedly have engaged in or tolerated ”systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Freedom Violations

The countries on the blacklist are exposed to punitive sanctions, but Pompeo waived them for Pakistan, citing U.S. national interests.

Pakistan had until now been on a U.S. watch list for governments that have “engaged in or tolerated” severe violations of religious freedom.

Pakistan
Pakistani volunteers collect debris from an Ahmadi mosque demolished by an angry mob, in the eastern city of Sialkot. VOA

While rebuking Tuesday’s U.S. pronouncement as “unilateral and politically motivated,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry noted Pakistan is “a multi-religious and pluralistic society” of more than 200 million people, mostly Muslims.

“Around four percent of our total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths. Ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan,” it said.

Ahmadis most persecuted community

The statement did not mention the Ahmadi sect, which critics say is the most persecuted minority in Pakistan. The constitution bars the community from “posing as Muslims” and from calling their worship places “mosques.”

U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback while defending downgrading of Pakistan reiterated Tuesday the challenges facing the Ahmadi community.

USA, Pakistan
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, speaks to reporters at the State Department in Washington. VOA

“The Pakistani government criminalizes the identification of Ahmadis as Muslims, and then also — and this one has really been difficult and troubling for a lot of people — the government often fails to hold accountable perpetrators of killings and violence against members of religious minorities targeted on account of their religious beliefs or affiliations,” said Brownback.

Blasphemy laws

He cited, among other things, Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as a cause for the downgrade of the country’s religious freedom ranking. The laws prescribe the death penalty for those found guilty.

Rights groups have long complained Islamist groups misuse the law to intimidate minorities in the country.

Insulting Islam or its prophet is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where mere allegations have led to mob lynchings. A former provincial governor, a federal minister, judges and lawyers are among those assassinated in Pakistan by extremists merely for calling for reform of the blasphemy laws to prevent their misuse or for hearing cases and defending alleged blasphemers.

Asia Bibi

In a historic judgement this past October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been on death row for eight years after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. The women denied the charges from the outset as an outcome of a local feud and the country’s highest court cited lack of evidence in overturning her conviction by a lower court.

Pakistan
Radical Islamists rally to condemn a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who spent eight years on death row accused of blasphemy, in Karachi, Pakistan. VOA

Bibi and her family have been in hiding since her release. Her lawyer fled Pakistan shortly after the landmark court ruling announced on October 31, saying his life was in danger.

Bibi is awaiting a rehearing of her case by the Supreme Court and is residing in a safe place under government protection, say Pakistani officials.

Pakistan also arrested hundreds of Islamist activists and their leaders last month for staging days of mass violent protests to denounce the court for freeing Bibi.

Also Read: Muslims in Malaysia Rally In Kuala Lumpur To Keep Status

The government has charged the detainees with treason and terrorism and officials have vowed to put them on trial in special courts.

“It’s our hope that they will, the new leadership in Pakistan, will work to improve the situation. There was some encouraging signs seen recently on how they’ve handled some of the recent protesting against the blasphemy laws, and we continue to watch very carefully what’s happening to Asia Bibi,” said Brownback.

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are also included in the U.S. list of countries accused of committing severe violations of religious freedom. (VOA)