Policy

Many climate miles to go after Paris deal

Aesha Datta New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on April 25, 2016

Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar signing the Paris Agreement on climate change at the United Nations last week.

With rich nations doing too little and emissions way above targets, global temperatures will rise



Over 170 countries, including India, signed an international agreement in Paris on Friday to curb emissions and reduce the pace of climate change.

According to the UNFCC, the agreement’s primary aim is to keep the global temperature increase this century below 2 degrees Celsius, and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further, to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The UN body says the 1.5 degree Celsius limit is a safer defence line against the worst impacts of climate change.

However, the Paris agreement, which was reached in December 2015, may not even be able prevent the 2°C increase, given that 0.85°C has already been exhausted.

The agreement, based on emission cuts determined by individual countries, doesn’t have a scientific review process built in, resulting in voluntary efforts falling short of desired curbs.

Contribution imbalance

According to an analysis conducted by Oxfam in October 2015 — Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs — poorer countries submitted INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) in excess of their “fair share”, while richer, developed countries fell woefully short. According to the report, the total fair share of wealthier countries was 24.2 giga tonnes (GT) — of which 9.1 GT could be achieved domestically and 15.1 GT through international actions, such as finance, technology and capacity building. The fair share of poorer nations was 6.6 GT.

However, wealthier countries pledged climate action of only 5.5 GT, while poorer ones pledged 8.3 GT and another 1.8 GT conditional on international support, leaving a massive ambition gap of 15.2 GT.

The INDCs of rich nations, such as the US and European Union, represent only about a fifth of their fair share, while Japan meets a measly tenth, and Russia makes no contribution at all.

According to the Oxfam report: “The current INDCs represent substantially less than half of the reduction in emissions required by 2030. This relates to a very risky carbon budget. For a budget with a strong likelihood of keeping warming below 1.5°C or 2°C, the current INDCs would only meet a tiny fraction of what is needed.”

The fallout

Climate scientists have estimated that at 1.5°C the world would start witnessing frequent catastrophic climate events and irreversible warming that would hit the poorest more than others. The IPCC estimates that for even a reasonable chance of keeping the heat under 1.5°C, the world would have a carbon budget of 400-850 GT left between 2011 and 2050 (about 10-20 GT annually). But in 2013 alone, emissions stood at 36.33 GT.

At the current rate of emissions, the world would exhaust the budget in 10-20 years.

Climate Action Tracker estimates that even with the actions listed under the Paris agreement, the temperature rise would still be at least 2.7°C, against 3.6°C through current policy.

Moderate commitments

As noted by Indian leaders, the Oxfam report stressed, “Massively scaled-up international public finance is required to support developing countries’ efforts, including finance to deliver the conditional offers from developing countries.”

While this needs a strict review of INDCs, countries such as India and China have opposed this, fearing excessive pressures, especially given the lack of clarity over the developed world’s commitments towards finance and technology transfer.

Economies such as India, China and Brazil have shown “medium” commitments on emission reduction, according to Climate Action Tracker, accounting for about two-thirds of their fair share. Incidentally, the smallest economies, such as Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Gambia, are the ones that have given INDCs that are “sufficient”.

Published on April 25, 2016
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