7th DECEMBER 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS III: ENVIRONMENT
Q1. Discuss the major challenges faced by the Paris Climate Accord.
- The world is in deep trouble. Average global temperatures have crossed a degree Celsius above preindustrial levels and such concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (410 ppm) has never been seen by humans before. The 24th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice, Poland (December 3-14) is meant to take forward steps to address this threat of climate change.
- The purpose of the meeting is to set guidelines, or agree on a rulebook, to implement pledges that were made by various countries at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. In the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), planned ahead of the Paris COP-21, each country described the actions it would take and the levels to which greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be reduced (mitigation). Many of them also described what they would do to improve their capacity to live in a warmer world (adaptation), and the extent to which these goals required support in the form of finance or technology transfer.
PROBLEMS FACED BY PARIS CLIMATE DEAL
- At Paris, the global community agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5° C above preindustrial levels since the effects can be dire beyond that. For instance, small island nations already face devastating effects with the rise of mean sea levels due to climate change. The current conference at Katowice comes soon after a special publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the 1.5 Degree Report, according to which what we need are far-reaching, speedy transformative changes in our societies in order to stay below 1.5° C. Calling for an immediate and drastic drop in GHG emissions through technology and lifestyles and a focus on mitigation and adaptation, the report was an “all hands on deck” alarm.
- When all nations agree on how to gather, count and report on their emissions and the process is standardised, the implementation of the PA becomes more grounded. There was reportedly some progress on these processes at the intermediate meeting held in preparation for the Katowice COP. But there also has to be a general agreement on how to estimate adaptation. This is more complicated and varied and is still being developed.
- There has been little, if any, progress on finance, technology transfer and capacity development. Article 9 of the PA calls for financial support from developed countries that is significantly derived from public funds, which “should represent a progression beyond previous efforts”. This was expected to result in at least $100 billion per year to address needs and priorities of developing countries for mitigation and adaptation.
- Lack of finances-Article 9.5 requires developed countries to communicate their levels of support, including pledges of additional finance. Even according to the recent Summary Report of the Standing Committee on Finance under the UNFCCC, the total finance flows were around $38 billion in 2016, and much of this has been through multilateral funds. Global finance flows are estimated to be close to $700 billion, but this includes renewable energy investment and other cross-border flows. The 2018 Oxfam Climate Finance Shadow report estimates that net new finance amounts to only $16-21 billion.
- There have also been charges of double counting and counting of development aid levelled against developed countries. According to a recent discussion paper from the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, what is required is credible, accurate and verifiable numbers on the climate flows expected from developed countries. Such reliable flow will encourage and persuade all countries that commitments made will be fulfilled. The inability to have any agreement between developing and rich countries ensures that the fights on finance and technology will intensify in Poland, especially in the second week. These are very likely to impede progress on the rulebook.
- As extreme events are on the rise, the separate stream referred to as “loss and damage” needs attention. This is a provision for support to poor countries experiencing economic and non-economic losses and destruction from climate change events. There has not been much progress on this issue by the task force set up to advance it.
- While the U.S. and its current policies are much to blame for the situation, other developed countries are not doing that much better. Australia and France have had political turmoil due to their climate policies even while experiencing severe weather events. Protests on fuel charge hikes have rocked France. Europe is still heavily reliant on coal and European Union emissions were stable in 2014-2016. The U.K. has been relying on fuel from fracking and many have remarked that the advances in California under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown are superficial and do not address fundamental issues.