Climate Change and Sustainable Development
The 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) successfully concluded in Paris after intense negotiations by the Parties followed by the adoption of the Paris Agreement on post-2020 actions on climate change. s universal agreement will succeed the Kyoto Protocol. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, it provides a framework for all countries to take action against climate change. Placing emphasis on concepts like climate justice and sustainable lifestyles, the Paris Agreement for the first time b rings together all nations for a common cause under the UNFCCC. One of the main focus of the agreement is to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2ï¿½C above pre- industrial level and on driving efforts to limit it even further to 1.5ï¿½C.
The Paris Agreement comprises of 29 articles and is supported by 139 decisions of the COP. It covers all the crucial areas identified as essential for a comprehensive and balanced agreement, including mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building and transparency of action and support.
A marked departure from the past is the Agreementï¿½s bottom-up approach, allowing each nation to submit its own national plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, rather than trying to repeat a top-down approach advocated by the Kyoto Protocol, giving each country an emission reduction target.
Key Provisions of the Paris Agreement
CBDR- RC: The principle of CBDR-RC has been maintained across all the important pillars of the agreement (mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building and transparency of action and support). This was one of the contentious issues between developed and developing countries during the negotiations, with developed countries arguing that the world has changed since 1990 and fast-growing economies like India and China should also take deeper emission cuts despite the fact that they have historically contributed less to the global emission of greenhouse gases.
NDCs: The Paris Agreement invites Parties to submit their first nationally determined contributions prior to the submission of their instruments of ratification, accession, or approval of the Agreement. However, this requirement stands satisfied if a Party has already communicated its INDC prior to joining the Agreement. The Parties whose intended nationally determined contributions have a time frame up to 2025-2030 are required to communicate or update these contributions by 2020 and to do so every five years thereafter. Each Partyï¿½s successive nation ally determined contribution will represent a progression beyond the Partyï¿½s then current nationally determined contribution. It also recognises the need to support developing country Parties for the effective implementation of the agreement. NDCs may also include quantiable information, time frames for implementation, scope and coverage, planning processes, assumptions and methodological approaches, including those for estimating and accounting for anthropogenic greenhouse gases.
Mitigation: To achieve the long-term temperature goal of holding temperature increase to below 2ï¿½C, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, Parties in the Agreement aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. The Paris Agreement operationalizes differentiation between developed and developing countries mitigation actions through three main elements, namely, (a) by acknowledging that peaking of emission in developing countries will take longer; (b) by calling upon developed countries to take the lead in mitigation actions; and (c) by calling upon support to be provided to developing countries for implementation of climate change actions, recognizing that enhanced support will allow for higher ambition in their action.
Adaptation: Given the trends in global warming, even if the temperature rise is restricted to below 2ï¿½C, adaptation support would be required for developing countries like India. The agreement establishes the global goal on adaptation ï¿½ of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change ï¿½ with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the 2ï¿½C goal. Countries are required to update periodically their adaptation communication, but are given ability on the timing and method of communication.
Fifth finance: The agreement sets a binding obligation on developed countries to provide financial resources to developing countries for both mitigation and adaptation while encouraging other countries to provide support on a voluntary basis. It rearms that developed countries will take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels, noting the significant role of public funds. The decision also set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of US$ 100 billion per year prior to 2025, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries. The agreement m arks a step forward in terms of providing transparent and consistent information on support provided and mobilized by developed countries to developing countries. Though the modalities and procedure for reporting such information would be decided at a later stage, this could help in avoiding double counting in terms of mobilized finance.
Technology Development and Transfer: The Paris Agreement contains strengthened provision on technology development and transfer with a new technology framework being established. In addition, there is now a link established between the Technology Mechanism and the Financial Mechanism to allow for collaborative approaches in Research and Development (R&D), and for facilitating access to technologies. This reflects the concern of developing countries to ensure provision of financial resources to facilitate access to technologies.
The emphasis on R&D and innovation in the Paris Agreement is a critical step in furthering the implementation of the provisions of the Convention. Similarly, the technology framework providing guidance to the Technology Mechanism (which comprises of the Technology Executive Committee and the Climate Technology Centre and Network) in promoting and facilitating enhanced action on technology development and transfer is a step forward.
Transparency: The transparency mechanism of action and support under the UNFCCC was differentiated for developed and developing countries. The information provided by the developed countries in their National Communications, Biennial Reports (BR), etc. is subject to international assessment and review (IAR) while that provided by developing countries in their National Communications and Biennial Update Reports (BUR) is subject to international consultation and analysis (ICA). As per the Paris Agreement now, the Transparency Framework will build on and enhance the arrangements under the UNFCCC, and the information provided by all countries will be subject to technical expert review. However, the review process will give due consideration to the respective national capabilities and circumstances of developing countries. Countries will be required to report on their anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, and regularly track progress on achieving their NDCs.
Global stock take: The agreement also establishes a framework for global stock take to assess the collective action towards achieving the long-term goals mentioned in the Agreement. This stock take would be an assessment of the aggregate level of ambition communicated through the NDCs in relation to the level needed, while considering mitigation, adaptation and the means of implementation and support, and in the light of equity. The first stock take is slated for 2023.
The Paris Agreement also clearly states in its decision that it is under the aegis of the UNFCCC and will come into force only when at least 55 Parties to the Convention, accounting for at least an estimated 55 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. A new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) has also been set up to work on issues requiring further rules or guidance, including preparing for entry into force of the Agreement and the first session of the Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of Parties to the Agreement.
Going forward, there is a clear direction and positives for clean energy sectors, energy efficiency and green finance.
Focus on renewable energy sectors like solar and wind energy can send strong market signals for technology development, particularly clean technology. However, there could be pressure on emerging economies to announce a peaking year of their emission in the future. e new transparency framework calling for regular reporting is an added obligation.
Written by princy