Experts divided over impact of climate deal
Six years after failure of the Copenhagen summit, a climate deal was finally sealed here on Saturday by the nearly 200 countries of the world that are signatory to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. While some hailed the final draft as a landmark and historic agreement that marked a global shift towards a low carbon economy, others said that with its diluted language it was far from ambitious and that it would not save the most vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change.
It took just over two weeks for the agreement to be finalised in Paris. And many climate activists were describing it as a positive development.
According to Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of the Greenpeace International, “the wheel of climate change turns slowly but in Paris it has turned… the text has been diluted and polluted but contains new imperative to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and oil exporting countries. Now the task is how do we get there? We have a 1.5 degrees ladder to climb and a new goal of net zero emissions. We need to phase out fossil fuels by mid-century”.
The agreement, however, has no guarantee of assistance for the poor and vulnerable. Governments have only recognised the climate crisis and many activists say “action on the ground (is needed) in all countries — it is up to everyone to deliver”.
Critics from the most vulnerable countries like the Philippines, which have been repeatedly battered by hurricanes, say there is no mention of liabilities or compensation in the final text, although “loss and damage” has been included as a standalone.
The most vulnerable countries, especially the small island states in the Pacific, want compensation for the losses they face. They also point out that the $100 billion by 2020 promised by rich countries as climate finance was actually offered back in Copenhagen, so there has been no progress since then.
Pakistan, which is repeatedly listed among the ten most affected countries, had also been pushing for the “loss and damage” mechanism in the agreement. According to Kashmala Kakakhel, a Pakistani member of the Climate Action Network, “on loss and damage the battle seems to have been lost in some way… the US got their way by clearly saying there will be no increase in liability or compensation from the Paris agreement. This does not help Pakistan’s case to push for support on dealing with the impacts of climate disasters”.
Pakistan was also pushing for more climate finance at the talks. Ms Kakakhel said: “The agreement retains reference to $100bn which is good. At the same time they have agreed to work out an accounting methodology to make sure other development assistance is not counted as climate finance. This had been a bone of contention. However, there is no pathway to ratchet up funding beyond 2020.”
At the end of the day, the US got what it wanted — a deal with no clear targets for deep emission cuts by rich countries and no significant climate financing for poor countries.
The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment said: “This draft removes all differentiation in mitigation actions between countries, and in this way removes the firewall that existed in the framework convention between countries that needed to take action because of their contribution to creating the problem. Now all countries, including India, have commitments to undertake emission reductions.
“The only allowance it makes is that it agrees that developing countries will enhance their mitigation based on enhanced support from developed countries.”