Monday, December 21, 2015

Fwd: Paris - The endgame for climate justice

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Sunita Narain: Paris - The endgame for climate justiceSunita Narain December 20, 2015 Last Updated at 21:44 IST
Sunita Narain: Paris - The endgame for climate justice
The reality is that it is a deal that is inequitable and unambitious
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The Paris climate conference has been feted as historic and ambitious. US President Barack Obama has personally called Prime Minister Narendra Modi to thank him for India's cooperation to make the deal successful. But read the fine print, and it becomes clear that poorer countries have lost big time. This battle is to save the world from catastrophic climate change impacts so that rich industrialised countries do their fair share to reduce emissions and the emerging world gets its right to development and support to develop differently. The most important element of the Paris agreement is that it endorses the need for the world to keep temperature increase below 1.5°Celsius - this is crucial, as we in India are already seeing devastating impacts of weird weather events when the temperature increase is a mere 0.8-1°C since pre-industrial era. So capping temperatures has to be welcomed.

But, if the world wants to cap temperatures then it must also agree to an ambitious plan to cap greenhouse emissions - which trap heat and cause increases in temperatures. The Paris agreement fails in this totally. In fact, the aggregate of all the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) adds up to a minimum increase of 3°C or much more. There is no target set for developed countries to take more aggressive cuts to reduce their contributions to the growing stock of emissions in the atmosphere.

What is even worse is that Paris cements climate apartheid - so that the historical responsibility of the developed world of creating the problem of emissions is erased. Worse, the burden of future transition moves to the still developing world.

The fact is that if temperature increase is capped at 1.5°C, then the carbon budget - how much the world can emit to cap that temperature rise - is limited even further. If the world was capping temperatures at 2°C, then the remaining budget - from 2011-2100 - would be roughly 1,000 billion tonnes and when temperature is capped at 1.5°C then the remaining budget shrinks to a mere 400-550 billion tonnes. What is also clear is that at current rates of emissions this 'budget' will be more or less exhausted by 2020. This means that by the time the Paris agreement begins in 2020 there is no right left for the bulk of the world to its development.

Nowhere in the Paris draft, other than a weak sentence about "enhanced pre-2020 ambition that can lay a solid foundation for enhanced post-2020 ambition" is the fact mentioned that the already rich countries have to reduce now to leave space for the rest to grow. It is a known fact that the US action plan on climate change is nothing more than business as usual. It is also known that countries like the US have already appropriated some 21 per cent of the budget already spent and will use up another 10 per cent by 2030. The Paris agreement wipes this clean. In fact, what it does is to universalise action to reduce emissions, without apportioning the responsibilities or rights of countries for creating the problem or reducing emissions.


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